Artist Journey/Artist Journal

What is it we want in our creative lives? Why bother with art? Working as an artist, whether as a full-time vocation, a parttime avocation or an occassional when-I-can-fit-it-in whimsy takes some measure of commitment. It's far easier in this era of consumerism, digital distraction and financial pressure to sit on the sofa or under the covers with one or more devices pouring words, images, sounds, stories and distraction into our brains. Easier, that is, than using our hands and minds to make words, images, stories and sounds of our own. I don't make judgements about the tools used or the media -- paper and pen, digital camera and keyboard, cloth and dye, paint and canvas, tabletop and kitchen stove -- any will do. 

But I do think we all need to keep our creative selves alive and thriving. That some part of us withers and dies without exercise. And that takes a plan. That's why its become a tradition around El Cielo Studio to offer a workshop each January to allow me (and those who come for the facilitated experience) time to reflect, plan and set goals. Make calendars. Imagine what's needed to make it easier to get to the studio. 

I confess, my January calendar-making reminder forms don't often make it through the entire year (but I know one workshop participant who has been a faithful adherent to the format she set last year), but I do know that even a few months of on-target, on-track creative work gets me off to the start I need for the year. GIves me momentum and reminds me to keep at it. Whatever it is.

In preparation for the January 20-21 workshop (see the last post for the full calendar), I thought I'd share one of the exercises that has proven helpful and insightful for the process.

Where I am right now - Make a circular pie chart of your life as you are living it now:

1. Start with a circle on a large piece of paper.

2. Divide the circle into equal wedges for WORK, PLAY, ADVENTURE, CREATIVITY, BODY, MIND SPIRIT. (OR any other set of categories you prefer. (Or make two different circles if that makes more sense to you)

3. Draw, write, collage fast images from magazines, add colors, lines, patterns to each wedge. 

4. Put a dot, star or sticker in each wedge describing how satisfied or how much time and attention you spend in that sector of your life -- the closer to the center, the less satisfied or less time/attention; the closer to the circle edge, the more satisfied, the more time and attention you spend. You might even want to do these as two different dots or stars, if time and attention is not aligned with satisfaction (oftenr the case). Then connect your dots with a bold line. What shape are your dot-driven circles? How wobbly is your life? 

5. On a separate paper, or on the areas of the paper outside the circle, list 5 things you could do in the  coming year to even out your wobbly circles. 

I don't think our lives are always in balance in the short term. I don't even think they should be -- sometimes work or family or adventure takes over. But in the long term, we want satisfaction in each of these areas. And it takes work -- mostly attention --  to keep the wheel round, the circle spinning.

 


 

Monoprints on Fabric

 

Just a few photos today, from the recent Southwest School of Art weekend workshop. We'll be reprising a few of these techniques with some natural items (leaves, sticks and stones) added this weekend at the El Cielo workshop. I just had a last minute drop out, so if you are interested, email me.

 

The first and third pieces were done with layers of textile paint applied from plastic plates of various kinds, textured with rollers and fingers and brushes. The second was with rainbow printing techniques directly on a screen. (You'll find more on this blog under rainbow printing in the search field.) Here's the link to Rainbow Printing.

 

Spring and Summer Workshops at El Cielo Studios

Here is a link to a downloadable pdf brochure with the dates and topics for new workshops at El Cielo Studios.

files.me.com/susiemonday/rvq162

  It's my pleasure to share my home and studio and a nurturing environment for your creative journey -- and the  workshop is less than what you'd spend for a bed-and-breakfast weekend alone! I hope to see you sometime this spring or summer for a weekend of inspiring and creative work and play here in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.

Nurture your creativity as you come away from a weekend with renewed energy, new  materials and techniques in surface design applicable to fiber, ceramics, jewelry, painting and mixed media work. Susie Monday leads artists’ retreats and workshops throughout the year at her studio near Pipe Creek, Texas, about an hour from downtown San Antonio. 

