Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Okay...that title is NOT me. 

But I've heard it before and oddly enough used in the context of describing me.  Maybe I should really entitle this post "illusions" 'cause apparently I've achieved THAT!  

I admit, in my meager endeavours in this life, I tend to want things done "well" but perfect?...never. 

Perfection is simply not attainable in any other way than the feeling I get from time to time when for a moment something feels just right; a hug, a cuddle, a cup of hot coffee while swinging on my porch swing and soaking up the rays, inhaling that first warm spring breeze or catching the perfect sunset that absolutely takes my breath away. 

              Or the feeling of holding your child for the first time ever. 

That's the closest I've come to perfect. 

I'm a perfectionist, in some small ways.  My parents raised me to want things done right. 

Be it good marks on my report cards, or a straight seam sewn on my latest project, mom and dad definitely instilled those traits and for them, I know it wasn't easy after all I was not the most complaisant child.  I remember grudgingly attempting to recite my multiplication facts, or print an "O" that started in the right spot as per my kindergarten teacher's instructions, or ripping out a crooked seam all the while thinking "Does this really matter?...come on...Does It?"

and today, I still wonder a bit, especially about that "O". 

All this striving for perfect has though instilled some traits in me I cannot ignore. 

I like to look pulled together, or at least a little funky.  
Sometimes I worry I achieve this in the wrong sense of the word.  Like:  "Does that milk smell bad?" funky, rather than: "She's so cool, artistic, creative." funky. 

I like my home to look good.

I like my kids to behave well, make positive impressions and maintain their own personality.

Have I achieved these things?                     No, No and No!...

but that's okay, because although things aren't perfect, they are pitifully, painfully, quintessentially real. 

That makes me and everyone else I know absolutely human.

Which brings me to my gripe.  Or at least an expression of my opinion.  When it comes to my art and alot of art that I like, the one thing I can say that is a common denominator is that none of what appeals to me is perfect. 
I do not paint high realism.  I cannot and don't strive to.
I really admire the talent possessed to achieve such a goal and cannot help but wonder at those artist's achievements, but when most of my subject matter is maybe touched by the hand of God, be it flowers, landscapes, animals...then can I, being merely human really recreate perfection?  

I have trouble understanding why we humans have created rulebooks to dictate what is "perfect" in just about every area of our world and there are oodles of examples I could use out there, but for my humble and uneducated example I will use one of my favourite subjects: The cow.

As I am married to a dairy farmer who breeds his own Holstein cows and live immersed in a community of like minded breeders, many who are much more obsessive about this than my guy, I know all too well that the image of the perfect "Type Cow" exists.  
Selection of who you will sire a cow to is based on a myriad of traits that a bull possesses and how this will compliment what your poor cow is lacking is at the forefront of consideration.  I get this, really I do, because who wants to bring into the world an animal who's life will be shortened by lack of longevity or really poor legs or inadequate milk production?  Let's face it, any job is a business and if you want to stay in business you need to be successful, so as a tool to success this selection process really does have merit. 
For the record though, never in the dairy world has a cow achieved this elusive "perfect" that was coincidentally created and is actually an illustration done by some artist, a human no less, a long, long time ago...go figure. 

What I'm talking about though is my depiction of a cow, or my idea of the perfect cow.

I say this with a bit of experience for I grew up on a beef farm and helped my dad with immunizing, sorting and tagging his herd from time to time, not to mention accompanying him on many trips to pasture to "check the cows" resulting in fond memories of a few stolen moments in my childhood where I got to have dad all to myself.

Later, I showed calves with friends in our local 4H club, in fact, somewhere still there actually exists a trophy with my name on it, because I did the best job judging the appearance of 4 cows that year in the local competition, now there's a feather in your cap, wouldn't ya say?

When I was dating my husband and  for several years following our wedding, I participated in the day to day function of the farm.  I milked cows, helped to treat cows when they were sick, fed calves, learned to work with them and around them and fell in love with them.  Guess I fall in love alot, huh?  Thinking back to my post on life drawing, I believe I used the same term there!  

