Special thanks to Danny Schweers for sharing his pics from the convention. He is also an Art Evangelist, combining his gorgeous photos with original prayers on a blog called photoprayer.com. You can see all his work at dannyschweers.com.
This Visual Oratory was hung behind the altar for our Eucharist celebration, helping make the hotel meeting room a little brighter. I'm happy to report that these prayers will move to Friendship House, a homeless shelter and ministry at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew in Wilmington. The staff and guests of Friendship House will keep adding their prayers to the sculpture, making it bigger, brighter and more layered. Each piece reminds us that we are all connected in our prayers for each other.
Special thanks to Danny Schweers for sharing his pics from the convention. He is also an Art Evangelist, combining his gorgeous photos with original prayers on a blog called photoprayer.com. You can see all his work at dannyschweers.com.
or...long time, no art
Wait, let's back up. At the end of June this year, Kevin and I traveled to Delaware (Dela-where??) for walkabouts and interviews, as some folks seemed to think that he would make a good Bishop. Amid a host of excellent candidates, my thoughts were mixed - the honor and the challenge would be wonderful, but why leave our friends and fabulous church in Charlotte? Then in July...he was elected! Good grief, this was really happening! August...we brought the kids to Wilmington to see our new house, "Bishopstead," (complete with koi pond and elevator!) September... we fixed up the house to sell and began to pack. October...moving time plus one last trip together to Montreal before Kevin started work in November.
And in the midst of all this change, I was packing and moving and now unpacking and reorganizing my studio. It became an unplanned sabbatical from my artwork as I focused on making the transition easier on Kevin, Margaret and Emily. Not to mention Lola, sweet old schnauzer, who can't see or hear very well these days. I'm trying to be patient, and I truly am thankful for all the blessings of this new adventure.
So here we are in December and I find myself married to the Bishop of Delaware and celebrating Christmas in a new home. Wow.
The consecration weekend was snowy, beautiful, dramatic, full of friends and family, sacred, humbling, musical, and oh so special. If you want to view a special consecration edition of the Diocese of Delaware's news magazine, please click HERE. If you'd like to view the whole ceremony on YouTube, please click HERE.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!
I wish you Joy and Wonderful Creative Adventures in the year ahead!!
Between the turmoil and excitement of packing and moving from North Carolina to Delaware, I saw a call to artists from one of my favorite organizations, ECVA - Episcopal Church and Visual Arts. I've been involved with ECVA many times throughout the years, exhibiting my work in their shows online and in New York. Their membership represents a wide variety of artists and styles who share a commonality of expression in honor of God and in community with the Episcopal Church.
I'm pleased to say that this mixed media piece, Valley of the Dry Bones, was accepted to the new ECVA online exhibit Telling God Stories in the 21st Century.
Biblical themes often influence my artwork and challenge me to question how MY story aligns and overlaps with God's Holy Spirit. Mixed media paint, drawing and collage allows me to layer prayers and stories quite literally into the artwork.
Valley of the Dry Bones was also juried into the 2015 exhibit The Body Beautiful at Ciel Gallery in Charlotte, NC. Here's my statement for the piece:
The body has the miraculous power to heal, whether it is tissue, muscle or bone that needs to mend. The text beneath the x-ray tells the story of the Valley of Dry Bones in the Biblical Book of Ezekiel; the breath of God restores life into the lifeless forms, a miracle that makes the dry bones dance. Pulsing with vibrant colors, our bodies experience both seasons of brokenness and ache alongside seasons of blossoming and healing.
I love when my art story connects with my viewers. To give this story a happy ending, I was thrilled when a friend purchased this piece and asked if she could use it on the cover of the book she is writing!
Please visit the ECVA exhibition Telling God Stories in the 21st Century at www.ECVA.org(click here). And remember that God's story is also our story, every single day.
Valley of Dry Bones
10"x10" mixed media painting (acrylic, book pages, wood, wire, screws and x-ray)
So the Browns have arrived in Wilmington, Delaware!
If you've done it before - packed up your life into a thousand cardboard boxes and plunged into the deep end of a new life in a new place - you know what an act of faith and holy patience it is.
So much that is UNKNOWN ahead...where is the closest grocery store? will we make new friends? will Kevin like his new job? will I find a place to make and show my art? can I continue to teach? and where are the lamps that go with all these shades?
