Wednesday, November 14, 2007

1st Chunky Book Page

One of the first things I did when I joined the Art Unraveled group was to participate in a chunky book exchange which was then auctioned off in the silent auction at their conference. It was my first exchange ever and I had a lot of fun creating my page. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I see now that I had a lot on this small 4x4 page. But the point is that I jumped into the deep end of the pool and participated.

The background is made up of an American flag, subway tokens, and the head of the Statue of Liberty blindfolded. The words "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." And, "..with Liberty and Justice for ALL!"

A rainbow ribbon - representing the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgender) Community; red, white and blue yarn representing all Americans, a disc charm - one side blue with red & silver stars and one side red with a blue star - A red satin ribbon - representing HIV+ and AIDS (I have lost over 30 friends to this disease). The two bells hanging off this ribbon give voice to those whose voices have been silenced in death from this disease. *

We were asked to complete the back of the page. I painted it red and included the following words to go along with my page in the chunky book:

The Real America..."Disenfranchised"
I thought about the powerful words in the poem "The New Colossus" by Jewish American Emma Lazarus that adorns Lady Liberty and wondered if they still apply today? "...Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." And the phrase, "...with Liberty and Justice for All". Today have we changed that phrase to read "...with Liberty and Justice for Some"?

*Note: World AIDS day is December 1st - what can you do to stop the spread of AIDS worldwide?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Excitement on Gardner Street

This afternoon at about 2pm I heard an unusual amount of fire sirens - we always have some since there is a firehouse on our street. I stepped out on my terrace and could see a couple of trucks parked in front of the apartment next door. Couldn't see any smoke so went downstairs to get my mail. When I looked out the front door of the building I saw eight firetrucks lined up in front of our building with tons of firefighters everywhere. Next door on the north side of my building - also owned by the man who owns our building - were ladders going up to the roof and firefighters going up there with axes and fire hoses.

I found out from one of the firefighters that they got a 911 call that apartment #10 was on fire on the second floor (the top floor). No one was home but there were three pets inside - all rescued safely. They had to cut a hole in the roof - brand new only six months ago - and entered the apartment that way. No other apartments were damaged. All very disturbing - thankful that we were safe and that the weather has cooled down and the humidity is up unlike the weather a couple of weeks ago when the Malibu fires started.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Art Unraveled 2007

My name tag - Art Unraveled 2007

This past August I walked through my fears of not knowing how to do something and not being good at it and thanks to Linda Young signed up for an art conference called Art Unraveled - - that she started several years ago. I had no art experience and knew no one at the conference but felt drawn to go the more I read about it. I only signed up for three classes since this was my first time and I didn't want to be overwhelmed. From the moment I signed on to their website and met other artists online who encouraged me and welcomed me, I felt like I was home. When I arrived in Phoenix in the middle of the summer and met in person the friendliest, most generous group I have ever met in my life. It didn't matter that I was a beginner. It didn't matter that I didn't know anyone. All that mattered was that I showed up and was willing to try.

I had three extraordinary teachers:
First, I took Marney Makridakis' class - The Blissful Journal which fit right in with my Creative Coaching. She's a wonderful, warm, supportive artist and teacher, who has created a wonderful creative business called Artella - check it out at:

Marney Makridakis and husband Tony

Next I took Art Lab 101 from the amazing Sas Colby - - she had us think outside the box in how we approach art and the materials we use - like painting with ink and a stick we found or a feather - I loved how she was able to meet her students where they were in their art backgrounds and make everyone feel comfortable - especially me! I served as her assistant for this class. I believe in always giving back so volunteered to help before I traveled to the conference.

Sas Colby, artist/teacher - Art Lab 101

Classmates - Art Lab 101 with Sas Colby

And my last class was with Anne Grgich - - self-taught rebel painter extraordinaire - this was the first time I ever picked up a paintbrush or worked with paints - again, another teacher who said there are "no mistakes in art" and I took that to heart -

"House is not a Home" - my first attempt at painting w/collage embellishments

Experimenting with brush strokes and other painting techniques with collage added

Colorful Sunflowers

AU changed my life forever - I found a part of me that I didn't know existed - something I never would have found if I hadn't taken that initial leap of faith when I felt art tugging at my heartstrings - I am filled with gratitude to Linda, all the teachers and artists who touched my life and continue to do so. So take a chance - walk through your fear and see what's on the other side - sometimes fear is just excitement turned inside out. Please let me know about your adventures.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Gift of Life...

