I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.
Good designs sell – mine sell out!

http://www.artbyhensley.com/index.html

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Jump"


I jumped off a bridge by Daniel’s Park when I was a teenager.  I was fairly sure that was really stupid, but bigger, older kids were doing it, and sometimes we just have to know the answer to the question “Would you jump off a bridge if somebody told you to do it?”  Obviously, yes.  I suppose we could put this into the category of a whole lot of other really stupid things that young people (okay, that was me) can’t recognize as completely stupid.  I have to admit I love the feeling of a free fall, at least until the moment of impact.  There was a time in college when I wore very high stiletto heels for a fancy date, and then hit some ice at the top of a flight of steps.  That glorious second or two of free fall was exhilarating.  It was even a little hilarious when I realized that my pretty dress was covering my face instead of my legs, but then the shock subsided and let my pain response into my brain.  Ow… Ow and embarrassment.  What a horrible combination!  I wonder if this had anything to do with why he didn’t call?

I jumped off the Fairport Harbor lighthouse a lot of times.  Climbing to the point of departure was okay.  The problem came when I was standing 30 or 40 feet above Lake Erie waves splashing against the giant rocks of the breakwall and I started to realize the insanity of my adventure, but by that time I had other reckless teenagers lined up behind me chanting “Jump, jump, JUMP!!!” because they wanted their turn at stupidity.  The first jump was always the hardest, but once I got the rush and accomplishment, I couldn’t wait to climb up the lighthouse again to do it again.  I’d keep doing it until my legs got wobbly from all the climbing, and then I’d have to sit out for a while watching the other idiots jump into the water.  When I was rested enough, I’d climb back up and face the same terrorizing feelings I had the first time I looked at the water crashing on the rocks and realizing the foolishness of it all – until I jumped again and ended up in another joyful cycle of climbing and jumping.

There are people who would never jump off a lighthouse.  Some people like that have pointed out moments in my life that have inspired them because I took risks they can’t imagine taking.  They don’t seem to notice that not all of my risks pay off.  At times I feel a little envy that they have nice, secure, predictable lives, but most of the time I think it takes all types to run the world.  Sometimes I think I’m standing on the edge of the lighthouse too afraid to jump, but remembering the joys of a free fall, I know that I’ll do it eventually, or hope that I will, or really hope that at some point in my life I’ll learn something about safety.

My first thought when I saw “jump” as the word for the week was a series of hospital visits for myself and others.  Obviously, jumping isn’t a good idea a lot of the time.  Sometimes having our feet planted securely on the ground is a very good thing, and sometimes I really need to remind myself of that.  On the other hand, my greatest successes were the results of my greatest risks.  I could’ve stayed forever at my first job at a regional newspaper.  There wouldn’t have been a whole lot of glory in it, but it would’ve been secure.  It’s one of the few companies that I’ve worked for that’s actually still in business.  But no, I left it for an ad agency who laid me off just months after I started working there.  In an unemployment panic, I took a job at an art studio.  Way cool place to work, but I didn’t get paid much for the privilege.  And so on.  Risks, rewards, punishments.  I can look at my resume with some pride and some memories of disasters, but I racked up some cool credits along the way.

The same kind of mental contest between security and risk taking happens all the time in art.  Should we play it safe or tempt a client with risk?  It’s always a gamble how things are going to pay off, but we never know how it will work out unless we’re willing to jump.


Friday, April 20, 2012

"Heights"

Sometimes I wonder where the magic dividing line lies between telling my stories and trespassing on somebody else’s privacy. For instance, my sister climbed a fire tower when we were little. Our family was camping in a remote place where fire towers exist. These are monumental structures where you can climb up thousands of steps above the tree line to make sure there isn’t any smoke in the forest. I’m not really sure why they build these things since I’m pretty sure there’s never been a forest fire east of the Mississippi or north of the Great Lakes, but we have fire towers, and my sister decided to climb one. She climbed it from the outside, which was basically a suicide mission on roughhewn timber scaffolding. So this is Sis’ story, except since Sis was a trendsetter for me, I followed. Then it became my story too.

Sis said once that I’m always the hero in my stories. Well of course! They’re my stories. If she wants to be the heroine, she should write her own stories. Why would I point out stupid stuff I initiated? There’s no glory in telling about the time I convinced my little brother to put a darning needle into the electrical outlet, even though the results did satisfy my scientific curiosity. It just goes to show that I had a sense of self-preservation not shared by at least a couple of my siblings.

For some reason, our parents didn’t approve of our spirit of exploration. I got yelled at for electrocuting my brother, and Dad almost had a heart attack when he saw Sis and I hanging off the fire tower. I suppose it’s kind of amazing he didn’t have a heart attack when he ran up all those thousands of stairs and through the supporting scaffolding to pluck us off the thing.

