Merci Mère (Thanks Mother) is an original, encaustic mixed media painting. With aqua, gold and ivory paint and papers, as well as shellac burn technique, it includes these simple words from a French storybook dictionary.
Creating something new, without a specific outcome in mind, can be a wonderfully relaxing process. In this painting, I began by collecting and gathering the various elements: art papers in my favorite colors, with some incorporating leaves.
Next, I arranged and re-arranged these elements, until I found a design I found pleasing. Layering the papers added depth. Carved hexagon shapes, of various sizes, as well as a shellac burn and text, adds interest and intricacy. The finished artwork is 12 inches by 12 inches.
Sometimes I feel like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Other times, I feel like a square hole, seeking a round peg. In both situations, the fit just isn’t quite right. When I can stretch myself in the direction of something where I don’t usually fit, I feel like it also gives a little and meets me somewhere in between. And when the squound and rare come together, it feels like magic.
Finding “perfection” is often a matter of adjusting my expectations, attitude, and seeing a different point of view. Is that yellow dandelion in my yard a weed to uproot? Or is it a delicate yellow flower that will be in a child’s bouquet? Is the painting finished by a gut feeling, or does my brain tell me I need to add one more spot of paint? Is that pain in my back a curse that torments, or a gift reminding me that I can feel sensations? As in many things I’ve experienced, is it really some of both, rather than one or the other.
Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good enough. I’ve heard this many times before. Sometimes adding another small detail would be nice, but I need to stop to do other things. Prioritizing can help, so that I can do what is crucial first, then I can add less important items as time allows. I’ve found that practicing painting with a timer can also keep me from over-thinking things. I’m also practicing “listening to the painting,” letting it tell me when it’s finished.
About Squound Hole, Rare Peg
My encaustic painting, Squound Hole, Rare Peg is inspired by the same dream as was my Dreamers Orb painting, where molten iron was thrown over the edge of a roof, forming a square-round ingot as it rained down. I used my favorite complementary colors, turquoise and rust, highlighted in gold. And creating that perfect fit felt kind of magical!
Gatherings come in many forms, presenting opportunities to connect with others. My favorites include shared meals, parties, meetings, workshops, concerts, walks, campfires and watching a sunset or moonrise with others. And although emotionally more difficult, gatherings due to an illness, death or significant loss can be especially important to express grief and offer support.
To meaningfully connect, it is important to be present, focusing on the people physically there. But it can be hard not to think about work or other obligations. With today’s constant connections, it can be especially hard to turn off smart phones and other distracting “shiny things.” Here a great story of what the University of Maryland women’s basketball team discovered when they gave up their cellphones.
In addition to being present when in a group, paying attention when someone leaves a gathering and a hole forms is also fascinating. How is the void filled in? Does the group disband?
I began this encaustic triptych with the middle panel, while recalling a curiously simple dream instructing me to darn socks. Although I began sewing as a young girl, I never darned socks. So I researched and learned how to weave threads together to fill a hole. This VideoJug video shows the simple darning process to make a sock whole again.
While creating this middle panel and seeing the design take shape, I started thinking about how our lives are woven together through shared experiences. Birthday parties, weddings and public gatherings often mark these occasions.
The top panel followed, inspired by other kinds of gatherings such as dining at tables or participating in a religious ceremony. Some of the most powerful gatherings are at the bedside of an ill loved one or sharing grief and tears at the funeral of a family member or friend.
The bottom panel focuses on outside gatherings, such as nature hikes or seaside walks to share a sunset or moonrise.
It continually amazes me how a simple thing, like this short dream, can guide me from thoughts to art!
Which gatherings are most significant to you?
⇒For information about purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.
Dreamscape… I’m in a fitness center, walking on a treadmill while a small group gathers on nearby mats for an aerobics class. The instructor begins class and everyone starts moving to the music. I like the music and find myself walking to the beat. I’m having fun and before I realize it, I’m running and jumping. I didn’t know I could move like this any more! So I keep going, dancing and elevating on my toes with perfect balance, thoroughly enjoying that I can, once again, move my body this way.
When I’ve experienced awful things, it can feel like ages drag by as I move through the rawness. But through processing the situation, the intensity of the feelings and details often fade over time. Similar steps unfold for wonderful experiences, although I want the happiness and good feeling to last longer.
With faith, hope, perseverance, hard work and others’ support, I make it through. And at some point, I find a new balance point after integrating the “before” with the “after.”
Sometimes, I rediscover a valuable something that I previously thought was lost forever. When this happens, my heart wants to dance and jump again, up on my toes with elation. But staying up there for even a few seconds requires immense focus and strength. As I come back down, I appreciate even more the mystery of life and its changes.
I hope you might also enjoy these related ideas from others:
As a child, I read “The Little Engine that Could,” by Watty Piper. It’s helpful to remember “I think I can, I think I can, repeat…” Here’s a history of this story by Roy E. Plotnick.
In a medical context, “The Anatomy of Hope” by Dr. Jerome Groopman, explores the role of hope in treating seriously ill people. This summary is in the NYU School of Medicine’s database.
The contemplative song, “Before and After,” by Carrie Newcomer, features Marin Chapin Carpenter.
About Balancing Act and Balancing Act II
I felt so great when I awoke from the dream above that I decided to paint it not once, but twice! I explored the different results I could achieve using mixed media or encaustic. I also turned on some happy dance music while I was painting, to help me capture the energy of sound and movement.
How do you regain balance?
⇒For information about commissioning a similar artwork, contact Janet Fox.
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.
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?
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⇒ For information about commissioning a similar artwork, contact Janet Fox.
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.
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.