Inspired by shadows

Every weekday morning I set my alarm for 6 a.m. I get up, make myself a cup of coffee, grab my phone and snuggle into my favorite corner of my leather sofa for 30 minutes of quiet time before I have to wake my kids for school. The early morning light streams through my picture window and the plants outside cast shadows that dance across my living room wall.

Every morning without fail, I take a few moments to watch the graceful movement where the leaves form positive space shapes on the negative space filtered sunlight. I breathe in a few deep breaths and exhale. Without fail, I’m inspired by the shadows and the interplay of form, light and movement.

shadows no filer

I’ve sketched this scene in an art journal. I’ve painted a canvas of it more than a few times. I’ve taken photographs and played around with various filers in Photoshop. Despite the fact I see the same scene every morning, my response to it varies according to my mood. Some days I feel reflective. Other days I take it as a good omen for creativity in my studio. On rainy days, I miss nature’s shadow puppets on my wall and silently will the sun to peek from the clouds so I can feel the comfort of my morning routine.

As I was looking at the photographs the other day I realized these images are a good teaching tool for seeing in a new way. Take a look at the top photo. This is exactly what my eyes see each morning. Soft beautiful light intermingled with the repetitive pattern of the leaves. The pop of blue chair next to a cluster of dark objects – wood chair, vintage shoe forms and woven wire basket.  Pretty scene, but you have to really focus to notice positive and negative form.

Take a look at the next photo using the Photoshop Express app’s vibrant filter. The positive shapes of the leaves are starting to become much more prominent, as is the shadow behind the blue chair. I also love the way this warm filer makes the image appear as if I were looking though an old Edison bulb.

Shadows Filter Vibrant

Now take a look at the third pic using the invert filter. Wow, this one is an amazing transformation. All of a sudden you can “read” the light in a way your eyes and brain cannot. Take a look at how the blue chair and the wooden one are now reversed color wise. Notice how strong the shadow of the light is behind the chair. See the double imagery of the wire bag, and like an X-ray machine you can magically see the cloth bag inside the wire one. The lovely play of shadows from the leaves is now a long vertical strip of black. It’s fascinating the information one can get changing focus.

Shadows Invert Filter

Teaching your brain the look differently as an artist is important. It’s tantamount in what Marcel Proust meant when he said:

MarcelProustquote

How about you? Is there anything in your home that inspires you every day and causes you to simply stop and be present?

JenSig

 

In between space

 no longer quite

 

There are changes coming in my life. While I’m beyond excited for them to begin — for new beginnings, it’s also been months and months in the making. There have been days… weeks… that I fret about all the “what ifs” and “how tos”.  I’ve had many nights when I wake up at 2 a.m. and cannot get back to sleep because my mind is racing.

As all the machinations continue to move at this slower pace than I’m accustomed to, I’ve turned my working hours into pages of new ideas that I cannot wait to get started on. I’ve read books on marketing and the new economy. I’ve listened to dozens of podcasts with some of the world’s best business leaders and innovators. I’ve made a little bit of art, but honestly my heart is driving me in the direction of information consumption rather than reflection and introspection. I feel my muses happily taking a nap rather than indulging my creativity. They’re a million years old — infinitely wise — so they’ve already got this thing figured out.

I’ve visualized where I’m headed and already felt the changes deep in my heart.

The problem is this damn in between. The waiting. It goes against everything I am. Action-oriented, results-driven, always moving in the direction of my dreams. Type A, for shizzle.

So I take my work days a littler easier than I’m used to. And I remind myself to honor this space. While it’s difficult, it’s here to teach me an important life lesson about patience.

Have you ever found yourself between the no longer and not yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

JenSig

Enjoy Easter

Today marks Easter weekend and the renewal of Spring each year. Like many folks, I adore this time when the weather is beautiful and the outdoor weekend fairs and festivals are in full swing. I’ve been spending lots of quality time with my family and friends. Each Wednesday, we look through the events calendar and decide when and where we’re meeting up on Saturday. This weekend, of course, I’ll be taking my daughter to an egg hunt. We’ve already purchased her frilly pink and blue tulle dress and new sandals that she picked out. The thought of a party has had her bubbling with excitement since Tuesday.

