Forgetting to Remember

If you Google “vacation” and check out the images, they are pretty much all pictures that involve white sandy beaches and turquoise blue water. Many have empty beach chairs sitting on the sand, waiting to be sat in (presumably by you). There was a random photo of the Eiffel Tower, but I had to scroll down a bit to see it.

Evidently we have a collective vacation fantasy of sitting on a white sandy beach with a loved one, no one else around, doing nothing but looking at the ocean and drinking something with an umbrella in it. This doesn’t seem realistic on many levels, but I guess that’s the point.

Having written that, we will be on vacation in sunny southern California in a week and at some point may just be sitting on a beach looking out at the ocean (but I can guarantee you we will not be alone, and drinking on the beaches is prohibited). Next Saturday we depart for our California adventure.


[ In some ways I wish we *were* going to be sitting on a white sandy beach for a week. Our vacation schedule is rather full…you know it’s bad when you feel compelled to create a spreadsheet for your itinerary. ]

Since I finished Fortune Favors the Brave, I’ve been tired and out of sorts, so a change of scenery sounds really good right now.

[ SIDE NOTE: If you were following along with that story, you’ll know I spoke about how hot the gallery window gets. Apparently I was not as prepared as I thought, and a couple of days of the heat had most of the frames unstuck from the walls and on the floor of the space (the Velcro stuck, but the adhesive on the back of the Velcro melted), not to mention several of the fake flowers that simply came unglued. Dammit! But fixed. ]

The creation of FFTB was so much a part of my routine that not having it to work on has thrown me off a bit. Yesterday I spent half the day picking up the basement where I had been working (there will be glitter on the floor for a very long time) which felt satisfying but didn’t get me out of my funk.

Reminders for Reminders

Many times when I’m out of sorts, it’s because I’m forgetting to remember core things that are not only important to me but that help keep things in perspective. Like practicing gratitude and appreciation. And remembering that down time and resting are part of the cycle; that Life is messy/gray, not clean/black and white; that nature always inspires and reinvigorates me (so get out of the house and look up).

A couple of years ago, in one of my many attempts at being organized, I ramped up my Evernote account. I created all sorts of notebooks for projects, ideas, inspiration, etc. and then created notes to help me “stay on track.”

One of my notes was titled Daily Reminders, and the idea was that I would list things that reminded me to appreciate my life, be grateful, reminders of special/good things that have happened to me, some random drill-sergeant-like admonishments (#1 on the list was “You’re f**king FIFTY! Get your ass moving”), and I was going to read the list daily (but you knew that) which would set me up each day to be appreciative, grateful, in the moment, and happy.


Well, you have to actually remember to read the reminders. Those daily practices don’t just happen spontaneously. I was trying to move away from having sticky notes all over my desk, but perhaps I need at least one to remind me to read my reminders. For whatever reason, I stopped looking at my Daily Reminders, got out of that routine, and then promptly forgot about them. Sigh.

Eventually, my Evernote account went the way of my real filing system: lots of stuff in the unsorted To File Pile and not much action on actually reading what I’ve filed away for reference, daily or otherwise.

Wherever You Go, There You Are

I firmly believe, refuse to give up on, the notion that an Organized Person lives somewhere inside me, that I can reclaim my Evernote account (and personal email Inbox for that matter), and when I become that person…well, I’ll let you know. I imagine I’ll be really happy and remember things better.

One of the things I keep forgetting is that being “in the moment” is all there is, really. Easy to say, hard to practice. Learn from the past, don’t dwell on it. And the future…go ahead and make those plans, set those goals, and dream your future, but you don’t really know what each day will bring. So, each moment is all we have.

During this upcoming week and on our trip I’m going to work on this: Be present. Be grateful. Appreciate all that is good (great!) in my life.

I’ll worry about how to remember my Daily Reminders when I get back.

P.S. I’m going to take 2 weeks off blogging too, so I’ll be back online later in July. Happy 4th of July!

Renfros at the Beach

[ A photo of us at one of the beaches we visited as kids in Dana Point, CA. I’m looking forward to walking on that sand again. ]



Posted in Creative Life, Creative Spirit

Fortune Favors the Brave – Finished!

Who knew making art could be so exhausting? Today was installation day for the Aquarium Gallery window at Ann Arbor Art Center, and after four hours of lifting, placing, touch up painting, and hanging stuff, my feet hurt, the dodgy right knee hurts, and pretty much the whole bod is just plain ol’ tired. But, drum roll please, Fortune Favors the Brave is finally UP!

When I left off in the last FFTB update, I was on to Plan B. Once the panic subsided and a clear (new) direction was forged, it was just a matter of putting in the time. If you read through the previous 5 posts about this piece, you’ll know a lot of ideas got put aside. I’m happy with the finished piece, but it certainly changed and morphed from the original idea (sorry, Ms. Mannequin).

Seriously, can’t tell you how tired I am! I think it’s also the weight of the project being lifted off…now all I have left to do is pick up the gigantic mess I made in the basement.

