Why Art? January 25, 2016

Filed under: faith,learning to art — Christina M @ 2:11 pm

Lately I’ve been doing a whole lot more visual creating than writing. You can tell by the conspicuous lack of posts on Carmel Sundae. But for me, painting and art journaling and book binding have become almost a means of contemplative meditation, and one question keeps coming forward to me: why this obsession with art? Why do you feel drawn… why do you do it… why you, Christina?

And 45 different answers seem to emerge. One day it is because I want something to keep my hands busy, and to experience the tactile expression of feeling the friction of brush or pastel on paper. Another day it is because God is a creator and I am made in His image so I have a natural desire to create something. Another day it is because I am intrigued by some new technique or supply I’ve heard about and I can’t wait to try it. What it all boils down to is that there are many, overlapping reasons I draw, paint, and bury myself in this obsession.

What’s more, I have joined a number of groups and forums where I see other artists (dare I call myself that?) give reasons quite different from my own. And their reasons are just as valid as mine. One thing that I feared finding in the arts and crafts communities was exclusionary attitudes, and I have to say I’ve been relieved to find that such attitudes seem to be rare. Most people love sharing their craft with whoever wants to learn. Many have for-pay websites where they teach more formally, and I can’t find fault with someone who knows their bacon trying to earn it by doing what they love. I’m not in that position, but more power to those who are qualified or otherwise able to monetize. Me, I’m much more of a student than a teacher. Since I love being on a journey with fellow pilgrims, though, I invite others to join me on this travel. If you are more knowledgeable than me, feel free to contribute your voice of experience to the discussion. If you are just starting out, like I am, please feel free to learn with me and to ask questions. I love doing research, and if you ask something I don’t know, there’s a good chance I’ll be looking it up in short time.

Most of all, I want to encourage you to have courage. I believe we are all called to some form of creativity, and if you have even the remotest interest in visual art, don’t let self-doubt arguments stop you. Professional artists are not more “real” than those who finger paint with the kids on the kitchen table, any more than those who only draw in their private journal are more noble than those who exhibit their work in galleries. The fact is that even on the same pilgrimage, any two pilgrims are on their own journey even as they walk side by side. So professional, amateur, public, private, these things mean nothing. Whatever you do, do it with great love, and with God beside you, and you have nothing to be ashamed of.


Hanging Wallpaper August 5, 2015

Filed under: learning to art — Christina M @ 1:21 pm

Putting one of my paintings on the wall may bring a whole new meaning to hanging wallpaper. See, lately I’ve been experimenting with painting on wallpaper, and I absolutely love it! I have these books of wallpaper samples that I got for free when they expired, and they were just sitting there blinking sadly, begging to be used. As it turns out a little gesso makes them fabulously ready to take paint.

What I like about them is that they have a feel similar to canvas, but they don’t need stretched. They won’t warp like paper, and I can lay them flat or tape them to a board on an easel. Either way, I like them better than either canvas or paper for a lot of uses. With regular gesso, they are a good medium for acrylic paint. (I am hoping to try ink or watercolor later today when my latest batch of gesso-wallpaper dries.) With an extra toothy gesso, like the clear gesso I have, it’s very receptive to pastels. And today I tried applying gesso with a palette knife and I really like the result. It goes on very smooth and thick, with no brush strokes and only minimal knife strokes. I think this is the one I will try with watercolor. It uses a bit more gesso than my usual brush applications, but if it comes out velvety like I am hoping it will, it may end up being my new favorite.

Here is the knife-applied gesso, after a single coat. It’s half dry. The large darkish blob near the middle is a reflection of my head.

knife applied gesso





And here is one of my first two works to appear on Etsy, Entitled “Blue Child.” It is part of my Autism Series, and was painted on wallpaper.


I’m curious to know, has anyone else here tried wallpaper for painting? I would love to see your comments. (more…)


Arts and Crafts August 1, 2015

Filed under: learning to art — Christina M @ 12:52 pm

I would like to go on record here as saying that I see very little difference between “art” and “craft.” Or at least, I would say it’s a very slight difference that is often used as a difference without distinction. I suppose by definition, craft is a skill that is learned to create something functional, where art might be perceived as purely decorative. In reality, however, the definitions don’t always work. A decorated canvas is usually seen as art, where a decorated gourd is seen as craft. Is the gourd necessarily useful, or is it purely for decoration? For that matter, is the canvas necessarily decorative?

In popular usage, I think the division is frequently more arbitrary. A three-dimensional thing is more likely to be “craft” unless it is sculpture. A thing that serves the same purpose whether it is beautiful or not might be craft once decorated. A flat piece, or a piece that has no inherent value besides the decorative value is likely viewed as “art.”

But my big concern here is that “art” and “craft” are terms that are subtly used to divide. “Art” is something we see as beyond the ability or scope of the common person. It might raise the esteem of the artist while intimidating the crafter. It also limits: the artist might never see beyond the scope of a given medium, often as taught by generations-old tradition, and a crafter might glue delightful collages but never find the courage to paint with oils.

Children don’t have that kind of limitation. They will probably name their school project with crayons art, but also the bottle covered with masking tape and shoe polish. Or maybe they will call them both craft; because it really doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is the joy of creation and self-expression. What matters is that it came from that place deep inside that is so unique that no two people can produce the exact same results. It is an expression of sheer, undiluted personhood.

My Charming and Patient Husband considers himself neither artist nor crafter, yet like the child he makes little distinction. Art and craft are those things I do in that room at the end of the hall. Whether I am decorating a box or painting with watercolor, it’s all the same at its root: that desire to create, and to reach into creative personhood. Why is it that children and my husband get what people who are really close to the subject have difficulty with? Maybe it’s exactly that closeness. As we age, ego sometimes replaces what we know in our hearts. Sometimes we start needing to view “otherness” as somehow above or below us to assuage our growing insecurities. Whether we think we are too good or not good enough, it all comes from the same place: the concern for how others will see us. Increasingly aware of the fact that the world around us will judge us, we start wondering whether they are right to put us in our places. Maybe, we fear, our value really is determined by other people.

It isn’t.

Our value is determined by the personhood that is at the core of our being. It is from there that our creative urge swells and burbles, not from the court of public opinion. So if you want to call it art, or if you want to call it craft, go for it. The terms themselves can be useful as long as we don’t let them limit ourselves. Meanwhile, I’ve got something to gesso, and it’s anyone’s guess whether it’s an art or a craft.


Learning to Art July 19, 2015

Filed under: faith,learning to art — Christina M @ 2:10 pm

So in all this time that I’ve neglected you, you might wonder where I’ve been. Aside from being pretty busy with family, I’ve become consumed with a new passion. Art. More specifically, learning to art. You see, my daughter told me for years that anyone can learn art, and for years I didn’t believe her. Till one day I found myself obsessed with it. And I learned two things: one, I do not have natural talent. Some people do. I don’t. And that’s ok, because two, it’s true: it can be learned.

What I’m finding is that I dearly love the learning process. I am enjoying trying new things and following tutorials. I am really enjoying experimenting and following lessons. And I am loving trying new materials and getting my hands messy. I even sometimes like what I produce.

As I go through this learning process, I am beginning to realize I would really like to share the journey. I don’t have all the answers, and some of what I think¬† I’ve found will probably be wrong.¬† But I’ve come to believe that creativity is to share in God’s work of creation. Maybe the creative urge is part of what it means to be made in his image. So with that in mind, I have become convinced that art – with or without talent – is worthwhile. And if my faith is worth sharing, maybe so is my art, and my journey into its world.

I can’t wait to keep learning. I hope you’ll join me!