Fighting Painter's Block

I  have a confession to make: I haven't painted since December.  Besides the simple examples that I made for my classes, I had done nothing to add to my portfolio. Now that I have the time and am trying to get back into a schedule, I am having some difficulty beginning again. A bit different than writer's block in that I have ideas, but am overwhelmed to the point of paralysis - where to begin? So, I tried a few tricks to get back into the zone. First, I cleaned up and rearranged my studio. A bit like spring cleaning, this seems to get me into the right mindset every time. I also decided that I needed some plants to bring in some life.  I actually get great afternoon sunlight in my studio, but I wanted another source of life that would help keep the creative juices flowing, even at night time.

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Then, since I was still having some fear of taking the plunge -- using any excuse from lack of energy to higher priorities to get out of going back into the studio -- I watched some TED Talks, which I find both interesting and inspiring, even when completely unrelated to my own art. In doing so, I remembered a talk from several years ago by Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity and the creative process that I have found helpful, so thought I would share that with anyone feeling a bit depressed about, or stuck with, their creative output.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA

I also realized that I spend a LOT of time inside these days due to my new desk job (which is actually very inspiring, but inside none-the-less), and that going straight from the office into my studio as getting me down. So I went on a beautiful hike yesterday and enjoyed the fresh spring air and endless greenery. Ah! Just what I needed to clear my head and give me some inspiration.

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So, now I feel well equipped to go into my studio and uphold my end of the bargain, as Liz Gilbert suggests, by simply being present.  I look forward to sharing my new creations with you soon!

A Few Kids' Art Projects From Me to You

The last couple of weeks have been incredibly busy with a lot of transitions for me, so I haven't been painting. I have, however, been teaching art to some really great 1st and 4th graders.  Here's some 1st graders "3-D aquariums" made from paper plates, a project I got from Tim Sensai, instructions here. Aquariums2

And here's a 4th grader's "blow painting" - made by blowing watered down paint across the paper with a straw. While most kids made abstract pieces, she turned hers' into a tree!

Kendra's Blow Painting

I can't remember who told me about this project, but it's a very simple project that is fun for a range of ages and yields satisfying results. This can be a great way to introduce kids to abstract art and/or you can use these colorful papers as backgrounds for other projects.

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Lastly, here's a 2-day project called "Painted Tropical Birds", which I found here.  It sounds deceptively simple, but it's interesting how when there are more than twenty 6 year old kids in the room, you have to be very specific with instructions. Everyone had fun, though, and the results were great!

Painted Birds

While I have decided to take an indefinite hiatus from the madness of teaching children, I do have to admit that kids are awesome!

One Billion Rising - Global Dance Movement 2/14/13

Happy Valentine's Day! Actually, I am not a big proponent of said holiday, but I am a supporter of V-Day - the global movement to end violence again women and girls. Started 15 years ago by Eve Ensler -- also the playwright of the well-worth  watching Vagina Monologues -- this year there is a new campaign called One Billion Rising that encourages a global dance party to support the safety of women. You can watch live performances on their website, go to a local event or join in! Here's a shout-out to my fellow artists Dhol Rhythms Dance Company who are performing at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, check out the details here.

See my art this weekend!

So I have a couple of shows this weekend, would love to see you there! 1) Group show "Vital" @ The Usuals

Opening reception: Friday Jan. 25, 7-10PM

Where: The Usuals, 1020 The Alameda, San Jose, CA 95126

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2) Meet-and-Greet (closing reception) @ Barefoot Coffee Campbell

What: Last chance to see my show Heavy Traffic before it comes down on Jan. 31st

When: Sunday January 27th, 2-4PM

Where: Barefoot Coffee, 1819 South Bascom Avenue, Campbell, CA 95008

Why: Opportunity to meet me and ask any questions you want.Last chance to see the show before it comes down. Fulfill your New Year's resolution early (you know that one where you said you wanted to buy more original artwork in 2013?)! Get some awesome Barefoot coffee!! Come on, what else have you got to do on a Sunday afternoon?

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Michele Pred: (IN)Security

Have you ever wondered what happens to the items that get confiscated before you board a plane?  I have, but only when a TSA agent took away the yoghurt I was planning to eat for breakfast, because he considered it a liquid and it was over the 3 ounce limit.  I suspect it became his breakfast...  However, I hadn't given much thought to the objects that are confiscated -- all the scissors, razor blades, pocket knives, etc.  But Michele Pred has.

Travelers

Travelers, 2011

She asked the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) if she could have the confiscated items to use in her installation art work.  I recently saw a show called (IN)Security at the Thompson Gallery on the San Jose State University campus featuring some work from her series Homeland Security.  The work is partly about curiosity, wondering how dangerous the tiny (formerly travel-size) sewing scissors could be, or to whom all of these pocketknives belonged?  Did they have sentimental value, and have they been saved from a death in oblivion by being on display, in the shape of heart, in this exhibit?

The show also has more serious undertones, though, as a social commentary on how our culture views danger and threats.  Michele uses color and placement of objects to create an American flag out of razor blades, pocket knives, or, as in this piece, a combination of objects carefully placed in their own containers as if logged for evidence by a forensics expert or scientist.

Fear Culture
Fear Culture, 2007

Michele speaks about how she is capturing a moment in history, the feelings of threat and danger that has prevailed since 9/11, and the above piece certainly has the feel of creating a time capsule.  Check out more of her work at her website.

New paintings and what inspired them

Here are two new paintings to prove that although I have been slacking off in the blog-o-sphere, I have been hard at work in real life.  I hope you like them.

