Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dream Studio: A Request.

Dear Universe,

I want a warehouse studio space and it would make me very happy if it looked something like this:

PLEEEEEEEEEEAASE!!! Pretty please, with sugar on top? :)

Once upon a time, I asked the universe for a very specific sort of place to live and every little last detail was fulfilled. Actually, I've been quite blessed in my life because this has happened to me on several occasions. I have never been able to prove whether this is due to magic or persistence, but that's besides the point.

These days I've been doing some serious day dreaming about a real studio space. Right now I paint in my basement and it is, well...less than inspiring. As I ready myself to take some large leaps into the world art making, oooh, I droooooooooool over photographs like this one!

Dearest, most loving Universe, these are my studio requirements:
  • preferably in an old warehouse or a space with warehouse features
  • high ceilings
  • BIG windows
  • a sink
  • s-p-a-c-e
  • curtains and chairs (as shown) are optional, but I do like them very much. :)

I will bring with me:
  • a couch (well, umm....actually, I'm going to need one of these too.)
  • workbench
  • 2 easels
  • paints
  • stretcher bars and canvas
  • my paint brushes
  • 2 dogs
  • photography lights
  • a pretty plant
  • coffee pot
  • small refrigerator (optional)
  • music
  • hammer, nails
  • screws, electric screw gun
  • journal
  • pens and pencils
  • *copious amounts of painterly passion*

What do ya say, Universe? Wanna help me out with this one? *wink, wink* ;)

With great amounts of love and expectation,

this photograph was ripped out of my favorite catalog: Anthropologie...and has now been added to my vision board where I will look at it every day. :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Abundance, revisited.

I stayed up until nearly 2 am last night working on a collage. Every week we are given homework for Circe's Circle and this week I gave myself the assignment to create a collage since I've been wanting to do one for months now, but just haven't taken the time to actually do it.

After seeing Melba's Vision Cards, despite the late hour, I felt a surge of inspiration and without a moment's hesitation I took that energy directly downstairs to my studio and got to work. I'm glad I did it because this morning when I woke up it was one of the first things I saw upon entering my office and it sort of took my breath away. You know that feeling when you get a really serious haircut or a dramatic new color? Yes, it sort of felt like that. And it felt good.

When I began I wasn't sure what I wanted the collage to be about or what it would include. I simply collected images from magazines and items laying around my studio space. I was looking for things that resonated with me. There was one word in particular that kept replaying in my head: ABUNDANCE. Seems like I've been carrying that word around with me for awhile now and since that was the thought that I was most attracted to, it is largely what the collage came to reflect.

I chose images that were ripe, heavy, bulbous, and earthy. Over and over I found myself most attracted to deep, rich, vibrant colors. I was looking for things that made me feel alive, grounded, energetic. The images I chose do not surprise me all that much--except for the word "home." For some reason I wasn't expecting that to come out of last night's collage even though it is, indeed, a deep desire I carry within me. The images in this collage make me feel a profound sense of fullness and satisfaction. That is, after all, what I'm after these days.

There are a lot of ripe fruits and voluminous bulbs and gourds, a butterfly and bee, heavy with nectar. There are densely blooming flowers, a young girl running in the ocean's tide, dogs, glowing timbers of a house under construction, a 10 Rupee note from India, and a handwritten reminder that reads: anything is possible when you believe.

I ended up putting the whole thing in a frame that I got last fall. It's been sitting in the basement ever since, waiting for the perfect something that I was never able to materialize until now.

Today, quite honestly, was a challenging day. Tuesdays have been like this for me lately because it is the day before my "work week" begins and the last day in a series of three to get a lot of painting, paperwork, and errand running accomplished. I have a hard time switching gears between my artist's life and my work life. Not that the artist's life isn't work. To be sure, it is. But it is work that I truly enjoy--even the parts that don't require me to have a paintbrush in my hand. There is so much more to making a living as an artist than simply making art! Oh, but I posses a strange love for all of it. Needless to say, Tuesday rolls around and I start to feel the drowning water of Wednesday begin to rise. Because I am never able to accomplish as much as I would have liked to, Tuesday is the day that I start to feel stretched too thin.

