Stubborn Pounds

I put on a few pounds over the winter.  Shocker.  This was THE most brutal winter that I can ever remember and my painting literally kept me sane, I think.  On the down side, there’s not many calories to be burned from moving a paintbrush around a canvas or piece of watercolor paper.  I caught the gain early enough (or so I thought) and went back to my tried-and-true weight loss routine of counting calories and using my pedometer.  This time though, it didn’t work.  Two weeks passed and I didn’t lose a single ounce, so I decided that instead of my ‘usual’ plan I’d best mix things up a bit.  So, I bought a Nutribullet and replaced my usual breakfast with a smoothie.  Slowly, the weight started to come off.  Thank goodness for my friend Laura’s blog because she posts some pretty fantastic smoothie recipes; she’s also the one who gave me the thumbs up on the Nutribullet, too.

The last couple of pounds that I needed to drop ended up coming off, basically because I worried them off.  This was around the time of the photo shoot and I swear my stomach was so tied into knots that entire week I simply couldn’t eat very much.  When I did get my appetite back I started craving peanut butter.  I wanted to slather it on everything!  Up late one night I found myself at Katie’s dessert blog over at Chocolate Covered Katie.  If you have a massive sweet tooth like I do and are trying to eat clean, head over to her site IMMEDIATELY.  She is such an asset to our community here.  When I used to diet I would simply avoid foods that were triggers, instead finding an acceptable substitute (powdered peanut butter).  While I do still eat powdered peanut butter, I’ve found that I can be completely satisfied by having a little of the real stuff when it’s combined with a banana.  Taken directly from Katie’s site, all I do is cut a ripe banana in half and add two tablespoons of peanut butter and a dash of cinnamon.  Mash everything together and then start whipping it with a spoon.  Before you know it, you’ve got peanut butter frosting that you can add to toast, Vitatops, english muffins, waffles, or just eat it right off the spoon.  It makes quite a bit and has a real peanut butter flavor to it, and it lasts me a couple of days.

I have started the painting for my part of the project with Brooke (my friend and photographer).  I decided to use an image from the shoot that was NOT released to the public.  Here’s a peek of this week’s work:

IMG_2004

I will be done with the painting next week and then it will be handed over to Brooke so that she can do her part.  I cannot wait to share the finished image with you!

 

Photo shoot Part Two

Two more images from Sunday’s photo shoot were released this week.  I think that overall, these were well received and gave Brooke some much deserved exposure.  Getting seen/noticed as an artist, whether a writer, fine artist or photographer – is incredibly difficult because the market is over saturated and, therefore, competitive.

I will be starting my painting this week. I have decided which one I’ll use for myself and Brooke and I have made the decision as to which one would work best for our collaborative project.  I’m glad I didn’t have to make that decision alone.

A couple of small tidbits of information that you might find interesting or amusing:

~ my ‘costume’ was a series of curtains (yes, window curtains) that I’d ruined by putting them into the dryer on high heat.  They came out looking like thin gauze.  I cannot remember what the original material was, though I do remember getting the fabric in bulk because I didn’t have any money to spend on curtains at the time.  I’ve since been using them as Halloween curtains because they look like they belong in a haunted house.  haha.  The gray scarves around my shoulders are also Halloween curtains, though those I actually purchased those at an after-sale at Target.

EllenTree2

The photos were taken in my backyard against our cottonwood tree that we lost to a horrible storm many years ago.  The tree was our most magnificent in the yard and measured over 5 feet in diameter.  It had been struck by lightning and is now split in half.  I mourned the loss of that tree and couldn’t part with losing the rest of it, so there he sits while the squirrels and woodpeckers live and play around him.  He is still beautiful to me.

MotherEarth3

If you think I look pretty natural in these photos, you have the ‘real’ Mother Nature to thank.  The moment I laid down next to the tree, a titmouse perched over one of the nearby branches and began to sing his heart out.  He remained there for much of the photo shoot.

In the image of me submerged in water you will see a leaf in the shape of a heart, resting on my hip. This was not a prop.  The leaf floated down stream and clung to me.  Even though the water was cold (it was only in the 50s that day) the photos with that leaf are among my favorites.

