Abstract ~ Hurricane

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Hurricane, 2005-2014.
Watercolor on paper. 30″x22″

This painting was actually finished quite a while ago, but I feel like now is the time to release it.

Literal hurricanes were a big part of the inspiration in this particular painting. When I was in the deepest part of my art school life, Hurricane Katrina happened. That was the same year that my father died and the same year that I got married. So in addition to watching the horrific coverage of Katrina, I also was living an emotional hurricane that has lasted a very long time.

That’s when this painting was born, but it took me a long time to be okay with letting it go.

Talking about my paintings is a little bit tricky because there are so many layers of meaning in them that I don’t always feel comfortable explaining what inspiration or methods that I use.

Sneak Peak ~ New Abstract

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April 2014. Watercolor on paper. 15″x22″

I finished this painting yesterday. I took the photo with my phone so it is obviously not perfect. I never post pictures of my work in this way, but I felt like showing it in its natural habitat so to speak.

I will post the formal image at another time and in that post I will reveal the title and I will probably go into greater detail about how this painting actually happened. I might even talk about some of the technical details . I don’t know yet. I usually don’t talk about those things.

I would love to hear from you if you have questions or comments.

Eating Weeds ~ Dandelion

Taraxacum officinale

Spring is finally here and all of the green things seem to be emerging from their winter slumber. Our lawns are transforming from the brittle brown remains of last season to the vibrant green of new growth.

Many beautiful wild weeds such as violets, spring beauties, and ground ivy are present in our yards at this time of year. However, the dandelion is one well known weed that people in the 21st century either love or loathe. Those that hate it will do almost anything in their power to eradicate its existence from their properties despite the fact that the efforts to do so are essentially in vain.

Dandelions are quite tough – and prolific reproducers – but they are one of those plants that have been used for centuries as medicine and food. Many of our ancestors actually made room for dandelion and other useful weeds in their yards instead of killing them. The name “dandelion” comes from the French term for lion’s tooth – a reference to the plant’s leaves.

Every part of the dandelion is useful in some way. The sunshine-yellow flower heads have long been used to make wines, ales and jams. The raw, bitter leaves have a high number of nutrients including protein, antioxidant vitamins A, C & E and a host of other vitamins and minerals. The roots have multiple uses medicinally and are used as a “coffee” as well.

Dandelion has an extensive history of being used as medicine to treat gall bladder, liver & kidney complaints, constipation, heartburn, diabetes, digestion, as an appetite stimulant, and to develop immunity from disease – to name just a few.

If you would like to try any dandelion recipes or remedies, please do your research thoroughly.  As always: If in doubt, don’t.

The Soaring Sound of Peace

I’ve been considering writing this blog for quite some time. It will probably have been saved as a draft many, many times by the time I finally publish it.

It’s emotional. It’s something I haven’t talked about with many people.

It’s about the death by suicide of my oldest brother and my peace with it.

I am not a fan of the word “suicide.” Yes, I know it is what it is.

My oldest brother, S, was nineteen years older than me, but my family was always very close. As a kid I used to love Sundays when my brothers would come over with their families and my mother would cook horribly unhealthy food and we would be outside, at the neighbor’s pond, talking, eating, etc. S married a woman with kids my age, so we played and fished and got muddy while running around as if we belonged no other place on Earth. At those moments we didn’t belong anywhere else and in my memories I find that it all seems to have been just a dream or fantasy, but it was real. I find it strange that while writing this I picture a happy group of people, because it’s been a very, very long time since I’ve felt like the word “happy” could be applied to my immediate family. Happiness and magic are words that seem so similar to me because both are so elusive now.

Hindsight is often cruel. I know that pretty well.

In lieu of giving a long and intense synopsis of S’s life, I would much rather just get to the point. He was an alcoholic. I think, on some level, I knew this my entire life. In fact, I once was scolded in third grade while on the phone because my friend asked me what my brothers did and I promptly told her that they were alcoholics.

S was an amazing person. I can’t begin to sum up who he was in this writing, but under the alcoholic was a sensitive, creative, loveable guy who loved his family so intensely that it is still difficult to fathom where things became as horrifying as they did. I know very well that I am not the first person to shout to the world that “my” alcoholic was much more than just the drunk.

It took several years for S to really hit that rock bottom, but he hit it harder than many people manage to do. I remember the 11 o’clock news showing his shoe in the street and then hearing the phone ring and my mother’s voice telling me that he was hit by a car and was in the hospital. It was the second time he had been hit by a car in his life, which is a fact that wasn’t lost on me in that moment. The first car strike was not alcohol related, the second was while S was trying to cross the street to go buy more vodka.