FFTB-balls ready

[ Green ones got nixed, but lavender, magenta and white pearl ones are part of the hanging items. I learned the hard way that they are fragile and break if dropped (I thought they were plastic) ]

FFTB-thread system1

[ I had to make a diagram for the hanging stuff (of course I did) and used three different kinds of gold thread for hanging. A very subtle effect, but the gold thread glistens when the light is just so. Makes me happy. ]

FFTB-thread system

[ I needed something to hang stuff from, so we bought plastic lattice from Lowe’s. Drilled a hole at every crossing and also evenly between (ok, that was harder than I thought it would be). I ended up not using all the holes (ran out of steam after 60+ and decided “that’s enough”). Each hanging thing had a toothpick tied at the other end of the thread. The toothpicks were inserted up through the hole and then they catch and rest on top of the lattice. Each was then carefully removed, tagged with painter’s tape so I knew where it went, and rolled up so as not to tangle. The lattice was then painted bright pink (thanks, Mike!) ]

FFTB-blank slate

[ The blank slate. Mike contemplates lighting. ]


[ The view from inside. There was a miscalculation somewhere, and the lattice ended up being too wide! Mike had to run home to get some snips to trim the edges (this is the fourth round trip…took us three to get everything here. Good thing we live fairly close. ]

FFTB-balls lined up

[ While Mike went back home, I laid out the ornaments, in the order to be hung. ]


Chrysalis, Julie Renfro, 2009

[ “Chrysalis” is an old piece of mine from 2009 that barely anyone saw. I just felt that it fit the installation somehow and that it would work as a central focal point. I had it on the floor and decided it needed to be higher up, so I stole a little round table from our living room that was about the right size and height…and it was perfect! Honey, do you mind if I paint that table gold? 🙂 ]


[ Finished closeup from the outside. It’s difficult to take photos without getting reflections off the window. I was so tired and my feet hurt so much (needed to be barefoot so as not to mess up the pink furry fabric while standing in the window) that I neglected to take a last set of photos prior to putting the center panel in place.  ]

The cloud photo in the center panel might be familiar to anyone who has read my blog from the beginning. That photo was used in my first blog post, and was taken out the window of an airplane. I was going to put cloud photos in all the smaller frames too, but decided to go with flowers (hate to admit it, but that decision was based on which photos I could more easily access and print…but I do like the end result!)


[ Oval and round mirrors of various sizes were put on top of the furry floor. Why? Can’t remember exactly, but it was an idea that came out of the panicked brainstorming session I had with Mike, when things seemed to be going south. ]

I can’t believe it’s finished! It’s a little anti-climactic, to be honest, but I think it’s the mental and physical fatigue.

On to the next project! After some rest….







Posted in Art in Progress, Art Making, Fortune Favors the Brave

Fathers Day

Sunday morning in Virginia. Sunlight dapples the new backyard patio, the heat of the day is beginning to climb, but it’s still cool enough to be sitting in my jammies and slippers (at almost 11:00 a.m. mind you). I’m sitting under one of the biggest, most beautiful, magical trees I’ve encountered in my life, surrounded by family, each quietly doing their own thing.

At this moment, in this place, Life is very, very good.


[ Marvin Wallace Renfro in his Merchant Marine uniform. ]

Our dad always had a project going, and his kids seem to have inherited the trait. Scot is creating a little art for the back fence of our sister’s yard, Tina is digging up the area in front of it where a bench will sit, just a small part of the much bigger project of redoing the whole yard. My art installation awaits me in the basement back in Michigan, at a point that made me happy when I stopped working on it late (late) Friday night (enough done so that I can enjoy this time away and not be in Full Panic Mode when I get back).

Mom in the tank

[ Among his many projects, my dad built a tank for the grandsons. It was made of plywood, PVC pipes, and duct tape, had a steering wheel and wheels, but it was “manual,” so you had to have one or more people on the outside to push it while someone else sat inside and drove it (in the very loosest sense could you “drive” it, there was very little actual control of the direction, just forward and vaguely right or left). A tiring enterprise to actually play with it (especially when you had to get it back up the slight incline of our street), but the grandsons thought it was the coolest. Who else has a grandpa that built them a tank? I took this pic of Mom when she and I had to get the tank off the street. She drove, I pushed, and then I made her wait there while I got the camera. ]

Dad was not always the easiest person to get along with (a big understatement, but we’ll leave it at that for now), but I owe at least half of my creativity and love of making things to him.

Marvin W. Renfro (Marty) was an architect, and to this day, although I have little occasion to look at them, I love looking at blueprints: all that detailed, intricate line work and hand lettering, the faded blue texture of the background, the leftover smell from the process of creating them (ammonia apparently), the thick rolls of them in tubes, waiting to be unfurled on a big table. The original drawings were cool, but the blueprints were cooler (reminder this is from the 70’s, I’m sure copies now are all digital and don’t smell much like anything). If you Google “blueprints” and click to see images, the array of all that beautiful line work is just….oh my (also, I don’t know what this says about me or my search history, but at the top of my results are two blueprints for the Starship Enterprise and two for the Bat Mobile…what?)

On beach outings when we were little kids, along with all the towels, chairs, buckets and sand scoopers, Dad would bring a big normal-sized shovel. No little sand castle building for the Renfros, let’s dig a 6 x 6 x 6 foot deep square hole in the sand. Make some stairs out of sand to get into the hole and a little bench down inside to sit on, and voila, a cool (literally) little beach playhouse (magical as a kid, but my adult self thinks this might have been a tad unsafe, imagining myself, Tina, and our friends all buried alive in the tragic Doheny Beach Sand Playhouse Incident of 1972).

Also an instructor at Orange Coast College in southern California, Dad’s architecture students adored him. He would lock the door to the classroom promptly at 7:00 am (yes, in the morning), not tolerating any students that couldn’t bother to be exactly on time to his class.