El Cielo Studio workshops are designed with the needs of the participants in mind;  free time is scheduled throughout the weekend for reading, reflection and personal work in the studio. You are welcome to bring projects in process for Susie’s critique and for peer feedback in an environment of trust and respect. You’ll share meals, poetry and stories, music and advice for living an artist’s life. Enjoy the 25-mile vistas from the deck and strolls down the country roads. A spa and pool, and large screen media room are also available to participants. The fee for each workshop retreat is $175 for a 2-day event with discount for early enrollment. Comfortable accommodations (double and single rooms with baths and shared bath rooms) and meals are available from $15 - $30 per workshop. Most supplies included. Call 210-643-2128 or econtact me through the email form on the sidebar of this blog.

Sign up early (at least 30 days in advance with a $25 deposit) for a $15 ndiscount on the $175 fee. Workshops generally start with an optional Friday night potluck and fun activity or two, then continue through 3-4 pm on Sunday afternoon. Most supplies included.

MARKMAKING, MAKING YOUR MARK

May 13-15

Markmaking can be what distinguishes one person's work on paper or fabric from another's - their personal style. Using color, line, shape, rhythm and textures, students will explore traditional and new media as well as techniques for personal markmaking. Techniques to be covered include deconstructed screenprinting, stamping, using paint sticks and monoprinting with gelatin plates. No matter what your experience level, you'll gain confidence in working with layered media and find your strongest media for the marks that make your work unmistakably your own. 

UFO WORKSHOP

June 3-5

UFO, “unfinished fiber object.” Bring along work that needs finishing, needs one more layer, needs some concentrated time and attention (or work that’s stuck for need of constructive critique). Enjoy the resources of the studio and the advice and support of peers. We’ll customize the techniques to the tasks at hand.

PLAY, ART AND ATTENTION

July 29-31

Making time to play with odd-ball materials; learning to focus upon artful tasks at hand -- sounds like opposite sides of the coin? At this exploratory and full-of-play weekend, we’ll explore the relationship between the time, play, art and focus. Where does time management intersect with open-hearted fun? Expect bubbles, playdough, sparklers, jello, yoga and seeing the world from new angles and attitudes. 

BURNING WOMAN WORKSHOP

August 19-21

Embrace your inner goddess of summertime. Design and make a small art quilt “altar” for kitchen or dining room with tools and materials that depend on heat, sunlight and passionate delight: sun-printing, vegetable prints, fusing, hand and machine stitching and “found” fabrics from attic, thrift store or kitchen closet. We will recycle napkins, tea towels and other like objects and design a thermofax featuring a meaningful symbol, favorite fruit, icon, saint, culinary heroine, angel or other meaningful design as the centerpiece for the altar. (This workshop has an additional $12 fee per person for the altar boxes that the quilts are stretched upon.)

OTHER CLASSES 

This spring and summer I also will be teaching occasionally at the Southwest School of Art: June 18-19 - From Photo to Fiber (using various techniques to design art quilts from photographs), August 1-5, mornings, New World Kids: for parents wishing to nurture creativity in their children.

I am also teaching a course for teachers: Fiber Arts for the Classroom at Southwest School of Art on July 23-24 (The wrong date is in the SSA catalog, I had to change the date after it was printed.)

 OTHER POSSIBILITIES:

Flying or driving in from afar for one of these weekends? Or just want some solo supported work time in the studio? Add one or two days of instruction in the studio for learning techniques that you are interested in. Each custom designed workshop and night’s lodging and meals costs $225 per person. Limit, 2 artists per session Many of Susie’s workshops go on the road! Please write for available dates and fees.

WHAT PARTICIPANTS SAY: 

“A workshop at Susie’s is always money well spent.  I learned techniques I have read about but never tried ... I also now feel confident that I can make art quilts!”

“This workshop was a fabulous, uplifting, nurturing environment to create in. The journaling was particularly helpful, I would definitely recommend it to a friend.”