What makes me love a cow, is not her perfection.
Each animal has her own personality and it is that, that I love.  The girls that tilt their heads just a little wonky, walk with an extra sway in their step, chew their cuds enthusiastically, or seem genuinely curious. Or the girl who's industriously going about her business eating, sleeping, walking with a single minded focus wins hands down over that elusive perfect.
I will also always remember the one that stood on my hand the very first time I attempted to put a milker on many years ago.  That did not begin a love affair between her and I, although she is one I never forgot, I will give her that much and I can't help but wonder if all those other cows put her up to it, just to show the novice who the bosses really were.

So, I offer no apology when my painted cows do not depict perfection.
I love my cows in their imperfect glory, with their attitudes and personalities, saggy udders, legs not set just so... and I challenge you, dear farmers in the cattle world to see if the cows that made the biggest impressions in your memory banks and not necessarily your pocket books are the ones that were near perfect or instead the ones that invoked a reaction, demanded attention and refused to be typecast but just made you love them because they were them? see more of my cows, please visit me at my home in June and also 11 other artists in the area.
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Monday, February 14, 2011

The Cathedral

Hi all…Happy Valentines!  Is your day full of romance?...  roses?...  candlelight dinners?  …diamonds?  …sexy lingerie (eek!)   Or are you a bit more like me?

Heart shaped cookies?  Half eaten cake?  Messy countertops and corridors, … possible headaches and laundry? 

But you know, for today, I’m not complaining…filled with love overflowing.  Four healthy kids. 

One that gives me a rash almost every time he speaks, which is by the way
Thus the rash.
One that is a comedian in training, clowning for a smile at any moment, sometimes resulting in eye rolls but mostly remarkably good at her new found trade.

One that is little and cute and wears his clothes backwards.  He’s the 4 year old equivalent of Eeyore, but gives fab hugs and slobbery kisses to die for.

And the last, who was really the first…11 going on 21…thinking she’s just ALL THAT!  And well, for the most part she’s absolutely 100% right!

The 2 one is to die for the others are whatever!  

 Excuse me…for a moment there I was hijacked by the comedian...shall I continue?  Also, I’m blessed with a smelly, farmer husband, due to come home soon…likely no roses, wrong season for ditch weeds, God forbid he brings me some live creature he finds somewhere from salamander to orphan kitten…I’ve seen it all…he will likely be empty handed and in this case that’s a really good thing.  

But you know, today anyway, that’s okay.  Because he will come home and he does love me.  And all the kids.  And that’s a HUGE gift I simply cannot take for granted.

But for those days when “love” is not “in the air” I found below the following forwarded e-mail on a blog I follow.  Kara at Mine for the Making offered it up to share around, so I took her invite.  It resonates for me on many levels.  Hope you find some fulfillment in it too…mom or not, we’re all often taken for granted or at least think we are…who cares…He’s watching, and knows all we do. 

Love Ya!  Happy Hearts Day!   

The Invisible Mother 

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the
way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and
ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on
the phone?'

Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or
sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner because no
one can see me at all. I'm
invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am
only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this?
Can you open this??

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a
clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What
number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30 ,

Some days I'm a crystal ball: 'Where's my other sock? Where's my phone?
What's for dinner?'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the
eyes that studied history, music and literature--but now, they had
disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going,
she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a
friend from England. She had just gotten back from a
fabulous trip, and
she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting
there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was
hard not to compare and
feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty
pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and
said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of
Europe . I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her
inscription: 'With
admiration for the greatness of what you are building
when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would
discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after
which I could pattern my work: 1) No one can say who built the great
cathedrals--we have no record of their names. 2) These builders gave
their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. 3) They made
great sacrifices and expected no credit. 4) The passion of their
building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the
cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny
bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are
you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be
covered by the roof, No one will ever see it And the workman replied,
God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was
almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "
I see you. I see the
sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does."
No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake
you've baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small
for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but
you can't see right now what it will become.

