The art and craft of pysanky

Christian art

Art Immersion Week at the Studio

For the first time we are offering a whole week of classes at the Studio at Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California. Think of it as Arts Camp for older youth and adults.  Featuring ceramics, drawing, painting, paper crafts and egg art on five different nights, classes begin Monday, July 24, 2017.  Check here for more details and to register for one or more classes.

 

I’ll be teaching the beginning pysanky class on Friday, July 28th from 6:30 to 8:30 PM.  Sign up early to get a discount and reserve your spot.


Art and Faith

B&W flower rotating cockscomb face sm 1107814Back in 2010 I had a solo art show of my eggs in the Art & Soul Gallery of our church.  It was a huge leap of faith for me because it was the first time I really connected my art with my walk with God.

 

It ran throughout Lent, which is traditionally forty days of preparation for the Easter celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.  Fasting and prayer often accompany this time of waiting.  It is a season for reflection and taking stock.  A time of soul-searching and repentance.

 

As I gave this thought and prayer, I recalled my childhood experiences with Lent.  We usually chose to give something up as a reminder to pray and to look forward to the Easter celebration to come.  It took a while but gradually words bubbled to the surface to express my Lenten experience.  Fasting, prayer, listening, repentance.  But the story didn’t stop there.  At Easter fasting becomes abundance, prayer becomes hope, listening becomes growth and repentance becomes forgiveness.  God’s story of love and transformation became more real now that I had words to express it.

 

Now I wanted to experience and express visually what that time of preparation meant to me.  So the big question…how in the world do I take this colorful, traditional art done on eggs and give the viewer a sense of my own journey of faith?  Eventually this thought crossed my mind.  What if I gave up the use of color on these eggs?  What if I only worked in black and white?  My next thought was, “Are you crazy?”

 

I knew my designs would have to be strong enough to stand alone, without the distraction of color.  How in the world do I create interest using only lines?  I’d never tried this before and I was pretty sure I’d be able to do a few but could I create enough to fill the whole show?  And what if I couldn’t come up with enough material in time?  What if I failed?  Fear, self-doubt, and a sense of the enormity of this task sidetracked me for a while.Black and White -I Am the Vine (Front) 1001013

 

As the days ticked by I kept hearing a soft voice say, “Just make one egg.”  So I did.

“That wasn’t so hard,” I thought.  And so I made another…and another…and pretty soon the design ideas flowed until chicken, duck, goose, and finally an ostrich egg all in black and white covered every surface of my workroom.

 

The show looked great in the gallery but I have no idea if anyone understood what I was trying to say with these eggs.  And it doesn’t matter because the important part of the show for me was what I learned along the way.  Sometimes God doesn’t give you the big picture.  Sometimes you just have to start the journey and not focus on the goal.  And sometimes you will find a joy in that journey that surprises you.

eggs en masse


Arts Camp 2014

VA56_Pysanky-7

Once again I’ll be teaching a week-long class of 5th and 6th graders how to create pysanky.  Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California, bursts with activity as the campus transforms into a vast studio of kids and volunteers all focused on finding God through the arts.

 

Dance, music, theater, visual arts, creative craftsmanship, and even culinary arts come alive as we all learn how to nurture our creative souls.

 

For more information and to register, click here.

 

 

 


Quilts and Eggs

The Art & Soul Gallery sits in the lobby of my home church, Oak Hills, and we rotate art through there every couple of months or so.  Currently we’re showing a collection of quilts by Debby Schnabel, a local artist, and the colors, variety, and workmanship are stunning to say the least.

Debby Schnabel, quilterI had the privilege of “hanging” this gallery, which simply means I took part in arranging the quilts and physically mounting them on the walls for display.  It usually takes two or three people to do the work of hanging a new gallery.  This time Debby Schnabel, the quilt artist, and my painter friend, Randy Blasquez, formed the hanging team.

Just as we do with paintings we laid all the quilts out on the floor to arrange them by color.  Then came the process of figuring out how much space we had and making sure we had a good flow to the whole display.  Finally, we mounted the quilts on the wall.  Whew.  Job well done.

As we worked, I noticed both Debby and Randy had an eye for color and scale with those large quilts that I didn’t have.  And both could spot a quilt hung out of level quickly.  It was a different experience for me.  My eye works best in tiny details.  Working with objects this large, I found I was out of my element.

I love seeing those quilts on the gallery wall, but I really loved coming home to my studio and working on my newest series of quilt-inspired pysanky.  To each her own!Eggs in Basket


Intersections 2012

I believe God built into each of us a desire for community, both with Him and with our fellow travelers on this earth.  As an artist, I find that rubbing elbows with other artists inspires my in my art and in my spiritual walk in a way nothing else does.  And I don’t get to experience that very often.  That’s why I so look forward to the annual conference on faith and art called Intersections, held at Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California.

This conference covers a broad range of the arts, from drama, to dance, to music, to film, to visual, technical, and even the culinary arts.  Throughout the day we were encouraged to use the supplies on our tables to paint a small section of plastic that we could stick to a window in the back of the auditorium.  As the day progressed, so did our group “stained glass window.”