But one very known aspect of this move was our new home, Bishopstead. How very wonderful to have a job that comes with a fabulous old house! Built in 1912 by members of the Du Pont family, Bishopstead is in a lovely neighborhood near the Delaware Art Museum and between two big, gorgeous parks. And as you can guess from this photo, it is grand and quirky.
I can't wait to share more details of this amazing place, but for now, let me share a poem written for me by my Charlotte friend Mary Cox. It's been on my mind a lot, as I wade through packing paper and this "in-between" time as we work on the house and get ready for the work of "real life" and office hours and disciplined routines to begin in November. Thank you to Mary and all our Charlotte friends who have encouraged us and prayed for us in this new life. We couldn't have done this without you.
Home-making (for Caroline Coolidge Brown)
You never planned to be a clergy spouse ----
you didn't think you'd fit the job description ----
but God called Kevin. What's a girl to do?
Dismay and panic, verging on conniption ----
and then a daffodil: God said, "You're in this too.
And oh, you've not been called to keep a house."
In fact, you've packed, unpacked ----but not to stay ----
for all too soon, another moving day.
So you've made homes that travel where you go,
crafted of scraps and love, and prayer and laughter,
love's joyous dance, a few unbidden tears.
It's the routine a hermit crab would know ----
no certain space for happy-ever-after,
a heart that's housed wherever home appears.
This time between the houses here and there,
routine suspended, life packed up in crates,
remember that whatever house awaits,
we are each other's home, where hearts connect,
open to other hearts. You can expect
your home's already eager to begin
unpacking in the house you'll put it in.
Mary W. Cox, October 6, 2017.
The October moving date approaches quickly. Kevin and I are busy wrapping up church and gallery commitments, keeping the house nice and neat for the realtor, and saying so long (but not goodbye) to our dear Charlotte friends.
On the other end in Delaware, folks are writing notes, painting walls in our new home, and making plans for our arrival and Kevin's December consecration ceremony. What a gift to be loved on both sides of this transition!
I was thrilled to talk to Jerry Hames, one of my new Delaware friends and a writer for the Episcopal Journal, about my artwork and my thoughts on the move. I loved that he calls me "A Modern Itinerant Artist" who is comfortable with "improvisation and experimentation." True, true.
Please take a look at the whole article HERE...and stay tuned to see what creative inspiration will evolve from my new studio in Delaware!
Let's go for a ride!
Other highlights of the weekend included songs with Grey Langley around the fire, on the porch and in the HoCo Late Show with a special new verse of "Sweet Caroline" and an homage to the new Bishop-Elect of Delaware to the tune of "Wagon Wheel" (He's the new Bishop of Delaware, hope that fancy mitre hat don't mess up his hair...)
Plus an amazing Bluegrass Eucharist with the West End String Band from Greenville, SC and a hike up the mountain with pals.
Holy Comforter Episcopal Church really is a place were love dwells in every size, shape, age and color. Kevin's last Sunday is tomorrow. Sigh. We are going to miss you all.
Haven't heard from me in a while? Here's why...
1. Yes, I'm painting, but not on canvas. I'm getting ready to put our house on the market and making our home look a lot less lived in. Sigh.
2. Yes, I'm making art, but not for the gallery. My final Holy Comforter retreat at Kanuga in the mountains of North Carolina is this weekend and no surprise, I'm leading the art project!! I'm loving my new-to-me mitre saw. Think "Lincoln Logs" meets "Legos" meets "All are Welcome!" I promise pics of the finished piece.
3. Yes, I'm teaching one more class! You can sign up for my Urban Sketching class at the CPCC Continuing Education website. Three sessions, Wednesday nights in September, meeting at Myers Park High School. Join me!
4. Yes, there's one more show where you can find me! Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary hosts Art in the Garden on Thursday night, Sept. 14. I am one of eight invited artists exhibiting and selling work, with a percentage of sales benefiting Wing Haven. Plants, birds, art, drinks, munchies, music...you know you want to come!
Here's a link for more information and $20 tickets: winghavengardens.org/events-calendar/2017/9/14/arts-in-the-garden
5. Yes and there's all that other life stuff...family beach trip, eclipse watching, packing up kids for college, coordinating with movers, and those happy but sad "final" goodbyes. You know, the important stuff.
My adventure continues with a new plot twist - Kevin and I are moving to Wilmington, Delaware in October! We are incredibly honored that my sweet, smart husband Kevin, an Episcopal priest and rector of the Church of the Holy Comforter in Charlotte, has been elected to become the 11th Bishop of Delaware. Wow, just Wow.
