Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Art for Africa ~ Soak Up My Atmosphere, a Painting about Abundance

It's after midnight, so officially today is Thanksgiving. There are 2 1/2 days left on the Charity auction at the time of this writing. I thought it was appropriate to share about the painting above, which points to blessing and abundance. 

This painting was created as another class assignment for Unlocking the Heart of the Artist. In this exercise, we were to focus on a verse in Psalms and simply let ourselves flow with God in a time of spontaneous art or whatever our creative expression happened to, dance, etc. I chose to paint at my easel. I began with a canvas I had previously covered with texture paste and painted. I didn't like how the old painting turned out, but I really liked the texture. So I knew this was perfect for this project. 

At that time, I was really drawn to the symbolism of fish, which I immediately associate with abundance. A famous biblical example is when Jesus multiplied the little boy's lunch of a few loaves and fishes and fed an entire multitude of hungry people. And afterwards, there were still baskets of food left over. 

I also had a dream about fish floating around me, like thoughts or creative ideas. It's funny because when I look at the finished painting, in some ways it suggest the top of a colorful brain within the swirl of fish and DNA strands. The silver accents add to that idea of "gray matter." 

One fish, two fish, RED fish, blue fish
The original composition was inspired by a rough sketch I did during a prayer time with friends (including kids), which contained words and phrases written in a free flow of thought. The childlike drawing was made with crayons and markers. Here's the original:

When I prayed about what to do for the class assignment, I felt I was to use this sketch as the jumping off point. I spent at least eight to nine hours on this painting, bringing out the mass of flapping fish swimming in swirling waters. The texture paste really suggested the movement of water and ripples. 

Detail of texture
I see many hidden things in the picture. My husband saw a hidden shark amongst the fish. I also see that some of the shapes suggest kernels of wheat, too. Maybe another visual of loaves and fishes? I'm not sure. 

The colorful varieties of fish also remind me of humanity, and how we come in different colors and shapes and personalities. This work is finished off with a black edge and "grungy" frame style...another couple hours worth of work. 

At 14x11 inches, it's a nice mid-sized work. We displayed it in the dining room for the past year and it received a lot of compliments. Different details stand out depending on the light or time of day, as some of the paint has a metallic or pearlized quality. 

You can bid on this painting here, or see the other paintings here

I've shared in-depth about two other paintings in the charity auction:

Art for Africa ~ "Aslan's Symphony No. 1", a Painting about Creation

Aslan's Symphony No. 1  6x6 canvas by Sandra Martin 

“Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake.  Love.  Think.  Speak.  Be walking trees.  Be talking beasts.  Be divine waters.” ~ Aslan
UPDATE: This painting is SOLD to a gracious donor in North Carolina. 

The second painting for the fundraiser I want to highlight was done in the same period as Shine, but tells a different story. I'm a lifelong fan of the Chronicles of Narnia, enjoying the fantasy elements and characters long before I realized the meaning behind them. There were certain passages in the chronicles that transported me to a heavenly realm. The two that stand out the most take place in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Last Battle. The Voyage gives a glimpse at Aslan's country, which can only be reached by passing through a sea of pure white lilies and liquid light. The Last Battle reveals the country beyond the edge of Narnia with greater detail, and like the last chapter of Revelation, leaves me longing for more. 

But then there's the story in The Magician's Nephew, which is an inside look on how Narnia began. Aslan sang this parallel Eden into existence, leaving young Digory, a visitor from our world, quite speechless.

In the darkness something was happening at last.  A voice had begun to sing…it seemed to come from all directions at once…Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself.  There were no words.  There was hardly even a tune.  But it was beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard.  It was so beautiful Digory could hardly bear it.

The Creation of Narnia
When I first started this painting, I admit I wasn't thinking about this passage at first. I simply began exploring colors and shapes on the tiny canvas I had covered with orange, pink and purple blocks of color. As I painted, I listened to music that inspired the pulsing movement throughout the piece, where stars appear like embryos on the dawn of Creation, and waters and sky separate in puddles of color. Yet the sky itself is a sea of color as well, and the red spills from the sky to create the DNA that eventually makes man and beast.

