art

Transformation of a Scarlet Boa

Image of a mixed media painting by Janet Fox titled "Crossing Over 2."
Crossing Over 2 | mixed media (sold)

Dreamscape… I’m in my apartment. Someone tells me to be very careful moving around because a scarlet boa constrictor has somehow gotten in. I creep slowly in a circular fashion through the living room, dining room and kitchen. I see it, coiled up in a corner next to a big basket. I know I must catch and remove it. For if it bites me, I will be poisoned and get extremely sick or die.

What is a scarlet boa?

With vivid and colorful dreams like this one, I enjoy researching the symbols and actions to explore connections that cross over into waking life. For example and to my amazement, I discovered there actually is a boa that’s partly red. Originally from tropical areas, the “boa constrictor constrictor” is also known as the red-tailed boa. Here’s a beautiful Wired photo of one and some interesting red-tailed boa facts from animals.mom.me. Many people have them as pets, as they are nonpoisonous. They can grow to more than 10 feet long, 50 pounds in weight and 30 years old in captivity.

As the name suggests, boas kill their prey by squeezing it to death. They are carnivores and eat small rodents, amphibians, snakes, and birds. They don’t eat people and are nonpoisonous. So within this dreamscape, what I thought I knew was not entirely correct and was, unnecessarily perhaps, causing me to be cautious and afraid. Nevertheless, I’m not a snake person and didn’t want to live with one in my space. But how on Earth did a boa, and a scarlet one at that, get inside my living space? Was it living in the blackberry patch outside and got lost?

The boa’s transformation

While previously working with this dream image, I created a painting of a large, coiled red snake. I placed it safely behind bars inside a cage. Recently, I cut apart this painting, transforming it into the three artworks in this post.

The first piece, at the top of this post, symbolizes the bridge from dream time to waking time.

The second painting symbolically moved the boa back outside. I put this one in a sunny blackberry patch, where I’ve seen other snakes.

Image of a mixed media painting by Janet Fox titled "Sun Kissed Blackberries."
Sun Kissed Blackberries | mixed media (sold)

Since it is springtime with new growth appearing everywhere, I recreated the boa in the third piece. This new bloom appeared. The blossom’s color reflects a glimmer of its scarlet past.

Image of a mixed media painting by Janet Fox titled "Scarlet Bloom."
Scarlet Bloom | mixed media (sold)

How would you make something scary safe?

  For information about commissioning similar artwork or, contact Janet Fox.

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MAA’s May Featured Gallery Artist

Image of artist Janet Fox.
Artist Janet Fox

I’m thrilled to be the Montgomery Art Association’s Featured Gallery Artist from May 5-31, 2015! I invite you to stop by to see a larger selection of my art and also come to the reception on Sunday, May 17 from 1 – 5 PM at MAA’s Gallery in Westfield Wheaton, in Wheaton, Maryland. I’ll also be at the Gallery several other times in May, so if you would like to meet, send me a message so we can coordinate a time. Hope to see you there and thanks for all your support and best wishes! Note that MAA’s previously announced Gallery closing has been reversed.

Flyer image for Janet Fox's Featured Artist Exhibit at Montgomery Art Association Gallery in Wheaton, MD.
Janet Fox is the Featured Artist for May 2015 at Montgomery Art Association’s Gallery in Wheaton, MD.

 

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Dreamtime Journey

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Dreamtime Journey to Somewhere."
Dreamtime Journey to Somewhere | encaustic | Honorable Mention Award,  Montgomery Art Association’s “Paint the Town 2015”

Where do I journey while dreaming?

In waking life, I often think about where I am going. I seek immediate and longer term answers. I equally think about sleep-time journeys. Dream settings, characters and actions can be so fantastical. While dreaming, I’ve been in structures and vehicles, on land and over mountains. I’ve flown above and through the treetops, leaped off cliffs and visited under water. I recognize some places, while others are unfamiliar. Sometimes I know who I’m with; other times I don’t.