When we arrived at the hospital nobody would tell us if he was even alive. The cruelty of that hour and a half that we sat in the waiting room was something I haven’t been able shake seven years later. The bitterness that I still feel about the way that we were treated by many hospital staff is not gone yet. S was so badly injured that I didn’t recognize him when the bitchy nurse finally threw my mother, other brother, and I into a random ER room containing a gurney on which lied a swollen, blood soaked human. The only way I could recognize S was because after I looked at his face, I turned and he touched my back and said my name.

Side Note: I don’t hate nurses, so don’t send me hate mail. However, the way in which we were treated after many hospital staff realized that S was an alcoholic was disgusting and those people should be ashamed of themselves.

Broken neck (thanks to the hospital, but that’s a long story), shattered and maligned jaw, chipped and busted teeth, a re-break of the leg that was broken when he was 21 and was hit by a car while walking to work, split open knee. So many more injuries than that. Brain damage if you didn’t already figure that out. Was it a blessing that the leg that was broken this time was the same leg that was broken 20 years earlier in that hit and run? I don’t know. If you can’t fathom the physical pain, enter alcohol withdrawal into the mix. It was a frightening time for all of us.

Because of the changes in his brain, S often thought it was his childhood or another time in the past. He had to have a nurse or aide near at all times because he was a fall risk. One afternoon I stood by his bed and he told me about how my father and his father came to visit him in the hospital early that day. His detail was amazing and the story was comforting. The aide sitting next to the bed looked away from her book long enough to smile and say “How nice that your dad and step dad both came today.” I looked at her and, without thinking, indicated that they were both dead by motioning my hand across my neck with my tongue sticking out. She looked startled and then her face softened with understanding. Go ahead and laugh like I did. Sometimes you have to laugh because there are plenty of times to cry.

That happened in 2006. S died in 2009. Those three years were at once terrible and beautiful. I became much closer to S through those years. We spoke often, sometimes daily. When he got sick I would go to the hospital and sit with him and make sure he was telling the doctors the truth. His liver had long been punished by booze and his pancreas was giving out too. He was in chronic pain, hideous pain, all of the time.

Now, I know that he brought that on himself. I don’t need any sanctimonious, self-righteous twits to tell me that. S drank every drop of liquor of his own volition thereby ruining his own liver and pancreas at minimum. He was every bit the creator of his own problems in that regard and I will not deny that. Seeing someone you love in that much pain on a daily basis is an ugly and cruel thing regardless of how they got there. It will destroy you right along with them. I was excessively angry that he kept drinking and terrified that he would die because of it.

I knew he would die because of it. I knew it was coming soon.

I just didn’t know when.

In July of 2009, I turned 29. S never remembered my real date of birth. I don’t know why and neither did he. It became a yearly inside joke. He was always three days late in wishing me a happy birthday, so when he called me on my true birthday that year, I should’ve known something was up. He had been in the hospital again until the day before and behaved very elusively about something one of the doctors had told him. I knew there was something he wasn’t saying, something he wanted to hide. He just said that he wanted to talk about happy things and I obliged. Life was heavy. Happy things were few and far between.

I spoke with him again a few days after my birthday. He seemed agitated, but that was not completely unusual when he was in pain. He would go days without food because of the stomach pain from the liver or pancreas or both. Going to the hospital would buy him some time to eat real food if he received the right pain medicine. It was a cycle of hell.

He probably died on July 31, 2009. I say “probably” because that is the last day anyone had contact with him. As a family, we believe that his date of death was July 31. He was found on August 2. He had been sober for 18 months at the time of his death, but the internal damage had been done.

I found out that S had died from our brother D. I remember screaming “no!” so loudly that I temporarily broke the receiver of my phone. When the phone rang I had been happily painting the shutters of my house. I never finished them. They are still missing from some of their windows four years later. I screamed so loud that I scared my cat. The neighbors came running. I went to get my husband who had just gone to nap. I couldn’t stop moving. As if covering as much ground as possible could turn back time. Eventually I dropped to my knees and my neighbor let me put my head in her lap. Yeah, I know, that’s a huge cliché in stories about death, but it happens. When bad news comes I am a raging mess. I scream, I cry, I pace or run. Then, I deal with it.

There is a strange peace in me about S being gone from this planet. It bothers some people and perplexes others that I feel the way I feel. I spent so much time with S during so many of the bad times that I know that his level of pain was so intense and ferocious that his quality of life was zilch. He was here for us and not for himself at the end. I feel like I can say with certainty that he made peace where he had to make peace. He was a man that loved so deeply that his choice to end his own life was not one that I believe was made hastily or with any malice intended toward a single person or thing. S died because of the pain and because he simply could not live anymore, though his body wouldn’t let go. He made a choice to die despite loving us so very much and knowing how much we loved him. I know it was the most difficult choice he’s ever made.