“This weekend was totally awesome! I am humbled by Susie’s talents, her teaching abilities and her hospitality. I will come back as often as possible.”

 


Artist in Residence: Jack Brockett

Jack Brockett, artist and storyteller extrodinaire visited El Cielo Studio for a couple of days while his wife Anne was in San Antonio to plan the 2013 Surface Design Association conference. (OK, get those dues paid San Antonians!) (And check out the new SDA website that Anne has worked on this past 6 months as interim director -- she's on for another year, too, so expect great energy and member-friendly services from SDA.)

Jack, as many of us know, is a one-of-a-kind vortex of energy, ideas and an eye for excellence --and it was a delight to have him visit (thanks to Mary Ruth Smith who suggested it). Jack just finished with a workshop at Round Top, his first teaching gig of 5 years after a health crisis. The fiber show at Copper Shade Tree features some of his work, and that of other fiber artists  in the annual juried exhibit.

Jack shared the work that he had with him for examples at the workshop -- spectacular pojagi seamed jackets, art quilts emboridered with dragon flies, and a new series started with red ants. I got a private pojagi seam lesson, the steps of which I hope I remember -- I'm headed out to try it a -- I need the required machine foot #10 for the 1/8" tiny seams -- but for now, I'll do a wider version and see how it looks.

 Jack's stories regailed us at table; we feasted. If you have an Texas storyteller in your clan, you'll know what that means -- howlingly good tales filled with cows, Neiman Marcus hats, old bats and hoop skirts. Jack sewed seams for a new piece, and toured the neighbor's house; Pat Schulz and Sue Cooke came out yesterday morning for an art date with destiny. I've been cleaning the the studio and finding things I didn't know I had. It's been lovely and inspiring. We all need artists-in-residence, tribal gatherings, support for our visions and food for the soul. Thanks, Jack, for all that and more!

Sitting and staring

Today, I'm reminded of the baseboall great Satchel Page's oft quoted," Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I  just sits." An unexpected delay of a work-related appointment has given me the gift of a hitherto unplanned afternoon. Yes, the studio needs a good sort. The garden is (perhaps riskily) calling for seeds. I have really been planning to go through and file all the piles of receipts and GET MYSELF ORGANIZED for the new year (hardly new anymore, you might note). 

But I find myself sitting and looking out into damp, gray between-winter-and-spring air and light and I just sit.

Sometimes its good to sit.

The creative life is full of adventure (even if it only shows up on the inside of your eyeballs.) When one is a self-employed artist, there is the ever present tension between amking art and making a living and it takes a lot of juggling to keep it together sometimes. I, like many of us, simply like action, I live at full-speed-ahead.

And then I sit.

You (I) need both. You (I) must let minutes wash over us when we can. Remind ourselves that time is finite; in 100 years (unless Singularity DOES come to pass, or the Mayan calendar ends us all in a bang) everyone you know and everyone you don't know who is walking around here on earth will be gone. And so, no matter how important it all seems, it is just a drop in the bucket when you look at the big picture. So let the drops fall where they may for a few hours. Sit. think. or just sit.

One thing I am thinking about is some of the thought about romance that I am reading in Barbara Lazear Ascher's wonderful book Isn't it Romantic; Finding the magic in everyday life. Here's a quote to ponder as you sit today:

"The romantic has to believe the bread crumbs were left as a trail, that the dots will make a whole....Faith doesn't require answers but a trust that if we dare reach out a hand another one, unforeseen will receive it. That we will be made whole. The ulitmate romance. Exactly as Michelangelo painted it in the center of the Sistine Chapel ceiling."

And Yes. I am puttering around in the studio today and making some progress on the annual clean, sort and toss that I force myself to do in order to avoid a manditory appearance on some reality show or another devoted to hoarding. But I am doing so very, very softly. Like the air and the gray heavy skies. Like the seeds underground waiting for the next increment of warmth. Reminding myself to think a bit about the spiraling fossil of an ammonite once alive, then dead, buried turned to stone, washed up again on a different shore.