Do I choose these travels?

Dreams take me on travels magical, heavenly, spiritual, mysterious, fantastic and scary. Sometimes the feeling is very calm; other times action-packed. Before falling asleep, I like to focus on a question or something that I need guidance about. If I remember a dream upon waking, I enjoy reflecting on both the dream story and the question. Over the years, I’ve learned my unique internal language. I continue to be intrigued and full of wonder by these night-time wanderings.

Others’ ideas about dream journeys

About Dreamtime Journey to Somewhere

For this encaustic painting, I used some of my favorite colors… copper and aqua-marine or turquoise. I wanted to capture the idea that dreams are mini-journeys in the dark, guided by the reflected light of the moon, and often with a surprise on the other side. Somehow the saying, “All who wander are not lost,” seems to fit.

 For information about purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.

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Breathing Meditation

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Breathing Meditation - Revised."
Breathing Meditation (revised) | encaustic

Focus on breathing

We all must do it to live. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

From the moment we are born until the moment of death, we repeat this continuous cycle taking in air with the essential oxygen needed to break down food into energy. After, we exhale carbon dioxide and water as waste.

With breathing as a metaphor for life, we continuously take in new things, deciding which to integrate within us and letting go of the rest. What do you keep? What do you let go of?

Focusing on the breath

In many meditation practices, an important way to quiet the mind is to focus on breathing.

Focusing on my breath has helped me calm down and work through pain and difficulties. While belly breathing, I mentally focus on the points between the breaths, too. At the end of the inhale, I gently contract a painful muscle or hold a difficulty in my mind. I then focus on releasing it with the exhale. At the end of the exhale, I envision ratcheting down the original stimulus. After a few minutes, I usually feel better.

About Breathing Meditation

I chose a four-color scheme in this encaustic painting to represent the inhale, exhale and the points in-between. The red represents the inhale, focused on energized and raw pain or difficulty. The violet is the point of maximum inhalation and can be a point of remembering, contracting or holding. The green represents exhalation, letting out waste air and also releasing pain and difficulty. Finally, the white transitions back to the beginning of the breath, a bridge between the ending and a new beginning. The bottom section shows how the strength of each step can change over time.

How does it feel when you focus on your breath?

 For information about purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.

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Art Cathedral Glass

Image of a mixed media painting by Janet Fox titled "Art Cathedral Glass No. 1."
Art Cathedral Glass No. 1 | mixed media

Beautiful cathedral glass

Traveling is a great way to pull out of routine, learn about other places and people, explore questions, and expand one’s views. It’s also a great way to find inspiration.

I recently traveled to Switzerland. While there, I happened into the Grossmünster cathedral in Zürich, where I discovered the most beautiful stained glass windows. One of them, the Achatfenster (translated to “Agate Window”) by Sigmar Polke, captured my imagination. It appears as slices of agate melded together, very earthy yet opaque. I haven’t seen anything like it.

Why do so many cathedrals, churches and other iconic buildings have stained glass? The beautiful windows are purposely placed where many can appreciate and be inspired by them. Did you know that stained glass windows have been described as ‘illuminated wall decorations?’ Wikipedia has a wealth of information about stained glass.

Creativity in infinite forms

I think of creativity as a sacred gift. People are creative in a tremendous variety of ways including visual arts, music, writing, poetry and dance. Creativity is also required to invent tools and products, design and build structures and communities, grow and prepare food, practice medicine, solve complex computer engineering problems, and more. Parenting and relationships with others and our environment require creativity, too.

I practice my creativity, in part, by making art. I enjoy the sense of peaceful meditative energy while in my studio.

How do I view and care for my art?

How do I view the fruits of my creativity? As my interests, subjects and techniques change, what do I do with earlier work? How do I present my art to others? Do I try to ensure my art finds a good home?

For “Art Cathedral Glass No. 1,” my goal was to celebrate the mysteriousness of dreams. I cut shapes from several paintings containing thoughts penned after dreaming and chose colors to unify them.

