Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another piece for Volcano Art Center


Makai, 11 x 14

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'll be sending this piece along with the two I posted in my last blog to Hawaii in the next week. I found some simple, modern black frames at Vistra Framing that suit the subject well.

In the meantime, Mike and I are off to the Eastside of Oregon with our 8 and 5 year-old granddaughters for a rock hounding, desert exploring, Painted Hills hiking adventure. It's Washington State's spring break. Yahoo!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Odds and Ends Week

Today I got the last notification of a string of competitions tying up several paintings while waiting for results. Of the five competitions I entered, I got 2 acceptances. Oddly, paintings got into a national show, a state show, but I got rejections from 2 local exhibits. What does that say about my work?

In the meantime, I put to use some of the information from the workshop I took earlier this month and created two pieces using acrylic paint, ink and collage. These are very similar in appearance to the watercolor series I created for the Volcano Art Center in Hawaii. But with 4 coats of gloss medium, they are ready to frame without mats or glass/Plexiglas.

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Fissures, 11 x 14

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Last Glow, 11 x 14

These 2 paintings along with a 3rd yet to be created are going to Hawaii. The large watercolors I did sold quite well until the economic downturn, so I am hopeful that these smaller, suitcase size pieces with lower prices and no glass will sell like hotcakes.

Spring is here, even the calendar says so now. The warm, sunny days do wonders for the human spirit and the garden.

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Opening tulips

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My quirky frog prince guarding pansies.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Painting Accepted at the National Level

Today the mailman brought the letter beginning with, "Congratulations! Juror, Mary Addison Hackett, has selected your painting for the 2010 National Watercolor Society All Member Exhibit."

This is the largest show yet for me and I am stoked!

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Caribbean Cornrows II, 18 x 21 inches

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

One More Step--An Essay About Having MS

My daughter was diagnosed with MS in 2000. She was devastated with the news, and had a difficult time coming to terms with what that could mean for her future. However, Rachel has never been a quitter. She came back fighting as this essay reveals, and lives every moment as fully as possible.

**Please contact me if you would like to make a donation to the annual fundraiser, the MS Walk or go to this website:

One More Step by Rachel Carter

I work in sales. When my customer first said to me, “You run don’t you?” I thought to myself, ‘well, kind of.’ “You should do the Robie Creek half marathon with me,” he said. I thought, ‘I can’t run a half marathon! That’s 13.1 miles!’ But he kept going on and on about how fun it would be and what a great team we would make. I was sucked in. I started thinking, ’of course I can do it. I can do anything. It will be great!’

Then I started training. The first day I only ran three miles; and it was hard. I mean, hard. Then I remembered I had MS. ‘Could I really run a half marathon,’ I thought. ‘Every step is hard for me when I am running.’ I was no longer sure that I could actually run 13.1 miles. This is where the story of my training for a half marathon begins. The thing about this half marathon in particular, is that it is not just any half marathon; it is known as “the toughest half marathon in the Northwest.” The fists 8 miles are up a hill that gains 2000 feet in altitude. That is steep. How could someone with MS possibly do this?
When I started doubting whether I could actually do it, I realized that I no longer had a choice. Not only had I already committed myself to my top buying customer, but also I had tried to convince everyone in my company to do it with me. I could not back out now. I had no excuse. No one at work knew I had a medical condition.

Every day, I ran. I said to myself, ‘This is difficult, but I will keep going one more step until I have completed the distance I need to run today.’ I realized could go one more step. That was amazing to me. When I passed four miles and I felt like I might die, I did not. I woke up the next morning and felt all right again. That was amazing to me. When I passed five miles, I wanted to stop after four because it was so hard to keep running. But, I kept going because I knew I could go at least one more step. That was amazing to me. This continued to happen, and I continued to go that one more step until I had put in the miles I needed to that day.

