The art and science of aromatherapy – essential oils and Alzheimer’s Disease

I’ve studied and used essential oils since 1989 and was actually teaching workshops on their uses way before I began teaching art workshops. In the late ’90s, Dr. Bill Kurtin and I partnered in sharing research-based information about aromatherapy with social agencies and college classes, and set up our informational website, called Chemaroma, in 2006.

Bill is a biochemist who chaired the Chemistry Department at Trinity University for many years. We’re married now, and since Bill retired from teaching, he’s had time to do more research on current studies about essential oils. He’s just written an article for our Chemaroma blog summarizing recent research on essential oils and Alzheimer’s Disease. Here’s the link to the complete article, which I think is wonderful and encouraging.

In his article, Bill writes, “The research . . ., as well as much work not mentioned, strongly suggest that EOs may provide an excellent alternative, natural, widely available, and inexpensive treatment for AD, particularly for easing the symptoms of the disease.” He writes for a general audience, who, like me, have trouble with scientific complexities – whew! It’s a fascinating premises that could help millions.

If you have not any in-depth reading on the science of aromatherapy and need an introduction, here’s a good background article from the University of Maryland Medical Center. And, or course, you can always go to our website, Chemaroma, for more info.

I’ve always relied on Clary Sage essential oil for getting past creative blocks – the name in Latin means “clear eye” – and its smell is intoxicating.  Here’s another take on essential oils from an artist on the Craftsy site.

Bill and I are especially interested in essential oil research that pertains to our aging population – anything that will help all of us stay alive, engaged, and creative longer is worth pursuing! Read and share the article, Are Essential Oils Useful in the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.” It’s a good one.

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In retrospect . . .

Delaware artist Rebecca Raubacher at her retrospective exhibit, Rehoboth Art League

What is a “retrospective”? In art-speak, it’s an exhibition showing the development of the work of a particular artist over a period of time. I met Rebecca Raubacher last Friday in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, at an event honoring her and her retrospective show at the Rehoboth Art League. Here’s one of her early drawings.

Debby, Rebecca Raubacher, 1976

Talking with her got me thinking about how our paths as artists change and build over the years. Rebecca has always been a consummate draftsman, and her current paintings have a lot of mixed media drawing techniques with oil sticks and metallic inks. Her themes of faces and figures has continued throughout her career.

Rebecca Raubacher, 2015, Watercolor, graphite, sepia ink, and metallic and opaque markers on paper 11 in x 14

So here’s the question for you – have you gone back recently and looked at your earlier work? (This is not a “have-you-gotten-better” question – who even knows what “better” is anyway.) And it doesn’t matter if you’ve been making art for one year or fifty. All of us choose what to keep and what to leave behind. That choosing and abandoning gives us our “style.”

Thanks to a house fire in ’83 (arg), I don’t have much of my earliest undergrad work back in the 60’s. I did take a photo of this piece called “Datachip” which I did in 1979. It’s hard to get a good photo of a drawing behind glass, but you get the idea.

Lyn Belisle, Datachip, graphite and PrismaColor, 24×30″, 1979

Shortly after that, I abandoned drawing for a while and started making a series of large-scale origami kimonos and other large collages which sold well in the ’80s and ’90s.

And like a lot of other artists, I was doing commercial art along the way, like these covers for the NEISD Community Education program – they were mostly collages, too:

And my love for clay has always followed me around – here’s a bowl I did in the 80’s – faces and clay!

So the things I’ve kept are clay, collage, images of faces, and earth colors. I’m still experimenting within those areas. And, overall, the idea of “shards” – constructing new things from small found objects, images and clues from the past, connects the dots for me.

Go back and look at your own work. What colors and themes and images predominate? I read a lot of those advice-for-artist blogs that say, “Get out of your comfort zone! If you like neutrals, go wild with color! If you like watercolor, try oils!” I don’t necessarily agree. Our style develops from our intuition about what we do best.

Our personal retrospective journey is just that, a journey. We take what we discover along the way and build on it. More likely than not, the work of other artists influences us but it doesn’t define us as we keep what resonates and forgo the rest.