But soon...soon things will fall into place and I will be able to focus my energies in ways that will serve my sense of well being more completely. There has already been much abundance that has entered into my life. Its form has taken many shapes and, for this, I am thankful. When I take a step back from the overwhelming details of my day I see that, like the images in this collage, my life is very beautiful. The best part is that I truly, truly believe that all of these things will come into my life--this ripeness, this color, this sense of home, naturalness, money, and play. Someday soon I will look back at this time and think: Wow. I knew all along! I just need to remind myself of this...especially on days when it feels like I don't know anything at all.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Sunday at Bob's

I admit it: I skipped out on Easter at grandma's in a futile attempt to catch up with my life. Mind you, I will probably never actually accomplish this feat, but it felt good to enjoy a relatively nonobligatory day and, for that, I do not feel guilty. Actually, the gravity of Easter didn't really hit me until V. and I attempted to go grocery shopping only to find that NOTHING was open! I suppose that makes me a bad Catholic, doesn't it? Hmmph. Luckily, the Trader Joe Pagans were open and so we didn't starve.

I spent much of the day working on a portrait of a sweet blog-dog named Adeline. I love that name and, oddly enough, have fallen in love with the dog as well. Never mind that I've never even met her. Her sweet eyes have been looking up at me for days (from the photograph and then the canvas) and now and I can't help it--my heart has been swallowed whole. I've also been working on a portrait of another blog-dog named Trixie. Trixie has unfortunately passed on but, even so, her spirit is alive and well. I can feel it in the little smile she puts on my face whenever I work on her portrait. She looks at me with these big, joyful, expectant eyes and I imagine her little body nearly quivering with expectation. I feel honored to be painting both of these beautiful beings and can only hope that the end result of both will do justice to the love barely containable in a 16" x 16" canvas.

Afterwards, I headed down to Bob's for a cup of coffee, where I found more bad Catholics (yay!)...and took a photo of myself with my webcam for unknown reasons (see above). I brought with me 2 large bags of books and my laptop with the intention of editing an essay and writing the Works Cited page for my thesis. For some reason, I felt the need to get out of my usual space and spread out in order to accomplish this not-so-small task. My thesis is an interesting oddity to me now that I've finished writing it. It is difficult for me to encounter. I realize that "encounter" is a strange word to use within this context, but that is what it feels like: an encounter. It feels as though it is an actual encounter with myself, a meeting of myself--that is, a self that I once was in the past--a self that I once knew well and, like an old friend, will always understand better than anyone else.

From the stack of books I brought with me, there is one book in particular that still intrigues me the most, a book that I used as a resource in the writing of my thesis: Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives by Louise DeSalvo. There are times that I feel like I am nearly leaping out of my skin with excitement and curiosity. There are so many things I want to do and see and create and understand. There will never be an end to this learning. There will never be an end to this intense interest in the layers of meaning and connectedness that create my life and that life creates.

Over and over I find myself struggling with the issue of time. Always, I'm looking for more. Never, do I have enough. The feeling is intense: this love I feel for life. Sometimes I feel like I could live forever--and, still, it would not be enough.

These days, my life is in the middle of a transformation. I often find myself in a storm somewhere between holding back and pushing forward. It is interesting and complicated, painful and wonderful, all at the same time. Sometimes I feel like, if I open my mouth, I might just burst into flames or song. Sometimes (often) I wonder what would happen if I didn't contain myself. And the thought feels dangerous. Amazingly, devilishly, dangerous.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

this is the real me

ok, i admit it. i was starting to feel bad about things. there was a lull in new commissions and i started to feel like i was a total failure and the whole plan to become a full-time artist was about to flop. yes, i have a tendency towards impatience. yes, it seems i have a flair for internal sorts of drama. yes, i had been spending way too much time worrying when i should have been simply enjoying...

because monday night i had my circe's circle call and afterwards a lot of things magically resolved themselves. it's sometimes weird like that, but is exactly what i am loving so much about our calls.

this week jamie had us do some humming and heavy sighing (well, that turned into heavy laughing on my end of the line!--the laughing, btw, turned out to be a wonderful release and just what i needed!). anyway, she had us draw an outline of our body and then fill it in with whatever we wanted. i love the visualizations and exercises that jamie has us do. without fail, i walk away with my mind blown wide open every time. afterwards, she asked us questions about our drawings and had us dialogue with the part that we were most curious about.

so here's my drawing in all its womanly glory...