Then I ran my first race. It was a 15K. It was 9.3 miles and most of it was up-hill. I thought I was not going to make it. It felt impossible to keep going. I kept thinking that I had it worse than the rest of the people around me. I was more tired than they were, I thought. I could not necessarily make it to the finish line, where as they knew they could, I thought. Then I thought, ‘NO! I will not let this disease get in my way!’ The advantage I had was that I knew I could push myself harder than most people could. I could get through what most people could not. I had experienced the worst, and I had kept moving forward. I could do this, too. I could go one more step.

The hardest part of my training was pushing myself every day, and the thoughts of unfairness that I had about my disease that arose from getting so tired. I would realize that other runners had their own issues. They had their own reasons they doubted they could make it to the finish line. But, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘but, I have MS! I have a greater reason to feel sorry for myself than anyone else here.’ But, I quickly, or not so quickly, would push that thought out of my head. No matter how sorry for myself I started to feel, I always came back to the thought that kept me going. ‘I can go one more step.’ This became my mantra. It is all right that I would feel sorry for myself sometimes, because in the end, I kept taking one more step.

I remember what it feels like to lose the ability to walk. I remember falling to the floor because my leg decided to stop letting me control it, and not knowing what I would do. Feeling completely panicked because I did not know how I would get up, or how I would get help. I have been there. I was lucky enough to get better. Now I can run. Not only can I run, but I can run ten miles!
In fact, I can run 10.8 miles. I know I can because I did, on my next race. I signed up for that race as part of my training when I was on vacation in Hilo, HI. I thought it was the perfect next step in my training for the half marathon, and it is very possible I will never get the chance to run in Hawaii again. I thought it would be easy. After all, I had run almost that far the week before, and I had been told that it was flat.

Well, it was not easy. It was not flat, and it was not an easy next step in my training. It was hard. I got so tired I thought I would have to sit down in the middle of the street. I actually considered doing this. I thought, ‘no one else here has MS. No one else here is as tired as I am.’ Then I thought, ‘but I can take at least one more step.’ I decided to keep taking one more step until I could not take any more. Then I saw the finish line. I saw my family; I saw my niece, my husband, my parents, and my daughter, all looking at me with expectancy. They were so proud to see me coming toward the finish line. I realized I was finishing 10.8 miles. That is when I knew I could run a half marathon. Because I could take one more step.

I am now four days away from my up-hill, half marathon. Every day, I think about the fact that any minute now, I could lose the ability to run. I could lose the ability to walk. Nevertheless, today, I can take one more step. I will not let the fear of my disease keep me from my goal. I know now, that I can do it. I can run a half marathon. Because today, I can take one more step. I will not throw that away.

I have spent months training, pushing myself every step of the way. I would like to say that I truly believe I could not be more prepared. However, that is not true. I keep thinking in the back of my mind, ‘if I had not let the MS tire me out so much, I could be more prepared. If I had pushed myself a little harder, I would be more prepared.’ Honestly, I am scared to death. I do not want anyone there to know I have MS; that I may not be able to finish what I am about to start. I am going to do it anyway. Moreover, I will be happy with myself. No matter what happens, I will be happy with myself. Because I have continued to go one more step. I have already won.

4 Days Later:

I did it! I finished the toughest half marathon in the Northwest! It was next to impossible, and I thought many times throughout the race that I could not go one more step. However, I could; and so I did. The thoughts came to me when I needed them; the words said to me by my loved ones, “you have already won.” I had put in the miles, taken all those steps to get to the race, now all I needed to do was cross the finish line.

When I had to walk on the steepest part of the hill, I thought to myself that I had given up, that I did not care anymore. Nevertheless, when I thought of the flowers my family sent me two days before the race with the explanation that I was getting them now instead of later because it did not matter what happened at the race, I had already won, I went one more step. When I thought of the email my friend sent me right before I got on the plane saying how proud she was of me that I had gotten that far and I had already won, I took one more step.

When I realized that I only had three more miles to go and I was still standing, I took one more step. When I looked at my watch and realized that even though I had been forced to walk part of the hill, I was capable of making the time I had been hoping for, I took one more step. I kept taking one more step until I crossed the finish line.

