Art Moves Us, and I am Moving Art!

I’m in the throes of moving my household, but more importantly, my studio. This is the part of the house I will miss the most, since my new temporary space doesn’t have such a wonderful workspace. But I’ve discovered treasure buried in the challenge of going through nearly ten years of artistic accumulation.

It’s wonderful to see all my work together.

My helper hung it all over the house, floor to ceiling: recent, older, small, large, figure and landscape, she hung things I would never have considered finished or for public view. I sold some of  those! Maybe my evaluation of my own work isnt always the best evaluation.

Some of my old work is much better than I originally thought.

Chartres Cathedral ©2008 Patrise Henkel

Said helper put stacks of unfinished canvases outside for people to rummage through, and a neighbor appeared at the cashier table with one I was surprised to see. I was selling canvases to be repainted, and this was a heartfelt painting I never finished, as I lost my confidence in it. Seeing it again years later it looked pretty amazing to me, and I had a major pang of regret that I hadn’t completed it. I looked at my neighbor, a fellow artist, and saw how much she admired it, enough to buy it and hang it in her home. I felt the tug of the old ways of thinking, and caught myself making disclaimers and apologies for it not being better. Then I saw her post about it on Facebook. I can let my work move out in the world, making room for the art that’s waiting to come in NOW. Wow.

I can throw out old work.

I used to be afraid I could never recreate something, so I had to hang onto things to prove I’d done them. In a way, that’s true — I’ll never make things that same way again. But I can create new, anytime. I trust my Muse!

Moving on is important, and clearing out the old makes room for the new life and creativity to come. So Out with the Old! If you want a bargain on some art, leave a comment.

Acrylic Painting: Almost Infinite Options

A Bigger Splash by David Hockney,
1967, acrylic painting.

I’m exploring acrylic painting again, after a hiatus of five or six years. In 2005 a bout with asthma found me attempting to replace oils with acrylics for my landscape painting – an experiment which frustrated me a great deal.

My plein aire work in oil-on-paper relies in part on the sinuous fluidity of oil itself, something I cannot recreate with acrylic mediums.

Fortunately, the asthma is gone, and I have returned to oil  painting the way I love to do it. With acrylics, I learned to avoid trying to make it do something it did not do well, to let the medium be itself.  Acrylic paints are, forgive the pun, amazingly plastic, as in malleable, changeable, flexible.

Recently, my students have been asking how acrylic and oil are different from the watercolor they have been working with. Since I teach a transparent approach to watercolour, I think the addition of opaque white into your palette is the first major change, and it can change everything!

This Artist Daily  post shows just a few distinct styles achieved with acrylic paint.

There are wonderful possibilities for collaging with acrylics, since the liquid mediums function well as both glue and varnish for paper and other items.

  • Acrylic adheres well to many sufaces and is very durable. Here’s a post about painting onto cardboard. Recycled art surface!
  • Newer mediums, extenders, gels, pastes and additives mean you can paint in watery films or heavy impasto, and everything in between.
  • I’ve even seen artists build rich layers of acrylic paint film onto glas, peel it off in strips and weave the strips into sculptural forms.

Got some acrylics? Get them out and try something new today. Here’s few ideas

  • Collage with pretty papers, old greeting cards, wall paper, fabric, ribbons, photos , movie tickets, torn up watercolours.
  • Paint ala prima onto scrap cardboard – a simple still life with beautiful fruits, painted juicy and bright.
  • scrape ridges of paint with a palette knife, putty knife, or even finger paint!

Have fun! Post your work in a comment!!

See the World through your Heart

Oimage: green heart of the swamp forestne of my fangirl friends posted a wonderful definition:

Art reveals the world as seen through our heart.

We are accustomed to seeing in a practical manner; it helps us navigate our lives safely and efficiently. Red stop sign, black on white words, the pattern of a human face — But can we see more, differently?

I challenge my drawing and painting students to awaken their visual brain, see the pattern, shape and colour in the world anew, in order to show the inspiring world of natural form. I love to watch the eye-hand-brain connection take off in a new student, I feel like I am revealing a hidden world.

We are so capable, so miraculously sensitive, with our human perception, and we are so astonishingly unique and original in our view: the same flower painted by 6 artists is a remarkably different statement. There are the obvious differences in style and skill, yes, but then there is the ocean of experience each of us brings to the creative table.

Imagine we each had our own spoken language, how challenging it would be to know anything, share with another! Fortunately we have the common language of images, but we each have our own vocabulary of symbols and shapes and ideas that influence the creations we make and share.

And the strongest of these are written in our memory and emotion, written in the heart.

Why is that little girl in love with ponies? What makes my friend dance when she wears sparkles? There’s a certain ocean green blue that takes me to the sea with my dad at age 5. You won’t have the same symbols or the same stories, but we share a good deal of common ground. The sea, the water, evokes a shared joy in those who resonate with it. My mermaid-loving singer friend and I share a love of the watery colours and the deep swirling emotion that goes with it.