So your homework is to find the oldest piece of personal artmaking that you have, and give it a good look. Post it on Facebook if you like! See what changes you’ve made. Think a bit about your personal retrospective. It’s fun and enlightening.

Georgia O’Keeffe, drawing of hand, age 14

 

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Zen and the art of fly fishing

I’m in love. If you had told me that I could stand in an icy stream for hours and be totally attentive and happy, I would not have believed you – that is, until I was introduced to the beauty of fly fishing in northern New Mexico last week.

My teacher was my husband’s grandson, William, who is plans to major in marine biology when he graduates from high school.

Grandson William explains how the line works

William is a smart and passionate fly fisherman, and ties his own flies. These are his, made of fur and feathers and wonderful stuff, very artful assemblages that mimic nature: 

William was patient with me in teaching the techniques, but more importantly, he taught me how meditative this kind of fishing is – it’s really not about catching fish, since fly fishing is a catch-and-release partnership – it’s more like a dance.

It’s about the observation of the water and the creatures that inhabit it.  And it ‘s about the ritual, such as threading the fly rod with the tippet, the leader, and the line, each of which has its purpose in a successful cast.  The purpose of the leader and tippet is to complete the transfer of energy built up in the fly line through the casting stroke through the line and down to the fly so that your line rolls over and straightens itself out if a fairly straight line. Wow.

I also want to learn to tie my own flies – talk about an art. William told me that there are two kinds- wet and dry. This is a dry fly, one he made and floated in a glass to show me how it mimics a mayfly.

Lest I get too zen-like about all of this, it’s also about getting your line stuck in a tree across the stream. AAcckk!! But William saved me by patiently untangling the line.

Quite honestly, I’ve been totally entranced by this. You are alone with your thoughts, your rod and your serenity. You hear the rushing water and you stand and you wait. You cast and you wait. It’s peaceful. It’s rhythmic. For someone like me who can’t sit still for a minute, this is a revelation.

I’ll never be more than a rank beginner – there are people who devote their lives to this – but the gift of this discovery for me is a peaceful mind, a spiritual concentration, and an immersion in natural rhythms. Thanks, William, for showing me something wonderful! I came back from the trip with a new energy and a feeling of accomplishment. 

My teacher, William, practicing his art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. . .that’s when I knew her name

One of my favorite poets and people, Pamela Ferguson, contacted me recently to see if I’d teach a Wax and Talisman workshop for her small group, and I said “Of course!”. Pamela had taken the Small Worlds workshop last March and I wrote about her work here in an earlier post.

Teaching this talisman workshop is so rewarding – it’s the subject of my latest ebook, and one of the most personal workshops that I offer. So I was excited to be teaching it “live,” especially when I found out that Pamela’s granddaughter Caitlyn would be in the group. It’s fun to see how different generations respond to an art challenge.

Pamela’s group came to the studio yesterday and we had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. The workshop has three components:

  • Personalizing the earthenware face piece and painting melted beeswax wax on the surface
  • Making rolled paper “blessing beads” and adding texture, beeswax, and metallic enhancements
  • Tying symbolic ribbons and cord to the focal piece and stringing the beads

Every step has meaning and intention. I asked the students to let their intuition lead them and to see what would happen. I also asked them to name their pieces when we finished.

This is Caitlyn’s piece – she is a senior in high school and very perceptive about herself and others. She adores her grandmother, Pamela.

Her blessing beads are beautiful, and I like the way she has grouped them at the bottom edge of the face. During discussion time, I asked Caitlyn what she had named her talisman. She said the name kept shifting as she got deeper and deeper into the process, but it had ended up as “Venus” – not what she’d expected. We all understood what she meant !

This morning, I got an email from Pamela saying how much they had enjoyed the workshop. Then she told me that Caitlyn had started talking about her talisman as they were driving home. Her words were almost an impromptu poem, which Pamela wrote down.

Read Caitlyn’s poem and look at the talisman she created which inspired it – lovely.

Talisman
by Caitlyn
Venus is her name –
    the two sides of her face
    the two sides of love
 
The light side has golden glow
The ribbons are bright, peachy,
      lots of strands, beads, charms.
 