The true victory came when I crossed the finish line. My husband was right there waiting for me, because he had known all along that I could do it, and I collapsed into his arms. I had absolutely nothing left. I realized right then that I had not walked part of it because I had given up after all. I had walked it because I had no other option. I had nothing left. I had given everything I had to continue taking one more step until I crossed the finish line. Moreover, I had I finished a half marathon, despite my wicked disease!

I would like to end the story with the amazing feeling of accomplishment that comes from reaching the seemingly impossible goal. However, that feeling fades when reality comes back. I did not become miraculously disease free. I woke up today, 3 days after the race, and felt horrible. I am exhausted and all of my symptoms are back. My arms hurt, my balance is off, and I have no coordination in my hands. My vision has holes in it, which leaves me with the eerie feeling of being on mind-altering drugs. I am dizzy and I cannot concentrate. I am scared to death that I will wake up tomorrow and have a relapse because I pushed my body too hard.

Instead of feeling amazingly accomplished, I am depressed. This leaves me wondering; was I actually expecting the MS to disappear if I proved that I could run a half marathon? I guess some small part of me was. The reality is I have MS. I will always have obstacles to overcome. The lucky part is that I have the tools to overcome them. Even when I feel weak physically, I know that I am strong mentally. No matter what happens, I would choose to do it over again. This is how I am learning to live with my disease. I cannot, and will not, let it stop me. I know that I can take one more step, even if I do lose the use of my legs.
Tomorrow, I will wake up and feel better. I will go for a run. Even if I cannot physically do it, I can mentally do it. I will always take one more step.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Workshop Week

The first week of March, I made my way to Portland for a three day workshop featuring paper making and collage, taught by Deanna Thibault. ( I really like Deanna's art and she has a lot of knowledge regarding making papers and creating art that does not require mats and glass or plexiglass glazing.

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Deanna in action.

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Two samples of Deanna's art in progress.

So one of the things I gained was learning how to make paste paper. We combined wallpaper paste, gloss medium and either acrylic paint or watercolor paint as a pigment. After making this goop, we covered everything from deli paper to rice paper to watercolor paper to make colorful patterned papers.

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After putting the paste on the paper, we used all sorts of art and hardware store items to make patterns on the paper.

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Once these papers are made, they can be used in combination with watercolor or acrylic paints to create interesting bits in a painting to create an impact that is hard to do with paint alone.

I made two pictures using a mixture of paints and collage. Neither are anything great, but I find I never create anything very special in a workshop. I use the time just learning a new way of working.

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What I came away with was new ways of making dynamic colored and pattern papers. We even made cool papers using brown paper bags. I also became inspired to work toward creating art that is sealed with gloss medium, making mats and glass unnecessary. I know there have always been acrylics and oils which do this, but for me, this combination of painting and collaging is more in sync with the direction I've been going anyway.

An odd side effect of this workshop is that I've not been back working in the studio. I guess I'm letting it all digest as I process what I learned and think about just how it will affect my work.

If any Eugenian artists are interested, I would love to have a paste paper creating day. I'd be very happy to share the recipe I learned from Deanna and we could all go away with some beautiful papers to work with in our studios.

Spring! As of this morning, we have hummingbirds. The first little bird peered in the window this morning and I put up two feeders. Soon I had three hummingbirds feeding at the two feeders.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spirits Soar As Swallows Swoop In

As I said in my last post, being an artist has it's emotional ups and downs. I was down on Friday because of a rejection, only to be up again on Sunday when I got an email of "Congratulations!" from the Watercolor Society of Oregon. Orchid Eruption was accepted by juror Stephen Quiller for the WSO Fall 2010 Show. I dare not hope for a 2nd Best in Show for this peice, but perhaps and award? We'll see.

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Orchid Eruption, 21 x 29 inches

On another topic, our first swallows flew in this morning--March 1. One handy thing about blogging is I have references for past events in my life, including last year's first swallow's arrival on March 12. Because of the amazingly warm winter and early spring, the swallows are almost 2 weeks earlier this year. I'm now watching for the first hummingbird!