(P.S. Speaking of nature, the next El Cielo studio retreat/workshop is almost full-to-the-brim. If you are thinking about attending  send me an email through the contact form on the sidebar. $160 if you pay before March 1. Potluck on Friday night through Sunday afternoon, most supplies included.)

View from home and El Cielo Studio.

 

NATURE-INSPIRED SURFACE DESIGN

March 25-27

Find color, shape, form and inspired design for new surface design tools at this spring-is-sprung weekend in the blooming Texas Hill Country. We’ll do sun prints, leaf-inspired thermofaxes and screenprinting with dye, flour paste resist and more.

Love your Inner Artist

How often we forget to feed the hand(s) (and heart) of the inner one who keeps us creating. Our inner artist is the one we hear when we haven't made it to the studio often enough. The one who comes knocking when we forget to slow down and put our hands into our favorite materials. The voice inside our head that starts whining when the well is dry.

Creativity is an activity that happens with intent, with some "new eyes' experiences, with a little bit of adventurous exploring, with some soul food that nourishes the spirit and imagination.

One way to feed your inner artist is with artist dates, as Julia Cameron styles these fill-up times in her book The Artists Way. At least once a week we need to do something intentional, often on-our-own, to bring joy and inspiration to our inner artists. INTENTIONAL is a key word. I'm sometimes tempted to look back on the week and say that sure I had an artist date, remember that movie I went to, or the 30 minutes at the used book store? Well, better than none, but best of all is making an intentional, anticipated date with your inner artist in advance, and then sticking to it. Iam going to see my friend Liz today in Kerrville for some artist inspiration and advice, and on the way I plan to stop in at one of my favorite thrift stores -- the Animal Defense shop in Boerne. Now that's an artist date. And I planned it in advance. And I will give myself a modest allowance of "blow" money so I can even do some shopping or tea sipping.

What's on your artist date calendar this week? I'd love to hear what and how you feed your inner artist and keep her (him) happy. 

AND if you are looking for a weekend-long artist date, I hope you will consider signing up for one of my next two El Cielo workshops. 

(HEART) YOUR INNER ARTIST

February 11-13

How do you nurture your creative self in a world that doesn’t always honor artists and artful work? This pre-Valentine’s Day workshop will provide that support while you learn more about your individual design strengths with creativity exercises, learn simple yoga and breath work, and make an artist’s altar for your studio. 

NATURE-INSPIRED SURFACE DESIGN March 25-27

 Find color, shape, form and inspired design for new surface design tools at this spring-is-sprung weekend in the blooming Texas Hill Country. We’ll do sun prints, leaf-inspired thermofaxes and screenprinting with dye, flour paste resist and more.

Sign up early (at least 30 days in advance with a $25 deposit) for a $15 discount on the $175 fee. (Accommodations from free to $30 for both nights) Email me susiemonday@gmail.com for details. First come/first serve -- single bedrooms are in demand! Note that some of the recent workshops have been filling early. Workshops generally start with an optional Friday night potluck and fun activity or two, then continue through 3-4 pm on Sunday afternoon. Most supplies included.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES:

Flying or driving in from afar for one of these weekends? Or just want some solo supported work time in the studio? Add one or two days of instruction in the studio for learning techniques that you are interested in -- dyeing, screen-printing, ink-jet transfer, soy batik and more. Each custom designed workshop and night’s lodging and meals costs $225 per person. Limit, 2 artists per session.

OR Are you interested in a workshop for your guild or other group? Many of Susie’s workshops go on the road! Please write for available dates and fees.

 

Need a Jump Start? Or a Kick to Closure?

El Cielo Studio is waiting for you!

It's time for another edition of the El Cielo Studio UFO workshop. December 4-5 (yYep, I know it's December). If you have a piece of work or two that has been haunting you over the past months, weeks or year, bring it to this workshop retreat for a little energy to completion -- with the expert advice of some sister/fellow artists. Often, its just focused time and a new eye that helps a piece find completion and success -- or we might all just decide to cut, slash and start again!

