Category Archives: Art

A Flipagram Time Lapse Video: A Peek into painting.

My belief as to why I’ve been working such long hours is because once the weather finally breaks and we see some warmer days, I will be taking some time off from painting.  Maybe.   Well, certainly I won’t be painting as much as I have these last four months. I wanted to share a time lapse video that I took of my latest painting.  I am getting better at doing these; they are actually very therapeutic because whenever I feel like I’m in a slump or creative block I can refer to these and see that creativity has ebbs and flows like anything else.  There are days when the thought of running three miles seems hopeless; the same goes for thoughts about if I’ll EVER be able to successfully achieve a King Pigeon Pose.  Visual progress I’m finding, in ANY practice is a reward by itself.  It allows you to see the progress you didn’t know was there. The app I stumbled across to mark MY progress is called Flipagram.  You can download it for free in the App Store.  It’s also for Android.  It is quite possibly, the easiest app I’ve ever learned to use.  You just take a series of photos and then pick and choose which ones you want to add for your montage.  Flipagram does the rest. Here is my time lapse video.  I hope you enjoy. Title:  Mother Earth – Spring Rain.

 

Sea Queen Painting and Back Update

It was late December when I read Dr. Sarno’s book on TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome) and I thought I’d give an update on how things are going.  As you may recall, since my discovery that my back pain was actually sucking the life out of me, I made the decision to attack it head-on by doing anything/everything that I’d previously added to my ‘no-can-do’ list out of fear that I’d make it worse.

Two and a half months later I can happily report that my back pain is still holding at being 80% better or more.  I have taken trips in the car, I’ve started running again and I’ve practically eliminated my need for pain medication for my back which is a huge deal.

The last couple of weeks have been extremely busy in our household.  My husband started a new job which means that he will no longer have to suffer through the extreme heat and cold that we have here.  No need to wear layers upon layers of clothing in the wintertime, no more working out in traffic, and the best part: no more excessive wear and tear on his body.

Before taking this job (it is with the same company, just different department) we sat down to discuss the fact that even though he would make the same amount of money, his pension will take a hit.  It wasn’t a long discussion, however, because we agreed that his health was more important than drawing a full pension.  Honestly, what good is money if your body is too broken to enjoy the benefits of having it (other than paying off surgeries for torn rotator cuffs or blown knees).  Adjusting finances is a small price to pay if he’s happier and healthier – which he is, I’m glad to say.

As for me, I had another skin cancer scare while at the dermatologist several days ago.  This time on the right side of my nose.  More cryosurgery was in order and we are carefully watching the site for any signs of return.  In the meantime I have to figure out exactly how I will go about severing my relationship with the sun.  I haven’t sunbathed in well over a decade but sitting in the sun for brief periods of time (especially when I’m cold) is something I desperately miss; now I have to make it my mission to find myself a large, floppy hat that doesn’t make me look like I’m wearing a mushroom on my head.

Paintings have been coming fast and furious these last few weeks.  Here is my latest:

 

seaqueen1

 

This is a mixed media painting.   Title:  Sea Queen.  The lace on her arms is real (click on the image to see a closeup).  The hair comb and the whale were painted, cut and adhered to the painting.  I’m starting to do time lapse videos on my paintings and I have on on my Facebook art page if anyone is interested in seeing it.  It’s a poor edit as it’s my first but I plan on doing more of these in the future and will therefore hopefully improve upon them.

Have a great week :)

 

The Visual Diary of an Artist

It’s been years, decades maybe – since I’ve painted a self portrait.  I recall completing one in college somewhere around my second year while taking a drawing class. It was a non-expressive version of me staring at a goldfish bowl.

Self Portrait - 90's

 

I don’t remember exactly what was happening in my life while drawing this image of myself but it’s likely a psych major would have eagerly volunteered to write a paper on it.  In fact, nearly every attempt to do a self portrait has produced an expression of, at the very least – a sense of awkwardness.  The unveiling of a self portrait in high school prompted my art teacher to suggest that I perhaps needed to ‘seek a bit of psychotherapy.’ I’ve always chuckled at that statement.  The art student is called out because she has bravely bared her soul for all to see when, if forced, wouldn’t nearly every other 17 year old high school student produce a familiar representation of his or herself? I mean, what teenager doesn’t feel uncomfortable in their own skin?