Each semester he would bring home all the students’ matted, final drawings for grading. We would spread them out in our living room, on the floor in a big circle, propped up against chairs and the base of the fireplace hearth. He would let us help grade them, pick the ones we thought were the best, the ones deserving of an A grade (his students might not be so thrilled to know his daughters helped grade their work). It was very clear which ones outshone the others, and I now think these sessions were great little lessons in line work, composition, and color.

When I decided to go to art school, Dad said I had to go to the best one around, ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena (much to my mom’s chagrin, as she was the Living on Planet Earth Finance Person in the family).


[ Dad was a big reason I went to ArtCenter. My graduation present was a welding kit (another story). My friend who knew welding said I could have built a bridge with the “kit” dad bought. Couldn’t be a small set of gear, not for his daughter! Had to be the biggest and best. ]

While my current art is linked more closely with my mother and her quilting, I know there’s a little bit of the architect in there too. And Dad’s belief that I should, that I could, get in to the highly competitive ArtCenter altered my path in a way that, in more ways than one, landed me squarely where I am today (all the art skills and life lessons aside, I met Mike there).

Thanks, Dad, for passing on your creativity, instilling in me a love of building/making things, instilling in all of us an attitude of No Project is Too Big/Wacky/Out There, and helping me to believe that I could, that I can, strive for and reach the best [insert Dream Thing] out there.



Posted in Creative Life, Creative Spirit, Inspiration

Fortune Favors the Brave – Part 5


Two weeks! Two weeks from today and I will have a finished Fortune Favors the Brave for Ann Arbor Art Center‘s Aquarium Gallery. Sunday, June 26th, I will be installing…something.

It was all going so well until three days ago…

A funny thing happened Thursday evening, while working in my basement, merrily humming along with my FFTB piece. It became apparent, dawned on me in a slow swelling of dread, that it wasn’t working.

I had been adding flowers and sparkly things to the side panels, layers of doilies and gold to the center panel. Using gold map tacks, I had placed the little gold squares that had images of the women in my family on to the center gold panel. I had been thinking about outfits for the mannequin, tying and taping stuff to her to get ideas (gold cape? pink tutu? should I sew something myself? how about a pink feather boa instead of a cape?)

Then Thursday night I decided to place Ms. Mannequin into the piece to get a feel for how everything would come together.

Julie and Miss Mannequin

[ Playing dress-up with Miss Mannequin…before, when we were still friends. ]

Pulling a Rabbit

Sorry to report, but she failed her audition. I had Mike come to the basement to get his opinion. Nope, not working.

Her attitude was all wrong (no smile, so serious), she was just so stiff. She didn’t fit the piece, at all. Mike and I talked through various ideas, but it all came down to: the mannequin has to go.


And now that she’s gone, it looks weird and off to have the center panel be all gold.


Now what? Panic, what else. I know you guys have all experienced, Artists or not, at least one time (more likely several) when a Plan B had to be considered. I could have just continued with Plan A, but I would not have been happy. The end result would not have “worked” the way I had envisioned.

The next part is what Mike and I refer to as Pulling a Rabbit (as in a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat). Although, because I have two weeks, it’s not a total Rabbit situation (those usually happen one or two days before something is due). But it certainly felt like I had to come up with something in a hurry.

Plan B

We talked some more, I panicked, bounced ideas around, more panic. But as we talked, the threads of a solid direction started to form. It wasn’t hopeless, wasn’t a total Plan B Overhaul, I just needed to, uh, change direction (a little), start one part over, and completely change the central focus of the piece. No problem!


[ Seriously, thought I was DONE with this cutting and pasting, but the gold had to go. I turned the center panel over and went at it. Unfortunately, this side is not smooth, so in certain light you can see the slightly raised lettering of the word LOWE’S. I’m hoping enough stuff will be on it that you can’t see it. The other end of the cat in the lower right corner of the photo is proceeding to chew on and eat the small scraps of leftover paper. ]

FFTB-large stencil

[ I knew this large stencil would come in handy some day. To be used on the newly collaged back panel. Purchased at Joann’s awhile back with a 50% off coupon. No specific plan for it at the time, but I knew it had potential. ]

FFTB-right panel 5

[ At least the side panels are still progressing. Still debating a couple of ideas for inside the frames. ]

FFTB-hanging things5

[ Final gathering of items to hang. ]

So around 10:00 pm, Thursday, June 9th, a new plan was formed.

In the following days Plan B got underway. I still felt all jelly on the inside at first (what the hell am I doing?), but I worked through it, and now I am really liking this direction. Actually liking it more than before. THANK GOD. I can’t even imagine: what if I had waited to put the mannequin in place? What if I had spent all that time, effort, and money, getting her all dressed up, only to find out she didn’t belong in the piece? Ack, gives me anxiety just to think about it.


Work space, the aftermath of panic.

[ The aftermath of panic mode. ]

A lot more gluing, tacking, stenciling, printing, hanging, placing, lighting to do, but this is it, the last update on FFTB before the installation! Can’t wait to finish, can’t wait to install it, can’t wait to share the final results.



[ The installation will have a central something, sitting on the small round table in this photo. I’m leaving it a surprise. No, it will not be a cat. 🙂 ]

Posted in Art in Progress, Art Making, Art Stories, Fortune Favors the Brave

Unfinished Business

You know, in September when I started this blog, I thought that one of the side benefits of writing about my art making would be that it would force me to make more art. OK, not “force” but, you know, apply a little pressure. Some small amount of persuasion to be creative on a more regular and more productive basis since there were people “out there” reading what I wrote (well, theoretically anyway).

If anyone is keeping score out there (and seriously I have my doubts that anyone is paying that close of attention, but if you are, then cool! and thank you) you’ll know that there are a few art projects I’ve written about here on this blog that, well, have sorta kinda never come up again.

