Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Lisa Colt

May we reveal our abundance without shame.
May we peel back our sleeping wintery layers
like snakeskins, like the silk chrysalis,
like clothing cast off during love.
May we unravel with abandon like lover's knots
before knitting ourselves back to the heart
May we settle into our own rhythms as tides do--
within the borders of the moon's calling.
May the music of our souls
be accompanied by grand  gestures
and the persistent clapping of hummingbird's wings.
May the milky fingers of the moon
reach down nightly to cherish and unveil us.
May we turn our bodies generously in its light
like tranquil fish glinting underwater,
 like precious stones.
When we open our mouths to sing
may the sesasons pause in their long journey
to listen and applaud

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties”

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties”
Friedrich Nietzsche

Michelle O'Connor Sketchbook

How do you find Joy in the Ordinary?

I've done a lot of talking about me in my blog, Dinner and Drawing. Today I really want to turn it over to my readers for comments.  I've made some wonderful connections through writing and sharing my story and now I'd love to entertain your thoughts, comments and discussions!

Do you ever feel like you look around your life and wonder, "is this all there is?" I definitely do. Whether due to personal experiences or the proverbial mid-life crisis, it can really wear a girl down.

I've recently been revisiting a wonderful book by Sarah Ban Breathnach's called Romancing the Ordinary, A Year of Simple Splendors.
If you haven't read it, it is a great book to pick up and keep by your bedside to read upon turning in at night or waking in the morning.

Here is an excerpt:

"our bliss-blocking mosaics are highly developed and very personal. Made up of rogue bad habits, these soul snatchers specialse in changing identity as soon as we recognise the. But I have infiltrated their high command. Often it takes one ignoramus to catch another.

Wanting what you cant have
Not wanting what you do have

Seeing the world as hostile
Believing life is hard
Over reliance on outside circumstances to initiate change
Believing that money is the answer
Believing you're unlucky
Believing that things will never change for the better

Not eating well
Not exercising
Not listening to your body
Continuously finding fault with your body
Feeling unworthy of happiness, love, success
Not knowing who you are
Not knowing what you love
Not recognising addictive behaviour patterns or dependence
Workaholism in the name of getting ahead or staying on top of things

Lack of humour
Inability to laugh at oneself
Shyness in social situations
Lack of spontaneity
Thinking you're too inexperienced
Pretending that you're more experienced or worldly than you are

Believing the world will fall apart if you're not holding it together
Inability to ask for or receive help
Inability to be part of a team

Inability to say no gracefully
Needing to please
Seeing everything as competitive
Confusing being argumentative with being articulate
Always needing to be right

Putting others down so you feel superior
Not trusting your intuition
Not following your dreams
Believing other people's second guesses are better than you first

Making promises you dread
Making promises you know you won't or can't keep
Making promises to keep the peace

Thinking that worrying will make it better

Inability to relax

Confusing fatigue and laziness
Inability to self-motivate
Surrounding yourself with negativity
Remaining in toxic relationships

Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself
Setting unrealistic expectations for others

Looking at the world and life through the lens of lack
Lack of curiostiy
Lack of faith
Lack of wonder
Lack of gratitude

Quite amazing to think that all of these bliss blockers have become so familiar we don't even notice them. this week pick just one bliss blocker (start with the one that made you wince when you read it) and see if you can exchange these controlling habits with those of contentment"


Hmmmmm.......I think I've entertained every one of these little Soul Snatchers.....
But I am happy to say I have already picked one thing from the list and changed it this week. "not getting enough exercise". I've dragged my lazy butt out of bed 2 days in a row now and gone for a 25 minute walk. 

So, here's a question: What inspires you? Are you a visual person? An audio person? Do you like things symmetrical? Assymetrical? Colorful? Black and White? Do you love music? Quiet moments?
What are the things that bring on your major moments of joy? The kind that make your heart beat, your head soar, your very physical body feel lifted up into the air?

And now the harder question, if it's been a while since you've felt this way (TRULY felt this way) what are you going to do about it?

I invite you to share your thoughts....

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Out of my Element

Since my mom started chemotherapy in January, she has had to temporarily put her pet sitting business on hold. I didn't want her to lose her clients because I know the time will come when she can get back to it (and her clients are the most wonderful people!) So, in the meantime, I have covered some of her sitting jobs. This weekend was one of them. I am hanging out with a beautiful black Labradoodle named Ozzie.
It has been such a pleasure to spend the weekend with him. He is such a great companion, fun and so smart!