I keep the
right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As
one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see
finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The
writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever
be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to
sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend
he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My Mom gets up at 4
in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a
turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table." That
would mean I'd built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to
come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend,
he'd say, "
You're gonna love it there..."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're
doing it
right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will
marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the
beauty that has been
added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers. 

The Will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

How To Avoid Making Art

A new and very creative friend loaned me a book just the other evening….It was entitled “How to Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy)” by Julia Cameron the well known author of “Artist’s Way” and many other books.  This book is a hilarious collection of cartoons depicting all the things we can do to jeopardize our creativity.

  I think she gave it to me for a laugh.  I laughed.  A LOT.   I saw myself in so many of the cartoons.
            “Compare yourself to the Masterworks of the Great Masters.” 

                       “Every time your Joie de Vivre Crows Throttle It” 

                                    “Take Seriously Every Negative thing Anyone Says” 

                          “Scrub your bathroom tiles with a Toothbrush Instead”

 …yes, I admit, I’ve done that…but it was a long time ago!   

I soon stopped laughing so much as I realized that I related to almost ALL of the cartoons…with the exception of “Smoke a lot of Dope for Inspiration.  Forget why it’s Called Dope.  Forget your Inspirations” Trust me, I’m apparently messed up enough already without needing any assistance in the form of illegal substances!

I have lived:

 “Devote every Minute to a Menial Job so you have no time or Energy for your Art”

                 “Choose someone who feels their Dreams and Goals are far more important than yours.”

         “Ask a lot of people their Opinion of Your Plan”

                          "Commit Yourslef to an Unspecified Number of Hours on a Community Project" 

and...                                                    “Under no Circumstances Make Any Art just for Fun”

I didn’t cry, but close…so maybe there’s a bigger reason she gave me the book after all???

I’ve literally been avoiding becoming who I think I’m supposed to be!   Is it fear of failure? Fear of not gaining acceptance? Recognition? Success?  I have literally been setting up insurmountable hurdles my entire life to prevent me getting to where I need to be!  
So in an effort to counteract my self deflating behaviour I took a stand and spent the entire day just creating, no direction, no end goal, just painting to see what might happen.                                                                            Make Art for Fun. 
                                       Weird, actually.

I have mixed feelings on the success of the endeavour, I attempted to create a painting using a style I viewed and admired in a magazine and although very eye catching; I’m not entirely sure it is representative of my authentic self.   I continued on another painting I’d been playing with for awhile and also started yet a third.  So…what’s my analysis?   I cannot say I feel that I wasted my day, I discovered a little more about me, my likes, dislikes and I started at least one canvas I will be able to market.  I don’t feel like I’ve crossed anything off that invisible list, but I did spend the time doing what I should and that makes today good.  

  So…New Friend, regardless of the intent…I Thank You!    Jen

... experiment in a new style

...a new canvas, just begun

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What I learned in Life Drawing Class 101

First things first...grrr, in my inability to understand formatting, I've accidentally highlighted this whole darned post and cannot for the life of me figure how to remove it,  if the reading is hard, I apologize, so sorry!

With the beginning of a new year people often make plans for self improvement.  I and a couple of friends are no different.  We are sharing our stories as we take the journey towards getting in shape, eating better, weight loss and so on.  As with any plans of that nature the bumps in the road inevitably come and discouragement, depression and frustration often ensue.  We compare ourselves to unrealistic images or each other, all at different points in our journeys and always come up lacking.  We should take care of ourselves, but maybe we need to remind ourselves that health is much more important than the exterior package.  Then and only then will we be healthy from both a physical and mental standpoint. The more I think about our quest I wonder are we, who have lived through many different events, trials and chapters of life just being too darned hard on ourselves?  All this introspective thought and all the thinking time I have while on my elliptical most mornings has taken me back quite a piece, all the way to college to be exact and I'd like to share some reflections I've had to anyone who cares to listen.