Hate to admit it, but I have lots of “works in progress” that aren’t really progressing much, with the exception of Fortune Favors the Brave, which has been my focus lately (deadlines take precedence, that’s my excuse).

I have let some work languish, and I feel badly about that. I got bored, frustrated, disgusted (that might be a little harsh, maybe “displeased”) or some combination of those.

(On the positive side, at least the projects in question didn’t necessitate purchasing a small kiln and all sorts of other expensive supplies that never got used…a story for another blog post…)

Love Letters

Remember the Love Letters to myself? Back in December I wrote a post about letting go, and in it I included a bit about this series of small, quick, fun pieces I was creating and then mailing to myself (if you didn’t read the post, then this will sound sad, and it kinda is). I started these 3″ squares in November, with the idea that I would create one a week. At the time I wrote about them I had completed four.

To date, I have done twelve. If you do the math, although you don’t need to because it’s obvious, there should be a lot more than 12 by this point. And it’s been weeks since I did the last one.


I do love them hanging on the studio wall, pinned up with gold map tacks, and I do love the idea of hundreds, creating a big sparkly quilt on the wall. But I don’t know, Life happened, they stopped being fun, and I lost my momentum.

Still Lifes

Then there is the Still Life series. No. 1 was finished at the end of 2014. No. 2 was finished early 2015. Numbers 3-5 (that I wrote briefly about at the end of this post) never actually became real, physical pieces. The beginnings of one are on the computer. Does that count? As for Still Life No. 6 (mentioned here and here, back in March)…I just sorta stopped. Frustrated. Not liking where it was going.


[ Still Life No. 1 on the right. Still Life No. 6 unfinished on the left. ]

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way

Bear with me, I’m weaving a metaphorical tale here, but if you get bored just look at the pictures and jump to the end…

Right along with the story of the quince bush we tried to kill, we have a Cecil Brunner rose in our backyard that has a mind of its own and is finally flourishing after 15 years. Not only that, it’s blooming in its original spot in the garden and not the place we supposedly moved it to (evidently we need to learn more about digging up plants).

We planted the rose, in honor of my mother, next to a huge tree stump that had been left in the yard by previous owner(s), figuring that it could climb and cover the stump eventually. It never really did well, had a couple random roses bloom eventually, but then we had to remove the stump before it just fell over and demolished the fence (and potentially a car in the neighbor’s driveway next door). So we moved the rose next to the studio, put up a trellis on the side wall for it to climb.

A few years back the rose by the stump came back. Just a couple rosey tendrils with thorns, no flowers. We stuck a decorative iron thingy over it, not having the heart to kill it or move this new version. It existed like that for a few years, not doing much.

This spring, not sure what happened (we certainly didn’t help it along), but all of a sudden there were shoots that sprung up over 20 feet, resting in the lower branches of the pine tree! It was like Jack and the Beanstalk.

I was just going to cut it back, but because we are lazy people, the next best solution was to buy a trellis and just let the new shoots hang over it.


That photo above is a miracle. Fifteen years to get all those flowers! (Hi Mom!) (the bush by the studio did bloom for a couple of years, but a really cold winter killed all the branches, and it had to start completely over from scratch…no flowers on the new iteration yet).

So what has this rose to do with unfinished art work? I see it as a lesson in tenacity and perseverance. Fifteen years to get this amazing, flowering, climbing rose. This is what we envisioned on the tree all those years ago.

The plant just kept doing its (latent) Jack and the Beanstalk Enchanted Bean Thing underground, year after year. I need to just keep at my Artist Thing. Hunker down in my element, keep working. Give the art work time. Abandoning an idea is ok, but don’t quit just because the work becomes tedious.

If you want the end result you envision, hunker down and do the work. It will take time.


With the Love Letters, I think it’s not just boredom, it’s a lack of commitment, not being in it, totally, for the long haul. I know what I want the end result to look like, it just takes a consistent time commitment. Even when it’s not fun. Either that or make it fun again, but if I want that wall full, I need to commit to that end goal.

With the Still Lifes, I’ve actually been thinking about them a lot, working out ideas on how to make them more interesting to me and also better. Thinking about what the end pieces will look like, trying to up my game, and figuring out how to get there.

Also, I now have another deadline! 🙂 I’ve been invited to participate in a group show, in a new (to me) gallery, in summer/fall of 2017. I’m super excited about it, I envision my Still Lifes hanging there, but I will need actual pieces to hang on the walls, so…

I just have to keep at my (sometimes Enchanted) Artist Thing.


Posted in Art in Progress, Creative Life, Inspiration, Motivation

Memorial Day

For several hours yesterday I worked on a blog post, but I just couldn’t get it to a point that I liked. I tried, really, I did. It now joins half a dozen others in an unfinished state. But since it’s a long weekend, I figure starting from scratch today with another post still counts as “regular.” Right?

Pink Geraniums

[ Spring cleaning and planting continues. I can’t get over the vibrant color of these geraniums! I did nothing to the photo, no filter or saturation. That pink is amazing! ]


[ Wave petunias, in this particular color, are a staple flower in my garden every spring. ]

Photos in the Attic

I was up in the attic today going through old family photos, looking for a collection that my oldest brother is searching for. Some day I will find them, dammit, but after an hour digging through four boxes, sweating in the heat, I gave up. Soooo frustrating because I know we have them!