I scraped away parts of the canvas for texture and to outline the DNA. Everything felt very impressionistic, like I was viewing the scene and then exaggerating the color according to emotions and feelings.

Shortly after "finishing" this piece, I decided to use part of it as the header for my own "new creation", the blog you are reading right now. The sun and moon, which often appear in my works, reminded me that art is a 24/7 act of creativity. Even if I don't physically create a piece of art, my creative mind is always active...observing colors and looking at the world with a childlike heart that is delighted by talking lions and waterfalls that travel up instead of down.

Later I spent a few hrs. adding details and outlines with archival ink
I hope you liked this behind-the-scenes look. Feel free to share, pin, and tweet. And a special thank you to all the new friends I'm meeting this week who have spread the word and also shared encouragement. Let's keep building each other up and supporting each other's creative endeavors. Each one of us has a song to sing! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Art for Africa ~ "Shine", a Painting about Identity

"Shine" 6x6 canvas by Sandra Martin

UPDATE: This painting is SOLD to a gracious donor in North Carolina. 

When I shared about the charity auction on Sunday, I promised to tell the story behind each painting in the fundraiser. Today I want to highlight "Shine", a painting I did last fall during a personal "mini retreat."

Like all the paintings I've chosen for the charity auction, this painting is an expression of my spiritual journey as well as my heart and emotions. It was created in a spontaneous way to reveal issues in my past that affected not only how I felt about myself, but how I viewed the world and other people.

I created this work as part of a class assignment that focused on inner healing for artists. We were to pick a time in our life when we felt our identity...the core of who we were as a person and artist, was attacked. This could be anything...a painful event or memory that causes us to hide who who we truly were. It didn't matter how big or small the attack was. If it was significant enough to change our behavior to "fit in" or be more acceptable, then it was important.

During the painting, I felt the problems reveal themselves but then I also experience hope and transformation in the process. Sometimes when we bring issues to light in our heart and expose them, then we can deal with them and begin to heal and move on. My event focused on how people have made fun of me at different times when I wear yellow. It sounds funny, but it's happened more than once and each time I felt that it was attacking part of my identity. It caused a shift in my way of dressing. In high school I tried to do some kind of Hunger Games camouflage and blend into the walls with earth tones and drab colors. I wouldn't wear any clothing that made me stand out in the crowd. I have a photograph somewhere where I'm standing behind a small tree peeking out of the branches, wearing a yellow shirt, showing my attempt to hide from the world.

I remember when I taught daycare, the supervisors handed out t-shirts for a musical we were putting on with the kids. There were a variety of colors, but the supervisor handed me a loud yellow shirt. I wore it to the performance and sometimes to work afterwards. I felt good in that yellow shirt, and liked the title of the preschool musical, "Grow Me Up Like You, Lord." Little handprints surrounded the words. I remember wearing it when I visited some relatives I hadn't seen in ages. I was teased but some of it was done in a mean-spirited way as well. I felt crushed again, and secretly vowed I wouldn't wear yellow again...just as I'd done in school.

The root of the issue behind these seemingly small events wasn't the fact that some people abhorred yellow and "loud colors." Everyone has their tastes. It was the more the voice of the inner critic that surfaces when these things happened. I felt unworthy, unattractive, clownish...that I'd committed a fashion faux pas. I felt I needed to tame down my love of bright color and pattern to please other people, even though it made me feel good inside and out.

I explored this idea in the painting through the image of the dress. At first the dress is soiled, but I added more transparent colors until the dress shone and covered over some of the ugliness of unkind comments and feelings of unworthiness. The ghostly dress in the painting, representing me, is in a position of moving forward...not looking back at the past. This painting exploration taught me to recognize the lessons I've learned in the past, but to not allow myself to be planted in a place of anguish and despair. I also recognized that even out of painful lessons and events of the past, I can still find good things I can carry into my future. And I also learned I don't need to be afraid to shine.

I wrote more in depth about this painting, including the faith elements and Scriptures that were woven together in this painting on my other blog. You can read more here if you wish.

