Running on the ‘No Nap’ platform

'Bean says no to napping' - Copyright Kate Forman Illustration 2014

‘Bean says no to napping’ – Copyright Kate Forman Illustration 2014

Let me tell you about some of my strengths as a mother:

  1. I excel at getting toddlers to eat vegetables. This is mainly due to the fact that I love vegetables, and my enthusiasm is catching, and also because I have some amazing recipes in my arsenal, including a recipe for Bim Bim Bap from the amazing book ‘Hungry Monkey.’ I tweak the recipe by using no table sugar, and more fruit for the marinade and I use any ole veggies I want and, voila: a toddler who eats — with delight — cabbage, snow peas, carrots and trees (broccoli.)
  2. I’m great at singing songs with my little girls, not because I have a great voice — but maybe because I don’t. Singing is just fun, I really enjoy it and so even on days that are otherwise difficult the three of us will be rocking out for at least some part of it. My little bean is 9 months old and automatically looks up when LuLu and I start singing ‘Great big stars’ because not only do we sing, we put on QUITE the performance.
  3. I’m, quite frankly, amazing at sharing gardening and other old world-esque skills with my little girls. Lulu can dead head a marigold and pull it apart to spread some seeds around, she knows that roses love banana peels, and that lavender and rosemary smell delicious. Also, nary a meal out goes by without Lulu sprinkling some salt onto her right hand and then throwing it over her left shoulder. I taught her that. Safety first, as it were, and I look forward to passing on all that and more to Miss Bean.

I could go on, but I don’t want anyone feeling bad at their inability to, oh, effectively extricate a cranky little girl from the playground with as little drama as possible vis a vis my impressive ability to make up silly rhymes on the spot. Also, what I’d like to get to is my huge, yawning, aching and horrifying deficit as a parent:

I CANNOT CONSISTENTLY GET THESE GIRLS TO NAP.

It’s AWFUL.

I mean, really.

There should have been a class, but I probably would have failed. And, yes, I’d love to read that book that worked so well for you…but when, exactly, does one find the time to read? (Honestly, too, parenting books give me anxiety — unless they’re about food or the incredibly reassuring  ‘Baby meets world’ book that I think should be handed out at the first ultra sound…especially the part about breast feeding.)

So, I typed this while breast feeding because Bean decided twenty minutes of shut eye was all she needed today (it wasn’t, she’s miserable.) I probably won’t paint today, which is aggravating, but I’m trying to keep a stiff upper lip about it all. I know it will get better, LuLu does actually nap pretty well most of the time now, and gets through the night too — which I never would have believed was possible, so, fingers crossed that Miss Bean comes around sooner than later.

Oh, much, much, sooner than later.

*Throwing salt over shoulder*

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Pass the tissue (paper painting)

Tissue paper, watered down glue, popsicle stick

‘The Flowers’ by Lulu

This week I had some  lofty painting goals. And then we all got sick.

My toddler, Lulu, attends a very sweet, play based, school program twice a week. When I picked her up on Tuesday her teachers warned me “she was the only one not coughing today…” Sigh.

So, now we all have it — the general malaise of short people germs, resplendent in yucky and gunky, and short on sleep. The baby, my little bean, has it the worst, as if teething wasn’t enough for her already.

The beguiling thing about a sick toddler is that, unless they are really sick, the illness can bring on a manic level of energy. As the sick mama all I want to do is slurp soup and watch Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and feel sorry for myself, but Miss Lulu wants to (figuratively) swing from the chandeliers.

What to do?

Typically our at home activities include painting, but as our usual mode of painting needs a certain exertion of energy in set up and clean up I presented LuLu with the tissue paper painting option.

Tissue paper painting is one of my favorite artistic tools. It can be used as a meditation device, or it can be appreciated for it’s hedonistic amounts of sensual enjoyment. It’s an intervention I used regularly as an art therapist and while I did, on rare occasion, meet a client who didn’t delight in the process, for the most part I think it’s a balm for all wounds, across all populations.

Tissue paper painting requires the following supplies:

  1. Tissue paper
  2. Elmer’s glue (or any glue similarly non toxic and easily washable)
  3. Paper (as high or as low brow as you want to go, I’ll explain more below.)
  4. A cup/bowl
  5. Water
  6. A brush, anything that can carry a water based solution, width at the artist’s discretion

There are two types of tissue paper: the kind that bleeds (the colors ‘run,’) and the kind that does not. If you look at Lulu’s painting you can see some blue, that is the dye leftover from the piece of tissue paper she first put down, but then subsequently removed. If you buy tissue paper at a craft or art store it will often be labeled as bleeding or non, I recommend the kind that bleeds — it’s more painterly, and part of the magic of tissue paper painting is how much work the medium does on it’s own — there’s a certain loss of control on your end, but if you don’t like that and want as much control as possible than the non-bleeding sort might be more up your alley. (Hoarding the tissue paper that comes with gifts and rolling the dice as to whether it will bleed or not is also a nice devil may care way to go about things.)