I headed to art college at the ripe old age of 17, a country girl to the core afraid of my own shadow most of the time, afraid of sticking out like the obvious hick and yet ready to learn anything and everything about my true passion in life and that was art.  I will always remember my first life drawing class, I was not entirely sure what I was getting myself into, I certainly didn't want to show my naivety so I didn't ask but was pretty sure that meant drawing nudes.

  We sat on individual benches in a circle with our large drawing boards propped in front and various drawing pencils scattered around ready to address our subject.  To date we'd drawn fruit or various still life arrangements and maybe a portrait or two.  In walked a guy pretty close in age to the students who very casually spoke a few words to the professor then nonchalantly removed all his clothing, placing himself on the stand in the room's center, smack dab,.... full front,.... in front of  Gulp.  Our professor suggested we walk around to find the view we wanted to sketch, circulate get comfortable, what I did was stay stuck like cement to my seat, mortified, my eyes firmly cast downward  hidden behind my drawing board.  I didn't want to look at anyone, I wanted to run out of that room and all the way home but I held my spot still as stone while others jostled, mostly to get the more prominent view I already had.  Finally settled in we started, I cast my eyes casually from side to side, my new friends were already feverishly scrawling away on their papers, obviously so much more worldly than I.   So, I joined in as best as I was able and other than the quiet request made by my professor half way through that very first class that I should maybe draw all the model's parts rather than leave a blank swath of white paper glaring at me from where his midsection should be, I did quite well.

Something happened that day and in the days to follow.  I fell in love.  Not with our handsome male model, because, well obviously he was, but with the human form.   The models came in all shapes and sizes, mostly female, but a handful of men as well.  Most were young, looking to make what was considered good money especially for a bunch of cash strapped students.  Some were as old as their late 20's.  One had even had a baby.  All were as different as we could expect.  There were thin waif like figures, there were very well endowed, incredibly voluptuous women, there were also obese models.  Each and everyone of them held a beauty unrivaled compared to any other one I'd seen.  From the curve of the hip whether linear and lean in structure or full, well muscled or gaunt, the set of the shoulders, sway of the spine, tilt of the head, all were beautiful whether swathed in little more than skin or many layers between.

They were and we are all amazingly, incredibly, awesomely different and yet all beautiful too.  Sure we have our own personal likes and attractions and that's just fine.   But there is not an image I've ever seen that is more profoundly wonderful than the human form.  Don't take it from me.  There is a wonderful site I found a few years back entitled which is by photographer, Matt Blum.  He takes nude photos of real women.  The rules are:  no models, no makeup, no glamour.  If you're comfortable with images of the naked human form, I encourage you to check it out and challenge you to not find some beauty in each and every image.  The music is pretty awesome too.

Celebrate who you are.  Right.  Now. Fall in love with You.  Respect.  You. 

Now, before you begin thinking I'm either completely off my rocker or have the confidence of a champion, don't kid yourselves, this is just as much a pep talk for myself as everyone else.  When you look at your faces and see wrinkles, think laugh lines, when you look at your torso and see stretch marks, think of the life your body nourished, when you look at your body and see scars, think of the battles you survived, when you look at your body and truly see yourselves, you will see beauty, you will feel acceptance and you should celebrate all that you are, all that you have been and will become and love all that you see.  

So, dear friends, I challenge look at yourselves not through the eyes of acceptable standards or society's opinion of true beauty, but look at yourselves through the eyes of an artist, or if that is just a bit too far of a stretch, then at least the eyes of a fledgling art student.  If I at 17 could see the beauty in everyone, then why can we not just be a little bit kinder to ourselves and each other?  Or better yet, look at yourselves through the eyes of God, the REAL artist.

Now, with all this talk of Life Drawing, I must admit, I miss it.  I got pretty good at recreating realistic images of the human form and it really did make me appreciate the fragility and beauty in all.  What do you think the chances are of starting a Life Drawing class in this sleepy little community?  What kind of scandal do you think might ensue?  Oh Well, enough dreaming for one day... now go, have a good one!  Cheers! Jen