Don't forget to check out the auction and also stay up to date on my artist page on Facebook.
(UPDATE: Auction is now closed.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Art for Africa ~ Auction to Support Orphans in Uganda

Help me raise money to feed orphans in Uganda
Mark your calendars. Monday 24th through Black Friday I am auctioning several original paintings from my studio on eBay (bluebirdsongcottage). This is a special charity auction as part of the Thanksgiving Emergency Fundraiser that began on November 13th for the orphans at Truth of Wings.

I hand-selected some paintings that I created in the past few years that have special meaning. But I'm willing to part with some of my "babies" in order to feed the vulnerable children in Lira, Uganda. It's been close to two months since I was made secretary at Truth of Wings, and I find my heart is knitted together with the children and the founders of the ministry, Okello Tonny and his wife Alice. I am blessed to be in contact with them on a daily basis, as well as others who also serve this ministry. And when I hear reports of one of the children having malaria, or that the cupboards are empty, I cry out to God. I also ask Him for wisdom and strategies to change the situation. I believe selling my art is one way to put my faith into action.

So far, I have chosen five paintings. But I may add some more later in the week for a shorter auction. The current paintings range in sizes from 6 x 6"(15.24cm) to 11 x 14" (27.94 x 35.56cm). Starting bids will range from $25-40. I am giving 80% of the profits directly to Truth of Wings ministry. (20% is for fees, expenses, etc.)

Each painting has a story. Some of I have already blogged about, and some stories haven't been told. I will be sharing the stories this week on the blog and more details about each one. Each one is a piece of my heart. I believe they would make a nice gift for yourself or a loved one.

Keep checking back this week for more details and updates. Here are the five paintings so far up for auction.

Aslan's Symphony No. 1, Acrylic on 6x6 Canvas

Shine, Mixed Media on 6x6" canvas

Cords of Lovingkindness, Acrylic on 200# Watercolor Paper, 11x14"

Healing in His Wings, Acrylic on 10x10" Canvas

Soak Up My Atmosphere, Textured Acrylic on 11x14 Canvas
Please feel free to reblog in it's entirety, share, pin, tweet about this auction. Much love, everybody. If you reblog, let us know in the comments. Thank you so much and have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Twitter @Sandra_L_Martin
Pinterest @cre8tivcurrents

Sunday Sentiment ~ "The Best Way to Know God is to Love Many Things" ~ Vincent Van Gogh

A detail from my art journal

Today I'm linking up with Zsuzsa Karoly-Smith, artist and blogger at Inky Dinky Doodle. She hosts a link party called Sunday Sentiments, which is now open monthly rather than weekly.

Full Layout - "To Love Many Things"

These days most of my creative energy is geared towards my art journals. I continue collaging my stash of scraps, which include many sentiments. I love quotes and sometimes saccharine sweet vintage poetry as well. When working on this eclectic layout. I found this quote by Vincent Van Gogh:

The best way to know God is to love many things. 

I knew this familiar quote, but it took on new meaning as I glued down the odd assortment of least treasures to me. Packaging from Burt's Bee's Pomegranate Lip Balm framed by paper beads I tightly rolled from recycled magazines...tattered vintage stamps from an old stamp album found in the corner of a flea market...tags from clothing and even my tea bag reminding me to "be yourself." :)

Cute drawing by illustrator of Suzy's Zoo - part of old bulletin board border when I taught daycare.

Recycled Paper Beads smashed flat add raised texture.

I love all these things not only because they inspire me creatively, but they remind me of happy memories or old friends. A writing theme emerged as I put items together in this jigsaw puzzle. I would sometimes blindly grab something from the two or three scrap boxes beside me, and it would end up perfectly fitting this theme.

Part of clothing tag suggests handwriting. A paper bead cut to a point makes a colorful pen. 

The elements began to remind me of two friends I know, both named Abigail. One is a fun-loving mother who writes adventures about cicadas, and one is a teenager with fresh hopes and stars in her eyes. Both are dedicated to their writing craft. Both have potential to change the world and each of them have boundless, God-given creativity. They have each deposited joy in my life, just as their name suggests

Take a breath and write.....