Not sure how it happened exactly, but I ended up with all the family photos and albums after my parents passed away, and unfortunately they are not in any way close to what could be called an organized state…at all. I have some of the original photo albums that my mom put together when my brother, the first child, was born in 1951, along with baggies of loose photos, albums with no covers, and several of those horrible sticky albums from the 70’s that in hindsight were a really bad idea (the photos can not be separated from the albums without damage).

Way back when, in the days of buying rolls of film, you thought twice (or your parents reminded you) about wasting film. Since you paid for every photo that was developed, good or bad, you tended to keep them all (at least our family did). There are blurry photos in the albums, photos with fingers over the lens, and, if those aren’t bad enough, sometimes near duplicates of those really poor photos.


[ Snapped this photo of a photo while in the attic. I am the photographer, and we are somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico. My sister does not look happy. My dad never let us take photos of just places or things, you weren’t allowed to take a photo unless there was a person in them (don’t want to waste film!), but apparently he didn’t remind me about fingers in front of the lens… ]

The Times Before

Of course, as I was digging I found all sorts of other cool photos, waves of memories flooding my brain, transporting me from the hot attic back in time, bouncing me from one decade to another, one family vacation/Thanksgiving/Christmas (ooh that one ended badly) and back.

Some of the photos really made me wistful, nostalgic for all those times before: before family or friends left (just out of our lives or off this plane of existence), before the fighting and divorces, before school (where you learned how mean people can be), before people changed (in a sad or bad way), before the place in which you grew up lost all its empty lots and rolling hills to houses…


Another photo I found while digging…the above photo is of my dad in the Merchant Marines. Memorial Day is to pay our respect to those who died in service, and my dad did not, but I’m betting he knew men that did. I asked my oldest brother Scot about Dad’s service, and he wrote:

Dad was in the merchant Marines and then when war broke out in the pacific he went into the Navy and was a lieutenant junior grade. His ship was a troop transport and they delivered ground troops to Iwo Jima – then they brought home what was left over after the battle. Aunt Jane told me that dad was never the same after that.

I wish I had known my dad before the war. I wish I could ask him if he had made friends while on the ship, ones that perhaps did not return home with him. I wish I could ask Aunt Jane how he was different after that, what change she saw in him.

My parents were not ones to tell stories, about themselves, their childhood, anything about their parents/siblings. All I have are the photos. After we moved to Michigan in 2001, I learned, for example, that my maternal grandfather was born in the upper peninsula of my new home state! How could I have not known that? I don’t remember now the sequence of events that led to that knowledge, but it certainly wasn’t my mother telling me. How cool is it that I moved to the state where her father, George Moore, was born?

Generally, and I think about this a lot, I wish I could ask both my parents questions, have some real conversations that I couldn’t have, or didn’t think to have, when they were alive. There are so many photos in the attic of people I don’t know, but that my parents knew, or they were my relatives! Who were they? and what were their stories?

Memories and nostalgia on Memorial Day.

In my digging I came across the photo below, one of my favorites from my childhood. My dad used this photo as evidence that he was the one that started me and my sister on a path to be dancers. I absolutely love how ecstatic my sister is. Such joy. Plus, as is true with almost all our photos when we were very little, Tina is dressed in t-shirt and pants, and I am in a pretty, frilly dress.

Sorry, Teen, I don’t know the story behind that either. I think I was the lucky recipient of some nice hand-me-downs, but If I could ask Mom, I would.



Posted in Creative Spirit, Inspiration

Fortune Favors the Brave – Part 4

“Ok, we’ve got a roll program.”
— Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 Mission

I was going to write the “we have liftoff” quote, but when I did my two-minute internet research I found the above Neil Armstrong quote on NASA’s website. In the above statement, Mr. Armstrong is “reporting the roll and pitch program which puts Apollo 11 on a proper heading.”

As of progress today, my upcoming installation project for the Ann Arbor Art Center, now titled Fortune Favors the Brave (FFTB), has got a roll program. It has come together to a point where it feels more solid and “on a proper heading.” It is in no way, not at all, not even close to being finished, but now that I have all my walls accounted for and in good shape, there is a foundation for some real progress to be made (if you need to catch up, read part 1, part 2, and part 3 posts).

Not to mention I can now have some more fun. I am really pretty sick and tired of cutting and pasting color prints to the six outer panels (three on each side).

FFTB-Walls finished

I have 5 out of 6 of these panels done, but I. could. not. get. myself. to work. on that darn 6th panel this weekend (see blank, pink, panel on the right above.) While I love the concept of “more is better,” there’s usually a point when I’ve committed to something “more” and then the actual follow through gets tedious.

FFTB workfloor

It’s gonna get done, it has to, but come on! Let’s get to painting gold, and sticking things on the walls! I want my beads and glue gun! Glitter please!

Not to mention I wanted to have something more interesting to show you guys, so I was forced to start on some fun stuff (no beads or glitter yet, sorry) so that most of my photos were not of foam panels and the same old patterns (please, Julie, for the love of God show us something else). So I turned my back on that pink panel (temporarily) for you guys. Generous of me, I know. You’re welcome.

Adding Layers


[ Applying some gold paint to the color panels with stencils. They are way trickier than would seem. You have to have just the right amount of paint on the roller, which is to say, not very much at all. And note to Self: do not do an upper body workout (when you are out of shape) the morning of stenciling and painting on vertical surfaces. ]



[ Taking inventory of frames we have that I can use for the walls. Not sure yet what I want in the frames. ]


I was standing back, looking at the overall piece, when I turned to the left and saw my reflection…in company with “frosting” covered boobs! Cool, I thought, I’ll take a selfie with Ms. Mannequin!