head: overflowing, exploding, energized with a fountain of ideas

throat: the part i had a dialogue with. short, jagged purple marks. my picture was telling me that there is something that wants out, something that i can feel all the way into my throat...tears, laughter, words expressing the many emotions i've been feeling. these jagged little lines told me that through my full and complete expression i will make it past whatever it is holding me back. hence, i share this with you here and, already, i see that my throat was right.

heart: full, open, bursting. this, i feel, is truly the center of my drawing. this is where all things originate for me right now. this is my sacred center and it fills me.

arms: those squiggly green lines are energy...painting energy! my arms and hands can barely stay still because of their need to move and create. my hands are held behind me, exposing my chest, but opening my heart ever further. a vulnerable position turned into positive form of strength.

wrists: i used red because i felt like my wrists are important, valuable...and perhaps even a little vulnerable. same with my knees. i wrote "tender." for my job i do a lot of heavy lifting and, as warm weather returns, there will only be more and more of it. lifting a lot of cast iron, stone, ceramic, up and down stairs...this work feels like a threat to the long term strength of my body. i am wary of injuring myself. i am protective of my body as i grow these wings.

hips: ok, so i have hips and they are rather large. in this picture i have decided to love those hips. every last bit of 'em.

legs: orange "rods." i feel intensely rooted, grounded, solid in my connection to earth.

i also padded much of my body in a pink layer...softness, protection, self-containment and love. that purple dot in my belly is not my belly button. it's my core. solid, compact, deeply colored, circulating energy between my heart center and belly core and throughout the rest of my body.

i would write more...but this feels like enough for right now. i just wanted to share this with you...

...this picture of my truest self.


Monday, March 17, 2008

not yet spring.

It is a quiet day today. A perpetual early morning gray hangs in the air as snow falls gently, covering whatever exposed ground that had begun to reveal itself. I took the dogs for a longer walk that usual because for the first time in a very long while I found myself once again in love with winter. It has been such a long winter of wanting and waiting. Somehow I think I let my favorite season get entirely caught up in that feeling of frustration.

For a few hours today I will have to take a step sideways from the forward momentum of my life in order to do some pre-formatting editing on my thesis and then contact the graduate office to make sure all my paper work is in order so that I might soon actually walk away with a degree. I am reluctant to return to this aspect of my life, but am finding the heavy clouds helpful. I will brew a fresh pot of coffee and cozy up with my computer so that I might finally and truly be done with this one lingering aspect of my past.

I feel tender today. I feel like I might easily cry. I feel very present as though I exist beyond the surface of my skin. Maybe that is why the gray feels so good. A buffer between me and the world. The snow has a calming effect. So much so that, upon returning home with the dogs, I simply sat out in the yard watching them play for a very long time. It made me wish for a place in the country. Somewhere that I wouldn't feel like a weirdo for sitting outside in the snow for no particular reason.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

You are now entering a new chapter in the Life of Jessie…

Well, my friends, it’s out with the old...and in with the NEW!!

In celebration of the many positive changes in my life, I felt like a little redecoration was in order. Much to Vinny’s dismay, I’m addicted to designing complicated, image-heavy blog templates. What would I do without my rock-star of a web-designing husband?? I don’t mean to gloat, but I am loving this new look! Thank you, dear husband, for making my problematic ideas work and for adding your own intuitive touches.

Goodbye pink and brown…



hidden surprise: try dragging the polaroids around--there's more to see! ;)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I've been meaning to tell you: It was the best Art Opening ever! Here are some photos to show why

This is one of the beautiful stars of the show, Murphy...

...a genuine tender-heart. He even gave me kisses.

Such a loving soul, he is.

* * *

Murphy, however, wasn't the only dog in attendance. I mean, have you ever been to an art opening where there were nearly as many dogs as people? At one point I stopped talking, took a deep breath, and smiled. I looked around to witness everyone milling around, socializing, and nibbling on sweet treats and hors d'oeuvres--yes, even the dogs! Oh, what a scene to behold! I loved every second of it.

* * *

There was plenty of conversation ,

(yes, this is how excited my hands get when talking about the process of painting these dogs!)

and contemplation,

and general silliness.

All in all, I would say it was a great night with a great turn-out.

And this is how happy it made me feel:


If you missed the bloggy promotional post, read about it here.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Grand Opening Promotional Sale!

In honor of tonight's
I hereby announce the
of my pet portraiture business,

Stray Dog Arts!