 

A few weeks ago I filled the background of an 18×24 watercolor block with brilliant colors of wash not really knowing what would come next.  I let it sit while on vacation and when I returned it became clear as rain water that a portrait was waiting for me.

background

 

I didn’t give any thought to what would transpire; I just worked; and worked, and worked. In fact I was so transfixed, I couldn’t take myself away from it. I have never enjoyed the process of a painting as much as I did this.

 

photo

 

When I was younger I looked into continuing my education by becoming an art therapist.  Part of me wishes that I’d taken that route; such insight can be gathered by looking at a painting, like stealing a glimpse into the pages of someone’s diary.

The long, flowing hair – certainly not my hair at the present moment.  But does the hair really represent a secret desire for corkscrew curls?  Or, is it that the hair represents a feeling of Growth in the artist’s life, and the beauty of what’s to come?

 

PortraitFB

 

 

The eyelashes might not initially cause one to take pause until further study reveals that they were not painted on but carefully cut from paper and detailed with dozens of fuchsia beads.  Added so they’re noticed, hoping not to be forgotten – not unlike me when I force myself to wear bright red lipstick, challenging the inner wallflower to use color to peel herself away from the background and into sight.

The most obvious difference in this portrait is of course, the facial expression. She is smiling perhaps because she is surrounded by vibrant and thrilling color, symbolizing life and all it has to offer.  Or because the little things in life are what makes her happiest: butterflies, hummingbirds, chickadees.

…maybe other things, too.

A quote will accompany this piece, something written to complete the visual representation of this painting:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Out with the Old

What would a personal blog be without a Year In Review on the last day of December?  Truth is, I always have a period of reflection at the end of every year.  I think about all the things that happened over the course of the year, what I did, and what I learned.  Always, I am left with a feeling of hope for the year to come.  One thing that I don’t do anymore is say to myself, I can’t wait for this year to be over so I can get a fresh start.  I think losing that attitude happened around the time I turned 40.  I realized that what I was doing was wishing my life away.  Once you reach a certain age, all days – even the lousy ones, are considered a gift.   My sweet, darling Patty – the elderly woman I was privileged enough to care for taught me that.  December 31st was her birthday, and today she would have been 94 years old.  She always wanted to have a dinner dance on her birthday, ‘and I’ll dance every dance.’ she’d say. As I type this I can hear her whispering those words in my ear.  It always makes me smile.

This morning, at the advice of my friend and fellow artist Kyra, I decided to put together an art quilt of (nearly) every painting I completed in 2013.   As I sat back to admire my handiwork I realized that I was looking at a map of the last 365 days of my life.

Art Quilt 2013

 

As with tendencies to reflect on certain periods in time there were paintings I felt terribly proud of, while others I could have done without.  My proudest moments displayed next to ideas gone flat.

There’s something else, though; something that brings me comfort.  My skill, my creativity, my technique has improved over the past year – I can see it; and as with anything we practice, if we keep at it long enough we’re sure to get better and better, right?

I look at Life the same way.  I’ve been at it for so long now, you’d think I’d have it mastered by now.  ;)

Craig and I will be leaving for a much needed vacation soon.  We’re handing our home and our dogs over to my trusty nephew who will hold down the fort as we completely unplug, Indiana to Internet.  I look forward to reconnecting with you upon my return. Happy New Year, everyone.  xo

A woman’s place is in the Om

I officially finished my last yoga painting of the year several days ago; or, so I thought.  But then on Saturday something happened that is rare for me: I felt a strong urge to get out my acrylics, a large canvas and madly start painting.  Unusual, because I’ve been working exclusively in watercolors for months on end.

Early last year before I had my hysterectomy I was talking with Sue, my friend and yoga instructor.  I mentioned how much I would miss my practice and that I was concerned by how much time would pass before I’d be able to start doing even the simplest of stretches again.  She gave me a piece of advice: “Even if you can’t physically do yoga, it can be extremely beneficial to imagine yourself doing them in your mind.”  I didn’t realize exactly what she meant until after surgery when I could no longer lift to a sitting position without grimacing in pain. I started going through sun salutations in my head, and you know what?  It calmed me; I felt focused and more at peace with myself. Yoga after all, is just as much about mind as it is body, right?

Even though I’m back to my regular yoga routine I still envision myself working through poses; now though, it’s at night before I fall asleep.  It calms my mind by allowing me to focus on something slow and repetitive.  Lately, because I paint every day and always seem to have art on the brain, I picture myself doing these poses as though I’m within one of my paintings. Often, an added benefit to this is that new paintings sometimes emerge from this ritual – that is,  if I can still remember it the next morning!