 

My first photo shoot

As any introvert will tell you, spending time at a party with people you don’t know while being forced to make small talk is a most difficult task.  Think nails down a chalkboard while being stuck in an elevator with a baby crying kind of difficult. The anxiety I feel on the days and hours leading up to such an event can sometimes be downright brutal.  When I finally arrive and settle in, I nearly always have a fantastic time and come home feeling a deep level of satisfaction.  Why?  Because I need to be social and I genuinely like spending time with my friends.  It also allows me to stretch me beyond my comfort zone and allows for the possibility of meeting new and interesting people.

Such was the case last Halloween.

Brooke and I met while at my friend Mel’s house for a Halloween get together last year.  Brooke, I learned, was a professional photographer who was extremely passionate about creating art through photography.  We chit-chatted a bit about cameras and that was about the extent of our conversation.  Little did I know that our meeting would lead to a lovely friendship and teach me a valuable lesson about myself.

For the past few months Brooke and I have discussed the idea of collaborating on a project together.  I’ve been working on a series of mixed media pieces featuring Mother Earth/Nature as the subject and she proposed the idea of doing a photo shoot of me as a ‘living’ Mother Earth.  I eagerly said yes and was incredibly excited about being involved in such a creative project. When the day of the shoot came, I started to panic.

Believe it or not, I hadn’t really given much thought to the idea that people would actually be seeing these photos.  Even though we’d discussed it.  And decided that we’d cross-promote our project on each others website/social media pages.  I suppose I didn’t allow myself to think about the complexities of this venture for fear that I would chicken out, so I just didn’t think about it at all.  Period.  As the day arrived however, I started thinking plenty!

I spent most of my twenties and beyond dodging the camera at every opportunity because of my self-esteem issues and morbid obesity.  I suddenly realized that I was about to expose myself for all to see.  True, the weight has been off for over 8 years but the loose skin remains – and I would be in a strapless costume. Oh, boy – what did I get myself into?

Brooke has the kind of personality that immediately makes her subjects feel comfortable and safe. That should have been enough for me to trust her completely but instead, I felt compelled to warn her about my ‘problem’ areas.  I stood in front of the mirror with costume on and pointed out my upper arms, my stomach, my -

I stopped.  What was I doing? This was not the person who admires women who age gracefully.  Where was the woman who’d recently applauded the strength of a cancer survivor for baring all her scars for the entire world to see?  Talk about hypocrisy at its most raw form.  I was ashamed of myself.  Fear, as always, is a dark horse.

I decided at that moment that I was not going to mention another word about my body. I wasn’t going to think about sucking in my stomach or reconsider stretching my arms out to my side if I was asked.  I was simply going to go out there, be grateful for the moment, for this opportunity – and appreciate the gift of being able to work with another artist.

When the shoot was over I felt exhilarated.  Without having seen a single image (except for one or two on the camera screen) I genuinely felt good about myself.

Fast forward to this afternoon.  Brooke sent me a message stating that she was about to to Live with the first of the images.  I became both excited and full of panic.  My friend Kyra and I were in the middle of a conversation and I texted her that one of the first photos was coming out and that I was feeling a bit exposed and way out of my comfort zone.  She was very supportive and reassuring.  She gently pressed a bit by asking a very, very good question:

“Why does THIS picture make you feel exposed?”

I had no idea how to answer that question; I’ve been pondering it since.

The photo went Live at 6:00 PM this evening. Brooke wanted me to know that aside from fixing an issue with my eyelash she did not photoshop any other part of the image -  and I’m glad.

ellentreeAshley Beige Photography

 

Transitions

Spring has finally arrived around these parts and I could not be happier.  It is still quite cold yet -  certainly too cold for planting flowers outside, but on the plus side it hasn’t snowed in over a week. The most brutal winter in my memory is starting to fade as the buds on our weeping cherry tree start to form.

I am currently sitting in my family room waiting for my painting to dry and trying to find a quiet place to get away from the constant banging of hammers and saws outside as a crew of workers puts siding on our house.  The woodpeckers have caused so much damage in the wood it was too expensive to replace and so our tired old house is in the process of a major facelift.  A perfect time to pick up the laptop and revisit my blog – that piece of me which I’m sure feels a bit slighted here as of late, yet loyally, patiently awaits the slightest bit of attention that I’m willing to give.

Despite my lack of communication, I have been giving a great deal of thought to my little blog  and how much of an impact it has had on my life over the last four years.  I sit here and wonder if I stopped writing altogether, if anyone would really notice. Life marches on, interests change.  Writing, which used to be my main outlet has slowly been replaced with my deeper love of painting.  Honestly, to me, anything that one might want to know about me can easily be read in my current work.  It has become my visual diary and one that I’m very proud of.

