Category Archives: Creative Life

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Limitless

Today is special. Well, every day is special, truly a gift not to be wasted, but this Tuesday, September 27th, is the one year anniversary of this blog. This post is the You-Did-It-For-One-Whole-Year post!

What? Really?

I almost can’t believe it. Except that the anniversary reminder on my calendar is sitting there, and I have 48 other posts in my archives that have publish dates on them to prove it.

I remember when I first started, first took that scary leap, and it seemed like forever before I maxed out the number required for the Recent Posts widget and an Archive was actually started.

On the one hand, I feel very proud of myself for this accomplishment, and I hope it has been helpful, of interest, and/or entertaining to others. It’s been helpful to me as an artist and person trying to push through barriers of fear and self-doubt, trying to extend my self-perceived limits, working at being creative and living an art full life.

On the other hand, beyond the handful of people who have given positive feedback, I’m not really sure how many people I’m reaching (if my email list sign ups are any indication the numbers a sadly low), or if that even matters. And though helpful and (mostly) enjoyable for me, I’ve been questioning whether now is a good time to rethink the blog, perhaps cut back on the frequency. Or stop writing altogether for a while.

With limited time in a day, in a week, maybe my writing time would be better spent working on art…DO it rather than WRITE about it.

Pushing Your Limits

I recently read Diana Nyad‘s memoir Find a Way (and concurrently tried not to feel like a lazy, good-for-nothing human). What a truly amazing and inspirational story. If you don’t know about her, in 2013 she was the first person to swim from Cuba to Key West…and she was 64 when she did it.

AND it was her 5th attempt! Talk about persistence. It’s hard to wrap my mind around what she endured to make that dream a reality. She didn’t give up (although personally, if I were to be stung multiple times by killer jelly fish I might have to throw in the towel).

Her story embodies the concept of “living up to your potential” – something that I think about a lot. If we are given certain talents, if we are capable of doing better, of contributing more, should we not reach and strive for those outer limits of strength/endurance/creativity/generosity/accomplishment?

As it is, I tend to be hard enough on myself without having the pressure of trying to be “better,” but if you want to work at this concept, how much do you actually work? Diana Nyad’s story certainly pushes the concept to its very outer edges: whatever I think I’m working hard at, I’m not doing 10 hours a day of it, like her daily practice swims. I think I can work a bit harder/smarter at not wasting time (I have removed the Facebook app from my phone, and reinstalled it, one too many times), but I’m not driven to pushing myself too hard.

But should I be? And what is too hard? Are we obligated to do what it takes to push ourselves simply because we have been given this chance to be on this planet? Do you push yourself towards that talent or talents you have been given, or work at that skill that you really desire, at the expense of something else?

I’ve been working at some balance in my life: letting it be OK when I take down time, working at being fully present and getting things done when I’m working, whether it be Work or Art, and not getting sidetracked by unnecessary and meaningless diversions. And balance is a very good thing.

But I still question whether I could be pushing myself more.

Steven Pressfield shared on his blog an article written by concert pianist James Rhodes titled Find What You Love and Let it Kill You (which apparently there is no evidence that Charles Bukowski, to whom this saying has been attributed, ever wrote those words, but that doesn’t change the sentiment…) It’s a great article on pursuing your dream, and making the time, although the costs in his case might be considered high (which underscores my question: do we push harder at the expense of something else?) Mr. Rhodes writes:

My life involves endless hours of repetitive and frustrating practising, lonely hotel rooms, dodgy pianos, aggressively bitchy reviews, isolation, confusing airline reward programmes, physiotherapy, stretches of nervous boredom … and perhaps most crushingly, the realisation that I will never, ever give the perfect recital. It can only ever, with luck, hard work and a hefty dose of self-forgiveness, be “good enough”.

And yet. The indescribable reward of taking a bunch of ink on paper from the shelf at Chappell of Bond Street. Tubing it home, setting the score, pencil, coffee and ashtray on the piano and emerging a few days, weeks or months later able to perform something that some mad, genius, lunatic of a composer 300 years ago heard in his head while out of his mind with grief or love or syphilis. A piece of music that will always baffle the greatest minds in the world, that simply cannot be made sense of, that is still living and floating in the ether and will do so for yet more centuries to come. That is extraordinary. And I did that. I do it, to my continual astonishment, all the time.

We can’t all be like Diana Nyad or James Rhodes (although that would be quite the world, wouldn’t it?), but what if we just strive to be the best that we can be?

