Friday, December 26, 2014

When in Naples

This is another acrylic "dropper" painting, completed December 21, 2014.  I logged over 90 hours on this one, challenging myself to see how much detail I could depict with liquid paint applied with medicine droppers.  A photo does not show the particular texture of the painting, nor its pleasing sheen.  Much of the brighter architectural features are rendered in metallic colors.  I like how the dropper paintings are quite touchable and easy to clean as each color is mixed in a cup of thick gloss varnish.

In September of 2013 I enjoyed a wonderful tour of the highlights of Italy.  One of our stops was the city of Naples.  Unlike much of the rest of the country, Naples is quite a city of contrasts. The opulence of both old and modern Italy is everywhere juxtaposed against evidence of its mafia rule: its anarchist traffic, prolific graffiti and decay, and its desperate people vying for living space among the wealthy.

Our group took a fascinating tour one morning through Naples' many personalities.   While stopped at a traffic light my eye was attracted to the man in the red sweater and I quickly snapped the reference photo for the painting.  It was only on later viewing that the picture revealed to me the spirit of Naples: the breathtaking architecture housing its elitist population, either oblivious to, or peering down upon those in the margins.  It is a picture within a picture of Naples, Italy.

Click on the link to watch the painting grow from the initial pencil sketch to the completion.  Each transition is the product of several hour's work each day.

The creation of "When in Naples" slide show

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

For the grieving

Good Grief, pastel, 2006

This evening my heart is with all the people who I know are grieving a loss right now - and there are many.  Grief can feel like a dagger to the heart or like a big bag of sand at the bottom of the lungs.  It hurts.  We are human.  We are supposed to hurt.  Rather than trying to escape it, we must dare to embrace it like we may embrace a wounded child - with a clear mind and loving heart.  That is what heals us.

So many people are told not to cry, led by a belief that crying keeps the spirit of their loved one from reaching the light.  I have been taught instead that our tears are an important gift for our healing, and that the extent of our crying honors the breadth of the love we have for the one we have lost. I tell people that inside there is a certain size bucket of tears, depending on how much love we have, and that the only way to empty the bucket and shed its heaviness is to let the tears flow.  A family who cries together heals together.

I have also been taught that it is not the absence of our tears that help the newly-freed spirit from reaching the light.  Rather it is our love for them.  It is the honest heart-felt wishes for their easy journey home.  It is our ability to let go of any hurts that they may have caused us. 

Love is what sends a spirit to the light, even love that glistens with tears. 

I learned that in the spirit world there is no time, and that on the other side they may wait for us to finish grieving - wanting to see us happy again, but that wait, for the spirit, even if it takes us months or years, can be like just a moment to them. They are already in a place of joy and all-wisdom. 

Grief brings gifts - gifts of heartfelt love and forgiveness.  Like with the family depicted above it can bring such connection to the survivors if they dare to surrender to it.  And with surrender, grief can also bring a deep connection to our Creator, as in the poem below.

It's not so bad...

Being sad

Melancholy holds a delicate beauty of its own
Now draw inside and find coziness
Peer out from within
Like watching a rainy day through a windowpane
When questions and reasons are all stripped away
Appears a fine breath of splendor
Acceptance really needs no excuse
We know why there is autumn
But let’s forget that for now
And simply bask in its fragile beauty
For it won't last long

Sit back and release that weighty sigh
Still the thoughts; listen to the calm

Let go

Its now, devoid of pictures of future and past
In the space between anguish and anger
In supple sinking into being
God reaches in to touch with magnificence.
Copyright 1983, Kathie Bird

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Bullies and the Bullied

Bullying happens in every age group.  It happens in almost every setting.  Psychologically it is a form of projection. If one is subconsciously feeling the effects of oppression from others or from negative self-thoughts they may say and do things to others to cause those same feelings.  Passive people can be bullies too, but often they hide their actions - doing their deeds in more sneaky ways while they wear a friendly face.  People who have good insight - who are aware of their emotions -  do not tend to be bullies. Children can often bully others because there is more chance that they feel oppressed by over control or negativity by caregivers or of general family dysfunction that can lead the child to feel unimportant.  Kids have less capacity to be able to identify their negative feelings.  They will bully in an unconscious attempt to relate to their inner feelings in the reactions of others.
Acrylic, 2006

This painting is a depiction of domestic bullying: emotional abuse.  Often the abuser will blame his/her partner for their own shortcomings, making it their fault for his/her inner discomfort.  The energy of the bully's intention is projected to the figure which is turned away in self-protection.  The energy spirals in, muddying the other person's orange (social connection) spirit and she becomes defensive rather than being her true loving self.