The other side is dark –
the walnut stain soaked deeply.
The copper tear by her eye was accidental
      but love can cause pain.
That’s when I knew her name –
      the tear, the dark side.
And those ribbons are thin, stringy –
black, gray – sadder somehow.
 
I didn’t mean for her to be Venus
      the goddess of love
but that’s how she came out.

It’s all about trusting the process – letting go of what we expect and letting the intuitive take over. I’m very glad that Caitlyn’s work and poetry expresses this so perfectly – she didn’t mean for her to be Venus, the goddess of love, but that’s how she came out!

But wait, there’s more! Pamela, a published poet, had her own insight about the process. She sent me her poem this morning, as well – it’s titled “Paper Bead,” but it’s about much, much more.

Paper Bead

     by Pamela Ferguson

 

Cut a strip of paper,

long

narrow

Write a secret word,

a power word

a sacred one –

a promise – a passion –

a vision word.

 

Glue the strip

almost end to end

side to side.

Coat your word

with protection.

 

Lay a skewer on the almost end –

roll the strip onto the tiny dowel

until your word is cocooned within –

held by the power of your hands

the dowel

the glue.

 

Bedeck the roll with ribbon

or string or yarn-

chain or silk or sinew.

 

Seal in place with that most

basic of adherents –

pure, warm beeswax.

Coat the cocoon.

Seal your word

in the unique world you make

and remake each day.

Add its shape and your word

to your memory’s bliss.

 

Then do another.

 

Don’t you love the way the creative process works with work and words? I especially like Pamela’s last line, “Then do another.” It means that we can do this any time, this expressing our best thoughts through our art and our poetry. It’s so comforting and liberating.
Thanks, Pamela and Caitlyn, grandmother and granddaughter, for sharing your artwork and your poetry.
PS I’m always happy to arrange a small group workshop for you – you don’t even have to be an artist or a poet!

 

 

 

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Thoughts from SAAL&M Juror Bill Eiland

Did you enter the 87th San Antonio Art League Exhibition?  I did, and my fingers are crossed that I got in! We will know in a couple of days – however, I did get to meet the juror, William Eiland, at a dinner at our house last night.

Sorry, I have no inside track about who was accepted, but I did learn that the juror is absolutely delightful. I think you’ll agree when you see the video, below, in which the charming museum director from Georgia discusses everything from fried chicken to what makes a good submission to a juried art show.

 

Here are some photos from last night’s very informal, very enjoyable dinner.

Cappy and Suzy L:awton, SAAL&M's 2017 Art Patrons

Cappy and Suzy L:awton, SAAL&M’s 2017 Art Patrons

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Doris Walsh, Vikki Fields, Bill Eiland, and Richard Tietz

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SAAL&M President Helen Fey with Clarence Fey and David Johle

  I loved Bill Eiland’s advice to artists who enter juried shows:

  • Avoid sentimentality
  • Avoid cliches
  • Be true to your personal vision

Now, back to crossing my fingers that we all were accepted!!

New year, new workshops, new adventures . . yay!

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
           (Little Gidding)”― T.S. Eliot

It’s not quite the new year, but I’m already planning new workshops for the new studio. Some things will be changing. As I said in an earlier post,  the space is different, more like a home than a storefront, so our workshops will be limited to six instead of eight.

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Intuitive Collage workshop in the new studio on December 11th

When we work together, I want to concentrate on the incredibly satisfying Practice of Art (more about that later) and to bring you ideas that you’ll get excited about and use as catalysts to do more personal art on your own.

It’s fun to bring home a finished piece (and we will always do that) but that piece should be a springboard for you to use, change and claim as your own inspiration for something new. In other words, Steal Like an Artist!

Here’s the first of the new year’s workshops – it’s called Postcards to Myself, and it’s designed to send a message to yourself without knowing what you’re going to write in advance. All will be revealed through the process of layering collage and beeswax. Sounds like fun? I hope so! It’s also a good way to learn about using beeswax as a mixed-media tool.

And its hidden agenda is to get you excited about your own art. Click on the image below to go to the sign-up page.

postcards-copy

By the way, did you know today is Boxing Day? It’s celebrated in the UK and other places the day after Christmas. Here’s an entertaining article about its origins and somewhat goofy modern-day activities.