Sometimes it just takes focus, and that's what this UFO (Unfinished Fiber Object) retreat is meant to provide. We'll start with a round robin of look-and-see-and-suggest (totally controlled by you, the artist) and then work during the next two days with all the resources of the studio available. For example, you'll be able to design and make thermofax screens, overdye or over-print, add some stitching with the machines or by hand, get help with frames or finishing details, even a little writing time to write and edit an artist statement if you wish. Learn a technique with a individual session with Susie, or practice something new with aid and abettment by the experts on hand.

In between individual work sessions, I'll lead some creativity exercises aimed and energizing the process, and we will, of course, enjoy great food, good company and each other's tales of success and strategies for living the artists' life. (P.S. I've had a request for "on-line" remote participation for a similar workshop -- I'm working on that for next year!)

One possibility, if time allows and the group wishes, is a Sunday afternoon outing to see a private family museum in-process, with some amazing collections of folk art, drawings and paintings and more. And, the hot tub is back in action, the hills are alive with color and breeze and hawks flying through on their winter migrations. Bring your binoculars and  walking shoes if you'd like a little hike down the hillside, too.

Here are the next few workshops that are coming up:

UFO WORKSHOP December 3-5 UFO, “unfinished fiber object.” Bring along work that needs finishing (perhaps a gift or two, or work that’s stuck for need of constructive critique). Enjoy the resources of the studio and the advice and support of peers. We’ll customize the techniques to the tasks at hand.

ARTIST'S JOURNEY/ ARTIST'S JOURNAL, January 14-16 This workshop has become an annual tradition. Join me for a weekend of reflection, goal setting, and information about how the habit or journaling can benefit you as an artist -- and make a unique journal cover and artist calendar for a new year of creative work and inspiration. Building good habits for your own work. (SPACE IS ALMOST FILLED FOR THIS ONE)

(HEART) YOUR INNER ARTIST February 11-13

How do you nurture your creative self in a world that doesn’t always honor artists and artful work? This pre-Valentine’s Day workshop will provide that sup- port while you learn more about your individual design strengths with creativity exercises, learn simple yoga and breath work, and make an artist’s altar for your studio. 

El Cielo Studio workshops are designed with the needs of the participants in mind; free time is sched- uled throughout the week- end for reading, reflection and personal work in the studio. You are welcome to bring projects in process for Susie’s critique and for peer feedback in an environment of trust and respect. You’ll share meals, poetry and stories, music and advice for living an artist’s life. Enjoy the 25-mile vistas from the deck and strolls down the country roads. A spa and pool, and large screen media room are also avail- able to participants. The fee for each workshop retreat is $175 for a 2-day event with discount for early enrollment. Comfortable accommodations (double and single rooms with private and shared baths) and meals are available from $15 - $30 per workshop. Most supplies included. Call 210-643-2128 or email susiemonday@gmail.com


Dias de los Muertos

After the batik workshop this weekend at Southwest School of Art, I took a mental and culinary vacation yesterday and created a feast for Dias de los Muertos -- I know, some people might think cooking for 10 hours scarcely a vacation day, but it is for me. I guess I would call it the zen of cookery. If you are focused on the chopping, toasting, roasting, grinding, mixing, stirring, spreading, steaming, and tasting there is not much room for any worries, doubts or self-incriminations. Sounds like vacation to me (maybe even better since I can get a little bit "dmn, I should be doing xyz" when I am sitting on a beach towel).

And when one is foolish enough to decide to make Oaxacan Mole and tamals, then it is 10 hours of chopping, toasting, roasting, grinding, mixing, stirring, spreading, steaming, and tasting. Then the neighbors and family came and we devoured it all in the candle light of the Altár and our dear and departed guests in the photos there felt totally present, too. 