This happened to me on Friday night.  Just as I was drifting off I kept envisioning myself surrounded by the brightest colors of teal, fuchsia and yellow swirling around in my head.  With it, the phrase: A woman’s place is in the Om.  Clever, right?  Apparently I thought so, because the following evening I was determined to replicate the image that came to me and worked nearly nonstop over the course of Saturday and Sunday while the snow and temperatures fell outside my studio window.

I did finish it and am quite proud, actually. I really pushed beyond my comfort zone with this one as I feel quite intimidated working on the human form.

 

In The Om

Ellen Brenneman Studio on Etsy

 

Very, very different from my usual style, but just as I try to force myself out of my comfort zone in life, so I must do elsewhere.  It’s easy to get comfortable and not want to challenge myself by switching mediums but I realize that if I don’t, just like with anything else – I’ll regress.  In this case I’m so happy that I used acrylics over watercolors because it would have been much more difficult to achieve the bold color I wanted.

This painting by the way, is dedicated to Every Woman who either practices yoga or has the desire to.  Why I have embraced it so, is because it truly is for every BODY.  It’s easy to get caught up in the physical aspect of yoga, believing that only contortionists and gymnastics enthusiasts can do it – but the truth is, it’s not about achieving the hard poses so we can impress others; it’s about the way it connects our body to our mind and spirit that makes it so uniquely special.  Since having strained my back several weeks ago (attempting a twist that I should have known was too difficult for me), I have committed this to mind: We’re meant to practice yoga, not perfect it.  That thought, along with my lesson to never share my mat with my ego, helps keep me humble and in check.

Have a great Monday.  xo

Full Crow and another tree painting

I am really starting to ramp up my yoga practice. I’ve been having anxiety issues lately – much being the result of my worry for a family member who is having serious emotional troubles and whom I fear is in danger of causing serious harm to himself or others around him. News of his violent behavior has always caused me alarm as well as leaving me feeling helpless and sad for him. The caretaker inside of me wishes I could be the problem solver and fix things. I cannot solve this problem so my body does what it does which is worry.

Yoga is where I am turning to for a sense of calm during the storm. I have been focusing on poses that I cannot yet achieve. They are giving me something to work towards. One of such poses is crow. I was able to do it for no longer than a breath before toppling over; I never developed the needed strength to hold the pose for longer periods of time. Recently though, I’ve been working a lot on upper body strength and trying to gain more flexibility in my lower back. One evening Craig asked if I thought I could do full crow pose for him. I shrugged my shoulders and knelt down on the floor of the kitchen:

 

Not only did I hold it, but I kept holding it. Long enough for him to grab the camera and take a few snapshots. Then I fell over. lol So, progress!

 

 

I have a lot of paintings running through my head and none of them have to do with either of the seasons coming up. This is precisely the time I NEED to be working on the seasons if I have any chance of coming close to breaking even in my business for the year – and believe me, that thought is already a pretty lofty goal.

Once I start I will be fine, but right now all I want to paint are elephants, trees and yoga/inspirational pieces – none of which make one think, ‘HO-HO-HO, Merry Christmas!’ Case in point, here is my latest painting. Not very festive, but I heart it anyway:

This week I prepare for another art fair which is coming up on Saturday. The stubborn part of me is determined to work on one more painting this week as I gather inventory and create Autumn pieces to fill my tent – all while remembering to remain calm and Breathe in….Breathe out. After all, there’s no place like Om.

 

Gratitude Photo and Osprey Painting in Week Nine

…Week 9 being how long my husband has been mysteriously ill with no diagnosis.  Yet.  Upon seeing his surgeon at the follow-up appointment from his surgery, we moved on to Plan B, which was an order for a hida scan to rule out his gallbladder once and for all, despite the fact that his gallbladder was one of the things ruled out in one of the ER visits a couple of months ago.  Apparently, a hida scan – which involves using a tracer drug that is tracked by camera through the liver and gallbladder – can show how well the gallbladder is functioning.  This is something that other tests cannot detect. 

Craig had this test yesterday.  Results will be early next week.  In the meantime we continue to wait; something we have gotten to be very, very good at. 