Six Color Christmas Bows isolated on white

My personal take on Boxing Day is to celebrate the old year by mentally “boxing up” last year’s memories, tying a silver bow around them, and packing them away in a special cupboard at back of my mind, clearing the boards for new adventures! What a year it was, what a year it will be! Thanks so much for being a part of it all.

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Secret spaces and free stuff from the Graphics Fairy

What do you think? Actually, this is not really the new studio space, but it has possibilities . . .

So I found a studio space. I can tell you just a few things about it at this point . . .

  • It’s very close to my new home – yay!
  • It’s cozy, smaller than the old studio, but still roomy
  • You’d never know it was there – it’s very hidden
  • The number five (my lucky number) played an important part in finding it

I’m in the process of moving this week and will keep in touch. With luck (and the creek don’t rise), I’ll offer a December workshop there. You SHARDS readers will be the first to know, I promise.

In the meantime, here’s a little creative inspiration from The Graphics Fairy. If you don’t know about this site, you should, especially if you work with collage and mixed-media. Here’s an example:

I’ve downloaded three more vintage scripts and graphics for you to print out (below), but you can search the Fairy’s site yourself to find many more. Just right-click on the images to copy them. They look especially cool printed out on tan parchment paper. Print ’em out, then rip ’em up and play with the pieces!

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 OK, back to moving – stay tuned!

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So much to show, so much to tell . . .

Saturday’s Show and Tell was one of the best – everything from Fairy Houses to paper-making to poetry. Michelle Belto‘s demonstration of how easy it is to make your own paper was a real eye-opener for those who’d never tried this process.

Her system is ingenious and can be done in a small space. Michelle will be teaching this method in an upcoming Artful Gathering class, but we got a Sneak Preview yesterday!

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There were lots of other fantastic S&T-ers, including the always-amazing Vicky Siptak, who showed a Fairy House that she had made for her granddaughter. It’s weatherproof to keep the fairies snug and warm in the garden, and it has its own guardian dragon. And our poets, Tom Schall and Harold Rodinsky, graced us with their eloquence. Take a look at the video:

For my own Show and Tell, I needed to share, sadly, that my space in Carousel Court will be closing at the end of October. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that my lease is up.

But I will continue having workshops (mixed media and pottery) and other gatherings in my new space soon – more to come on that. If you’ve been with me for five years or so, you’ll remember those workshops at my home studio and how much fun they were. Sometimes change is energizing, and the Studio (and SHARDS) will live on!

Wise One (detail) by Linda Rael

In the meantime, September is filled with workshops and shows, including the show that Linda Rael and I are having on September 9th and 10th. It’s called EARTHWORKS, and all of the pieces in this two-day show are inspired by natural materials. Please join us!

earthworks copy

In the next SHARDS post, I’ll show you some techniques that Lesta Frank and I developed last week while we were working on ideas for our Whiter Shades of Pale workshop. The September 17th workshop is full, but there will be another session offered in early October – stay tuned!

light angel

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I would SO fail . . . . . .

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One of the things that I’ve had time to do this month is poke around in thrift shops. I found this totally creepy set of stamps from the 50’s called “Grading Aids.” The idea is that you evaluate some poor kid’s work by stamping a scary clown face on their paper or drawing. No words, no comments, just a clown face. Ewww. That is wrong in so many ways.

Let’s apply these standards to the new abstract diptych that I just finished. It’s layered with symbol and calligraphy and paint and prayer and a mystical snake and all kinds of radical, goofy non-representational stuff.

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Well, first of all, it’s not neat. Damn, I hate it when that happens. The Clown is not pleased either. Look at those random spatters.

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It’s also obviously careless work – you can’t even read what it says – very poor penmanship (no matter that penmanship isn’t even taught anymore). The Clown disapproves.

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In fact, this painting is so unacceptable I might have to do it over – right, Clowny?

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Actually, I think I’ll do it over a bunch of times – I’ll do a whole SERIES of careless, messy joyful abstract paintings – take THAT, you stupid clown and all the rest of the inside-the-box thinkers that try to rubber stamp individual creativity. Hooray, back to the Studio – what an EXCELLENT idea!!

Happy creating, Everybody!

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