The Oz-Man

Spending time away from my house and studio forced me to make some decisions about how I want to do my art while I'm away. I obviously can't be throwing paint and paste and gels around at someone else's house. Here's what I decided to bring with me this weekend:

Koi Watercolors, watersoluble crayons, assortment of drawing pencils, graphite, and charcoal, drawing pens, color carbon pencils, my art journal, and a sketchbook.
  It's an excellent opportunity to slow down and take some time to sketch and doodle. It's good practice! It also "fills the well" (one of my favorite expressions) with ideas to draw upon later and provides an opportunity to work with things I don't usually gravitate towards in the studio so it challenges my comfort zone.

Vessels done in Watersoluble Crayon

Saturday afternoon, my mom was feeling good so she came to visit me and to say hi to Ozzie, her canine buddy (they're very close) As we sat and chatted I played around with Neocolor II watersoluble crayons. I did this in about an hour and it wasn't meant to be perfect.  These crayons are really cool. They are not waxy so you can use water with them to soften and blend colors. These just might be one of my favorite new mediums!

Happy Father's Day to all the wonderful Dad's out there
Happy Father's Day to my husband, Katie's uncles, my father in law and my dad (rest in peace)
Happy Anniversary to my parents, this would have been their 45th wedding anniversary! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

"I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else" 
 ~Pablo Picasso

I don't know about you but I'm the kind of person who likes to have a plan. I like calendars and schedules and routines .
When it comes to art, however, I have noticed that I am the opposite.
I feel like I  approach my artwork  without much of a plan which makes me feel uncomfortable!

Why don't I approach my artwork the same way I approach my life? 
Instead of letting it bother me, I looked at it a different way.

 My art is the one thing in my life that I can approach with a pinch of recklessness, the one thing that doesn't require me to battle the current, but to sit back, have fun, and let Go of control.

I'm learning to embrace this as a valuable part of my process
Control has to come eventually but it's good to have fun first!

It started off as this......

and then became this.....

Now it is this......."Wisdom"
(In Progress)
Mixed Media on Canvas Board
Michelle O'Connor

It's ok to have fun first.
 It gives flight to your ideas and makes it possible for your work to become something else

Have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Begin at the Beginning

“"Begin at the beginning,", the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop”

Lewis Carrol, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

This quote is so simple yet so profound. If I don't have an idea or direction but want to create something, instead of stressing over it, I try to remember to simply begin at the beginning.

Tissue paper, Acrylic paint, and splatterings of the last of my tube of white paint. Didn't plan for that effect but it was fun!! I have some fun yarns and strings that I am going to incorporate into this one as well as some unique found objects....

In Process
Mixed Media on Canvas board

It's a Beginning......

Friday, June 8, 2012

Art and Alzheimer's

Even though this project began as an attempt at creating an encaustic look with acrylic paints and mediums, I will now say that that is NOT what happened. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained... I have learned a lot through exploring a large variety of materials while working on this piece.
 I used tissue paper, 2 different gel mediums, acrylic paint, charcoal, string, metallic patio paint, and watersolubule crayons. I scratched into the surface of the gel mediums and rubbed colors into the grooves. I was really excited about the interesting textures and depth that resulted from rubbing color into the grooves and over the texture of the tissue paper. I am pleased with the blended, aged effect that resulted from rubbing the metallic paint over the textured acrylic paint and wiping some of it away with a baby wipe (a trick I learned from Traci Bunkers) I like the way the charcoal and string lend depth and an organic quality to the composition.

Michelle O'Connor
Mixed Media on Canvas

I mentioned in an earlier post that there was a concept in my mind as I worked through this. I was thinking about my dad, who passed away far too young in November after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. An incredibly smart man with a great sense of humor, who was a successful business man and talented in art and music, fell victim to the mind erasing disease at far too young an age.

The symptoms in the beginning were subtle enough to dismiss as simple forgetfulness or shrugged off as Dad just acting his sometimes-typically weird self. Before long, the disease progressed to the point where his vision was impacted and his cognition was suffering. Finally he could no longer drive or take care of himself. Sensing his mind slipping away, he began writing things down. Every thing. We still have his notes. He developed meticulous routines and habits, clearly an attempt to control his confusion and memory loss.
Once he was diagnosed, of course, the early signs made sense.
It starts off slow.
Then it follows a relentless path of destruction.  

It feels a little dumb to try to explain an abstract piece of art in terms of elements and representations and meanings. What I'd mostly like to say is that while I was journeying through this piece, this is what I was thinking about. It feels a little too convenient to start assigning meaning to the parts after the fact but I also think that titles and descriptions help with giving direction and purpose to a piece.