The glue is mixed with water, enough water to make the painting fluid, but not so much water that the tissue paper doesn’t adhere to the surface. Approximately a 30/70 or 40/60 glue to water ratio. If you want to get super zen about things you can just use water: some of the dye might run, but once the water dries up the tissue paper will slide off the paper and your art work will have been about living in the moment. The usual process is to put down the tissue paper where you’d like, and then coat each piece with the glue mixture. Today, though, Lulu painted the whole paper in the gluey water and then put down her tissue paper. It was one of those hand to head smacking ah-ha moments. It’s a much more immediate process that way, less control, of course, and I wish I’d known of that technique when I was working as an art therapist with the geriatric population. Toddlers, truly the best innovative artists around.

As for the paper, heavy stock water color paper is heavenly, and you can get super precise about things and tape down your edges so that the water doesn’t buckle the paper. Alternatively, any paper or cardboard with a coated surface is nice and celebrates the fluidity of this process, but, truthfully, there really isn’t a wrong paper to work with. As Lulu is a very prolific artist I tend to collect all sorts of paper and up cycle them into her works of art. The paper she used today was 8×11 office paper my husband had previously printed with a typo.

There is a lot more I could say about tissue paper painting, I could go on and on actually, but I’ll just quickly say that I prefer tearing the paper into shapes as opposed to cutting it, but adolescents, in particular, often got into cutting out letters/shapes and gluing them down, and that you can be a tissue paper purist, or you can incorporate anything else glue-able: glitter, beads, shells, collage, or — as you can see above — the odd popsicle stick. Dried tissue paper paintings done on thin paper and hung in a sunny window take on a stained glass effect, and layers and layers of tissue paper and glue become effortlessly organic. I’m not surprised that Lulu named hers “The Flowers,” somehow this process moves away from it’s store bought origins and gets quickly earthy, in the best possible way. When I would paint along with my clients I would inevitably layer blues and greens together — it felt especially soothing — and almost every group agreed that my finished product looked like the ocean, and so one day I intentionally choose reds and oranges and when it was all done a client observed that it looked like the sun setting on the ocean, it’s just that soulful of a way of creating art that I think it brings out our primal identifications with nature. (No, seriously, check out the cool water marks left in Lulu’s tissue paper and tell me that doesn’t seem like the relief of a fossil?)

If you do delve into this process I would LOVE to know your reactions to it. Meanwhile, I’m off to make a cuppa peppermint tea. Stay healthy, soulful artists, stay healthy.

Thankfully brushing the dust off…

'Holding Hands' Copyright Kate Forman 2004

'Holding Hands' Copyright Kate Forman 2004

So, it has been a very long time since I’ve posted anything here. Unfortunately, I’ve been neglecting this blog and my other on-line presences: the website… the twitter….and the Facebook. As it turns out, it’s just as easy, if not easier, to be distracted and even overwhelmed by an abundance of good things. I’m used to griping about the ick and the gook — they’ve been my standard excuses for not marketing-painting-hustling enough — but I didn’t imagine that loveliness could be a de-railer too.

Plus, full confession: I was always walking a line between keeping the super personal & the super professional clear…I never saw myself as a blogger who’d use this forum as a diary. I wanted to blog to refine my sense of my presence on the web, market myself, get new ideas and words back, be a part of the times, and get better at using words to describe myself and my art. And then I hit this obstacle: how to express the super personal, super wonderful, and concede that it meant re-creating how and when to make art…

In short order: when I started this blog, not too long ago, I was a single childless lady who made most decisions, including artistic, within the wide open space that description entails. Now I am (happily, over joyously, breathtakingly) married and 32 weeks pregnant. It turns my head around, it amazes me, it inspires me, and…it’s changed me.

On top of that: two really cool illustration projects fell in my lap. I’m not complaining about any of this, no sireebob, I’m kicking up my heels in joy (okay: metaphorically, as I’m not jumping around at all these days.) However, all of this good stuff overwhelmed me…and in an attempt to prioritize this blog, and the above forums, went by the wayside.

But that’s not what I want, what I do want, now more than ever, is for  my ability to create art and generate an income from it to be consistent. So, taking a deep breath, I’m waltzing into this Thanksgiving Holiday giving thanks for the amazing goodness in my life: for my husband — who emboldens me, for my growing baby — who captivates me, for my friends and family who’ve always believed in me, and for my capacity to climb back on the horse, again, and continue trying to make this thing of a working artist…work.