The poem below has been written in two parts.  I wrote the first part in my late teens, remembering my own childhood experiences with bullying from other kids.  I was still not quite over it at the time, continuing to feel separate from and judgmental about others who in my mind had more power than me  However I was beginning to recognize my own value and perhaps some of the reason why I was the victim rather than the oppressor in childhood.  The second part, written earlier this year, becomes a retrospect of the growth and change that is possible for any individual, and how sometimes our more painful experiences can be turned into our most useful gifts.

She & They

Part 1 (1977)

Taunting, gibing, flouting, laughing
Snickers in a group
Arms protrude to point in sneer
Their victim acts aloof

She=ll show them. She will, someday
She=ll prove them they were wrong
They saw that she was different, yes
She never will belong.

The knowing one who lives apart
Must find a different road
And sometimes on a steeper path
Grows stronger with the load.

They run upon their plains of life
To find the rainbow=s end
Looking for a gift of gold
On which they can depend.

They plunge into their systems
A plodding elephant trek
In following they fail to see
Beyond the next one’s back.

Some stand upon a pedestal
And get their due ovation
The crowds, on seeing them stepping down
Look for the next sensation.

They peer into their mirror world
And wail at growing old
That days are short, there’s work and pain
That life runs hot and cold.

So blind amidst their forest
They cry, AWhat does life mean?@
The stars just twinkle their mysteries
Between the boughs of trees.

She wants to call, AHello down there;
Come climb this hill with me
I’ll show you with unburdened eyes
The doorway to eternity.@

Part 2 (2014)

Her victimhood has come to pass
She’s shed oppression’s chains
And moved beyond the world’s morass
Gained wisdom from her pain.

She sees the bright, the dark, the grey
Still watching from the rim
She sees their world has gone astray
Their spark grows dim within

She’s learned she is no different
Each carries their own world
And some will find their way to love
And some will nurture hurt

She belongs within her body
For her time upon the earth
The web of her connectedness
Supports her every move

They come to sit before her
The seekers and the hurt
They carry pain from other’s pain
Want out of their mirror world

She works to help them find their heart
To fill their spirit’s need
To see with their unburdened eyes
The doorway to eternity.

Copyright 1977 (part 1)

Revised 2014 (part 2), Katherine Bird

Saturday, October 4, 2014

New Painting, old poem: At the Fair

"At the Fair"  16 x 24  Acrylic with photo - just completed.

This piece took me 75 hours of work, from preparing the source photo, to applying the last drop of paint with a glass dropper.  When the paint is starting to dry I must carefully inspect it for bubbles and pop them with a pin before they dry in.  There are small bits of pen and brushwork on some of the finer details. I would often use a nail tip as well to push paint into tight corners. The process takes so long because each small application of paint must be dry before another color can be laid over or beside it.  Its when the side of my hand would accidentally get into the wet paint as I worked that I would have to decide to quit for the day.

Here is a bit of the process:

Source photo, taken at the PA Exhibition this summer.

 Using Photoshop, the photo is cropped, resized to the 16 x 24 canvas size, then altered with increased saturation, brightness, poster edge and cutout filters.  This tends to outline and polarize some of the colors.

The photo is cropped into sections and each printed. Then the sections are reassembled and taped into place to line up with the canvas.  This looks easy, but it was quite frustrating and time consuming.

I decided that any part of the painting that was a sign would be applied to the canvas, while all the rest of the picture would be rendered freehand.  That entailed cutting out each piece and gluing it down, constantly making sure they were lined up accurately.  If one piece was slightly out of line it would make the whole drawing go wonky.

These are the photo pieces glued in.  next I could start drawing and painting.

I hung on to what remained of the photo because I did need to cut out and add the menu lists and prices later in the process.

Carefully, paint is applied with a dropper with colors mixed in a multitude of plastic salad dressing cups that have good snap-on lids.  I mix liquid or tube acrylic colors with a liquid gloss medium and a little thinner.