I don’t know, maybe that’s too much like the old Army recruiting slogan of the 80’s or a Hallmark card sentiment, but it seems like a truly possible thing to at least strive for.

On the Ledge Again

I may be on the metaphorical ledge, ready to take another leap, but I can’t literally fly (as much as I would love to). And I can’t make there be more than 24 hours in a day.

So. I love writing, but perhaps my push needs to be with the art. Narrow my focus. Do I continue to write but less frequently? Maybe a hiatus of some time? Or maybe I continue to push my limits and do both. I’ve been doing it for a year, I know it’s possible. Just thinking maybe I need to refine my focus.

Still questions, no answers yet.

If anyone has any sort of constructive input or feedback on my blog, any of my posts, and/or the question of frequency of writing, I would love, love, love to hear from you. Please, don’t be shy: julie@julierenfro.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Floating With Purpose

Pay attention, there are Metaphors and Life Lessons all around us, even when cruising at 6mph on a canal last renovated in 1918.

I’ve written before that I am very inspired by nature, especially being on or near water, so it’s no surprise that our trip last week on the Erie Canal would be in some way rejuvenating. The canal is man-made, yes, but still we were on water and surrounded by trees and sky much of the way.

Inspiration, ok, but I hadn’t anticipated that the trip would also be magical.

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I would think that, in this day and age of instant gratification and non-stop chatter, many people might find that slow of a pace boring, if not painful (BTW, 6mph was the max speed, we very often went slower), but I was so happy just to sit and enjoy the water and watch the trees, birds, and (sometimes) interesting houses along the way. Sure there were also not-so-nice parts, with bridges and cars and noise, but even that was just a change-up on the overall journey.

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[ Except for one morning of rain, we had mostly beautiful sunny days with picturesque clouds. ]

On our last day we only traveled for a couple of hours in the early morning, but that short, magical morning on the canal (pictures towards the end of this post) brought to mind a few metaphors/life lessons:

  • Traveling forward slowly is ok. Relax. Small, incremental adjustments in direction will keep you on course.
  • Keep your focus on the beauty and texture along your own path. Life (houses/people/Other/Not You) exists on the other side (of those trees), but that’s their business.
  • You may at some point get stuck moving in circles (literally, stuck waiting in a lock and having to do a 360 degree “donut” so as not to run into the other, larger, boat in there with us) but eventually the path (the lock door) will open and forward momentum will be regained.

A little cheesy, perhaps, but true.

Below are more photos and some inspiration I will cherish. For anyone interested in details, we rented a houseboat with Mid-Lakes Navigation and traveled west from Macedon to Spencerport and back.

Thanks to Captain Mike Mouradian for bringing us along!

Magic.

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[ I drove the boat for all of like 10 minutes the whole week. And by driving I mean keeping it relatively in the middle of the canal. ]

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[ The magical bits tended to be at the edges of the days, early morning and evening. ]

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[ Taking photos of interesting structures and textures along the way. ]

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[ The Galley restaurant in Fairport had a wonderful kitschy interior. This photo feels like an abstract painting. ]

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[ Title: 2 birds and 3 clouds. ]

evening-water

[ As I said, magical mornings and evenings. ]

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entering-lock

[ Leaving a lock. The first “test” drive we took was so much fun! But running the locks ourselves (we only had two each way) was a tad stressful. But in a good way 🙂 ]

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[ The walls of the locks were old, old concrete, wonderful texture and you could just feel the history eeking out of the surfaces. ]

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[ Our last day we left Fairport early to return the boat to Macedon by 9am. The mist on the water and the sunrise made for one of the most memorable 2 hours of my life. Magic. ]

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[ Me and Mike in Spencerport. Photo courtesy of Mike Mouradian, our captain for the week. ]

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Also posted in Inspiration
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That’s Life

It is true that life gets in the way of art but, if we’re honest with ourselves, we ourselves get in the way of our art.

— Louise Etheridge, TextileArtist.org


Where did the time go? This week, this year, another September 11th anniversary…it’s hard to wrap my mind around it this morning.

Today we leave for a trip to the Erie Canal. We will be on the canal four days with our dear friends Mike and Elaine, navigating a little house boat. I’m looking forward to it, but I have to say that this past week has been a game of running to catch up in order to leave. Every day this week it just seemed like there wasn’t enough time to get everything done that needed to get done.