After setting the art “glass” in the cathedral wall, I enhanced the window with a a bit of fluorescent paint. If viewing the painting with color LED or ultraviolet lights–such as those designed by SaikoLED–the viewer can see another perspective.

This painting celebrates my creativity, both from dream inspiration and my art studio, displayed as an art cathedral glass.

How do you practice and care for your creativity?

  For information about purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.

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Holding It All Together

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Holding It All Together."
Holding It All Together | encaustic (sold)

What are the ties that connect and hold us together?

Recent conversations with a family member have got me to thinking about my grandparents, great-grandparents and the many relatives in the generations that came before. Where did they come from? What kinds of lives did they have? What were they like?

Shared genes, names, homes, experiences and memories held them together. Why did some drift apart or let go of what they had to start new lives in distant lands? When they went elsewhere, how did they create new connections and families? Might I discover distant connections if I explored histories of my current friends whose ancestors also came from similar places?

Families come in many different forms

According to Merriam Webster, family definitions include a group of people who are related to each other, a person’s children or people with common ancestors. Many also consider their closest friends as chosen family, since they often grow together through significant shared experiences.

In honor of all families, here’s an upbeat little musical clip that I think you will enjoy!

Piecing things together through art

My family includes many quilters who cut shapes, sewing them together in various designs. They find fabric in thrift stores, usually pieces recovered in someone’s attic. They use outgrown children’s clothes, dad’s ugly ties or a son’s t-shirts. Some pieces are new from a fabric store. With imagination, these quilt artists sew something beautiful and lasting.

I was thinking about my family’s quilters as I pieced together small scraps of my mixed media paintings for this mini art quilt. After selecting the pieces, I carefully cut out and stitched around each block with gold thread and then joined these blocks together over a thin paper backing. The result is this 3-D artwork, fused in encaustic over a wood base, with several pieces spilling over the wax edge.

What things and what threads do you hold together?

  Feel free to add your note about this post or view others’ thoughts by clicking “Leave a Comment / Comments,” below.

  For information about commissioning a similar artwork, contact Janet Fox.

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Precious Metals

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Precious Metals."
Precious Metals | encaustic (sold)

Awarding precious bronze, silver and gold metal medals

In a competition or race, people challenge each other to test who is the fastest, can score the most points, endure the longest, outwit the others, is the most popular, has the most followers, gets the most votes, or is the best ___ (fill in the blank). These popular competitions assume that only one person or team can be the best at whatever contest is at hand.

After the race, the good contender receives the bronze medal, the better gets the silver medal, and the best is awarded the most precious gold medal. In rare situations there is a tie, resulting in two winners sharing the same ranking and each receiving that rank’s medal.

But what if one person or team could win first, second and third place? Is this possible?

Good, better and best

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.” I first recall this famous quote as an elementary school student in Sister Mary Lamont’s second or third grade English class. I had fun learning and repeating it with my friends because of the sing-song rhyme. It was also a positive motivator. And one of those sayings that gets stuck in your head so that years later, like now, I still recall it.

The quote is attributed to St. Jerome, born in 347 A.D., who is best known for translating the Bible from Hebrew to Latin and for his many other writings. And in case you didn’t know this (I didn’t), he is also recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as the patron saint of translators, librarians and encyclopedists.

Somewhere over the years, I learned another version with a twist: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is [your] best.”

So although competitions with others are important and help us to grow and improve, you can win all of the most precious prizes by competing with yourself and truly aiming and doing your very best.

This painting, Precious Metals, uses gold, silver and bronze pigmented wax and was inspired by a dream – close to the time of the Sochi Winter Olympics – in which one person in a race impossibly finished first, second and third! Now how on Earth could this be? Now you know.

Others’ ideas about winning

How do you get motivated to do your best?

 For information about commissioning a similar piece, contact Janet Fox.