The visual artists were easy to spot.  They dove right into the paints and started producing multiple pieces right away.  I found watching the non-visual artists even more interesting.  In some I saw the initial reluctance give way to experimentation and finally a joy at simply playing with paint.

Even more fun, was watching people add their painted pieces to the growing design on the window.  Intricate designs and plain colored pieces randomly combined to create beauty where before there was nothing but empty space.

Great speakers, God-breathed conversations, and thought-provoking words filled our time together.  The icing on the cake for me came as we wrapped up at the end of the day.  With the light from outside shining in, our group “stained glass window” became a physical representation of community to me.  And I needed that.  I really needed that.  In fact, we all do.


St John’s Art Festival

St. John’s Art Festival opens with a reception Saturday, March 12, 2011, from 5 to 9 PM at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 1701 L Street, Sacramento.  This collection of religious and spiritual works runs through Saturday, March 19.

One of my pieces was accepted to this show, and submitting a piece to a juried art show is scary, there is just no way around that.  Fear can keep an artist from sharing and sometimes even creating work.  I know because I’m all too familiar with the self-talk that tells me my pysanky eggs are just a “little thing I do” and not really art.

When I stopped to think about my art-related fears, I realized they mirror my personal fears.  “Will-anyone-else-like-my-eggs” is really just me saying “will-anyone-else-like-me?”  “My-art-is-no-good” becomes “I-am-no-good,” and on and on.

I know to survive as an artist I must learn to separate my art from own self-worth.  And to grow and thrive as a person I need to embrace this separation.  The tricky part is putting this simple truth into practice.  But practice takes…well, practice, so one step at a time I’m working on this personal spiritual discipline by putting my art out into the “real world” beyond my comfort zone.  It’s not always easy, but it’s worth the effort.


Layer by Layer

…or Making the Leap from “I Do This Art” to “I am an Artist”

It’s taken me years to actually refer to myself an artist.  And I think I’m not alone in my reluctance to claim the label.  There is something mysterious and wonderful and scary about that term.  If I call myself an artist, then I have to produce art, and be good at art and sell art, and make money selling art, or so we think.

Truthfully the title “artist” is helpful because it describes a way people look at the world…not simply as things you can see and touch and define, but in a way that pierces the thin veil between our finite world and God-breathed eternity.  And whether I call myself an artist or not doesn’t change the fact that I am an artist.  Simple, huh?  Well, not really.

Let me take you layer by layer through my own gradual journey to claiming the title artist.

Layer 1—I Can Create.  As did many others, I began exploring creative avenues early in life.  For most of us it starts with school projects.  Those simple drawings led me to creative writing to playing at miniatures to quilting to cross-stitch to clothespin people and eventually to discovering the fascinating world of pysanky.  And now looking back I can follow the thread of creativity through the years.

Layer 2—I Can Do This Egg Thing.  Pysanky, the layering of wax and dyes on eggshells, is a simple art yet it holds endless possibilities in terms of color and design.  I taught myself the basics from a book and found I loved the challenge presented by each new egg.  Even the failures provided valuable lessons as I honed my craft.

Layer 3—I’m Improving.  The finished egg was never the goal for me but the process of creating was.  I treasured my quiet time creating, leaving the rest of the world behind.  My family got to see those works but rarely did anyone else so years of finished eggs lay hidden away in a closet.

Layer 4:—Am I an Artist?  Eventually I began to give away some of these treasured creations to family and close friends.  I was so used to seeing these eggs and thinking them commonplace, that the response they evoked surprised me.  It made me realize that in sharing my work, I not only gave pleasure to others, I felt incredibly blessed as well.  Gradually I let others into the private world of my art, and with much prodding from other artist friends, I “went public” with a solo show at the Art & Soul Gallery in 2006.  Developing a website seemed like a reasonable next step but it took years and much hand-holding.  Making the eggs is easy, marketing myself and my work is not.

Layer 5—I Am an Artist…I Think.  By releasing my work to the world at large, I opened myself to praise and to criticism.  This is where real and imagined fears come to the surface and they can paralyze an artist.  I know, I’ve been there.  And sometimes I’m still there.  Thoughts like these race through my head.  What will they think or worse, what will they say?  What if they don’t like my work, and by extension me?  What if my work really isn’t good and no one told me?  What if…?  I have to remind myself continually that what people think of my art, doesn’t change my work or my passion for it.

Layer 6—I Am an Artist…and So Are You.  Having come this far, I sometimes have the privilege of seeing and encouraging other fledgling artists in their own journeys.  Being an artist is mostly a solo gig.  There’s no getting around the hard, often solitary work it takes to produce art.  But because of that, there is great need for community among artists, for standing shoulder to shoulder, for walking together, for helping others to see themselves as God-created artists.  Whether we practice our art or not, each of us is an artist and fellow traveler in life’s journey.  How much sweeter is the trip when we link arms and help each other along the way.