We have known this was a possibility all spring, so this theme has been showing up in my journals for a few months. Funny how when something is on your mind, your hands seem to find just the right pieces!
We moved to New York City when our children were 6 and 8 years old, leaving dear friends at Grace St. Luke's in Memphis to meet new ones at General Seminary. Three years later, we picked up again, settling into a great life at Grace Church in Paris, Tennessee. Another three years down the road, we moved to Charlotte and made Holy Comforter our home for seven incredible years.
This story sounds like just a lot of calendar numbers, but the truest meaning and memories of each of these places are the people who loved us before they met us. We were privileged to become an instant part of their family and we cared for them deeply. We still care for them deeply.
The tears will begin when we pack up the house, and start heading down the road. It's part of the job. But I believe it is the hardest part.
Delaware, we are excited to know you as our new family. We are eager to know what the Holy Spirit has in mind for this chapter of our lives and to discover how we will work together to make the world a better place. We love you already. And we are so happy to add your branch to the Brown family tree.
Spirit Animals was the theme for the May Mixed Media Clambake class. Students chose animal photos and we made four-fold books, exploring the ways that these symbolic animals relate to our lives.
I was surprised to find myself choosing the Snake for my book project. I've often dreamed of snakes (not always a pleasant dream!) and just the day before, I'd found something beautiful that inspired me: a snakeskin on the labyrinth path where I was walking and praying.
A smart Bishop friend once told me, "God speaks to you in the language that you understand." I find that God speaks to me frequently through imagery - flowers, birds, oceans and now snakeskin. I was reminded of a snake's ability to shed its skin and start over; reminded that the snake is small but powerful.
In times of uncertainty, transition or change, it is normal to feel like you are being tossed about and turned upside down. This book project brought me unexpected relief and reassurance in my own ability to use some strong snake mojo!
I always enjoy working with four-fold books. You start with a large single piece of paper and work all over with colors and patterns. Then you make four folded creases, one cut and then with a magical origami-like maneuver, you have a book! The fun really starts as you add imagery and words on each small page.
In my Snake Mojo book, I added my snakeskin taped into clear plastic, a secret message under a cut spiral, and a colorful velum version of my green snake illustration. I also used a bit of green yarn to tie in a card with some of my labyrinth journaling. You can see the full page unfolded below.
Visual journaling often surprises me like this. I start out with images or words and begin to layer paint and journal my thoughts. It's completely therapeutic! If you want to try it, please come to one of my monthly clambakes. Or check out this book by one of my favorite artists: The Art Journal Workshop by Traci Bunkers.
You can see more of my visual journaling pages here.
After a week of teeny tiny carved lines on large blocks I decided to go more abstract. The woodblock process is naturally layered - but I needed a different kind of layering - something more organic and loose - less planned, less realistic.
I asked Paul to cut my wood (birch plywood from Lowes if you were wondering) into four inch squares. And then the fun began!
I really loved mixing up colors and shapes. It also helped that each little block didn't take all day to draw and carve. And the background color blocks aren't carved at all! Check out a few of my block combo prints below. Can't wait to do more of these at home!
I kept chipping away at my woodblocks last week...making art at Penland is so fun...and challenging!
Here are the 3 color blocks and the black key block. Then I printed -- too much brown on the haystack, so I cut out the blue and red -- that left me with a bright yellow haystack! And a purple needle, of course. Notice how the yellow, red and blue layer to make a beautiful brown...and you probably can't see it here, but there's some gorgeous wood grain happening on the print too.
You know it doesn't matter if you liked it better the first way...you've carved it off forever now! Did I mention this is challenging?
Here I am, in a rocking chair looking out at these beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, energized from a week of non-stop creative work at Penland School of Crafts...life is good!
I'm studying with Paul Roden, a master printmaker from Pittsburgh, learning to make multi-block color woodcut prints. The studio here is wonderful, the people are amazingly talented and I'm picking up lots of pro-tips from Paul as we work together each day.
The basic idea is to create layers of color from seperately carved blocks - one for the key block (usually black) that gets carved first with all the details, then one for blue, red and yellow (or cyan, magenta, yellow as in CMYK.) I have learned how to transfer my key image to other blocks, how to mix transparent inks, how to get perfect registration on the paper - and that carving wood is a lot tougher than carving linoleum!
There are SO many variables to work with in this - the inks, the carving, the pressure of the printing press, the kind of paper - but all that makes it like a big puzzle to solve!
The best way to remember an event or trip is to journal it.
