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Above: Encaustic Painting, 12″x 36″ Triptych

Just yesterday, I was thinking that I was feeling a little rusty in the left side of my brain and today, as if foreshadowed by that fleeting thought, a firm I’ve previously worked with called me to assist them with research and strategic planning for a new business pitch.

When the firm’s contact asked me what I had been up to lately, I noted that I was busy working on a series of paintings for a show later this year. “You’re the only person I know who uses both sides of their brain,” she commented. I replied that I had always felt equally comfortable straddling the left and right sides of my brain. Like the ability to multi-task, it’s sometimes works for me and sometimes drives me crazy.

Really, it’s a simplification to say that “left brain” people are analytical and orderly, and “right brain” people are artistic, unpredictable and creative since we all draw upon specific sides of our brain for different daily functions. But the choice of which side of the brain is in control of which situations is what shapes our personalities and determines our character. Maybe that’s why I feel so conflicted sometimes!

Fortunately I’m about done (except for some pondering and fine tuning) with two of the three encaustic paintings I have underway, so it’s a good time to take a little break from spending most of my time in the studio. I also would like to start some oil paintings, but lately I’m drawn to the immediacy of working in wax. Encaustic painting involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. Metal tools and brushes can be used to shape the paint before it cools, and other tools can be used to manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface (virtually anything that is porous). Other materials can be collaged or layered in to the wax. It’s an ancient technique that was used in Egypt way back in 100-300 AD for mummy portraits.

Like all other art media, everyone develops a personal style. I’m still experimenting. I joined an Encaustic Group on Facebook that is having an Encaustic Summer Art Challenge. I’ve added three of my recent paintings to the 100 or more currently added to this online gallery. If you’re registered on Facebook, I invite you to click through the photos on Facebook to see what people are doing with this interesting medium.

Below: Another recently completed (almost) encaustic painting, 20″x24″

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Photographer Albert Ellenich taking a pic of me taking a pic of him at the opening reception of his gallery showing.

Photographer Albert Ellenich taking a pic of me taking a pic of him at the opening reception of his gallery showing.

Summer is prime time for date nights with my husband. I’m very much a warm weather person and it seems to me that at this time of year romance is always in the air. It’s hard for me to imagine a better partner than handsome hunk: we enjoy spending time together, share similar interests and have always been very drawn to one another. Last night I decided to wear my fashion-du-jour maxi-dress, and we headed out to a gallery reception featuring floral, nature and landscape photographs taken by our talented friend, Albert Ellenich. I’m a fan of his tight shots of lush flowers and plants. His photo subjects are wide-ranging, so you might want to take a moment to visit his online gallery.

Albert and Kenn in front of some of Albert's photos

Our friends Albert and Kenn in front of some of Albert's photos

Date night stop two was Taste of Randolph Street. By this time we were hungry and decided to stop at an Indian restaurant and eat outside so we could watch the steady stream of people heading to the Taste. Randolph Street’s claim to fame is Harpo Studio where Oprah tapes her show and it’s also a lively area of popular restaurants. The street was a sea of people, mostly younger than we are. As we savored the pungent Indian food and talked, groups of young women passed by our table. I could imagine all the preparatory primping that had taken place. Which dress? The red sandals or the gold heels? Hair up or hair down…? The guys came en masse too in their khaki shorts and t-shirts trying to be cool in a disinterested way. The thirty-somethings look so young now! Yes, there were couples too, but my husband remarked that he thinks that young people today don’t date but instead meet up as a group, hangout and maybe pair off as the evening grows later. Not that we know this for sure, but our youngest son (late 20s) tried to explain this to us at some point.

The delicious aromas at the Taste of Randolph Street filled the warm summer night.

The delicious aromas at the Taste of Randolph Street filled the warm summer night.

We walked home after meandering through the different stalls and listening to one of the bands that played at the Taste. Lots of people out and about on the streets enjoying the warm night. I’m in love with summer. I’m in love with handsome hunk. And I feel content and so happy not to be young again and looking for “the one.”

Maybe the sun on Saturday was an aberration was my first thought when I woke up today. The temperatures were in the 80s, but it stayed cloudy, hazy, yet bright all day long. It made me take notice of the plants on the balcony. They’ve flourished from all the rain we ‘ve had lately and the colors popped against the gray sky. Our balcony faces north so the types of plants we can grow is limited. I’m sure my friend Lisa at Pot and Box could give me some pointers. To wrap up the weekend, here are some photos of the plants in our little balcony garden in the city.

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Our visitors are gone. I’m in between consulting jobs and still, halfheartedly I admit, looking for a full-time job. I’ve begun ticking off lingering items on my must-do list, taking time to pursue my painting, going to boot camp 3x a week to stay in shape, making dates with people whose company I enjoy, and doing other things like writing this blog to feed my soul so to speak. I feel strangely sanguine about not having work at the moment.