Though my blogging habits have been terribly neglected over the past couple of months as well as my ability to paint on a regular basis, my Gratitude photos have been something that I seem to be able to continue doing without reserve.  Here’s what happened around me this week that I’m grateful to have been witness to:

ducklings

How can these little ones not make one feel even a wee bit better?  They have been tooling up and down the creek all week, skidding across the surface like water bugs.  I really do love this time of year. 

My Gratitude photos will always include a painting if I’ve finished one during the week, merely because finding the time to paint with a sick husband has proved challenging.  This one I’ve been working on for some time. I went a bit larger with the paper (this is an 18×24 size) and am still having trouble getting a well-lit photo ready for printing.  At any rate, here’s the final product, minus the polish:

I am always having a hard time coming up with titles and I do love it when the perfect one comes to me.  Last night I was trying to seek a clever one for this painting and thought of a perfect one:  Sole Provider.  Get it?? 

Well, it excited me anyway, until I noticed that the fish my Osprey is carrying is not a sole but probably a catfish by the looks of its tail.  Oh, well.  Can’t win them all, right? 

Surgeries and Paintings

How my husband took care of me for weeks after my hysterectomy without appearing the slightest bit tired is beyond me.  It’s only been a mere 31 hours since Craig’s surgery and I’m already exhausted.  The first full day is always the hardest, though.  Tomorrow we’ll have a better routine in place and things will run much more smoothly, I’m sure of it. 

Surgery didn’t go quite as planned.  Craig went in for a hernia repair and came out minus an appendix. 

No hernia in sight. 

The appendix wasn’t inflamed, but it wasn’t normal-looking either so out it came.  And right in front of the appendix was an adhesion – old scar tissue that usually generates from some form of trauma. The adhesion happened to be in the exact location of Craig’s pain. 

Okay, I asked.  So, he’ll be better now, right? 

Surgeon: I won’t be surprised if this doesn’t work.  Then again, I won’t be surprised if it does.  We’ll just have to wait and see. 

More waiting. 

The body is a very strange thing.  Nothing explains the constant nausea; the sharp pains 4-6 hours after eating; the dry-heaving after 5 minutes in a moving vehicle.  We just hope that whatever it was is now gone so Craig can resume a normal life. 

 

As for my life, it of course revolves around painting which continues to keep me focused and my hands busy with a paintbrush instead of holding another cookie or donut.  Ten pieces are heading to Indianapolis tomorrow; six are originals.  Here is my latest: 

While Craig is resting my plan is to get these listed on Etsy – by Friday.  That’s the plan, anyway. 

 

Thanks to all of you who have asked about Craig and sent good thoughts and wishes to us during this time.  I hope to never have to report again on this blog that his pain has returned.  From today we move forward hoping for the best. 

Gratitude Photo Friday

You may remember reading about my recent altercation with a certain male duck who was trying to mate with a female while she was tending to her young. After that evening Mama and ducklings just disappeared – like, for days and days. I found myself worrying a bit;  then yesterday here they came, swimming downstream. I grabbed my camera and snapped a quick photo; my Gratitude Photo of the Week.

…the past three weeks have been a blur since Craig first came home from work with a tremendous pain in his side.  Since then we have seen countless doctors and he’s had numerous tests, only to show – nothing.  We’re both convinced that he has a hernia.  Convincing the surgeon our assumption without actually seeing it via ultrasound or feeling it is quite the hurdle.

Those who ask if Craig is feeling better might be starting to think I’m a bit off my rocker when I tell them that we’re keeping our fingers crossed for another major abdominal attack.  The truth is, while he was home he didn’t eat anything solid and he rested.  Symptoms eased up considerably.  As a result, what doctor is going to do something drastic like exploratory surgery when the patient is feeling a bit better?  so, as of Tuesday, Craig was told to head back to work and resume normal activity, which he did; and the last three days have been miserable.  Symptoms are returning. 

So, we continue to wait.  At least until his follow-up with the surgeon next week. 

…with Craig home I barely had time to paint.  I wanted to complete the second painting in a series of Seasons I’m doing that features the same tree.  Since Craig went back to work I was finally able to call it finished.  I’m sneaking this photo is as another gratitude photo – as in, ‘I’m so grateful that it’s done!’  lol

Title:  “Summer” Mixed Media.  Size:  16×20

Mixed Media, size 16x20 

 

This one was time consuming. Each leaf is made from paper.  I bent and glued each one by hand.  The butterflies are also papers that’s been delicately folded and glued to the canvas.  I’m grateful to feel like I’ve accomplished something this week. Next up in the series will be Autumn, and I will wait to work on that until mid-September, probably. 