 In "Erase" there are 3 elements braided together: The physical/pathological, the emotional, and the psychological elements of how Alzheimer's effects it's victim as well as the loved ones of the victim during the early to mid stages of the disease as it slowly begins to erase parts of the brain. 
It represents the turbulent inner battle between maintaining order and battling chaos.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Every Child is an Artist

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up"

Pablo Picasso

"Dad" by Katie O'Connor
Acrylic on cardboard

Untitled by Katie O'Connor
Acrylic on cardboard

Untitled by Katie O'Connor
Acrylic on cardboard

"Yin Yang" by Katie O'Connor
Acrylic on Cardboard

"Fun Art"  by Michelle O'Connor
Acrylic on canvas board

Watching Katie paint and have fun doing it reminded me to loosen up! 
With the paint that was leftover on her palette, I just started painting my canvas, letting the colors mix together on the surface, my inner critic silenced for a moment, my overthinking brain relegated to the background for a change, allowing, simply, the energy within me to travel through my hand onto the canvas in a flurry of mark making.
Is it art?
Yes. It is. It all is.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Gift of Time

This is where the "balance" part comes into play in my blog.....Today I took the day off from work and  enjoyed the gift of time with Katie as we are in between (there's that theme again) school and camp this week. 
We slept in and started our day at a nice, slow pace. What a treat!
Katie had a breakfast of waffles with nutella and I ate a piece of...ok, well, leftover pizza. (Still working on balancing my meals but that's a whole different blog post.....)
Then we were off to the mall (ugh) for shoes for camp.
To make it fun, we parked at Outdoor World and walked through the store to the mall, paying a visit to the pontoon boat display. I laughed to myself when I caught a sales person lingering nearby, probably wondering if this woman and her daughter were serious about possibly purchasing a pontoon boat today. 

Katie, at the wheel

Mommy, gloriously un-put-together

Fun at Claire's.....

Lunch at the Food Court. Sbarro's pizza, of course

Pure joy is what is found in the moments we are In Between.

Even if it is at the mall.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Art Tango Tuesday!



I'm still layering layering layering.......

working at balancing composition and contrast.
Right now it needs more contrast. I have a plan for that!

I apologize for the quality of this photo. It's not lit properly so I promise a better one tomorrow!

This piece doesn't have a name yet but there is definitely a concept at work that has remained consistent with every layer I've applied.
Like an old fashioned dance, I usually let the piece lead me,
waltz-like, from beginning to end. If it turns me this way, I follow. If it sweeps me that way, I go that way.
This piece has felt more controlled.
Sort of.
This has been more of a Tango, the painting and myself leading and following with space between us, creating room in the process to be connected, yet also a space to think and breathe and have the tension to push forward to an end result that is not only a reflection of the dance, but a totality of the energy it took to get there.

Stick with me, I have faith in this one!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Between Losses

Mixed Media Journal Page
Michelle O'Connor Studio

Here is a poem I found in a Collection of Women's Poetry called Claiming the Spirit edited by Marilyn Sewel.
I've always said that life is what happens in between the tragedies so take the good moments and cherish them.
For anyone who has suffered loss in their life, it is a poem that sums up the moments in between grief and loss.

Between Losses

Judy Goldman

There is a time between losses,
days with blank pages, when clapping
is permitted and singing and dancing,
even the kind of madness that tells you to wear fireflies in your hair.
I am talking about the time
when no one is dying
and journeys are something to be planned for.
It is nothing like your dreams
which only remind you
of the strangeness of things,
I mean the dreams of the night,
not the dreams you are born with.
Sometimes it takes awhile
before you can say the names of the ones
who have left, before you can be sure
nobody else is thinking of turning away.
This morning you slide in beside me
and as I listen to you breathe
I think of our wedding
and the two young people
who ran down the steps of my parents' house.
We thought that day was a conclusion.
Nobody told us it was simply a time
between losses, when rice was something
to be held in the hand
before letting it fly for the camera.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Encaustic effects with Acrylics Progression

I've been busy exploring the possibilities of using Acrylic paints and Gel Mediums to create an encaustic effect but my skills are obviously very green. It didn't help that the tutorials I was trying to watch weren't streaming well and I got frustrated and decided to just try my own thing. As a result, this experiment is going in lots of directions but I'm having fun with the materials and trying to remain mindful (always) of the composition.
I've used a variety of mediums here including Matte Heavy Gel, different color tissue papers, acrylic paint, acrylic paint thinned to a stain, string, and a couple of metallic paints (gold guache and bronze patio paint) rubbed into some of the textures which I thought created a neat effect.
I think I've exhausted the mediums and it is time to think about subject matter.
I'm stuck.