So is that Sis’ story or mine? At that age I’m not sure I really understood we weren’t two incarnations of the same person, or maybe she was my wicked twin, or possibly the person I wanted to become. My siblings were at least as important to my formation as our parents or anyone else in our lives. I have two older sisters, and both of them provided examples for me to follow with friends, boys, and fire towers. How can I talk about my experiences without crossing that magic line of discussing their lives too?

This subject came up recently when someone (not Sis), called to censor this blog – ironically the “vocal” week when I described how I had been told to be quiet too many times. It isn’t that I’ve said anything untrue, I’m just not supposed to talk about certain things. For instance, saying that my childhood friend was killed or calling my skinny grandma (SG) “evil” is out of bounds. It doesn’t matter that my friend’s murder was in the paper and is common knowledge. Shhh. It doesn’t matter that I disliked SG, my censor liked her and that’s the important thing. Besides, the internet is forever. Time for a refresher course in “Be quiet!”

No.

In some ways, writing takes more courage than climbing a fire tower. I was young and athletic when I climbed the tower, and pretty sure I wasn’t going to die doing it. Writing can open me up to criticism and expose my tender feelings, but as I told my censor, I have a right to my feelings. If it goes down in infinity that I loved Fat Grandma (FG) and disliked SG, why can’t I say so? FG fed me homemade blueberry waffles, and SG tried to make me eat the rabbit that I played with that day. SG put chopped carrots and celery in Jell-o, and FG made cookies. SG hit me, FG hugged me. Really, isn’t it easy to see which side of this I would choose? If it goes into the permanent internet record that SG hit me, is it my fault for writing about it, or hers for doing it in the first place?

Mostly, I like this blog to be a happy place. I can rise above and mostly talk about happy topics. I know people don’t want to be brought down by my ghosts, but sometimes the negative stories are funny, and people like to laugh. I mean really, once you get past the horror of carrots and celery in Jell-o, can’t you laugh about it? Well, even if you can’t, there are always cookies…

Grandma Lee’s Date Roll Cookies

Cream:
1 cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs

Add:
4 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Roll into a rectangle, then spread with this cooked and cooled filling:
7 ounces of chopped dates
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped nuts

Roll into a log, wrap in waxed paper, and chill.Slice into individual cookies and bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Puzzled"

My dad and I went across the street and hauled many loads of rocks from the river to make stone paths around our house. It was a fun puzzle we did together, and I liked our earnest consultations as we matched up mismatched stone. I suppose these pleasant memories are why I like to paint rocks in my quiet time.

I painted “My Turtle Floor” quite a few years ago to hide the fact that the wood floor was in dire need of refinishing. I stretched canvas over the floor, painted it with acrylics, and finished it with varnish on top. Years of dog toes scratched it, so once in a while I’d retouch and revise the painting, with polyurethane over the top of that. I’m still unsure if it would’ve been better to stick with varnish, or maybe I should’ve used polyurethane from the beginning, but it is what it is. It stayed on the floor until my horrible plumbing disaster a couple years ago. I had to take up the canvas in order to dry out the wood floor, and it seemed like a good time to retire the canvas to my storage room upstairs. I miss it though. I’m thinking about painting a new floor covering.

In the meantime, I thought maybe I’d do an easier project to lighten up the dining room and painted a new table covering this week. I also thought I’d actually try to show it in progress since I made fun of my own layout last week, and yes, that is another fine layout on a paper plate.

I painted the solid colors first, and painted white swirls and stars in the yellow center field. Then I went out to my mulberry tree which has always given me great leaves for prints. Oops! I forgot that it isn’t summer yet, so no mulberry leaves. I wandered around the yard for a while, but daffodil leaves weren’t going to do it.

I abandoned ship and went to the river instead where I found this leaf. I don’t know what it’s called, so don’t ask me. There are always a lot of them though, and they have heavy veins, which is necessary for good prints. I went back home and did the following steps: 1. Painted the back of the leaf 2. Pressed the wet side down on the canvas 3. Pulled the leaf off. I kept doing that until the leaf fell apart and I wanted smaller leaves. Back in the yard to find wild cherry and strawberry leaves. You can’t say I don’t suffer for my art. I’m allergic to strawberry leaves.

So, after a lot of painting and pressing and very messy hands, I had a pleasant leaf border, and tidied up the edges by painting the borders. Voila! Done! Except I have a glass cover for the table, and it seems like a bad idea to let the glass sit directly on the canvas. Besides, I recently found a bag of silk flowers upstairs, and thought those would be pretty in the border. The flowers didn’t really hold the glass off the canvas though, so I stuck them in spare plumbing washers I had in the basement.

