I’m working on a new project for Jordan Creek Town Center — a fabulously wonderful shopping center/happening place in West Des Moines, Iowa. It’s a greeting card for new mothers at Mercy Medical Center’s new maternity facility. It’s a project right up my alley. I’m doing a variation of my “Hey Diddle Diddle” card that will include a whimsical view of a section of Jordan Creek. They sent me some great pictures to work with, but when I was working on the sketch, I struggled with the positioning, proportion and placement (oh my, that’s a hefty batch of illiteration) of the buildings. I had to go out there and get a better “feel” for the place. I don’t have a digitial camera. I don’t have a cell phone that takes pictures (wait a minute, I don’t have a cell phone). I’m not good at on-site sketching. So, I brought along our video camera.
It wasn’t until I was walking around videotaping that I realized it’s somewhat odd for people to tape buildings and locations — in this day and age, it can be down-right scarey for someone to be video-taping buildings. I felt very conspicuous and was sure security was going to pounce on me and throw me to the ground at any moment. Didn’t happen. I got out of there in one piece, and even managed to keep myself from going inside and doing some very unnecessary shopping.
Most of my time is spent conjuring up stuff that only exists inside my head, so it’s fun to dabble in real things from time to time. The next time around, I’ll have to wear some kind of “artist at work” badge, so no one thinks I’m up to no good. Or maybe a goatee and beret. Who’s that suspicious-looking woman in the goatee and beret with the video camera? Yea. That’ll do the trick.
The last couple of afternoons our 5-year-old (excuse me 5 1/2-year-old) daughter has gathered her make-up kit and dug into mine to give me a fresh face and a new hairdo. Yesterday, she spent a considerable amount of time dabbing concealer on every obvious and not so obvious facial flaw that I have. (I’ll need to get a new tube.) She used every color of eyeshadow we have on my eyes, blackened my eyebrows, colored my cheeks lavender, lip-lined my lips well outside their lip lines and put sparkling stuff on the sides of my face as well as on my most gloriously prominent feature, my nose. She bobby-pined my bangs back and put a rather cock-eyed ponytail in the rest of my hair. Then, she stood back and pronounced me beautiful. And you know what? I felt beautiful. There is something quite magical in the soft touch of my child’s hands on my face, along with the intense, concentrated attention she gave just to me. I wish I could box that up. No, not to sell and make a million. Just to take out and wallow in for a bit when she’s 15.
You’d think that when you make your living at something you learned to do in kindergarten (color, cut and paste), that days are generally happy-go-lucky-skip-down-the-sidewalk days. Yea, there’s skippin’, but unfortunately, in addition to the fun stuff (color, cut and paste — and skipping), there’s a lot that’s not so fun.
not so fun: I spent over 6 hours last weekend stuffing and labeling. You see, my precious little art pieces/greeting cards need to be protected from the elements (your grubby, greasy hands), so each one needs to be inserted into a cellophane sleeve before it can be shipped or displayed in a store. In addition to that, if it is going into a store, I like to sticker it with it’s “inside message” information. It takes time and it’s tedious work. But when you’re the only cook and there’s no one else in the kitchen, you gotta wash the bottles too. So, when many of you were out gallivanting (an adult form of skipping) last weekend, I was “in studio” stuffing and sticking.
fun: One of those “precious little art pieces/greeting cards” was brand new. It’s called “Life is Better with Chocolate” and was inspired by the great support I’ve gotten from the Chocolaterie Stam stores here in Des Moines, Iowa — along with my not so secret love affair with chocolate. Here’s a pic…
not so fun: Sweating it out with a new custom project is not fun. Worked on a project this past week for a quilt shop in Indiana — just a simple black and white illustration, but ya never know in these situations if you’re hitting the mark or not. So, every time I e-mail a rough sketch, I’m insecure and anxious, and if it takes longer than 5 minutes for the client to get back to me (which, of course, it always does), I’m sweating and nervous and convinced they think my work is crap. It happens every time. I have this flash back to me, at 17. I’m a freshman in college and my art professor is looking back and forth between me and this hideous cardboard sculpture I had stayed up all night to produce. He said, “you really missed the boat didn’t you.” I started to cry. So he called me a baby and said I better toughen up if this is what I want to do. It was a rude and insensitive awakening to the “art world”. It marked me for life. Whether it helped me or not, who knows.
fun: Back to the present. The client loved the sketch. I’ve completed the job, and here’s a look…
Well, a week has gone by since I started this darn blog thing, and, of course, I haven’t felt like writing a darn thing since then. Lesson for today: don’t start a blog until you’re ready to blog.
I’ll come around. I’ll get in the swing. I’m a little slow to start, but I catch on. I think I was the last person in America to use an ATM card. I complained grievously to the clerk at our local movie rental store when it became impossible to rent a decent VHS. (Why, oh why, when we all had perfectly good VCRs did it become necessary for everyone in the country to purchase DVD players — thanks to the techno-gods, there’s always a reason to buy a new machine. This has nothing to do with the 8-tracks I bought for my boyfriend for his birthday in 1976.) And, believe it or not, we don’t have a cell phone. I’d rather sit in a tree and chat with the birds, but they’re not really interested in chatting with me. Squirrels, on the other hand…
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that my higher goal of focus and direction for this little blog of mine didn’t take into consideration that that would take, you know, extra time. I do learn many lessons, but writing about them in an interesting way, takes some thought processing. I’m going to leave the big lessons to my Notes from Jen and you can read them at my website. I’ve got a collection of musings there that you might just relate to.
So what’s to become of Jen’s Blog? Well, from this moment on it will be called “In Studio,” and I will write about my current projects as an artist and writer and how that meshes with my life as a middle-aged white chick, mother, wife, daughter, sister, taco lover and all-around handy-person. Quite simply, I will journal. I think I learn something most every day, so techinically I’m not giving up my ultimate ideal — I’m just being realistic.
If you’ve got a project on my list, this will be a good place to check to make sure I’m working on it. You can also find out how I feel about it. Above all, I intend my journaling to be honest. In addition, I wish it to be heartwarming as well as compelling and even inspiring.
I walk a lot, but I’m not one of those folks who walks just for the sake of walking. No matter how good it may be for my health, I can’t work myself up to walk a couple miles just to walk a couple miles. I need a place to go, a destination. I’m the same way with shopping. I only shop with a list or for a specific item. I find window shopping quite difficult, if not painful, so I avoid it at all costs. And, I certainly never call anyone “just to chat.” For me, I need a defined purpose for such endeavors. It makes me sound a bit anal and even unfriendly, but quite honestly, I lean more toward the boob-headed end of things (and I mean that as an affectionate description of myself). Frankly, I’m probably (not probably, but most likely - wait a minute, what’s the difference between probably and most likely?) more complex than I give myself credit for, so I guess I can be boob-headed with a purpose.
The same approach goes when I’m writing. I need to “go somewhere” with it. I’ve discovered after years of writing short essays about everyday life things that where I go with it, my destination, always seems to be a lesson I’ve learned. Some are easy, some are humorous, some are painful, some I have to learn over and over again. It never fails though, every time I sit down to write, by the time I’m finished, I’ve realized I’ve learned something. So, that’s why this blog o’ mine is called “lessons learned.”
We all have our share of tough lessons — those we’d rather not have to learn, but are faced with anyway. We can talk about them here. But I really would like to focus on the joy we find in each day, rather than the sadness we are sometimes faced with. Let’s look for the good. Let’s strive to be better. Let’s be friends. Let’s protect, promote and preserve those simple, happy, silly parts of our lives. And, most importantly, let’s hold hands when we cross the street.
I look forward to what you have to say…