Spring Quote - Jen Cushman Studio

Since I know this is a busy weekend for most folks, I just wanted to give you a little inspirational image of a Spring vignette pic I took at Sweet Salvage and then turned into a visual quote. I’m having fun creating these little digital graphics. If you have a Pinterest board this would look good on, please feel free to Pin away.

The soft color palette makes me want to get out some of my pastel beads and build a new necklace. The eggs inspire me to get out my resin clay and paints and see if I can make some speckled beads first. Maybe late Sunday afternoon after Easter brunch I’ll get some down time to simply play in my studio while my daughter colors beside me.

Tell me, what does this image evoke for you? 

JenSig

What’s your love language?

Heart Journal page Jen Cushman

I’m sure you’ve heard of the book the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I first learned about this book from a friend of mine about 4 years ago. We were hanging out one evening and talking as only girlfriends do and I was filling her in on a stupid little tiff my hubby and I had. After listening to my frustrations, she said, “Jen, your love language is Words of Affirmation and his is Acts of Service.” It’s a clear as day.

Huh? Wasn’t clear to me, but I was intrigued. I picked up Dr. Chapman’s book. I did the test and asked my sweetie too as well. My main Love Language was, indeed, Words of Affirmation though I was surprised to learn his was Quality Time and then Acts of Service. (If this is all Greek to you right now, don’t worry, there’s a link to the test below). I’ve always been verbal, began talking in sentences at 10 months and never stopped. Communication has been a natural predilection of mine and reading, writing and talking is right up there at the top of my most favorite ways to spend time.

Family and friends how much I love and appreciate them because I’m forever telling them so. Complete strangers who give good service — like waitresses/waiters or just about any professional interaction that improves my life at the moment gets a positive affirmation from me. If they’re truly excellent, I seek out their managers to put in a good word. It’s just something I’ve always done. On Facebook, I’m one of the first to give a compliment or ‘atta girl. I do it because a kind word can generate smiles and their happiness always rubs off on me. Seriously, it’s a win-win.

My husband, on the other hand, is much more of a taking-action kind of guy.  He shows his love by running my car through the car wash and filling up my gas tank, or checking my wallet to ensure I always have cash on hand. I’ve come to expect to always have a $20 bill in my wallet at all times. Pretty cool, right? You betcha! But compliments not so much. I used to get frustrated. Now when I really need a word or two, I give him a nudge and say, “What’s my love language?” He grins and makes an attempt.

Words of Affirmation are not my teenage son’s language. Mom’s touchy-feeley words are sometimes too much for him, so I do my best to still be me, but tone it down. He refuses to take the online test because he thinks it’s “dumb” but I already know his button is Quality Time because I read Dr. Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages of Teenagers when he was in junior high. This means when I’m looking to show him how much I care or to reward him for good grades, for example, I find something fun we can do together.

You’re probably wondering why I’m even writing such a personal blog post today, particularly when it has nothing to do with art. I don’t really know myself. I’ve started and stopped at least a half dozen times. What keeps drawing me back is the fact that this book is something this has helped me honor and understand the people I care about. I also think it has implications in all relationships. If managers would ask their people to do this touchy-feeley test, workplaces could run smoother if we knew that Sally in accounting like gifts so leaving her a little piece of chocolate makes her happy, but Dan in marketing would be touched if you took a task off his plate because his son’s baseball team is playing a big game and you know he volunteers to coach.

One of my deciding factors in leaving the corporate world as a business reporter and work as an entrepreneur was the constant complaining at the newspaper. Had I mentioned taking a test to see what our love languages are, I’d have been fired for sheer stupidity. Fortunately, I made the right decision to follow my heart and my days are much more joyful.

If you do decide to jump on over and take the test let me know. What’s your love language? How do you feel about what Dr. Chapman is saying?

JenSig

 

A Peek in My Guest Bedroom

If you visited Thursday, then you know I participated in Seth Apter’s online collaboration to share how folks live with their art. As promised, I’m giving a little peek into my guest bedroom today.