Here are some closeups:

Watch the painting grow from beginning to end in this little video:

That was the new painting, now here is the old poem:

At the Fair
(1981)  Copyright Kathie Bird

I’m six and jittery-thrilled.  We are going to the fair! 
We walk through Normandy Park to Seventh Street, my mother and sisters. 
I jump and stretch my neck to get a glimpse of the big high Ferris wheel over the rooftops. 
I have a whole six dollars to spend! 
There is a gentle roller coaster that circles the grounds. 
I marvel to see everything beneath my feet.
Fingers sticky with candy floss, my mouth red from a half-eaten candy apple
I clutch my take-home treasure – a floating balloon with Mickey Mouse inside.
It’s yellow.
My sisters and mother, much bigger than me, walk home so quick.
My feet hurt.
Halfway down Normandy Park I stop to take a pebble from my shoe
And let go of my balloon!
I watched it sail high, high up until it is just a tiny yellow speck in the sky
There is no consoling me while I cry.

I’m fourteen and walking through the midway
More thrilled to be with my boyfriend than anything else.
A ride on the Ferris wheel with him beside me feels warmer somehow.
I notice myself more than I notice the colors and lights and smells.
My button-front jeans flare out wide at the bottom, swishing around my feet
My denim jacket sports flowered embroidery front and back – my own creation
I carry a brown leather bag with long fringes that sway with my gait.
I feel grown-up and cool.  
We stroll toward a large tent with a sign in front that says “Adults Only.”
I know it’s the place where men go to watch women dance naked.
A guy we know beckons from the doorway. 
Giggling, we slip inside the tent.
I stand against the back corner behind the shouting crowd.
I catch glimpses of a woman dancing up front, removing her clothes.
My face goes hot and my stomach knots as she flaunts her private parts to the gawking men.
When we leave, I have no opinion – just the knots.

I’m twenty-three and just finished working my shift at the armouries booth.
Tomorrow I will volunteer at the lost and found room.
Because it feels good to do such things.
I meet my husband and daughter to enjoy the fair.
I take pictures of her on one of the brightly colored kiddie rides.
She bears a smug expression that looks so cute.
I buy her a yellow floating balloon.
I notice the colors and smells and sounds as if through her senses
And it’s all so exciting again.
The petting zoo and the butts of the big Clydesdales in the barns
And the big pink wads of candy floss and somehow always the smell of fried onions.
I have entered artwork in the competition and discover it bears a First Prize ribbon.
My little family congratulates me.
We three sit in the Tilt-a-whirl, one on each side of our little girl
Laughing at the rocking tease and squealing in the spins and sighing at the stop.
The balloon still floats in my little girl’s room.

No cries this time.  No knots.  Just joy. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Welcome to my new blog

Welcome to my new blog.  It features my creative writing and artwork, sometimes with detailed information on the creation of certain pieces - the how and the why.

As an artist I create paintings that express a myriad of images from my internal and external experiences.  I play with a variety of mediums and approaches to suit my intentions of the moment. Sometimes a painting will simply be about play and nothing else.

My poetry has largely sat hidden in binders and in digital form on the parade of hard drives that passed through my life since the advent of computers.  When I was much younger I entertained the dream of being a semi-famous published poet but the dream became frazzled with editors who wanted to alter my words and lines.  No one would dare to tell me that they would only accept my art if I changed it to suit them.  Why is it an accepted practice with poetry?  Nevertheless I continued to put pen to paper for many more years during those moments of introspection, always with the intention to share it all one day.

Now I am at a point in my life where I have no need to make a living from my creations.  I believe there is another reason that I remain motivated to play with observations, words and paint.  Here, through my blog entries you may spot my underlying purpose.  The arts - be they poetry, painting, dance, music, drama...carry a different language: one of emotion and of spirit - a growing spirit.

I hope to entertain, to educate, but mostly to inspire.  Take from it what you need, share my blog if you like, but remember to respect my inherent copyright of everything here.

Thank you for joining me.

You may also follow my other blog:

Quatre Sanctity, 2003
Acrylic with additives

I like to believe that we walk through our physical lives representing four parts - depicted here in feminine form.  We are Universal Source ('God' energy), Spirit (the higher, immortal self), Physical Body (the manifestation of spirit in the form of matter), and The Child (the seeker/learner within us - motivated to grow).