We Celebrate the Freaks

The title of the above piece is a paraphrase from a passage in a Salman Rushdie book that I love, The Ground Beneath Her Feet.  The imagery is from photographs I took in the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (NB: Although many famous Argentines are buried here, including Eva Peron, this has nothing to do with my painting).  I am inspired by the architecture of fancy graveyards and I like how the statues look silhouetted against the sky, something I accentuated in this painting. I was also reading The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon while painting this, which is set in Barcelona and has several scenes in graveyards. Although a great read, this is quite a dark book about a writer selling his soul to the devil, so I'm sure some of that got into this painting too...

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When I'm Alone I Get Carried Away

The title of this piece is not a quote, but rather refers to the stir-crazy feeling I had while painting this piece.  Really, the turmoil I was feeling was in other parts of my life, and painting this was calming.  Yet some of that anxiety and loneliness got into the painting, something a friend pointed out to me upon seeing the completed piece.  Perhaps I subconsciously think that by having control in my painting I will be able to exert some more control in my life.  Isn't psychology fascinating? And just to thicken the plot, I should note that I actually painted these two paintings simultaneously... And yes, the dresses continue, albeit in an evolved way.

You can view these hot-off-the press pieces at my current show at Barefoot Coffee Campbell.  The opening reception is tomorrow, December 8th from 4-7, but the show is up through Jan. 31st so just pop by whenever.

Heavy Traffic - My upcoming show @ Barefoot Coffee Campbell

Come check out my upcoming show at Barefoot Coffee Campbell December 1, 2012 - January 31, 2013.  OPENING RECEPTION: Saturday December 8th 4-7PM.  1819 S. Bascom Ave., Campbell, CA 95008

The title of the show (and the featured painting above), Heavy Traffic, is inspired by that Neil Young quote I read in a Rolling Stone interview some years ago: “There’s many different people inside you. Many different beings traveling through you. On the outside you may look like you, but it may be that several different things are coming through you, and it’s heavy traffic.”   This idea is reflected in the range of the work I have selected to show, which will include some never-before-shown older paintings along with some brand-new ones straight out of the studio.

Join the opening reception event.

"Like" my Facebook artist's page.

www.christinekeenarasmussen.com

I Still Don't Know If I am a Falcon

My newest finished painting: [singlepic id=110 w=125 h=250 ]

Again, it was inspired by this poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:

I live my life in growing orbits which move out over the things of the world.

Perhaps I can never achieve the last but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,

And I have been circling for a thousand years,

And I still don't know if I am a falcon,

or a storm,

or a great song.

Create with Nature

A couple of years ago I helped teach a class with Zach Pine who specializes in nature sculptures and has designed a "create with nature" program using things found in the great outdoors (sticks, rocks, leaves, etc) to make temporary sculptures which can then "recycled" to create something new.  It's eco-friendly, simple enough for any age group, and fun!  This is an easy and great way to get inspired and refreshed through creativity and play, something that everyone - not just artists - needs to be encouraged to do more and more.  It's also an opportunity to collaborate and to create community.  Such a simple, beautiful idea.

New Work: In Progress

I am painting again! Here's what I'm working on:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's inspired by this poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:

I live my life in growing orbits which move out over the things of the world.

Perhaps I can never achieve the last but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,

And I have been circling for a thousand years,

And I still don't know if I am a falcon,

or a storm,

or a great song.

And in case you're interested, here's some photos of the painting in different stages:

First I sketch an image, then I pick out source materials to get guidance.

If I Could Dance...

Back in June and July I made a series of paintings of body-less dancers titled "If I Could Dance". While I received good feedback from many people, I also feel like I left a lot of people hanging by not having an artist statement to go along with the work.  Here I am talking about the values of making "ugly" paintings whilst making (purposefully) "pretty" paintings.  Yet it is not so hypocritical as you might imagine - the "prettiness" is part of the message.

I grew up in a culture where my first consciousness about my body was one of shame.  I was taught an extreme form of modesty to be culturally sensitive to, and safer in, the norms of Muslim Pakistan.  The idea was to become invisible and not react to the stares or calls or groping which my white skin and reddish-blonde hair sticking out in a sea of brown people did not help.  I remember being embarrassed at age 8, which led to being self-conscious almost all the way through high school.  When I wasn't hiding my body under baggy clothes, I was trying to play sports and pretending to be tough.  I thought any attention from the opposite sex was negative, and I scorned the "cheerleader"-type and swore to never be a "girlie-girl".  Along with this I tried not to make "pretty" paintings because I wanted to be taken seriously as an artist and my lack of knowledge about successful female artists led me to believe that by simply being a woman my art was at a disadvantage - relegated to the cute category of "hobby".

Then a couples years ago I started to embrace the "girl" inside of me.  I started wearing dresses, make-up and jewelry -- heels even! I gained confidence as a woman and decided owning my femininity was to my advantage.  But I still resisted it in my art.  I now knew about and admired many successful women artists, but I still didn't want to make paintings about gender, again, out of some kind of fear of being taken less seriously.  Until this series.  I decided I wanted to celebrate the female form, critics of "pretty" paintings be damned!  And what better way than through dance?  I have always lacked confidence in dancing, but I love watching it - dance inspires me and makes me appreciate the human body even more. I feel connected through dance.

These dresses show the form of the dancer while being body-less because I didn't want to put a face or race or body-type to cloud the universal beauty of dance.  One of the amazing things about dance to me is that it can be so expressive and convey whole narratives and complex emotions without a single word, hence negating any language barrier.

I explored different types of dance from around the world because I find them beautiful and I suppose I was being instinctively culturally inclusive.  Dance is a celebration of the human body, and I've decided to be a part of it and celebrate in my own way.