For the past 6 weeks I have spent every ounce of energy preparing for this leap into the wild and wonderful unknown, taking all the steps necessary to begin living an AUTHENTIC new life.

And is time to LEAP!!!

I might not have done this if it were not for my blogging sisters.
I might not have done this if it were not for the Be Brave Project.
I might not have done this if it were not for this incredible network of inspiration and support that you, my blogging friends, provide.
I might not have done this if... well, there are probably a lot of reasons.

But the thing is...

Some how, some way, I came to this space within where I met my truest self. And since that day I have not been able to turn back.

In celebration and gratitude of the connections that have led me to this most incredible time in my life, I want to offer you (and the friends and family who hear about this offer through you)...

30% OFF
the regular price

of commissioned pet portraits

NOW until April 30th, 2008

If you
or someone you know is interested,
please contact me
{jessie at straydogarts dot com}


Since I am already booked with commissions until mid-April, the sooner you are able to contact me, the better--so that I can reserve your spot in line (yes, can you believe it? i have a line!). Once May hits I will begin advertising more vigorously and I may not be able to off this price again.

In the meantime, this is my gift to you, dear blogging friends. I also invite you to link to this post on your own blog in order to share this offer in proper blogging-fashion. ;) I cannot even tell you how much happiness this endeavor of painting these beautiful and beloved animals brings me. And so I want to share that love with you.

Thank you for propelling me to BE BRAVE.

Thank you for propelling me towards my truest self.

* * *
Artist's Statement:

I began my artistic career doing portraits of people, focusing primarily on those colorful individuals that I met in my travels abroad. What I found most fascinating was how each person, mostly strangers, emerged on the canvas as I painted them. During those long hours spent in the studio, the people I painted slowly came to life and grew to be my friends—each with a personality and unique story all their own.

It should not have surprised me that the same thing would happen in doing pet portraits. The thing I love most about painting is the way a relationship develops between my self and the interesting characters who reveal themselves through the end of my paintbrush. Each time, it is a wonderful surprise—and dogs are no exception. If anything, they exemplify what it is that I love most about painting. I cannot help it, a bond is formed. Whether it is my own dog or those that I’ve only met through the creative act of painting, I feel as though I come to know each of these beautiful beings on a very deep and genuine level—and I cannot fathom anything more satisfying that this.

One day I was outside shoveling snow when, seemingly out of no where, I asked myself an innocent question: “What makes me happiest?” The answer came easily: "Dogs and Art." At that very moment, I felt something shift inside of me and my life has not been the same since. From this question Stray Dog Arts was born.

There is a Zen story about an old monk who practiced for over forty years in a monastery and then became disgusted—I’m getting nowhere he thought—and decided to leave. As he walked down the path to the gate, with his few belongings on his back, he noticed that the walkway looked a bit messy. He went to get a rake to smooth it out. As he raked the dirt, one pebble flew out, hit some bamboo standing nearby, and made a sharp sound. The instant the monk heard that sound he became fully and completely enlightened.

I do not know what the old monk was thinking at that exact moment. Nor do I know the color for the sound of a single pebble. But I do know that I paint because it gives me the feeling that something real is happening.

I paint pet portraits because I have more love for animals than I know what to do. I paint because there is something beautiful to be captured in those transitory moments we share with the pets who have stolen our hearts for good. I paint to tell a story. I paint dogs (and cats and horses) because now I cannot stop.

For me, it is not just about getting a painting to look like a specific pet; it’s about capturing his or her personality. I believe that an animal’s spirit is conveyed through its eyes, a particular expression, and even the subtlest of gestures. My goal as an artist and animal lover is to create artwork that honors the beautiful and unique life-force within each of us. I find pet portraits particularly rewarding because, in short, they make me happy. I have wanted to work with animals ever since I was a little girl and am grateful beyond words that I am able to do this through my art.

I pour my heart and soul into every painting that I do and if there is one gift I would like to give the world, it would be happiness. Often, our pets are the ones who give us the greatest happiness of all. My paintings, well, they are but a heartfelt gesture in celebration of the unconditional love and infinite happiness that our four-legged friends have brought to us.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Buddha Bowl

I woke up this morning thinking about all the things that I need to do and realized quite quickly that, if I allow it, there will be no end to the crazy amounts of work that I expect from myself.