These are the gifts of the season for me -- the making and sharing of food -- certainly as much an artform as anything I create with fabric and stitch. The fall colors on the table, with big bowls and platters taken down from the shelf. bright swatches of table linens -- we layered our porch table with Mexican fabrics and dressed all the chairs in huipiles from Mexico and Guatemala, then marched a set of folk art animales down the center, lit with votives.

The weather cooperated, with a wonderful mild evening perfect for the porch -- winter arriving (temporarily for us) a few hours later as a gusty wind and rain blew in from the north.

Retreats and Workshops

Just a little poke in ribs. Don't you think you need a treat! These are the next three workshops coming up at El Cielo Studio. And if I say so myself, they deliver a lot of inspiration, ideas, energy AND rest and restoration to all our artist selves for not-so-much dinero.

I hope you can join us. Discounts for early enrollment!


FIELD GUIDE TO COLOR November 12-14 Explore your personal palette while learning the "rules" of color harmony with hands-on exercises. This approach to color design is both intuitive and “scientific,” you’ll learn to trust your instincts with dye, paint and paper experiments while improving your success with color on cloth. We'll tackle a variety of dyeing techniques including low water painting processes and microwave "shibori" techniques. You'll take home work on fabric and paper that can guide a whole new series of work and imagery based on a specific color palette. if you have work that just doesn't work because of color issues, bring it along and we'll do triage! Whether your preference is for earthy tones, crayon-box brights, or soft pastels, you'll learn more about what does and doesn't work and how to bring more energy and excitement to your color choices.

UFO WORKSHOP December 3-5 UFO, “unfinished fiber object.” Bring along work that needs finishing (perhaps a gift or two, or work that’s stuck for need of constructive critique). Enjoy the resources of the studio  -- thermofax machine at-cost, soy wax, dye, screen-printing tools and more -- and the advice and support of peers. We’ll customize the techniques to the tasks at hand. Almost any idea you want to explore can be tackled with support and concentrated time at this workshop. Send me your idea, and I'll tell you if we can support it with tools, materials and advice!

ARTIST'S JOURNEY/ ARTIST'S JOURNAL, January 14-16 This workshop has become an annual tradition. Join me for a weekend of reflection, goal setting, and information about how the habit or journaling can benefit you as an artist -- and make a unique journal cover and artist calendar for a new year of creative work and inspiration. We'll be working with drawing (for non-drawers, too), collage, photography, copy machine printing, web resources and tools and more.  Building good habits for your own work. This workshop fills quickly each year, so if you want to be one of the participants, don't wait to reserve your space. Friday evening will include guided meditation after the pot luck supper. 

Sign up early (at least 30 days in advance with a $25 deposit) for a $15 discount on the $175 fee. Email me susiemonday@gmail.com for details. First come/first serve -- single bedrooms are in demand (accommodations and food for the entire weekend  $15 to $30)! Note that some of the recent workshops have been filling early. Workshops generally start with an optional Friday night potluck and fun activ- ity or two, then continue through 3-4 pm on Sunday afternoon. Most supplies included.

Loving It Big City

 

A Labor Day outing to Houston has proved to be  qn unusual and wonderous blend of image, taste, sound and fizz. We've been dog and cat sitters at a friend's house in the Montrose, so the everything in the inner loop -- musuems, music and more --  has been easy and accessible. The home of our friends makes a luxury hotel room look like a seedy second choice. Pool, kitchen, art and fabulous architecture have given us a home away from home without exception.

Amazing ancient textiles, mummies and incredible coffins shaped like boats were centerpieces in the Silk Road exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. The brocades and tapestry weavings were delicate and preserved by the dessert climate where they had been entombed -- colors still discernable after nearly 2000 years. The older tombs and mummies were hauntingly beautiful, speaking to us across nearly 4000 years of the lives and times of these families of traders and trade route merchants.

More to come later -- this post is interupted by yet another call to travel -- up to the Woodlands for dinner tonight.