Now that I'm home, it's fun to sit with my "Irish Adventure" journal and fill things in after the fact -- adding ticket stubs and postcards or sketching from a photo. Two of my favorite tools are perfect for this kind of work - the Fuji Instax printer and my collection of washi tape - both too cumbersome to pack in my sketch kit, but great to play with in the studio.
The Fuji Instax Share is a small printer that works with your smartphone to print cute little polaroid type pictures. The real advantage to buying the printer instead of the camera? You can edit the image on your phone before printing and you can print the same photo multiple times to share with your art buddies. Each little photo prints out in front of you and is about the size of a business card (and fits perfectly in an Altoid box!)
My other favorite obsession, I mean art supply, is washi tape. You can find decorative tapes all over now, but true washi tape is imported from Japan. A little piece is a great way to add a border or a splash of pattern and color to a journal page.
Try some washi tape in your next project; you can find an amazing variety now at Target or Michael's. And check out the Instax printer, you will be hooked on this fun little gadget!
Now get journaling!
Both of the following prints are based on inspiring sights in Listowel. The "Castle" was fast and simple; the "Garden" was super detailed and took forever to cut, print and paint. I was happy to see that the Castle print was a big favorite and best seller - an iconic image for the town.
I just can't stay away from birds! They have always fascinated me with their colors and stories.
We learned a new bird story on our trip through the Dingle peninsula. Damian and Ger, our tour guides, kept waving at the large black and white birds we passed. When we asked, the answer was simple; Ger said, "I'm just waving away sorrow."
Though magpies do live in the US, they are only found on the West coast, so I've never seen them or known anything about them. I was charmed to learn this little rhyme about my new bird friend...
The beautiful patchwork Irish landscape is criss-crossed with hedgerows and dotted with sheep. We can't help but fall in love with all the shades of green and those sweet sheep faces! Here's another of my new pieces, a carved linoleum relief print. I'm using a new ink (Caligo) that is oil-based but washes up with soap and water; it takes a couple of days to dry, but then it is waterproof and easy to paint on with my watercolors and paint pens. This is the view from the park in Listowel.
Need more sheep??
An Irish priest lost his favorite Bible while he was walking home from the pub one night. Three weeks later, a sheep walked up to him carrying the Bible in its mouth. The priest couldn't believe his eyes. He took the precious book out of the sheep's mouth, raised his eyes heavenward and exclaimed, "It's a miracle!" "Not really," said the sheep. "Your name is written inside the cover."
Not baaaahd enough for you?
An Irishman goes to the movies sits down next to a sheep eating popcorn. "Are you a sheep?" asked the man, surprised. "Yes." "What are you doing at the movies?" The sheep replied, "Well, I liked the book."
I am happy to report that the weather in Listowel is much warmer than when we first arrived. The sunny skies have gotten us out exploring the large parks in town and along the River Feale. And if that weren't enough to bring a smile, it seems that every spare patch of grass is full of happy daffodils!
Perfect inspiration for my first linoleum print! I hand-colored each one after printing and hung them in the gallery window along with Olive's beautiful daffodil paintings.
You know you are someplace special when you are chatting with the window washer man about the weather and how much you love all the daffodils, and he begins to quote Shakespeare:
"Daffodils, that come before the swallows dare, and take
The winds of March with beauty” (Winter’s Tale Act 4, sc. 4)
We are clearly taken with all the Irish beauty here - and don't even mind the March winds these days!
We had our first visitors to Listowel last week! Emily Brown and David Calvert, both juniors at North Carolina State University, joined us on our Irish adventure for a week of history, castles, hot tea, cold wind, driving on the "wrong" side of the road, pubs and pints, Dublin and Dingle, and best of all, Mama time.
We toured Bunratty Castle near Shannon and Ross Castle in Killarney and decided that we preferred life with windows and central heating. We also learned that Irish weather can change in a minute - we arrived at Ross Castle in the driving rain (watching the birds fly backwards) and moments later, the sun was shining on the lake. We especially loved a trip into a moss-covered forrest in Killarney National Park to see Torc Waterfall. We didn't see any fairies or leprechauns but we knew they were there!
Everyone said it was beautiful, but the Irish landscape here is gobsmackingly gorgeous! Amy and I were lucky to have a chance to tour the Dingle peninsula with the two finest tour guides around, Damian Stack and Ger Greaney.
"What is it about the Americans and the sheep?" Damian murmured between history lessons and terrible jokes...
