How does your Ikea poster make you feel?

Recently a friend of mine asked if I ever made large paintings. She had been staring at the same IKEA poster on her wall for a few years and had suddenly realized she hated it. It had a picture of the Eiffel Tower, but she couldn’t relate. It meant nothing to her, she realized, and she was starting to figure out that maybe she wanted something she actually liked on the wall.

A few weeks later, another friend, who had recently purchased a painting of mine, confessed that she still hadn’t hung the work. In fact, she said, she and her husband had not hung virtually any work. She asked me to come over and help her hang my painting- and few others too. The  walls were pretty bare, and it was driving her nuts.

What these two stories have in common is a sense that what we look at on our walls affects us. Blank walls can feel empty, and make a home feel temporary or transitional. It makes it hard to “root” ourselves in an empty home. At the same time, when we have images on our walls that we don’t like, we can feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied in our homes. They don’t feel authentic to us, but feel fake and disconnected.

It doesn’t really matter what you put on your walls as long as it resonates with you. Art and design is completely subjective, and what works for one person won’t work with another. You might like Pop Art, Street Art or Minimal Art.

Tastes can also change over time. What thrills you one year looks dowdy or outdated the next.

This can cause one to fear making a choice about what to put on the walls of your home, or to not be sure where to put the work. But have no fear- trust your instincts.

Some things that might work are:

    • Think about your taste. Where do you like to shop for clothes? Are there brands you like? What do they have in common? Try to find art like that style. For example, if you like shopping at Anthropologie, you might like vintage or folk art.
    • Look at your space and think about where your eye naturally settles. Those are good focal points, and places for art.
    • You can mix and match styles of work. Go vintage, modern and expressionist all on one wall, hung “salon style”. Put different styles throughout your home for an eclectic touch.
    • Don’t worry too much about art “matching” your colors or space. That can be in the back of your head, but don’t let it drive your decisions. This is a home, not a hotel lobby.

Most of all, think of how the work makes you feel. Spend some time with it. Make sure the work makes you feel good.

Harnessing Chaos

AtWork-1 Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans. ~ John Lennon

For the past month or so, I have been wrestling with a painting. I tried all my usual tricks- sneaking up on it with white paint to "cover up" the parts that were not working, simplifying it, making it more colorful, making it more complex- none of which worked. I ended up with a bit of a mess.

OK, it was down right ugly.

The colors were, frankly, atrocious: acid yellow with earthy teal green, pale pink, weird beige (is beige ever weird? Well, I figured that one out!) and baby boy blue. Their dissonance haunted me for days. In yoga class I would find solutions to the problem, only to not have time to act on them. Finally, this past weekend, I attacked the piece. I knew it needed red, but not just any red: CORAL. That almost-orange-and-almost-salmon color that is gracing all the home decor blogs and catalogs this season.

Oddball

 

So there I was, painting some circles on this piece, with each one thinking, oh, crap, there's another thing I'll have to fix.

But I kept going. Trying to relate the halves of the work, add points of connection, reference and movement, and balance the color scheme so it stayed weird, but not unnervingly so.

This painting is really about trying to find structure in chaos... at some point making peace with the chaos. Therefore the work is not "pretty," but it has a jolie laide quality that makes it work. It is not at all what I set out to do, but somehow, I found a way to harness the chaos and coalesce it into a loose sort of structure. That's why I named it "Oddball."

 

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For today.

Harbinger300 I will not weigh in on gun control, or the need for better screening and treatment for mental illness. I will not tell you to "hug your kids a little tighter" (even if you do) or to write your congressman. Urgings are not my intention. I may or may not agree with any of them, but right now, that is not at all what I want to say. I want to tell you this:

I created this piece, Harbinger, in Spring 2010. At the time I was living in Mountain View, CA, trying to figure out my next move in life. Stuck in a depression so profound, so deep, it seemed there was no end to it, I ventured out of my gray, Silicon Valley apartment onto the streets along office parks and strip malls. I was never more surprised than to find magnolias, in bloom, pink and full, in front of a cold, glass building.

The magnolia flower is known as the harbinger of Spring. Spring is the metaphor of new life, growth, possibility. In other words, out of the gray, cold winter of our lives and this world, find hope anywhere you can– so that darkness and coldness and brutality does not engulf you.

 

Art & Beauty: Skyler McGee

McGee_3Skyler McGee: Balancing Nature and Space

I have followed Skyler McGee’s work since she was a student of mine at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Since then, her work has evolved into careful, poetic considerations of nature, space, and color.

Inspired by the natural world, Skyler works in fresh, delicate layers. She plays with combinations of materials– hard and soft, light and heavy, from oil paint to printmaking to watercolor. She emphasizes the artist’s hand or presence- nothing feels machine-made, but rather as if it was somehow uncovered in a forgotten studio from long ago, or excavated from an anthropological dig. She works carefully, slowly, her color sense reflecting the natural elements that inspire her work.

Currently living in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and two little girls, Skyler’s work reflects her daily life as well, as she balances her life as an artist, mom and wife. You can see more of her work at charcoalandsaffron.wordpress.com.

McGee_9

The Creative Place

Image "Creative artists ... are mankind's wakeners to recollection: summoners of our outward mind to conscious contact with ourselves, not as participants in this or that morsel of history, but as spirit, in the consciousness of being. Their task, therefore, is to communicate directly from one inward world to another, in such a way that an actual shock of experience will have been rendered: not a mere statement for the information or persuasion of a brain, but an effective communication across the void of space and time from one center of consciousness to another."

Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, Volume IV: Creative Mythology

What is art if not to awaken us? To make things seen that we do not see, to bring light onto subjects we would pass by. Art says, "Look. Hear. Feel. Experience." – and then some.

Art creates a place where we are present.