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Coming Home (encaustic)

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Coming Home."
Coming Home | encaustic (sold)

Is Home a Place, a State of Being or Both?

After finding themselves in a new place to live, generally far away from where they grew up, I’ve often heard people say, “When I go back home…” with a longing in their voices and a sentimental look in their eyes remembering back to earlier days. This often continues until relationships and connections form in the new place. But ultimately, many people want to end up back where they came from, for example to be buried near to where parents or other family are or will be buried.

Having moved and lived in a variety of locations myself, each place adds a little bit to my unique compilation of home. There are the buildings and towns where I grew up as baby, a child, an adolescent and a young adult. There are my first place on my own, the apartments with my spouse and the places where my children grew up. There is the house where I grow older and welcome my grown children, families and friends. And there are the future places where I trust I will be cared for when I can’t take care of myself any more. These are my physical homes.

But home also feels like something less physical and more spiritual. I recall bits from a Native American story heard years ago about a girl (or boy) who was looking for a special treasure. She (or he) looked far to the east, west, north, south, over the mountain and under the sea. But the treasure was nowhere out there to be found. Finally, having nowhere else to look, the girl (or boy) turned the search in the only direction remaining: inward. There, the treasure was waiting in the most quiet and protected place. Deep inside was the special treasure only the girl (or boy) could every truly know.

In meditation, such as that described in this recording on Meditation by Alan Watts, one often repeats a mantra, such as “Om.” I find it intriguing that the sound of “Om” and “home” are very similar.

In my encaustic painting shown here, the circular shapes represent the spirit or self coming to (or going to) that multifaceted place or state of being called “home.”

Here are some “home” ideas and songs from others that you might like:

Where or what is your home? Are you seeking it? Are you already there?

 For information about commissioning a similar piece, contact Janet Fox.

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Healing from Within (encaustic)

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Healing from Within."
Healing from Within | encaustic

Healing. What is it? Where is it from?

Unlike some of my other work, this painting was not inspired by a dream. One reason I enjoy creating art is that I can drift into a focused realm that is “in the moment of doing.” During this process, I somehow turn down the volume of outside distractions and on-going mind chatter and enter a sort of creative, healing meditation.

I painted this encaustic image on top of an earlier painting on canvas that I had also previously collaged over with bits of incomplete paintings and writing snippets. While building up the layers, including the top ones of melted pigmented wax, I decided to let the title words poke through. Do you see them?

Other words on the under paintings, which I blurred or covered over, can be forgotten. I felt enlightened by the words that poked through clearly; they looked right and made me feel good.

In a literal sense, “healing” means to “make whole.” My energy and intentions while painting come from somewhere inside. Perhaps painting this art allowed me to become more whole. The words poked through from a deeper source of knowledge, like writing myself a reminder note so I wouldn’t forget.

The multiple layers also remind me of the complexity of life and how the experiences of today layer on top of those from many yesterdays. In some way, my life IS my artwork, since I add new layers of experiences every day while deciding what to focus on or forget.

After I finished this painting, I photographed and exhibited it at the Montgomery Art Association Gallery. Several months later, I decided to scrape off all of the wax and other layers, down to the base canvas surface. As a result, the painting no longer exists in its original physical form. Now, it exists only as a combination of zeros and ones in the digital realm. I make prints of it for art greeting cards.

Through this painting, I explored how healing energy is present deep within. I can help it break through the layers of time to the awareness of daily life. Now that I know this, I can not un-know it.

Contemplation: Have you found healing energy from somewhere deep within? Did you do something intentional to release it?

  Feel free to add your note about this post or view others’ thoughts by clicking “Leave a Comment / Comments,” below.

 For information about purchasing art cards, contact Janet Fox.

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Power Surge (encaustic)

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Power Surge (aka Hot Flash)."
Power Surge (aka Hot Flash) | encaustic

Power Birthing, the Latest Hot Flash

With Mothers’ Day nearing, here’s a timely dream and painting to explore. Enjoy!