Jen's Guest Bedroom Opening Door

While I definitely have a quirky industrial/vintage/found object vibe to my home, most of my house is pretty lived in family life. My guest room is the one place I was able to decorate just for myself and my family and friends who stay with us. I wrote a post about my French Flea Market Bedroom, but I’ve updated the room to add a tad more color and some of my collages (You see them in the photo above). I also wanted to incorporate more of my found objects on display as well. Truthfully, while I wanted to keep it a black-and-white palette, I just couldn’t maintain that no color look.

Guest Bedroom Desk Vignette Jen Cushman

This room is a work in progress. I want to get more pillows for the bed and a vintage bed skirt. The walls need the molding put back into place but my hubby just hasn’t had the time (ok desire) to finish it off from over two years ago when we moved in. The bed is super comfortable with a new memory foam mattress and that’s what counts the most; that the people I love feel safe and warm and comfortable when they visit.

Jen Cushman Guest Bedroom Bed

 

My little vignettes of found objects are vintage items, most of which I’ve picked up at Sweet Salvage. Since they’re a once a month vintage sale in Phoenix, I’m always finding new treasures to add to and replace in my home.

Vintage Found Objects Display Jen Cushman

 

What do wheels and real Amish shoes (you should see the cool handmade iron nails on the soles!), a beat up school photo and a vintage printer’s block have in common? This is the visual representation of what went through my head as I was arranging the vignette – A sweet, scared Amish teenage girl dreams of leaving home attend collage to study English Lit and become a university professor. However, she loves her mother and sisters dearly and is torn between the only life she knows and the life her soul longs to live. The beauty is in the longing and in the precipice of her decision. The vintage train case is my mother’s. When I open it, it still smells like cold cream. I cannot tell you how much I played with this as a girl.

Vintage Dress Form Display Jen Cushman

 

This vintage dress form – another Sweet Salvage find – is one of my most treasured objects. She’s been in our Susan Lenart Kazmer ICE Resin booth a bunch of times, not to mention at Art Unraveled, Tucson To Bead True Blue and other shows. She’s starting to get a little too fragile to be attending more shows so I think she’ll be staying home from now on.  The gorgeous piece of handmade lace on her was found in an old trunk at a tag sale. I passed on the trunk but I had to have the lace. Some of you might even recognize this vintage chaise too. It’s been to CHA and back a couple of times. This is what it means to be an artist-based company. Our art and our displays are always personal.

Hope you enjoyed my little virtual home tour. Be sure to check in next week. I have some very exciting news to share with you!

JenSig

 

Taking a little (bloggy) break

Jen Cushman Spring Bird Necklace

 

Hey everyone. Happy Spring! Well, it could still be mighty cold depending on what part of the country you live in. Here in the sunny Southwest, Spring has sprung, and guess what? I’m cleaning my studio. I still have to work my regular gigs so the cleaning and sorting is going slowwwwwww. I manage to do about two hours a day on it. The rest of the work day is taken up with my normal deadlines and projects. Weekends are still reserved for family time and household chores.

I was chatting with one of my best girlfriends over the weekend while our littles played. I groaned that I was the epitome of spring fever right now. I want to enjoy the gorgeous 75 degree weather and do anything besides the dailies. I’m also having a heck of a time finding my normal creative juice that usually flows through me. Do you ever have times like this?

As we continued chatting (and me doing a little more bitching and moaning than I should have), I realized that I need to give myself a little break. My soul is wanting to take a few daytime naps here and there and just flat line on some of my normal to dos. I made a list of everything in my life that gives me energy. Then I made a list of things that are not currently feeding my soul. The final column was a list of things I enjoy, but want to just take off my plate for a little bit. At the moment, blogging falls into that last category.

I’ve had various conversations regarding blogs over the years. Some people advise to never let your foot off the gas pedal of your blog because its “the driving force of your business.” (Picture me doing air quotes with my fingers and rolling my eyes) Others say it’s OK to do it, but for goodness sake, never tell anyone what you’re up to. Other social media folks have said they will let up slightly on the pedal by filling in the gaps with curated content (either their own past posts or other’s stuff on the internet) rather than coming up with new ideas. I could opine about all these scenarios, but instead I’m going to do what I would advise you to do if you were my friend having the same conundrum.