I have no intention of shutting down my blog. This is the place where I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the most amazing people in my adult life, people with whom I still maintain friendships with to this day.  I am so moved by this thought, I cannot begin to tell you.

I suppose I came here today simply to say this: even though I have transitioned from a regularly scheduled poster to an intermittent one, it (and I) will still be a presence here; a beacon, if you will – for the old and new.  What cannot be said in a painting will surely be written about here, and I consider myself very lucky to have that option.

Lastly, to those of you who’ve hung in for the long haul, your faithfulness and loyalty does not go unappreciated. Thank you for being here with me throughout the months/years.

PTSD, Coping and Painting

I’ve recently been reminded of the phrase, ‘You’ll know when things are about to get better – it’s when you feel like you’ve reached your breaking point.’  Not terribly comforting I admit, but it’s usually true.  At least I hope so for the sake of me and those around me.

As my last few posts – as well as my overall ‘lack’ of posting proves,  the past several weeks have been difficult for me.  While trying to help a family member get over a very difficult period in their life I’ve experienced a harsh lesson on the cruelty of others while memories of my divorce back in 2001 have been intruding my thoughts.  Last week my mind betrayed me again with thoughts I have tried laying to rest for nearly three years.

My husband and I were talking with our neighbors across the street about an accident that had just happened down the street from us.  As we were watching the firetrucks and police cars block the road from traffic my neighbor asked if I knew the neighbors directly to the right of us.  I replied that because of our 6 month hibernation from the brutal winter, we hadn’t had much of a chance to make small talk.  She said, ‘Well, their dog keeps getting loose and runs all over the neighborhood. I keep telling them that they need to fix their fence before someone gets hurt.’

Not more than 30 seconds after she finished that sentence, our next door neighbors opened their front door to step outside.  The dog squeezed between their legs and started running toward the street.  Within seconds we witnessed the dog as he was struck by a passing vehicle.  I remember hearing a long, wailing sound, thinking it was the dog; it wasn’t.  That scream was coming from me.

The vehicle stopped and the driver stepped out, the look of disbelief on his face.   My husband and the neighbors across the street rushed to come to the aid of the dog and owner who, by that time was knelt down in the street next to his companion.  As for me, I suddenly felt like I was going to crumble to my knees.  When I finally willed my legs to move, I headed straight for the house where I broke down and sobbed.

I was upset for the dog, most certainly. Heartbroken for the owner, definitely.  But the majority of my uncontrollable crying came from deep within.  I was having flashbacks of my mother’s accident a few years ago when she was struck by a car (the first of a 2 part post can be read here)

I always thought that people with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) suffered because of something that happened ‘to’ them.  I was ignorant to the fact that one can be afflicted with this disorder by witnessing a horrific event.  It wasn’t until I went to therapy shortly after my mother’s accident that I learned more about this condition.

The accident involving the dog (whom died within 5 minutes of being struck) caused me to come to terms with certain things about myself that are likely to remain for a long time to come.  No longer am I able to watch the News.  Reports of sad or depressing stories seem to wound me deeply.  Shocking photos or videos in my Facebook newsfeed are quickly eliminated from my view, for once I allow my mind to accept what my eyes are seeing I find myself grieving for days.  Even movies with too serious a storyline are off limits.

It’s been a week since the unfortunate accident with the dog but I am still having flashbacks.  If I allowed myself, I could easily use those feelings and make them tangible in the form of new artwork.  Perhaps in the future I will be able to explore that part of myself within the safety of my studio, but for now I distract myself with images that bring peace, happiness and love to my mind.  This latest piece is a result of that place in my mind which I reserve for beauty and comfort.  My place of solace:

Serenity of SpringEtsy

Title:  Serenity of Spring

Life 1.0

Thank you Vickie for prompting me to connect with my blog this week. I have had little inspiration on blog material these last few weeks due to family issues but since it’s Friday and I’m breathing a bit easier for the moment I thought I’d check in.  I wish I could go into detail about what’s been happening but unfortunately, I cannot.  I am a mere bystander in all of this mess (mostly) and anything written here could be considered gossip so it’s best that I just leave it at that.