You might spy an Amy flower in the window too - they are starting to grow amid the Irish daffodils we see everywhere!
March 1st - our residency in Listowel began and the season of Lent began with the services of Ash Wednesday. First, Amy and I got down to business to make some art. She collected scrap metal and tools, I sketched and started carving some linoleum. And we adjusted to the cold temps! Now we know why the Irish drink tea all day, it's to keep warm!
When there was a break in the drizzle, I walked to the town square to sketch. I'm afraid my delicate magnolia sensibilities didn't last long - but I did manage a quick sketch of St. John's, a former Church of Ireland that is now an arts center.
That night, we headed to the only other church in town, St. Mary's Catholic Church, for the imposition of ashes. And sensing that our Lenten discipline will be unusual this year for many reasons, we decided to mark the occasion with a pint of Guinness. For strength, you know.
I've made it to Listowel, Ireland, friends!!
And so the adventure begins...and the magic is already happening!
The amazing Amy Hart, sculptor and welder extraordinaire, and I are the Olive Stack Gallery Artists in Residence for the month of March. We rolled off the plane yesterday and didn't stop until nightfall and our eyelids couldn't stay up any longer.
Listowel is beyond charming and our hostess Olive is the embodiment of Irish hospitality. We will mind the gallery four days a week and make art in the studio upstairs. I'm planning to work on linoleum carving and prints - and Amy is going to make her found metal sculpture (she has already had me dumpster dive with her and is meeting all the local farmers and hardware store owners to find her tools.
Right now, I'm nibbling on my "rock pile" scone from the bakery across the street and watching Window Theater. Each floor has a lovely window that looks out onto Main Street and all the action in town - it's wonderful entertainment with a nice cuppa tea!
So you've all been asking to see my workshop journal...here it is! As I look at the pages, wonderful moments of the trip come flooding back to me. That's what sitting and really looking at something will do for you, better than any quick photograph. Not that we didn't take hundreds of those. We all have PLENTY of source material to work with for a long time! I can't wait to print out some photos and use them as new inspiration (that was our last day's lesson, after all!)
My final day in Italy, I made my pilgrimage to the Church of Renaissance Art History, The Uffizi Gallery. I arrived before opening, with advance ticket voucher in hand and STILL met lines and lines of faithful art lovers there before me. But all was revealed in God's time, and I was face to face with the great masterpieces in all their larger than life glory.
Like most museums, you move in chronological order, observing artistic developments in progression. From flat, wooden Medieval altarpieces with stylized faces to the introduction of perspective and suggested depth to the fully understood workings of human anatomy and light, I delighted in pulling the bits of remembered art history lectures from the cobwebs of my memory. Names like Giotto, Filippo Lippi, Caravaggio, Bronzino and of course Botticelli and da Vinci.
And it must have been Heaven, because almost all of the paintings featured Jesus, Mary and assorted Saints in their majesty. Like any good icon, these religious paintings were a conduit towards the divine, an inspiration and a recognition to me of God's life and incarnation in the world, working through the hands of his creative artist children. And I wondered, as I navigated the crowds of tourists from many countries, did these images hold anything sacred for them? Or were they just another stop on the bus through European masterpieces?
I sketched as I could in the museum, taking as many photos of the people as I did of the art. After a marvelous morning of art, I retired to a nearby cafe, eating the best Italian panini EVER, with a refreshing glass of vino bianco, and painting my own small homage to the day.
As my Bishop from West Tennessee once told me, "God speaks to us in the language which we understand." And I was hearing the chorus of angels all around! Alleluia! Thanks be to God!
I'm sad to say that the shortest week ever, my week teaching a stupendous group of students in Cortona, has come to a close. Just when we knew how to order Vin Santo y Cantucci for dessert! Some of us added onto the journey with trips to Rome, the Amalfi Coast and myself here in Florence. A few of us added to the adventure in the Amsterdam airport, to their dismay, but made the best of it with a day free for museums. All of us will return home changed. The experience of living in a new place for a week, really studying the landscape and all its wonderful details, and sharing meals and laughs and hurts and hugs was a gift to me. And we all made great art! I am truly grateful.
Look for a survey from me soon, about art travel trips and future dream destinations. It can be a stretch to set aside the time and resources for a journey like this, but it's something I can't recommend more highly. I would love to be your creative guide in far-off lands!
And don't worry, I will share more art from my sketchbook, too! But right now, I'm going out to see and sketch more on my last 2 days in Florence! Ciao!!