I hate that feeling of being behind, feeling like things are just a tad out of control (what’s my excuse, we don’t even have kids for Pete’s sake!), but sometimes that’s Life. Move through it, take things on as they come, and at some point wrestle some semblance of control back. Hopefully.

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[ Work in progress for that big blank canvas I posted a photo of last week. I’m setting up the base on the computer and will print out pieces to collage onto the board. Lots o’ layers in Photoshop! ]

This post will be short as a result of my lengthy To Do lists (and poor planning?), but I thought I would point you to another blog post that I read this week, one that I thought had some great tips for getting unblocked. The post is by Louise Etheridge on TextileArtist.org, titled Breaking through blocks: 10 ways to reclaim your practice.

I will be putting some of these tips to (hopefully good) use when we get back.

 

Also posted in Art in Progress
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Never Give Up, Never Surrender

I always thought that inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. You sign onto a process and see where it takes you. You don’t have to invent the wheel every day. Today you’ll do what you did yesterday and tomorrow you’ll do what you did today. Eventually you’ll get somewhere. Every great idea I ever had grew out of work itself. If you’re going to wait around for the clouds to open up and lightning to strike you in the brain you’re not going to make an awful lot of work.

— Chuck Close

The title of this post has been running through my head all week. Galaxy Quest is one of our favorite movies, and this phrase is a repeated line from the film (a cult comedy that parodies TV shows like Star Trek and the obsessed fans that follow them).

Never give up, never surrender! For me, an inner battle cry that came after the fact, a reminder that I succeeded in getting through a pretty thick and sturdy mental brick wall.

It’s all well and good to remember that all it takes are small steps, Sparky, but I also have to have faith that if I keep working at a thing, continue to push forward, prod and poke at it, kick it if need be, something will eventually give. “Show up and get to work” as the artist Chuck Close said (side note: I love that his website is divided into Work and Life, and both are his art).

Sometimes it’s harder than other times to dig yourself out of a hole, climb over that giant wall, bust through that obstacle in your way.

But don’t. Give. Up.

Studio - Sept 2016

[ The studio is once again a happy place, clean(er) and hey, you can see surfaces! Not only that, I have a flat surface big enough to lay my latest project down. Three coats of gesso. Progress. ]

Grand Declutter and Organize Project, Cont.

We made progress this week, which has really helped forward momentum. I know you’re dying to hear all about it, but here are the highlights: we borrowed a power washer and cleaned the front and back porch (fun!), hung/moved art around the house (exciting!), donated four boxes of stuff and gave away our mannequin (now we’re talking! although saying goodbye to Ms. Mannequin was a little hard…)

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[ All you need is Love. Mike’s sister was giving Love away and I took it. I love my Love lights. They are a happy addition, like my pretty pillows. ]

Forward progress. And the studio! Heaven help us, you can see the floor. And surfaces! It’s once again a place I want to work in, which is a huge step. I actually made time to do art work this past week.

No, wait, I actually wanted to make time to do art work. That hasn’t happened in a while. And that’s what brought to mind “never give up, never surrender.” That spark came back, and I just had to have faith that it would. Eventually. If I kept working at it.

Looking forward to the week, to working on my big art piece (aka experiment) in progress.

Keep going. Don’t give up.

 

Also posted in Inspiration, Motivation
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It’s Not White, It’s Gray

I’m sorry, hate to bother you, but have you seen my Discipline? It seems to have wandered off somewhere, and I can’t find it.

I’m not entirely sure what happened last weekend in regards to my regular blog post, things kept coming up to pull at my time, but there was also lots of inner turmoil and that nagging, grudging homework’s due feeling.

And then Discipline went missing! It’s not just the blog that slipped, so I’m just hoping it comes back, and soon.

Perhaps I can coax it to return, with treats or something shiny.

Pillows for the Bed

When in doubt, clean something” is still my go-to for when I feel stuck, but my runner-up may now be “go buy some pretty pillows for your bed.” I never really got the whole idea of spending good money on a bunch of pillows that serve no purpose other than to look nice on top of the useful pillows, but I have to say, my recent IKEA purchase makes me very, very happy.

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That and changing up the color of our room to Light Pelican Gray.

 

Bedroom_before and after

I know, right? What happened to all that “no white walls” earlier? Mike said this was our “first white room” to which I clarified that “it’s not white, it’s gray.” I couldn’t live with a white room, but a very, very, very pale gray, now that’s different.