Sure, fine, no problem. It will just take a second.

Selfie_with_barbie cake boobs

– Wait, you gotta get the composition just right. Boobs in the foreground, boob silhouette in the mirror, You.
– Look up at the mirror, you dork, not at the phone!
– Um, do you really want people seeing you looking like this? It’s what you look like when you work, but still….
– At least try to smile, you’re looking too serious.
– Eesh, don’t smile like that, try again. And watch your neck.
– Hey, it’s cute that the pink trim on the mannequin’s bustier matches your phone!
– For Pete’s sake, you’re not Kim Kardashian, nobody cares, just take a damn photo and be done with it.

Seriously, Julie, you are down here to work on art, not take photos of yourself. For poor Pete’s sake, again.



I hear you: from selfies with mannequins to taking photos of the trash on the floor…what kind of art in progress post is this? This woman has a serious problem with focus…

I just thought, OOH! that little pile of scraps looks interesting in an abstract kinda way, gotta take a pic. During my image prep for this post, I played with the scraps in Photoshop…short digression, and fun. Seeds of ideas for later…


Gold Paint, Doilies and Foil, Oh My

ANYWAY, back to the actual piece….

I decided on a sheet of foam insulation for the center section (not using Mike’s previous center piece), so we took a trip to both Home Depot and Lowe’s yesterday, ending up with a 2″ thick foam panel from Lowe’s (we tend to help keep both places in business). This time, instead of cutting the 4 foot by 8 foot sheet of foam ourselves in the parking lot, we asked the Lowe’s guys to cut it for us (fear that there may be Home Depot Police may be waning, but you never know, Lowe’s Police could be a whole other thing).

Back at home, after cutting it down even further (hard work!), I gave it a coat of white gesso, a coat of gold paint, and now I’m starting to add some texture as a base: doilies (I had some, but not enough, therefore a trip to Joann’s) and gold foil pieces (a roll of fancy baking foil I’ve had in the studio). It’s all going to get covered up with more gold paint.



[ Haven’t started adding the foil yet, but it’s next. ]

FFTB-in progress

So there you have it, the progress of FFTB so far. Slow going, but progress.

And getting gold paint on my hands in the process is always a good thing.

BTW, per last week’s post, on a few fronts I “tried really hard” this past week, and it’s truly amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. Make a commitment. Be unremitting. Challenge your assumptions about what you can and cannot do, what you have time for.

Of course, yard work did not get done, but art making did. Priorities, my friends, priorities (sorry neighbors that have to look at the front yard, and apologies to Mike the Mailman that will soon have to hack his way to our mailbox).



Posted in Art in Progress, Art Making, Fortune Favors the Brave

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

A look through my journal reveals that I’ve been working through the same stuff…over and over…which feels kinda crappy, I’m not going to lie. Get back on the horse, get back to your path, get back on track, get back, get back, get back…I feel like I’m on a mental Loop-de-Loop.

According to the Internet (because you know I had to look it up, and I know you are dying to know) a Loop-de-Loop is, among other things, a type of roller coaster/physics problem, a cartoon character (Loopy de Loop), and a song by Ween featured on a SpongeBob episode.

My Loop-de-Loopy metaphor I see as a series of loops on a page, like when you practiced cursive writing (so sad this practice is on the decline). I see a long line consisting of low straight parts and big loops, over and over, and the loops may or may not be the same height (depending on the day, week, month, year…small loops closer to “on track,” big loopy loops, way off course).

Mantis Roller Coaster Ride

[ The Loop-de-Loop as roller coaster works as a metaphor too. Going real fast out of the gate, up the one side of the loop, and that moment when you hit the top, slow down, gravity pulling at you, and your world view is all upside down…then swoosh you’re down and out. Photo Courtesy: Coasterman1234 at en.wikipedia ]

The Bother List

  1. Get Shit Together
  2. Work on Art
  3. Write Blog Post

Number one on my To Do List this weekend could be read a couple ways, but it’s really Get My Shit Together, mostly my Mental Shit.

Lately the inside of my head has taken on the look and feel of that corner in the bedroom where the clean clothes and dirty clothes are piling up all together in one small mountain of fabric. The only way to tell the difference between clean and dirty is to inspect each piece visually for stains (no red wine here!) and then with your nose (eesh, that’s not wearable). And if it’s too wrinkly to wear it’s considered dirty.

There is that critical tipping point though, where the pile is just too big, and you just say f*ck it and throw them all in the dirty clothes basket (apologies for all the profanity. It’s been that kind of week.)

[ Playing with loops ]

[ Playing with layered loops in Photoshop ]

For about a week I’ve had a sticky note on my desk that reads “mind dump.” Every once in awhile, one just needs a mind dump, what I call creating my Bother List. I have been ignoring this sticky note directive because it’s going to be a chore.

I’m going to write down every single thing that is “bothering” me, tiny and big, all the flotsam and jetsam floating around in that roiling ocean of thoughts: things to do, things to buy, things to clean, art ideas, blog ideas, things I should be doing on my website and with social media (that I’m not), people to email, people that are annoying/angering/frustrating me (past and present), people that are inspiring me, big picture tasks, huge life goals, little every day tasks…

Everything out of my head and written down.

(I realize that if I had been using my planner properly, this whole endeavor might be avoided, or at least not such a big deal, but Get Back to Using Your Planner is one of the things going onto The Bother List).

I then take The Bother List and divide into:

  1. Things I Have No Control Over
  2. Things I Can Do Something About

The first list gets ripped up and mentally “let go” (or at least that’s the goal…that work ends up going on list #2).