Dreamscape… I’m visiting the labor and delivery wing of a state-of-the-art hospital. After nine months, a twenty-something female friend is in labor and having a baby! There’s much excitement and anticipation. After a few hours of labor, the baby is born and the doctors and nurses check her/him over. They give the baby to the mother to hold and after, they weigh the baby and make sure she/he is properly developed. After (and I gasp loudly at this part) they proceed to re-insert the baby back into the mother, head first. To my amazement, performing this latest “power birthing” procedure (which will last another month or so) is proven to give the baby a big advantage in its development. While still in shock at this newest of modern medical procedures, I think to myself, “Now I’ve seen a lot of medical advances and new baby things in my lifetime, like in utero surgeries, high-tech strollers, monitoring systems, and advanced gadgets of all kinds, but this new way to “power birth” takes the cake and is absolutely, no-doubt-about-it ludicrous! After going through nine months of pregnancy, hours of labor, and delivery, how on Earth could or would any mother voluntarily do this?” I am bewildered by this situation…

After awakening from this vivid dream, marveling about this surprising story, and laughing about its absurdity, I wondered why this particular sequence of images flowed through my sleep time. So I went into my studio and painted while contemplating this dream.

I decided to tap into my “mother” energy and birth my own “art baby.” Do you see it, there in the middle of this painting? This smaller rectangular section was a mixed media painting I had begun a while ago, but it had not felt quite finished. So I placed it in the middle of a larger blank, wooden board. I then added more artistic elements, taking about another month until I decided it was finished enough to sign. I assembled and mounted the piece in a handmade wooden frame, using my arm-powered saw and drill. While painting, I also explored the idea of what comes after being a mother, thus generating the painting’s name.

Who Has the Power to Decide When A Creation is Finished?

Creating this piece brought up some interesting questions and ideas for reflection.

  • What are the characteristics of the symbolic mother archetype? Here’s what Wikipedia’s says about Jungian archetypes and mother.
  • What symbolic “baby” is ready to be born, although a schooled part of me wants to keep working on it for another month?
  • When is a painting (or any creative endeavor) really finished? I’ve asked other artists this question and almost all replied that they work and rework their art until it feels “finished enough.”
  • Is finishing a painting (or other project) the end of the creative process? Perhaps it is. But I, and other artists I’ve asked, often revisit a previously completed painting and work another layer on top or incorporate it into a new piece. Some art remains in the form of an idea for years while others hibernate in drawers as “works in progress.” Some creations get gifted, donated, recycled, or thrown away.
  • What is power? Wikipedia offers this definition, involving the balance of both constraint and enablement.
  • Who has the power to say when my creative project is finished? The symbolic medical people? The mother? The baby? Some or all of the above?

As an artist and as a contributor to collaborative projects with others, this issue always comes up. How complete, detailed, or perfect does something need to be? How much time and energy do I have to focus on the task? Where is the balance?

For me, I’ve learned to find a point that feels complete enough. Then I sign my name and move on. But sometimes, I go back for a revisit like I did for “Power Surge aka Hot Flash.”

Here are some words of wisdom from others:

  • “Art is a birth, and you can’t go to a teacher and find out how to be born… you have to struggle… until that image, the one that comes out of your need to create, emerges.” – Malcah Zeldis, 1978 (at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, District of Columbia)
  • “The job isn’t finished until the floor is swept, the tools cleaned and put away in their place, and the shop lights turned off.” – Leonard Fox (my father)

How do  you know when your creation is finished?

 Feel free to add your note about this post or view others’ thoughts by clicking “Leave a Comment / Comments,” below.

  For information about purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.

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Water and a Cool Wave (mixed media)

Image of an encaustic mixed media painting by Janet Fox titled "Cool Wave."
Cool Wave | mixed media

Splash in the Cool Waves; Visit the Peaceful Water Spirits

Once upon a dream, a girl-woman strolled next to a stream. Or maybe it was a river, lake or ocean. The water was calm now, although sometimes it was not.