I do love our “new” gray/white room and happy IKEA pillows, Mom’s quilt hanging on the wall. It’s very peaceful and calming. Its little makeover is part of an ongoing Grand Declutter and Organize Project.

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Take a Step Back and Really See

There are many reasons for being stuck creatively and/or barely having the energy to create, but Mike and I decided that at least some of the reasons have been all the “cleansing” projects that needed to be done, the visual clutter in various parts of our home and studio. Walking by or through these (and ignoring them) just sucks the energy out of a person, often without you being aware of it.

I won’t lie, part of the problem is being able to make decisions about keeping or throwing things out, and if the two of us are doing it together, well…exhausts me just to write that.

But that aside, I think the things we surround ourselves with – the art or the clutter, the things we actively look at and the things we ignore – can greatly affect mood and well-being (which for me is ironic, as growing up you could never see my bedroom floor for all the clothes heaps).

We have been slowly taking steps to address the Problem Areas, change the rooms, the corners, the tops of tables, that are not, well, making us happy. Painting the bedroom, moving art around, getting rid of old things that no longer have use or meaning, buying pretty pillows. Like spring cleaning only on a bigger (slower) scale.

The Backyard Bench

Part of the changing/moving/cleansing is also taking the time to enjoy the spaces we create, appreciate the garden in summer, enjoy taking a rest on the upstairs couch on a day when the windows could be open and the breeze drifts through, sit on the front porch swing in the evening light.

And in the morning, before we get to the next item on the Grand Project list, I make the bed and place my pretty pillows just so. A simple task that has become so…satisfying.

But you know, I think I need more.

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Also posted in Inspiration, Motivation
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The Red Shoes

You don’t find out who you are unless you work at it.
— Iris Apfel

Last night we watched Iris, a documentary about fashion icon Iris Apfel. I envy her fearless personal style (and her New York apartment).

Sometimes I wish I had been born a more self-assured, confident person, or at least learned to fake it earlier on in my life. It’s taken me 52 years to eek out more and more confidence, but I wish it hadn’t been so dang hard or taken me so long to get the little bit that I now have.

Red Shoes

When I was 18 or 19, I bought a pair of red Converse high tops (I find it funny that my 16-year-old niece has a pristine pair of white Converse low top shoes. Apparently they are “in” these days). I really wanted those red shoes, and once I had them I rarely wore them. Why? Because they were bright and “loud” and not at all what other girls wore.

I wanted those shoes, but I didn’t want to stand out.

The first pair of eye glasses I picked out at age 8 were light blue. My mother and the eye doctor tried to talk me out of them, but I persisted. Then, I didn’t want to wear them because they were too “different” – I ended up with a brown pair instead.

One more: the first time I went to New York, we were in a second-hand shop and there was this coat….it kinda looked like upholstery fabric, but it was floral and fabulous. The inner Daring-Artist-in-Waiting Julie really wanted it, but the other For-Gods-Sake-Don’t-Stand-Out Julie won.

I still think about that coat and the decision not to buy it, but these days I wouldn’t hesitate to make that purchase.

To Blog or Not to Blog

Part of the decision to start writing this blog was to stop hiding. My fashion choices (or lack of) notwithstanding, I have come to believe that it’s important to put yourself out there, to be “seen” in some way, to share what you do: our stories, our creative endeavors, our voices. Whatever it is that brings you joy, that thing you get lost in when you bring it into being, share it. Let yourself, even if it’s just through your work, be seen.

For a shy, introverted person, this has not been an easy task. But who am I kidding, I do very little to promote this blog (still hiding?), and I have an embarrassingly low number of people who actually read this stuff, BUT … it really is quite interesting, every time I think of stopping, not writing any longer, I hear from one person (who is not an immediate family member) who enjoys or has gotten some benefit from reading what I write. And one person at a time counts.

I still have a long way to go in the “be seen” arena, but as always, small steps Sparky. I’m going to work on channeling my inner Iris, I know she’s in there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also posted in Creative Spirit
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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.

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[ 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.

Right?

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. ]

 

 

Also posted in Creative Spirit
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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.

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[ 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).

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[ 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.

 

 

Also posted in Creative Spirit, Inspiration
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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.

LoveLetters-12

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-Lifes

[ 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.

Cecil_Brunner_Rose

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.

Cecil_Brunner_Rose2

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.

 

Also posted in Art in Progress, Inspiration, Motivation
Gold-Loops.jpg

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?

Various_Spirograph_Designs

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.

Also posted in Motivation