I would tell you to listen to the whispers of your soul because only you can hear the small, still voice within. The key is being quiet and stopping long enough to hear it.

I have no idea how long this little bloggy break is going to last. It might be as short as an afternoon, making this post irrelevant. It could take a week or more, or as long as my studio purge. What I promise myself, and everyone who subscribes to my blog and cares enough about me to follow me, is that I will never write a post just to publish. There’s a thousand big and small things in life that’s that way more fun and fulfilling than spending time reading half-assed blog posts.

Now get into your studio (or not) and have an Artful day. Whatever you decide to do, please be sure to live with it all your heart.

JenSig

Always have a pocket

Pocket1

Like millions of mothers my mornings are spent waking up my children, getting them fed, dressed and ready for school. My teenage son does this on his own, but my daughter still needs a lot of help. She has very definite ideas of her world; what she wants, likes and dislikes.  Add that to being in kindergarten where the reasoning skills are not yet fully developed and you’ll understand when I say I sometimes have challenging mornings. Lately she has been on this kick where she only wants to wear uniform skirts (no shorts, no pants) with pockets. The only problem with this is that she has one skirt with pockets and eight other typical pleated uniform skirts sans pockets. After about a week of her wanting to wear the same skirt every day, it finally occurred to me to ask her why she needed pockets.

She looked at me thoughtfully and answered a very well-reasoned response. “If Mrs. H. gives me something special during the day I want to have a place to hold my treasure.”

I looked at her just as sincerely and smiled. So many thoughts were running through my head from her sweet little answer.

  • How much she adores and admires her teacher. That’s a good thing!
  • How likely is it Mrs. H will be handing out special gifts to individual students when she’s doing her best each day to manage 24, five-year-olds?
  • How innocent my daughter is to patiently hope and wait for special gifts.
  • How the world would be a better place if all adults would hope for — and here’s the key — believe in and expect treasures at any given turn.

I don’t think it’s an accident that our children are innocent and open. I believe we all come into the world this way because the Universe truly is a magical place and we instinctively know it. Life is hard and bad things happen, which makes us more cynical as we age. We shutter our hearts, close off our vulnerability, stay on guard. The consequence is that we wrap ourselves in so much protection that we fail to see the little miracles that can happen at any given moment of any given day. We stop believing that a stranger – or worse, someone we love -will bestow upon us a special unexpected gift.

Pocket2

Having an open heart is something that’s been somewhat challenging for me as I continue to put myself and my work into the world. As an artist, showing your work is the same as showing your heart. Your work is the essence of your thoughts and emotions made manifest in a tangible way; be it a piece of jewelry, an art journal, a canvas, a quilt, an art doll, a handmade book, a scrapbook, etc.  I’ve learned over the years that I like some pieces of my work much more than others. (Everyone feels this way!) When I first began my teaching career, I used to hide the pieces I didn’t like in a box, shut tightly and tucked away in a corner of my studio. Then one day as I was packing for an event and getting my jewelry together to sell at the Artist Fair night, I realized I didn’t have enough work to display. I didn’t have time to make anything new because I was down to the wire and the weeks prior had been particularly hectic with our company.

I looked over at the box in the corner and sighed. I hadn’t been in there in months and months. I sat on the floor and started pulling things out. To my surprise, it was like looking at brand new work. The wonky wrap on one necklace that I despised so much after I twisted it actually looked pretty cool. The odd color combination I experimented on one piece later became Pantone’s Color of the Year and was found in the fashion magazines. Other pieces had great components but I could see the design was slightly “off”. I knew it at the time but wasn’t in the head space to fix it. Time gave me what I needed to see with new eyes. I grabbed a handful of  pieces, pulled them apart and spent an hour or so re-configuring them into something fresh.

Learning this lesson was an important part of my growth as an artist and educator. Knowing who I am is one thing. Believing in myself another. Truly understanding that my life and my work is fluid and ever evolving and that every piece is “good enough” — fabulous even — was life changing. Today, I try to wear my pocket in my heart. I do my best to keep it open so that when life presents me with treasure, I have a special place to tuck it.

Pocket3

Here’s wishing you an Artful week and a full pocket.

JenSig