When calm, she clearly saw the fishes and plants below the surface; other times, all was a mucky blur. She liked walking in the shallow water, floating, swimming and splashing in the cool waves. There was much to explore on the shoreline while gently uncovering rocks and shells, too.

Mostly she went to these places alone, but one time her father spirit came to meet her. He invited her to go to the depths with him to visit the beautiful, peaceful blue flame spirits residing in the underwater realm.

She then returned to the surface, alone but with the kind of knowing that can’t be unknown.

Water

Probably like you, I have had many dreams of being around, in or under the water. Especially when a dream is vivid or intense, it captures my attention. These are the dreams I most enjoy exploring in more depth, primarily through my art; an example is “Cool Wave.”

There are many ideas and articles about the significance of water in dreams. Psychotherapist and author Jeffrey Sumber, M.A., M.T.S., L.C.P.C.’s blog is a good place to start.

In addition to the symbolism of water, it is a significant part of what we are made of. It amounts to an estimated 53 to 75 percent of an average human adult’s body weight.

Like different water bodies, life’s challenges and transitions can be calm or not… or somewhere in-between. Sometimes in life, paths are clear. But other times, the path is unknown with no directional signs and requiring a leap of faith to go down a chosen path. Often paths have many intersections, side streets, diversions, detours, forks. Some paths are beautiful with roses to stop and smell. Others not so much. Most are unfamiliar yet ordinary.

In the dreamscape above, the father spirit appeared as a kind, strong and protective guardian accompanying the girl-woman into an unknown realm. Had she gone alone, she may not have found the spirits gathered there nor understood what they were. This dream experience was quite peaceful, both then and now.

If you have had dreams of water, what did they feel like?

 For information about purchasing this art, contact Janet Fox.

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Seeds of Creative Energy (encaustic)

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Seeds of Creative Energy."
Seeds of Creative Energy | encaustic (sold)

How are the seeds of creative energy sown? Where does creativity come from?

I think it is our essential life force, energy or spirit flowing through us that we somehow direct. Creativity comes in countless forms. When I look around, every human-made thing I see began as someone’s creative idea. The same goes for human actions and performances.

While studying energy and the body, I learned about chakras, a concept from Easter religions. Chakras describe the energy channels of our non-physical body. Our life force moves through these channels. In Western thought, seven colors represent the seven primary chakras. I generally think of the chakras associated with these colors and areas of the body.

  • Magenta is the color of the chakra focused in the area of the crown of the head. Its focus is on a state of pure consciousness.
  • Violet is the color focused in the region of the third eye (forehead area). This chakra is focused on intuitive abilities.
  • Blue is the color of the chakra focused in the throat; it concerns communication abilities.
  • Green is the color of the chakra focused in the region of the heart. It concerns strong emotions and the intersection of feminine and masculine energy.
  • Yellow is the color focused in the naval area and focuses internally and on one’s sense of self.
  • Orange is the color of the chakra focused in the sacrum and reproductive organs. It focuses on family relationships.
  • Red is the color focused at the base of spine and pelvic floor. This chakra concerns one’s security and survival in the world.

I also love organic vegetable gardening and am fascinated by the mysterious way tiny seeds, given water, nutrients, light, warmth and protection, can sprout and grow into incredible plants with the ability to capture the energy of the sun. We, in turn, must eat the plants to release their energy so we can live. Our survival depends on the energy in green plants.

My encaustic painting, “Seeds of Creative Energy,” weaves together these two energy concepts. I began with all seven colors of pigmented wax on a wooden art board. During my creative process, I began to focus on the lower four and the highest chakras and glazed over the blue. I really liked the result, perhaps because I have also been enjoying paging through many colorful seed catalogs and planning my vegetable garden now that warmer weather is here.

A Color and Energy Experiment:

Draw, color or paint to see what your energy can create.

  For information about commissioning a similar artwork, contact Janet Fox.

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