List number two becomes The Big List and then divided up into manageable sub-lists. Sounds laborious, and it is, but it’s as satisfying as spring cleaning (and not physically painful).

Spiraling Into Control

My looping metaphor brought up the memory of Spirograph. Anyone else remember having a Spirograph set as a kid?


If you don’t know what one is, you would take one plastic thingy and hold it with one hand on a piece of paper, put one of the round design making thingies next to it, put a colored pen in a hole that’s on the round thingy, and then with your other hand holding the pen, you move the round thingy around the other stationary thingy (there are cogs on the edges of the pieces, like gears) all the while keeping your pen on the paper. Designs would be created on the paper like magic (if you have no idea what a Spirograph is, I’m confident that the picture I just created in your mind is lacking…so go ahead and look it up).

With great care and patience the designs would turn out beautiful. But if you didn’t pay attention, didn’t focus, the little cogs at the edges of the plastic thingies would slip, and your perfect drawing would be ruined. Or, if you kept at the same template for too long, you would repeat the design over and over, adding too much ink to the paper and eventually creating little ruts, and then the ruts turned into holes in the paper.

Catch my drift? Life is like a Loop-de-Loop and a Spirograph (take that Forrest Gump).

Julie Renfro- detail loops

[ Fancy Loop-de-Loops. One of many abstract details that I’m printing out and adhering to the panels as background to my Fortune Favors the Brave piece. ]

Work Hard, Fall Down, Get Up, Repeat

There really is no way around it. If I want to be physically stronger, have more stamina, I have to up the ante in my workouts. If I want to feel my best and be healthful, I need to stop eating crap food and drinking too much wine. If I want to be the best artist I can be, continue to grow and get better, I need to be diligent, unremiting, in carving out time to work at it.

I can talk and write about it all I want, but really, stop “trying” and start really doing (I know, I’ve said similar before, hence the Loop-de-Loop metaphor. I did a search on my own blog for the word “trying”…… so sad, but a relief that every single post didn’t come up).

Naomi Dunford wrote a post that I love titled What If You Tried Really Hard. She wrote:

When I was in the process of quitting smoking, I was having a discussion with somebody and heard myself say this:

“God, I’m just trying SO HARD, you know?”

After making this (in hindsight quite self-pitying) statement, I had a thought.

“Am I trying hard?”

Like, I’m certainly thinking about it a lot. I’m guilting myself a considerable portion of the day. I’m embroiling myself in the drama a lot.

Sure, I’m putting a significant amount of effort into talking about how difficult it is, self-flagellation, whining, reading endless articles on the Internet, and sundried other ignoble pursuits, but am I putting a comparable amount of effort into not putting a cigarette into my mouth and setting fire to the end?

On observation, it would appear that I wasn’t. I wasn’t trying very hard at all.

So. I’m getting The Bother List done, going to stop “embroiling myself in the drama a lot,” get back on the horse, continue on my track, stop talking and start doing, and maybe the loops on my never ending Loop-de-Loop will begin to get smaller and happen further apart.

I can’t make any promises. But I’m going to try really hard.

Posted in Creative Life, Motivation

Mother’s Day and Garden Wonders

For awhile I was angry whenever Mother’s Day rolled around.

My mom passed away in 1997, three months after Mike and I were married, and it just seemed unfair to have all this seemingly forced celebrating when I myself no longer had my mom. The anger and resentment have slowly diminished over time, and while the day is no longer quite as big a deal as it used to be (in my immediate family), my sisters are mothers, my friends are mothers and grandmothers, and they all deserve to be celebrated too. There are all sorts of moms out there to be celebrated, those that are alive and those no longer with us.

I am so very grateful for Muriel Jeanne Renfro and all she gave to me. Whether passed on through DNA, through her guidance, or through her example, I am me because of her. She is an ever-present influence in my art, and I would not be doing what I do if not for her.

I miss her terribly, and love her dearly.


[ My mother at my graduation from Art Center College of Design. ]

Spring Cleaning Continues

We spent a good portion of today outside, cleaning up the backyard. If I were to attempt to get up off the couch at this moment, my body would protest (OK, enough with the spring cleaning, this hurts).

I know I probably mention the weather way too much, but these spring days are simply the best. Today I took to noticing and treasuring the beauty in our own backyard, and thought I would share:

moss covered rock

[ This moss covers just one rock in our backyard path. I’m not sure what the new growth is (technically) but the feathery green moss has these delicate orange stalks with bright green, uh, things at the ends. Amazing. ]

milkweed seeds

[ Milkweed seeds found on the ground, left from last year, survived the winter. The engineering of these seed filaments, and their pattern, is very awe inspiring. ]

red tulip

[ A tulip in our front yard. We did not plant any tulips, ever, but they have appeared over the years and seem to have multiplied in our front yard. I had never noticed the beautiful yellow and black pattern at the center of the flowers. ]

yellow flowers

[ So much of our garden is either leftover from previous owners or “visitors” from who knows where. These yellow flowers are flourishing in the back of the yard. We did not plant them, but I love them. ]

fountain marbles

[ The marble and glass mosaic orb at the top of Mike’s fountain. Love all the subtle selfies reflected in the lower marbles. ]

golden cat

[ A golden cat, serene and sun drenched. She is from Mike’s Aquarium Gallery installation and now graces our backyard. ]

selfie in garden globe

[ Weird, but I liked this extraterrestrial-looking selfie (of sorts) in one of our glass garden globes. ]


[ We took a trip to World Market today and bought an umbrella and lights. I LOVE sitting here at the end of the day, listening to the water fountain, the birds singing, the neighbors doing what they do….Life is GOOD. ]

This weekend has been about gratitude, appreciation, and noticing/paying attention…to the memory and legacy of my mother and to the wonder and beauty in my own backyard.