Over the years, I’ve heard people talk about the need to be “still” enough to hear an inner voice—to let things come to you that get drowned out by the clutter and noise that invade our lives. I think now is that “still” time for me. I crave it as much as I need a drink of water after a 5-mile run or my husband’s sweet kiss. I feel as if I’ve been busy raising children, earning a living and all sorts of other things that keep me from doing, or help me avoid discovering, what it is that I want to do in this life at this time.

Do I know what I want to do? No, can’t say that I do. I’ve always envied people who have a passion. Family is certainly a passion and, for many years, passion was my passion and I poured myself into relationships good and bad. My life has been relatively unplanned…meandering into opportunities and paths that seemed enticing or necessary at the time. This seeming randomness obviously appeals to me. I enjoy being open to possibilities, not being driven by a master plan. This may surprise some people I’ve worked with in the past, because as a supervisor I can be all about knowledge and “process” (though I see “process” as a fluid framework that helps avoid the need to reinvent the wheel for each project and instead lets a team or individual concentrate on substance and creativity).

Anyway, I now find myself shunning the outside noise and trying to protect this precious time even though I’m not entirely sure how to approach it. Generally, I’m a proactive person; figure something out and just do it. So not trying to control the situation or search high and low for answers is new to me. Circumstances have provided this gift of time, and I’m determined to make it worthwhile.

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Your mother wears army boots! Screamed with a vicious snarl, that expression was the most horrid thing you could say to offend childhood friends, implying I suppose that their mom wasn’t very attractive or feminine. Of course nowadays, plenty of moms wear army boots and serve in the military. And, boot camp has taken on a larger meaning too denoting rigorous training of many kinds—writing boot camp, math boot camp, shake your booty boot camp, you name it and there’s a boot camp.

Yesterday, I went to a boot camp taught by my trainer at our athletic club. I’ve been a runner for close to 30 years. I once taught aerobics classes. I know, just using the word “aerobics” dates me; I should say “cardio” instead. I do weights, core and balance workouts with a trainer 2x a week. I’m not a total wimp. But I have to say, boot camp at 8 in the morning was something I wasn’t prepared for at all.

Push-ups (I detest), jumping rope (I still put the extra little hop in), relays running sideways, bear crawls and more…non-stop for 60 minutes! Thirty minutes in, I was ready to puke. I looked around me. Young chicks everywhere, I was the oldest. No way was I going to embarrass myself. And I didn’t, thank goodness. So I’m throwing boot camp into my fitness mix twice a week…kicking it up a notch. Next time I won’t reward myself when I get home with the big plate of blueberry pancakes!

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This is a follow-up to an article I wrote a few weeks back, Inspired by: A Notion to Sew. I mentioned that I was itching to sew, and I’ve moved into action on this by selecting patterns and fabric. Each of the patterns in the above photo sits on the fabric for that dress. I think some accessories such as brightly colored belts could add a lot to the overall look of the dresses. Maybe some different colored straps for the blue dress. The plaid fabric has some stretch to it, and the blue fabric is a soft rayon, so I’m not sure if I should line it. I’ll have to do some research on that.

In the previous article I complained that it is tough to find inspiring fabrics, which I again found to be true. It takes some dedicated combing through bolts of fabrics at some of the stores here in Chicago. However, I did discover another fabric store, The Needle Shop, which is located nearby. You also can purchase fabrics from them online via Etsy. I haven’t had a chance to drop by their shop yet, but the fabrics look fun and contemporary. And, for sewing tips and inspiration, visit Sew Fashionable.

My daughter and family are visiting in May, so I’ll likely tackle these projects the end of May. I’ll unveil the finished products when I’m done. I hope they turn out the way I imagine they could. If you sew, I’d love to hear about your projects…pictures welcome.

In my fifty-plus years, I never really decided what I wanted to do when I grew up. Instead I’ve been carried by the flow of day-to-day life and happenstance. My college major was chosen by default. I had jobs in which I grew and learned, and these led to other advanced opportunities. I’ve jumped in and out of different career frying pans at different times—bold or stupid moves depending on your viewpoint, but always eventually resulting in forward movement and a happier me. Recently I left a job that I couldn’t envision myself doing a moment longer—I actually had that feeling for 4+ of the 5 years I was there— even though the pay was good and a substantial part of our family income. Currently I’m cobbling together consulting gigs to provide income. I read job descriptions. I halfheartedly job seek. I get called for a few interviews. I try to pretend that the company and job are fascinating and that I am too. So far I have convinced neither the company nor myself.

In a sense I’m treading water, wondering if I need to hit financial bottom to motivate myself. My sweet husband has informed me that we could exist on his salary if we eliminate ALL extras, quit eating as much and intend to work ‘til our dying day. I often hope for some sort of divine intervention or flash of insight. Meanwhile I endeavor to seek, and to be open to, possibilities. Are there other people my age dealing with the same been-there-done-that feeling in their careers, or the feeling that time is running out and there has to be a better way to spend your life? I’ve jumped out of the career frying pan again, and I’m not sure that I can jump back into it without feeling like I’ve given up on something.