For dreamers and poets

In my last chat with the starry-eyed Abigail, she ended with: "I'm thankful for you." Of course this got me misty-eyed. I don't get to see either Abigail very often, but I am thankful for each of them. I told Abby:

When I count my blessings, I count you twice.
Everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Please check back later today for news about a charity art auction I'm holding this week to raise money for orphans and widows in Uganda. They are in need of emergency food and cooking fuel this holiday season.

You can learn more about the Fundraiser here. I will be cross-posting information about the auction on both blogs, or you can "Like" the charity on Facebook at Truth of Wings.

Bye for now!
Sock Monkey says Hi and Goodbye

Sandra Lee

Linking Up:
Sunday Sentiments ~ November @ Inky Dinky Doodle

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

7/100 ~ 100 Face Challenge

Number 7 appeared with a little vintage flair. I decoupaged a series of die cut squares like the one below that came with a scrapbook kit and let it completely dry. At first I thought I might do a simple line drawing on top, but then decided on painting instead. The line drawing didn't have enough impact with the supplies I had. I can't wait to invest in some nice black and white pens for my art journals. I'd love to hear your suggestions. 

Patchwork of Scrapbook Squares
The fun part was allowing some of the pattern to still peek through. Sometimes it's hard for me to cover up some of these collage elements, but I do so for the sake of the final picture. That is something that was reinforced by Kelly Rae Roberts in her Hello Soul class. 

I chose this tiny vintage photobooth photograph below. She's one of my "found relatives" I added to my Common Threads Junk Journal which I shared back in October. 

Vintage Photobooth

Here's a comparison of my portrait and the photograph. I admit I had to squint to see some of her features and sometimes used my artistic license. Because of my difficulty seeing the details, I couldn't seem to get her eyes to look downward as they do in the original photo. But at least she's looking off to the side. 

Photo and painting comparison

I thought she looked a little like my Grandma Johnson. At some point I'll pull out Grandma's black and white photo and do a portrait of her for the challenge. Until next time, happy creating. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

6/100 ~ 100 Face Challenge

Art Lover
To be quite honest, #6 was a surprise. I spent some time working on a couple layouts in my art/smash journal. As you can see below, I smashed a bunch of shapes and patterns in this layout, along with some art clippings. The lady in the pink hat was the first image I added to this spread. She's a gorgeous illustration by the NYC fashion illustrator, Renie. (Yes, I just had to look her up!)

Full layout in my Art/Smash Journal
After adding several images, I began to block in color, mainly the coral orange and turquoisy blues. I also added pops of pink. Then I began drawing in details and patterns, dialoguing with the patterns and colors I already saw on the page. I wanted to explore beauty and aesthetics. 

I cut out the word ART from a piece of junk mail offering a luxury credit card (yeah right). It was beautifully designed, so I kept several of the photos of jet planes sailing in the clouds and tropical vacations. And of course the expensive paintings one can acquire with their credit card. ;) The word LOVER was an old sticker from my stash that resembled a piece of stamped cloth.

I had this vintage clipping of a Roman bust done in a very simple sketchy style. At first I was simply going to add his eye to composition. The shadows around the eye made it look more like an Egyptian heiroglyph at first. Before you know it, I was drawing a full fledged face. 

Of course, I added color and a few extra details, but I stayed pretty true to the original sketch. His hair is green because I happened to have quite a bit of green on my palette. But then I realized I had just watched Batman (1989) when I began this page, watching the Joker and his thugs vandalize a gallery full of priceless art. Maybe the green hair worked in the image subconsciously? Who knows?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Leaf from my Art Journal ~ Early Light and Emergence

"Simple, Beautiful Ideas"
Today I uploaded a YouTube video of my altered art journal which you can view here. I created this journal last month from an old Chris Madden decorating manual. It was one of those types of books that is heavy on the writing but there were very few colored photos. Even though some of the decorating advice is outdated, I hung onto the book because it was such a nice size for a small art journal. Lately, I've enjoyed working in the square format in several altered art journals, including my pictures for the 100 Face Challenge (see my latest blog entry). The small space is less intimidating, and I find myself working very quickly through the pages. I filled half my art journal up in a couple days. 