Her husband, born and raised in suburban Maryland, responds to stones you might not even see in the ditch, but he finds bears and owls and whales hidden in them. He can see them before they are made; I can only see them once he’s carved them.

Open your heart today, let your heart’s voice ring in you. Cherish yourself.

And share a little HEART ART today, at your own hearth. 😉

Art Saves Lives

Rev. Delores Roberts

I want to introduce you to one of my clients, someone who’s passion, faith and creativity is dedicated to the children of Metropolitan DC.

Reverend Delores Roberts is the founder and director of Zoe Life Ministries, a non-profit organization devoted to improving the lives and education of disadvantaged kids. Starting in her home community of Capitol Heights, MD, Rev. Roberts has created literacy and arts programs for kids of all ages. Her tireless commitment to her work is inspiring, and her creativity is evident in everything she does.

Zoe Life Ministries now runs a book club, a performing arts program and the Stop-the-Violence Teen Peace Summit, in addition to developing the I-read program and other special projects. Right now she is in the final rehearsals for her latest stage musical “Day of Reckoning” opening December 3rd. You can see rehearsal videos and find updated news about the show here.

Rev. Roberts introduces Essay Contest winners

Reverend Delores is a people-person. She works with kids of all ages and does it from the heart, every moment.  A recent post on her blog describes meeting an angel at Staples! The Reverend inspires her kids to read, write, draw, dance and sing, and it’s been very inspiring for me to watch her work her special magic.

But learning to edit a web site and publish her own blog was really challenging to her at first. I am so proud of her persistance and accomplishment on the revitalized Zoe Life Ministries website we set up together.

Now Rev. Delores keeps a blog about her projects and community events, as well as encouraging discussion of the issues that challenge our children every day.

This Friday, Zoe Life Ministries is celebrating ten years of inspiring programs that lift up “the least, the last and the lost.” The Tenth Anniversary Fundraising Gala and Zoe Awards promises to be another special event with special performances by Zoe Kids, Awards honoring members who have brought life to the community, a delicious feast and more.

I’d like to invite you to come along and support this amazing organization. I know schedules are full and budgets are tight, but I would for you to be there, or at least make a donation to Rev. Delores’ work.

Here’s how you can join the celebration:

Tickets for the Gala are $50 for adults and $20 for children under 12. Tax deductible donations of any size are welcome. Call Zoe Life Ministries at 301/350-0688, email, and/or send a donation to  910-Applewood St, Capitol Hgts,MD 20743.

I’ll see you there!

the Art of Your Existence

Friday morning I was groggily opening the Washington Post Weekend section and flipping though the music articles. I noticed a story about a Baltimore band I’ve recently been listening to, Lower Dens.

I was intrigued by the tale of a woman who had pursued her art as a folk singer-songwriter and come to realize it wasn’t working, and she needed to let it go. As someone who has struggled , given up, launched again, been bitterly disappointed, given up, then launched again so many times in my art-life, I really felt for her. It’s a painful place to be.

But read on: Jana Hunter left her folkie touring behind, yet still tinkered with music. After a few experimental collaborations she formed Lower Dens. Hunter says:

“It was the first time that I had a band of my own, and [I] discovered that after putting some work into the beat writing, that I really enjoyed playing music, whereas before I had not ever enjoyed touring at all,” says the Texas-born Hunter, 32. “And, yeah, these guys, we work well together. . . . I decided that I would like to write more songs if they’d be willing to continue playing with me.”

I’m noticing that Hunter went from a solo career to a collaborative one. As an introvert who has often been confounded by how much solitude is too much, I’m having a bit of renaissance in this area myself. Imagine a team of creatives with a similar passion for certain goals, who’s skills complement each others’, working toward something bigger and more impactful that anything I could create alone. I had a job interview this week, the first in many years, if ever, where such a team felt possible.

But the very best treat of this significant article for me is Jana Hunter’s final quote:

It’s all about being “shamelessly self-confident,” Hunter says, “just kind of looking into the art of your existence and accepting that in order to really contribute anything to this world you have to believe you are entitled to that responsibility.”

I’ve known for years that I needed more self-confidence. But how to get it? People and books have glib advice, but I’ve never found much traction in years of effort. But something about this statement, where she conflates confidence and creativity, existence and contribution, entitlement and responsibility, seems to wrap the mystery together in a way that I am getting it.

I AM a creative, and I want to give. It’s essential to my existence that I continue to create whether it pays me or not. We artists ARE entitled, we’ve been given certain gifts. That gives us a responsibility to move into the world with our art. In order to sustain ourselves, we have to feed the spirit that keeps us moving. We have to have confidence to act despite the lack of validation, signposts, or paychecks.

It’s how we live, and how we give.