Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Striving Artist

It occurred to me how many of my friends are artists of one sort or another. My friend Beth Seilonen just spent ten days’ wonderful summer vacation with me. She spent much of the time in my back yard in the creative process, painting delightful one-of-a-kind boards, pins and boxes into “spirit boards” complete with little planchettes. More than just her own creative mind at work, her spirit of giving was in play too, since these items are all fundraiser items to support this year’s 2014 SF BATS.

We laughed at how I had her chained to the picnic table all week. In fact, my “artist in captivity” effort was a little more participative. We visited Michaels stores in three different towns, all with just a little bit different inventory of omigoshes and gotchas that inspired Beth to spend her days in the shade of my pink crepe myrtle up to her elbows in paint.

The results are heart-warming, too. At the recent SF BATS Fundraiser event, three of the big boards sold, including a masterpiece friendly fruit bat board with a swirling lacy paper background layer. It looks like the whorls and eddies of the depths of divination.  One of the beautiful owl figural boards sold, plus a box (perfect for runes) decorated with bats flying around the sides with the familiar letters and numbers, Yes and No on the top.
Beth Seilonen's SF BATS Spirit Board 2014

Beth has just a few more of these available for sale, still with proceeds split to SF BATS, along with her joyous, jolly, irreverent Compound Tarot, a 78-card black and white deck featuring the denizens of the mythical Compound that is the Mother House for Daughters of Divination’s Facebook group. This Facebook group was recently made a secret group to facilitate its worldwide membership’s postings of fun and lampooning. One new member wondered where the divination was and we all chuckled reading the question. There are lots of social media groups dedicated to serious divinatory queries, business tips for professional readers and practice readings for students. This group, however, is the haven for diviners in serious need of blowing off a little steam. While a dedicated subgroup gets their spectacles steamed up over current favorite hotties like Cumberbatch and Hiddleston, care is taken to assure the whole thing does not go overboard into completely poor taste (although some would dandle dangerously close to the edge of that cliff), all in good fun.

In addition to having my visiting artist-in-residence for the last few days, my back yard has hosted the neighborhood children in their demand for Craft Day. First, I led my Ventura Street Irregulars in a slapdash paint-your-own-mini-birdhouse day with the kids on the block. Even the two-year-old got her hands into the mix, happily making handprints on whatever was in front of her.

Today, I had to work, but that didn’t stop Beth and her daughter Anna from having the kids over for another round of paint-your-own-box and everyone brought home a treasure.

It was little enough for me to devote my old picnic tables and plastic table cloths, a basket full of paint, glitter and sticky foam things to let artistic imagination run loose. Those were the days I loved best as a child. What a joy to give that to someone else!

I’ve always loved the idea of creating something beautiful. As a child, my favorite toys were crayons, Cray-Pas oil pastels, mosaic tiles, my father’s drafting tools, water colors, rubber stamps and stickers, looms and lanyard supplies. If you could make something with it, I loved it and spent hours making anything from Play-Doh ashtrays to troll doll quilts.

When I was in junior high, my father was smug and delighted to be able to enroll me in college-level art classes at the university where he taught. I was pleased to be treated like just another college student and worked hard for the A’s in my courses. While I faced the endless repetition of the same inaccurate history classes year after year during the regular school year, at least my summers were full of stretching my wings artistically. Dr. Acker taught me how to see, not just look at things, but to see light and dark, shape and motion, perspective and just a little abstraction. But there I also found my limitations and realized that as much as I love art, I’m probably not an artist. Perhaps more valuable than finding my limits was learning that I could help artists and bask in the creative glow.

One of my early “discoveries” was a young man in Illinois named Gerard Erley. He showed pastels in the summer sidewalk art shows. I loved his work. I bought lots of it. I knew he had “it” whatever “it” is. I gave him my sage advice, as a collector of art: “Gerry, you may do any kind of artwork you like, but if you want it to sell, you need to sell it to people who have not had the art education you have. They may not see the nod to Sargent in your portrait. But, if you paint landscapes and still life, something they understand, people will buy them. Because you make Illinois look like someplace someone would want to live.”

I think he laughed at me at the time. But I like to think something I said may have meant something to him. He grew in his artistry and now is an esteemed professor whose breath-taking work commands high prices from eager collectors. He makes this world look like someplace someone would want to live. And I am “house proud” of my collection of “early Erleys”.

Over the years, I’ve found wonderful friends in the arts. Sallie Evans is an artist and miniaturist whose impossibly tiny needlework has graced magazines and shows. My friends Kristine and Shotsie Gorman are both artists in multiple media, now living in Sonoma, California with their latest opening blending tattoo, tarot and painting to create a vibrant and open atmosphere for the arts in a beautiful place, a resort within a resort, Shotsie & Kristine's T.A.T. Gallery. Rebecca Wrigley, a former Disney illustrator, had the seed of an idea for a Tarot deck and while that project is still “in the works,” the spurt of creativity gave her one of the boosts she needed to complete her first novel. And my friend Nancy Truax is the art teacher at our local Catholic high school, leading her honors students to create lasting community art works such as mosaic picnic benches in a nearby public park, a mural to give community youth hope and inspiration and becoming Teach of the Year. And I have countless talented friends creating Tarot and Lenormand decks with their unique points of view, their special vision of the world and understanding of its signs and meanings.

What can I do? My own talents fall short of my wishes, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. I can provide that creative space for others, sponsor their efforts, showcase their beautiful results, and plant the seeds of possibility in the hearts of artists and their champions all over. I can be the Ace of Wands, the inspiration to keep going and growing, encouraging artists of all ages to flower in the expression of the human spirit.

You can too. Sponsor the arts. Turn your favorite starving artist into a successful striving artist today.

Best wishes!

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