In the past two weeks, I continue working on blank pages and adding details to others I've already done. I try not to concern myself about making a page "finished", but simply do as much as I want to for a little while, working on multiple pages at a time. 

I love this Star Fruit Stamp
To create the art journal, I took out several pages to reduce bulk using a utility knife. The remaining pages were doubled up using Mod Podge. This created thicker pages. Many pages were also sealed with Mod Podge for the first layer. Some were gessoed as well.

"Early Light" is an inspirational layout exploring color and meditating on God
I've been cutting out many grids lately, influenced by Daisy Yellow's Grid collage. I blogged about this process here. I also cut out images that captured a certain feeling and played with color combinations. The "Early Light" layout, for instance, captures that dreamy feel of sunrise, when you are first waking up and things feel fresh. I even loved using things like the "renew" tag from my morning ginger tea.

This sentimental quote is by Patience Strong from a vintage Ideals magazine
I was able to express visually what is hard to put into words as well. "Early Light" touches on things of the Spirit, but also memories of my late mom. I know I bring her up often on my blog, probably because art touches those deep places of our hearts, including memories of loved ones and even pockets of grief. 

D for Doris, my late mother
I picked up little scraps from my art table when putting this together, including this scrap of alphabet washi tape with the letter D. I put this in the garden with peaceful statue. The words peeking through speak of an "abundance of pillows" (a sign of rest) and this line:

Serene ~ The serene woman likes to spend time quietly enjoying her surroundings. 

Crochet Lace and other bits fill this "mood board"
Another page dealt with some of these themes of loss. "Emergence" is a busy hodge podge of elements. I struggled to find ways to unify them, and ended up using a lot of repetition. It still feels very full, crowded and busy, but this actually reflected my mood at the time. I was full of bottled up thoughts and emotions.
Emergence ~ A Key Word for This Season of Life
 My mom Doris was a crafter and artist in her own right. She saw beauty even in common things, and tried to find ways to use them. Like a magpie, she hoarded anything that sparkled or shined. I found these hearts in several envelopes in her craft stash after she died. They were cut from plastic packaging, potato chip bags, etc. She organized them by color with labels like "Orange Shiny Hearts for Fall Crafts", etc. I lay them on my lap and the hearts just spilled out of the packaging. And of course the tears rolled down because it felt like she was sending me a love letter even though she was gone, or hearts were sprinkling from heaven. 
Mom's Stash of Hearts
I kept these hearts for probably a year before I could feel emotionally ready to actually craft with them. I knew I wanted to use some in this autumn journal, though. I used my hot glue gun to adhere them to the art journal page. I knew the hot glue would react to the plastic, which it did. The hot glue caused the packaging to crinkle and even shrink slightly. But I used the texture to my advantage. When I run my finger across these hearts, they make a nice crinkly sound. I outlined the hearts with black paint and made white dots and scallops with a white fluid correction pen.

Chipboard Star from Happy Mail
This funny-faced creature was something from my own stash. I made her from different arty papers. Originally I had cut her hair to represent leaves or grass, but somehow they morphed into hair. When she finally found a home in this art journal spread, I realized this funky lady was actually a self portrait of me when I get out of bed in the morning. This is exactly how I look and feel. 
Yawn....time to wake up
This page was originally discussing pillows, so I added to this theme with pillows and a purple flower bedspread cut from origami paper (another happy mail treasure).

Stay in bed or change the world? Hmmmm......
Again, though, the dark colors spoke of emerging from a dark place of grief as well. Or perhaps from my tendency to hide myself away. The bed also reminded me of my years as a caregiver for my mom. One of my tasks was to be sure she had enough pillows to prop herself up in bed. 

When I revisited the page, I added the word Change. The cramped nature of the composition reminds me of a tight cocoon, or a mind busy with crowded thoughts. I know it's time in my life to emerge, change and ultimately grow. 