Posted in Creative Life, Inspiration

Title No Longer TBD – Part 3

Several weeks back, as I was walking on the treadmill and staring at the parts and pieces that were the beginnings of my Aquarium Gallery piece, the phrase “fortune favors the brave” bubbled up from somewhere in my consciousness. Had a nice ring to it, but wasn’t sure I wanted to commit (what does it mean exactly?)

Regardless of meaning, it has taken up semi-permanent residence in my head, pulled up a nice comfy chair in a corner, sat down, and waited. Hung around. And it’s been sitting there all these weeks, so I decided to let it stay.

Fortune Favors the Brave.

This is now the working title of the piece.

It’s still a shimmering idea/shape, not yet fully formed (my guest is but a ghost), but we’re going to have a conversation over the next few weeks as I work. I’ve learned that I have to trust my intuition, my instincts, and not get too caught up in “meaning” initially. But you know my guest will have some things to say as she becomes more solid, I’m sure.

[ By Hans Sebald Beham - Private collection, Scan by Yellow Lion 2006, CC BY 4.0, ]

[ By Hans Sebald Beham – Private collection, Scan by Yellow Lion 2006, CC BY 4.0, ]

The above image has nothing, really, to do with my piece, but I liked the drawing of Fortuna (plus, not sure of their purpose, but those shin bracelet thingies with lions on them rock. I think I need some.)

Fortune Favors the Brave - Getting Started

[ Beginning to put things together (finally!) – purple pillow required for sitting and kneeling work on the floor. ]

The Home Depot Police

Even though he said I could, I decided I couldn’t bear to paint completely over all of Mike’s previous hard work (on the panels I’m reusing), so we went to Home Depot to buy the large sheets of foam insulation that would be the base of my piece. This way I could cover up Mike’s panels using Velcro to adhere the foam to the walls, and the foam will allow me to pin things into it (lots and lots of things).

The insulation sheets are 4 foot by 8 foot, and therefore will not fit in our Honda Civic without a little help. After purchase, we stepped outside the store and Mike wanted to cut the panels right there on the cement by all the carts parked against the building. I had brought a knife (stashed away in my purse), but I guess in my mind I had envisioned we would do this surreptitiously out by the car. Not in full public view of anyone walking out of the store. And the Home Depot Police.

As I have noted in other posts, I am a worrier. And I tend to be a Rule Book Follower. Problem is, since I don’t have the Rule Book (that everyone else secretly has), I will make up what I think are the rules. As I’m helping Mike cut the panels into manageable sizes, I’m thinking:

“This has to be against some Home Depot policy. You can’t be allowed to bring a box cutter to the store and start your DIY project right there on the premises. We’re going to get caught. We’re going to get in trouble.”

I hate conflict. I don’t want to get yelled at, or worse taken to the Home Depot Police room at the back of the store to be questioned. Until this moment I hadn’t really thought such a room (or group of burly men) existed, but now in my mind they do, for sure. Lurking in the back of the store viewing security cameras.

So as I’m working through this anxiety, we finally get the panels down to 2 foot by 8 foot and take them out to the car. But 8 feet is still too long, so more cutting needs to happen. I mentally start hopping from foot to foot, and I finally can’t help myself, I say something to Mike to the effect that this has to be against Home Depot policy.

Mike just gives me that look. It’s loving, and understanding, but it’s the Seriously? Look. I’ve seen it over the years, it’s the Just Stop, You Worry Too Much Look (which, I have to admit, is 99.9% true, but there’s always that chance that the Bad Thing, whatever it is, will happen).

He reassures me it’s all going to be fine, and as always I would like to believe him, but, you know, there are rules. And I’m convinced we are clearly breaking them. Mike takes the foam panels to the grass strip at the front of the parking lot, which in my mind is still too out in the open, and I’m mentally hurrying him along. Be quick! Eyes are watching!

But the Home Depot Police don’t come running and yelling from the store, and we get our newly cut insulation panels into the car. We are safe. This time.

And I have to confess … as I was writing this post, the thought came, unbidden, “what if Home Depot reads this?” … honestly, I’m not sure there’s hope for me.

Anyway, work has begun:

Fortune Favors the Brave, base collage closeup

[ Color laser prints of my original collage pieces, Mod Podged to the foam. Not sure yet if the entire surface will be this…I may break it up with something else. But this is just the base work, there will be lots of stuff attached to the walls. ]

Fortune Favors the Brave, in progress view from the floor

The view from my purple pillow on the floor. The left and right panels of this side have the foam attached via Velcro. Center panel with Mike’s painting is yet to be covered. ]


Fortune Favors the Brave - getting ideas

[ Getting ideas using the fake flowers from the original Barbie Cake project. I had covered many fake flowers with glitter…cant’ wait to use them in this piece! ]

Old Work

[ Since I’m reusing parts of older work, I’m thinking I might incorporate some *other* older work I’ve done, hang these small pieces on the walls perhaps? Maybe the whole installation becomes an amalgamation of previous works into one?…just an idea. ]

So the real work has begun! There has been actual attaching of parts and cutting and pasting of things. This is real progress.





Posted in Art in Progress, Art Making, Art Stories, Fortune Favors the Brave