Learning how to accept a compliment

'Harvesting Water' Copyright Kate Forman 2004
‘Harvesting Water’ Copyright Kate Forman 2004

A long, long, time ago — when I was deep in the throes of an extremely awkward adolescence — my Aunt Liz gave me the following wise advice: “you better learn how to take a compliment.”

 I don’t remember anymore what prompted her to say that, but I imagine that I was probably melancholy and morose at the time. The words had quite an impact on me — I still think about them. I’m not very melancholy or morose anymore, though I have my moments, I guess we all do, but learning how to take a compliment is still something I’m working on.
 
Maybe it’s a woman thing? Maybe it’s an artist thing? It still amazes me when people like my artwork, and compliment it — especially when they notice and then comment on something I was trying to articulate in a painting but thought I hadn’t expressed successfully — the attention feels like a gift, and often overwhelms me with gratitude.
 
Lately a lot of wonderful things have been happening to me, and learning how to accept good things — and trust the attention to my artwork and the new opportunities it inspires — has been a learning curve.
 
The one I wanted to write about today regards my Australian friend Asta Lander. Asta is an incredibly positive person: she channels her creativity — expressed visually and via writing — for personal health and good, but also for the “greater good,” specifically human rights and women’s rights issues. For some perspective on her thought processes you can check out her blog
 
She’s inspired me — and displayed never-ending faith in me, even when I dropped the ball the first time we discussed collaborating on a project together. Her kindness, and compliments to my artwork, are bolstering — but it took me a while to know how to accept it.
 
Accepting that my artwork is reaching someone also means accepting that I’m being seen — art can be used to hide behind after all, and there’s something comforting in that, though stifling (did I mention that my moody adolescence was spent scowling over intricate notebook drawings…and not math homework?) Being seen is liberating, and a little scary: someone saying “I love your artwork, lets…” means that pipe dreams become real, and so does the effort.
 
I mentioned in a recent post that Australia has been very good to me — and that I’m learning to trust that goodness and the paths it seems to be leading me on. My vagueness around my collaboration with Asta is intentional, I’ll write more on our project when we’re more underway…but for now I wanted to give a clear, and seen, statement out to her, and to the universe — thanks for the compliments!

Wide awake and listening

'Wide Awake' Copyright 2007 Kate Forman

'Wide Awake' Copyright 2007 Kate Forman

My last two blog posts contained a fair amount of grumbling, and acknowledgement of the difficulties inherent (?) to being a working artist. Not this post, though, this one is going to be all about going with the flow and accepting direction when the universe appears to be trying to send a message that is not understood (yet.)

That’s why this image is up here. I painted it four years ago for a nice illustration assignment from Continental Magazine. I remember painting it, I was living in Staten Island at the time, it was a beautiful week late in spring, and my desk faced a window that looked out over the rooftops I included in the painting. I could occasionally hear ship horns from the New York Harbor just a few blocks away, and the only other sound that competed with the corner pizzaria delivery guy’s idling car radio was the cacaphony of little kids running out of the music school across the street.

Aside from the memories, I might only (until fairly recently) have mentionned that the woman in the painting is modelled after my good friend Kara (the more whimsical spot illustration that also accompanied the article is hanging in her bedroom.) However, for some reason, this painting has been generating activity. I’m not sure why, but I’m at along last beginning to think I’ve got to pay attention to it.

About a month ago a friend of a friend (the brilliant up-and-coming comedian Steve Grogan) approached me about buying a print of it, he said that the expression on the woman’s face expressed something he felt strongly connected too. We had a great conversation about art and inspiration, and I thought that was the end of that, except…

Then about a week later a woman I hadn’t spoken too in years approached me about entering a public art competition, based almost solely on her appreciation of this painting. So, heck yea, I entered the competition (still waiting to hear back – fingers crossed!) and I thought that was the end of that, except…

Then this week I got a phone call from Australia (I also have to say that Australia has been very kind to me as of late — but more about that in another post.) It was a very polite inquiry into the usage rights of this image, as an Australian University would like to use it for the opening of a new department on sleep studies.

Well, I’ll be darned. Now, in full disclosure: the university has no budget, and I almost got all dug into grumble mode, but then I finally acknowledged that this painting wants some air, and I have no business standing in its way.

So, I’m letting the university use it, and I’m liking the idea of my art also being a partner in all this. Maybe I’ve got to let it make some business decisions too, maybe I’ve got to trust that just making art is sometimes more than enough. Maybe making art is entering into some big cosmic conversation and the only way to get “the answers” I want to is to hunker down and listen, and follow.