Time to Change
If you've read this far, I thank you for taking the time to hear the stories behind the images. I will continue to experiment with collage because the act of bringing together disparate things - things that do not seem to belong together - can sometimes create a unifying theme or idea or tell a story...even one deeply hidden that needs to see the light of day. 

So my friends, remember to allow room for emergence and change in your lives as well. 

Sandra Lee

Altered Art Journal Flip ~ Part 1

5/100 ~ 100 Face Challenge


For number five, I chose this sweet girl from an American Girl catalog. She represents the American Girl doll, Rebecca Rubin (1914). Her expression was so lively. I couldn't resist.
American Girl 
I started in my altered art journal with a broad wash of Derwent Inktense Blocks. I was not trying to follow closely the background detail, but just add something bright and colorful. In the end, I managed to pick to up some of the background colors without meaning to. I also blocked in her face with the Inktense blocks. I decided to challenge myself by drawing in pen rather than pencil. This helped me choose my lines more carefully. Then the fun began by adding some of the skin tones I saw in the photograph. It was a dance between adding new details with the pen, and then softening those details with paint, back and forth. 

She stayed pretty true to the photo. Midways through I had to correct the placement of the eye on the right of the drawing (her left). Her mouth is also open a bit more than in the original, but I don't think it detracts that much. 

My hubby commented that he thought this was the best portrait I've done so far in the challenge. I do feel my confidence growing, and I'm learning more of what it takes to create depth in the face. I'm pretty happy with how she turned out.

Isn't she a dreamer? 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

4/100 ~ 100 Face Challenge

My second drawing last night was inspired by a model in the Fall Anthropologie catalog. Her beautiful long face is framed by faux fur. I realized towards the end I had made her eyes a little too small. But I still think she is beautiful and vibrant. The pink paper was actually dyed with pink, yellow and blue food coloring. I did a stack of them when I was working on coffee-dyed paper last month. I adhered the mixed media paper to the title page of my altered journal with Mod Podge. The colors definitely informed how I approached her face. I did pick up some of the colors I saw in the original photo, and blended with the pink glow of the paper.

There was something familiar about the color scheme, and then it dawned on me. This picture resembled this old 90's Elvis Stamp. :) Funny how you remember things like that.

90's Elvis Stamp

3/100 ~ 100 Face Challenge


Due to sickness, I had to put the 100 Face Challenge on hold. Last night I completed two drawings. This face is loosely based on one I pinned to my Interesting Faces board on Pinterest a long time ago. The original was in black and white. I thought she had a fresh face and cute messy pixie cut.

Materials Used: Prismacolors, black paper (on altered art journal), acrylic paint

Friday, November 7, 2014

2/100 ~ 100 Face Challenge

2/100 ~ Only 98 more to go!
Here's lookin' at you, kid. 
I just completed #2 of the 100 Face Challenge. I had a wonderful day organizing in the studio and streaming Dina Wakely YT videos through my blu-ray player. The idea for the 100 Face Challenge originated with her. 

Even though I've been drawing faces since junior high, I'm in need of a good refresher. This challenge has really awakened in me the desire to perhaps take a life drawing class. I remember how taking life drawing in college seemed to improve my abilities in a short period of time. I could see improvement from the start of class to the end...just three short hours. I know if I devote time to drawing from life and even photographs, it will be a good investment. 

OK...the nitty gritty on this picture. It was one on scrapbook paper adhered to the endpapers of my altered art journal. I knew it would be interesting trying to get the face to show up on the background. I used a light wash of Neocolors followed by acrylic paint. I used a white colored pencil at the very end just to add a little definition to the hat and the contour of her face. 

I took a little stylized approach with this drawing. I made her eyes bigger than the reference photo and of course played with color. 


I had as much fun painting the background as I did the face. Here are my first two faces side by side. If you missed my first face, you can view it here

I don't know. I still think the first model look a little angry. Maybe now she's a little jealous of the Audrey Hepburn look-a-like. Maybe Ms. Audrey is cramping her boho style. I don't know. 

Much love~ Sandra

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