I am still pushing onward in my painting and trying to get ready for my next show which (thankfully) isn’t until July.  However, things are constantly changing around here it seems so who knows what the next couple of months will hold for me.  Especially now that the gallery which houses/sells my work down in Indianapolis is closing at the end of the month.  The building has been sold and the new owners will be turning it into a bar :(  I have three weeks to pick up all of my inventory.  Very sad for everyone involved but on a good note, I was able to meet some extraordinary people through this venture and that is priceless to me.

My husband came home ill earlier this week. Today he is back at work and now I am beginning to get ill.  Likely it is the same thing he had.  I have a feeling I’m in for a long weekend ahead.  I pray it does not involve vomiting.  Ugh.  It is a fitting end to a rough week which involved witnessing my neighbor’s dog get hit and killed by a car.  I am still aching over that and have been having flashbacks of my mother’s car accident ever since.

I leave you with a progress pic of what I’ve been working on this week.

Peeking

I’m pushing myself to do more faces because its the one area in which I feel incredibly inadequate.  She will be another mixed media piece and hopefully finished sometime early next week.

Have a good weekend.

E

 

Ever have one of those weeks when you feel like you’re living someone else’s life?

I am not a fan of real life drama. I don’t regularly associate with people who’s lives are comparable to that of a living soap opera. I think it’s terribly inappropriate to air dirty laundry on Facebook. My little life is generally quiet; I’m the co-captain of a very smooth, stable, well-built ship. Rough waters and wind are not welcome here.

Having said that, you’d think that I was bragging about how calm my life is, but right now the opposite is happening. It’s been a rough few weeks around here with lots of changes taking place – both within my household and with nearby family members. I am not digging it.

Life is unpredictable though, and the only thing to do is try to maintain some sense of stability and just hang on until the storm passes.

My mother hasn’t been feeling well all week. She’s nearing 81 years of age now and while aches and pains are a part of growing older, the symptoms she was describing to me the other night sounded like she was having a heart attack. At 9 PM my husband and I drove over to take her to the emergency room where we stayed until after 1 AM waiting to see what the diagnosis was. Nothing was found in blood work or the EKG; the diagnosis: GERD, which can mimic symptoms of a heart attack. Interestingly enough, the doctor on call asked my mother’s age and then said that if a woman lives to the age of 70 without being diagnosed with heart disease, the odds of her ever getting it are incredibly slim. Huh. I never knew this.

Spring has STILL not arrived in Indiana. Usually by this time of year we are seeing regular temperatures of nearly 50 degrees but that is not happening. I’m retaliating by painting Spring-inspired art over and over; it’s as if I’m willing spring into existence. I do hope we get a break soon. They say things feel at their worst just before it’s over. Hopefully this means that my life is on the cusp of better days ahead.

Here is my latest painting, finished yesterday. Title: In the Wild Blue

FlowerGirlortonFB

Etsy

have a good weekend, everyone. I hope that Spring has Sprung wherever you are :)

From Me to You

Is it possible to be a great fan of someone’s work and not have any idea who they are? (A resounding YES echoes in my head). Sue, my yoga teacher, reads an uplifting passage right before class ends – one of the many reasons I love her to the moon and back. During Wednesday’s class she read a poem that touched me deep within my soul. I couldn’t wait until class was over before asking, ‘Who wrote that poem?’
‘Mary Oliver,’ she said. I’d never heard of her before, I responded, but Sue often reads her poetry – I’d just never made the connection that these words, so passionately written, were all by the same person.
I was a huge fan, never knowing it.

I must share the words read to me on Wednesday. It is very fitting to leave them here for you to savor, for as I listened my thoughts were immediately drawn to my good fortune and the many beautiful souls I’ve met over the past few years. This of course, includes all of you. Enjoy, and have a good weekend.

Of Love

I have been in love more times than one,
thank the Lord. Sometimes it was lasting
whether active or not. Sometimes
it was all but ephemeral, maybe only
an afternoon, but not less real for that.
They stay in my mind, these beautiful people,
or anyway beautiful people to me, of which
there are so many. You, and you, and you,
whom I had the fortune to meet, or maybe
missed. Love, love, love, it was the
core of my life, from which, of course, comes
the word for the heart. And, oh, have I mentioned
that some of them were men and some were women
and some — now carry my revelation with you —
were trees. Or places. Or music flying above
the names of their makers. Or clouds, or the sun
which was the first, and the best, the most
loyal for certain, who looked so faithfully into
my eyes every morning. So I imagine
such love of the world — its fervency, its shining, its
innocence and hunger to give of itself — I imagine
this is how it began.

Mary Oliver

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 :)