And since I’m thinking about rocks and puzzles and spending time at the river, I thought I’d add this just for fun. When Dad and I got done making stone walks all over the place, I still had some energy for rock moving. Dad suggested I dam the river. Okay. Obviously I was easily suggestible or had absolutely nothing else to do, but I’ve got proof that I dammed it. I actually got the water to rise about 3 or 4 inches upstream until the spring floods washed it away. So I dammed it again. Did I mention I had absolutely nothing else to do? I even took it apart and redammed it with mud reinforcements the third and last time.

Revision
My friend Phil read my post and suggested using coins to lift the glass off of the canvas. I liked his idea, so I made a ring of quarters around the table. I figure this reminds me about making money, plus regular quarters have eagles on the backs, and eagles are always a good thing. I alternated the eagles with the commemorative quarters that celebrate the different states in the US. I figure that reminds me that I have traveled, and need to do more of it. A happy solution all the way around. Thanks Phil!

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Friday, April 6, 2012

"Vocal"

When I was a child, girls wore dresses and knee socks in blizzards. Since we lived in the sticks, we had to wait for a bus to pick us up for school, and had to wait 30 minutes before we were allowed to give it up and go home. We didn’t get curb service either. We had to walk to the bus stop at the end of the street where there wasn’t any shelter so we could fully appreciate the various stages of frost bite. I resented and envied boys’ sensible shoes and pants, but I wasn’t supposed to talk about that. This is the way life is. Be quiet. Quit asking questions about why that’s the way life is.

If I raised my hand in Sunday school, the teacher barely contained her exasperation, but “that’s the way it is” and “be quiet” didn’t answer my spiritual questions, the same way those kinds of answers in regular school didn’t advance my education. My evil, skinny grandmother punished me for beating my cousin in checkers. I suppose it didn’t help that he was several years older than me, or that it was 5 or 6 games in a row, but why shouldn’t I win the game if I could? “Let boys win!” “But why?” “That’s the way it is!”

I could come up with more moments of suppression, but I think you get the point. I’ll skip over the lingering resentments about being the oh-damn-it’s-another-girl in the family, just before the golden penis was born. Besides, most girls my age or older know the story anyway. A lot of women didn’t drive, work, or have the ability to do anything without the permission of men. If we really wanted some independence, we could be a teacher, secretary, or nurse. Otherwise, plan on getting married and using your body as a baby factory. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a good husband who won’t hit you and gives you trinkets every now and then.

The world changed as I was growing up. People started getting divorced. Women started working. People quit wearing hats to church. Life got psychedelic, then punk. Girls were now supposed to get a job, but some things hadn’t changed much. Some men felt threatened and took out their insecurities on women in their domain. I was told to “be quiet” by my female coworkers when I was upset a man kept sneaking behind me and grabbing me. “He’ll get tired of harassing you and start picking on someone else eventually.” The big boss wouldn’t reprimand the guy and I ended up threatening the offender with an X-Acto knife because I couldn’t concentrate on anything anymore. I felt betrayed by the women. Where was the solidarity? But women are often the hardest on other women. Get in line because that’s the way life is. Why? It just is.

Now, the world expects me to forget all of that stuff as ancient history. “Be quiet” isn’t acceptable anymore. “Get out there and sell yourself!” But sometimes that’s hard to do with decades of “be quiet” and “let boys win” programming, and the really annoying part of that piece of advice is that the boys didn’t even know we were letting them win. They actually thought they were better than the girls, which gave men the right to pay us less and pass us over for promotions, and since we were passed over, they can use our previous lowly positions as justification to pass us over again.

Don’t get me wrong, I like men, at least a lot of them. I just don’t like the chauvinism in society and sometimes struggle with my place in it. Sometimes I feel like I’ve lost my voice because I was told “be quiet” once, or maybe a thousand times too often. Besides, a lot of the people telling me to shut up were women: teachers, grandma, co-workers, etc. I felt furious with myself when I debated about whether or not to take a dive in Trivial Pursuits with a boyfriend. I was winning, but worried about his ego. He finally won fair and square, but I thought, what about my ego? I told him about my internal struggle, and he was upset I’d considered losing on purpose. Even though we’re the same age, by gender, we’ve lived in very separate universes. I compensated for my mental lapse by beating him at checkers. He didn’t like that either, but the world didn’t collapse. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have a right to my own voice and it’s okay to win.


BTW, I really like looking at other artists’ layouts and works in progress, but I thought I’d show why I don’t show too many of them myself. Yeah, that’s fine art on a paper plate :) I thought about Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” idea first, which might’ve been a happier post? In any case, you can listen to it here. I think it’s interesting that he remade the song as the father. You can see that here.