The Getty Museum - Los Angeles

It has been brought home to me in the past few days and weeks how precious life is. We often don't take the time to stop and think about what a gift we have - no matter how rich or how poor in material things. The natural course of events of being born, living life to the fullest, and then in the decllining years eventually dying. That's how it's supposed to be. But for some of us obstacles are placed in our path and we are given choices about what to do with these challenges. There is always hope, unless we give up. Life might not look like we had dreamed it would, but with any action - no matter how small - we can change the course of events. When we choose to do nothing when a challenge is presented to us, there is no hope. I also believe that we can't do life alone. We must reach out and connect with others. Sometimes that is difficult but it is my experience that choosing to isolate, not ask for help, or to believe that something will happen to change our situation, if we only wish hard enough, is living in fantasy. Not letting go of pride and saving face, only leaves us lonely, sick and without hope. By reaching out, being willing to be willing, and getting humble sets the stage for change. We are telling the universe that we are willing to do our part - whatever that is and however how small - to move forward in our lives. Things begin to change when we take action - any action. But when we don't, we stay stuck. Solutions seem illusive or non-existant. People don't want to be around us. We project our depression and lack of motivation and mostly lack of hope.

Flowering plants on my terrace

Lately I have had older family members presented with health challenges. Never did they ever say, "poor me" and give up. They met their challenges head on and rose to the occassion doing whatever it takes to move forward. Their friends rallied around them, helped however they could, as did their families. And these are people who are eighty and above in age but never once gave up. They still have hope. They are inspirational.



Sunday, October 28, 2007

Congregation Kol Ami's 1st Shabbaton/Retreat

The finished Prayer Pocket Journals:

Me with my students:

Last weekend I attended my synagogue's first Shabbaton (Retreat) at the beautiful Shalom Institute camp in the Malibu mountains. I was the art director and writing teacher for the event (yikes!). Little did we know that we would have to evacuate on Sunday because the Malibu fires had started just down the road from our camp and we had to leave via a back route to avoid the fires near Pepperdine University! Luckily, I was able to teach my art class on Saturday. It was so much fun teaching the class and as you will see, everyone was creative in their journals. Most in the group had never done anything like this but all enjoyed the process. The pages were made from paper bags and I encouraged people to use any found objects from nature that they found on the ground.

Blessing Bags:

At the opening announcements on the first day, I shared that up near our art area I had "clothespinned" a paper bag with each attendees name on it. These were Blessing Bags and the object for the weekend was to get to know each person and write at least one positive thing for or about each person and put it in their bag. At the end of the weekend each person would be able to take their Blessing Bag home and have 40 positive notes to remind them of this Shabbaton. I watched as people sat and wrote little notes throughout the weekend. I loved walking to my cabin and seeing the Blessing Bags gently blowing in the hot breeze. On Saturday night after roasting marshmallows in a grill for 'some mores'(due to the fire danger - no campfires) I went to bed feeling good about my successful art class and the Blessing Bag exercise. I was looking forward to teaching my journal writing class the next morning. At about 3 am I woke up to the wind gusting loudly at my window but didn't give it a thought as I was exhausted from too much fresh air. (later found out the winds gusted up to 70 mph)The next morning I got up to go to breakfast. The smell of smoke was strong in camp and the Blessing Bags were gone. Only the clothespins hung on the line. My first thought was that someone took the bags down to save them from the strong wind. But when I got to breakfast my friends told me they had blown away in the night. I was so disappointed for everyone who was anticipating reading their notes. But then I was reminded that the Blessings had blown to G-d and that the real exercise was in the writing of the notes rather than what they said! Beautiful!!!

Students with works-in-progress:

Friday, October 26, 2007

I'm baaaaaaaaaack...

I know...I know....I need to blog on a regular basis...but life got in the way - I always hate when other bloggers say that but now I know exactly how they feel - hope the things I have to share with you will make up for my absence.

I have taught two classes since I last posted. One at a new spiritual bookstore in the NoHo Theatre district - Many Paths Bookstore ( and the other at my synagogue's first Shabbaton/Retreat in the Malibu mountains at Camp Shalom Institute ( I taught my "Prayer Pockets Journal" at each workshop. The second one with a Jewish slant to meet the needs of my students. My students were all so creative and we had such a good time creating art! I love teaching.

These are my students in my very first art class I taught at the Many Paths Bookstore in North Hollywood, CA. The workshop was "Prayer Pocket Journals" and my students said they were not artists but identified as mortgage brokers. Well, that might be their "day jobs" but I disagree with them not being artists!

The Fabulous Kenny - Bookstore Manager