My eating has been a bit challenging with Craig home.  Again, stress has taken a passenger seat right next to me and has been trying to control my every move.  I’ve been at this long enough to understand what’s happening:  I’m seeking food to quiet the stress/anxiety that’s been building up inside me, and food is ready to take on that responsibility.  Why can’t I crave carrots or celery when I’m under stress?  No, I have visions of lemon bars and homemade cookies always in my head.  I’ve been trying to curb those yearnings with my favorite dessert teas from David’s Tea but even David can’t contain this kind of anxiety.  So, I go outside and do yard work, walk the dogs and figure out my next painting.  Does it distract me?  Yes. Enough to quiet the cravings/reduce the stress? No.  But I’m trying and that’s all I can do.  Until we find out what’s up with Craig I’m just going to have to muddle through like I always do and remind myself that there will always be a crisis to overcome; if I relied on food to comfort me every time that happened I’d be right back where I started at 230+ pounds. 

Something I’d like to end with, just because it made me so incredibly happy to read – my friend Laurie who is also a Fleet Feet trainer (remember the interview I did with her?) recently finished a half marathon in Louisville, Kentucky.  When she last wrote to me she told me that she ran a mile for me.  For ME. I kind of choked up when I read that.  No one has ever done that for me before.  Thank you for that, Laurie. 

Have a good weekend, everyone. 

~Ellen

Bird Signs and Progress!

Craig and I just finished our taxes this past weekend. Not fun.  Especially when I have to write out a check to the government.  It was nothing I didn’t expect, though.  I knew I’d owe – I just didn’t know how much.  Working as an independent contractor for Patty had minor drawbacks like that. 

I went to Hot Yoga on Friday.  Scratch that  – I dragged myself go to Hot Yoga on Friday.  All these months suffering with back pain has made me focus solely on caring for my back.  In the process, strengthening my legs have not been a priority.  My instructor had us do so many squat-related poses that by the time class was over, my legs felt like spaghetti. Nothing that would hurt my back if I didn’t do them – just my ego.  I used to be able to do all of those poses this time last year.  Now, not so much.   I have no choice now but to go every Friday and strengthen this wobbly body of mine.  Come on, muscle memory; show me what you’ve got!  Whenever I’m feeling like I’ve regressed I need to remind myself that progress comes with every little step, regardless of how small. 

A good example of such progress: my skills as a painter are indeed improving. I see it.  I feel it.  I’m more confident and I look forward to creating and sharing my work with others.  Birds seem to be my obsession lately.  I bought my first bird – a canary named Lady, when I was a sophomore in college.  She lived almost 12 years and was completely blind before she died, but that girl could warble her heart out.  Since then I have had a love affair with them and recently decided to paint a series of some favorites. 

I’ve been having run-ins with a few of the birds I’ve been painting.  Odd but wonderful run-ins.  Remember my sandhill crane?

 

A few days after I painted him I was walking the dogs at the park and noticed a flock of cranes swirling over my head. If you’ve ever heard these birds communicate with one another then you know they are impossible to miss (they’re quite loud!)  On two separate occasions later the next week when I went out to get my mail from the mailbox, there again were cranes hovering overhead long enough for me to stop and watch them for as long as I wanted before forming their traditional V pattern and moving on. Each time I saw them I think my heart swelled to twice its normal size. 

My second run-in happened right after I finished painting my red-winged hawk this weekend.

watermarkhawk

I put away my watercolors and grabbed my coat so that Craig and I could go grocery shopping.  While heading down the road a red winged hawk flew right in front of our car and into the woods, carrying a mouse. We both screamed out, ‘Did you see THAT??’ 

Tell me – when does that ever happen!?!?  To me, never!

This week’s oriole will likely be my last bird of the week because I am hosting Easter this weekend at my home.  Those of you who were here with me over Christmas will remember that I vowed never to have another holiday at my Mom’s again because whenever a certain family member is in attendance, I tense up and know that he will become angry, say hurtful things, leaving me sad and melancholy for the remainder of the day.  It took 42 years to step up and say ‘no more’ to my mother but I did, and now I’m actually looking forward to hosting Easter this year.  I’m even looking forward to Christmas already – words I’ve not uttered in over 30 years. 

And that’s progress.  When you’ve got it, grab on and run like hell.