I do not condone suicide. Please do not misunderstand what I’m saying. This is a far more complicated situation than I can manage to even remotely explain in this blog, but I’ve been quiet for four years for the most part and there are things about S that need to be set free. Our family has suffered so much, but I have never doubted S’s love for us and especially for his children. His daughter whispers the secrets of his soul, though she might question that from time to time. I can see it though and I know that words alone cannot do justice to the depth of love and pride he felt for her.

This story has holes in it. I can’t begin to tell you everything. The layers of truth about this situation are many and fragile. Maybe someday I will write about S and his life and death. For now, this is what it has to be.

Please don’t hesitate to call someone if you need to talk. Please.

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

Taboo Inspirations & Confessions – Bob Ross

While thinking about things that I could blog about, I realized that as an artist I break a few rules. I am probably going to get some hate mail over this, so if and when that happens, I will post a hate mail blog for your enjoyment.

Bob Ross was a public television fixture in the 1980s when I was little. I doubt there are few people who haven’t heard of Bob or who haven’t seen The Joy of Painting. I remember watching him paint in oils and how it magically came to be that he managed to turn a blank canvas into a landscape or some other scene.

I loved Bob Ross. I still love Bob Ross. And that makes me naughty by most art world standards.

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As a child, I would watch Bob whenever he was on our giant, no remote control, carved oak furniture style, five channel console television set (kind of like the one pictured above). There was something so inspiring about him to me. Maybe because he brought squirrels and other woodland critters on his show while painting. I don’t know. My grandmother painted craft ceramics and always had a plethora of paints laying about. She brought me some of her paints and brushes and a canvas and that’s when I started seriously painting.

OK, so you’re thinking, “‘Seriously painting’? She was a little kid.” Yeah. I was a little kid. I always loved art. Most kids do. However, when I started painting with Bob, I started painting for me.   I’m sure most of my paintings sucked and I’m sure that at the time I didn’t know that they sucked because I loved doing it so much. Oh, the innocence.

When I finally got to art school as a teenager and again in my mid-twenties (sometimes you need a break!) I had already figured out that Bob wasn’t exactly looked upon as an example of a good painting teacher or even a good painter. How disappointing. Yeah, I get it. He had a way of painting that many traditional oil painters look upon as ghastly. I remember hearing people in class pretentiously (sorry, it’s just true) talk about Bob like he was the devil of the art world. Bob ruined oil painting forever! Whatever.

Bob Ross was an artist. A real artist. He had a passion for painting and making art and he managed to build a hell of an impressive empire around it. He inspired people to pick up a paint brush who might not have bothered before. Some choose to paint exactly like Bob – purchase Bob’s brushes, Bob’s paint, Bob’s kits, Bob’s brush wacker thingy.  Others, like me, have gone off the deep end and paint absolutely nothing at all like Bob nor do we even use the same media as Bob.

I love Bob Ross and I miss him and I don’t care if I’m not “supposed” to.

bobchuck

An Olfactory Banquet

HazelFern_Melts_Bowman

When I started making candles and soap back in 2006, I never imagined that it would become as large of an enterprise as it has become. Back then I was simply trying to make gifts for family and friends while indulging my non-painter creative side. In the very beginning, I made candles and soaps that were typical & usually mass marketed fragrances – Apple Pie, Cinnamon, Fresh Linen, etc. Those fragrances are still a part of my line, but now the scent side of my business has evolved so much that I sometimes forget how timidly it began.

Hazel Fern Scents is what I now call my fragrance line. I only use 100% soy wax in my candles and melts. All of the fragrance oils are phthalate free. There are 8 ounce jelly jar candles, wax melts or tarts, handcrafted bastille soap, artisan perfume oils, lip balm, and incense.

Because of my nature as an artist, synesthete, and generally strange person, I have incorporated many things into Hazel Fern Scents that are crossovers from my paintings and art, my interests in different eras, and the like. I have always been drawn to the Victorian and Edwardian eras and they very strongly influence my art and fragrance blends. The inspirations come in unpredictable waves, like it’s being pulled from another time or place.

I have done extensive genealogy work and have many times found myself wondering about the smells and sights that would have been present in a particular time. We see photographs, old newspapers, and other relics from the olden days, but we really don’t know what it looked like in full color. Because of the progression of industry and technology, the air itself has changed and evolved and scents we would have picked up 100 years ago are probably vastly different today. I’m sure that there is a scientist out there that could give a proper explanation of all of these musings, but these are the thoughts that trigger me into creating certain scents and painting the way that I paint. It all interconnects for me in a very strange and unpredictable way. I don’t always know where the inspiration will lead, if it will stay and exhaust itself in many forms or if it is just a wisp that lightly touches my work.

Pumpkin Bread

Patchouli Soap

Etsy_Good Mourning Perfume Oil