Last night, after finishing a painting appropriately titled "Lilly Rabbit," I lit vanilla scented candles and a fire in the fireplace; I made a pot of chai with a few extra cardamom pods (for the sake of decadence) and snuggled into the chair I've been gazing longingly towards for the past 2 months. My old cat, Moonshadow, must have decided I looked comfortable and decided to nestle in close next to me. mmmm...Perfect. I sat and read Sunny Schlenger's book, Organizing for the Spirit, and something about her balanced outlook must have sunk in because today I decided to approach my "to-do" list a little bit differently.

Meet The Buddha Bowl. As I layed in bed, for some reason, I thought of a woman I met last summer who told me about her God Bowl. The God Bowl was, basically, a bowl that she filled with water every day to remind her to begin anew each day. I loved the idea, but never did it myself because the God Bowl would inevitably become a slurping bowl for the cats and dogs that share my space.

Anyway, my "to-do" lists have been getting a bit out of control. I love making lists, but after a while they can make even the most joyful work start to feel overwhelming. So today, rather than make lists, I've decided to treat today's intentions with a bit more sacredness. Here's what I came up with:
  • Find a simple, yet beautiful bowl to use as your sacred container of intentions--the simpler it is, the better.
  • Gather up some beautiful paper, a nice pen, and a pair of scissors.
  • Cut your paper into small fortune cookie size pieces and, on each piece, lovingly write the intention that you hope to accomplish today (or this week or this year or whatever...). I cut each piece of paper as I went so that I didn't feel compelled or obligated to fill up more pieces of paper than I actually wanted to deal with.
  • As you write, think honestly about whether or not this is something you are truly able and wanting to accomplish. The fact that you are using such beautiful paper will help remind you not to waste your time and energy (and beautiful paper) on things that are not humanely impossible or don't matter to begin with.
  • As the day progresses, choose tasks from your Buddha Bowl as you see fit. But remember: only one task at a time. Set your intention to carry out that task with efficiency and joy.
The first task that I am going to choose from my Buddha bowl is to finish the painting of "Murphy." Upon waking, I felt like I had too much to do today, but in doing this, I see that some things are more important to me than others. Today it is important that I finish this painting and that I get my advertising materials created and sent out. Today it is important to me that I dismantle the mess on my desk and make time to meet my Circe's sisters tonight for our weekly conference call. It's important to me that I get a first layer of paint down for "Magnificent Bean" and that I go down to the coffee shop to hang my most recent paintings. But that's it. That is a lot, but not too much. It is exactly what I feel like I can accomplish while still maintaining a sense of sacredness towards the tasks at hand.

Here's to joy, efficiency, sacredness, and simplicity. I invite you to try this as well. I must admit: I already feel it working. ;)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

I'm alive! ...tired, but exceptionally alive!

I hung my show last night AND launched my new Stray Dog Arts website (thank you, Vinny!!!). Holy wonderful! It took a lot of late nights and last minute work, but let me just say that I slept sooooo good last night!

Only thing is...I'm not quite finished yet because I still have 3 nearly-done paintings to complete. I tried, I really did. But then I got a great letter from Kristine reminding me that I am the curator of my own show and it should therefor be an experience of joy, not stress. This was just the wisdom I needed to help me keep a balance in my attempt to accomplish more than was humanely possible (thank you, Kristine!).

And so today...I will paint. I will drink coffee. I will take my wolfie and pup for an extra long walk. I will breathe deeply the gratitude I feel for having found this new direction in my life. I might even snuggle up in a blanket and read for awhile. I will paint some more, but then I will rest.

Late the other night I was standing in front of a canvas (up to my eyeballs in paint) when all of a sudden I stopped, took a step back, and for the first time noticed all the finished and nearly-finished canvases surrounding me. I was like: wow! Who did all this?! I mean, I did all of that? Between working, building websites, creating postcards, business cards, arranging future commissions, artist statements, advertising.... I told Fiona that, looking around my studio space, it felt like someone had stepped into my body and just took over. She emailed me back saying: "Actually, YOU stepped into your body and took over!"

And so I just want to say that it feels really, really, really good to be back in my body once again. It feels really good to be living from my very center. No matter how tired I am. No matter how much there is left to do. The only words that feel important right now are the ones that say: I feel good.

Thank you, friends, for being with me on this most adventurous journey. ;)


Here's another little photo for scale, of the same paintings above. Yes, that's me (in all my exhausted glory). Small photo because it turned out horribly blurry...but Maddie made a request and so here it is! :)-