"We'll see how brave you are" (new tattoo)

09 February 2014

Last Friday, I got a long-awaited tattoo: "We'll see how brave you are"

I was done by Lu, at Quillian2 Tatouage, in Clermont-Ferrand, France, in my handwriting. 
(The rose tattoo is a few years old, and was done by Matt Lettau, in Elyria, Ohio.) 
... and for those who wonder, it's on my inner forearm.

 These words are an integral part of me,
they are written on the inside, and now, on the outside, as well.
This lyric, from the song "Yes, Anastasia" by Tori Amos (from the album, Under The Pink,) has been a powerful mantra for me throughout my life. I first heard the song in 1994, when I was 13, and it felt like lightning had struck me, right in the heart! This year is the 20th anniversary of the album, and so it's quite befitting that I should have it tattooed now, after so many years. 

These words have been a light for me, a source of great strength and encouragement, in all of the darkest times of my life, since that moment I first heard the song. They've helped me to get through some of the most horrendous moments, to make it through the times of my deepest despair, and most paralysing fear, when I felt that I would surely falter, and even times when I wasn't sure if I'd even live to cry about it later... 

"We'll see how brave you are" was there, and I held onto the music like the hand of an angel, and every time I've needed it, this lyric helped me to find the courage I didn't know I had.

Recently, this lyric has helped me to keep my shit together, 
when all I've wanted to do was crumble ...

In November, my mother died, suddenly. 
I've been running on a short supply of courage ever since. 
I wasn't emotionally prepared for this, not in the slightest, and being on the other side of the world made things complicated to arrange. I had no idea what to do, where to start... 
And most of all: how I was going to cope with the giant black hole that suddenly appeared in the center of my life.

When I was faced with arranging my mom's memorial service... with writing her obituary... 
with calling/e-mailing family & friends, to let them know about mom's death...
with making the gargantuan trip from central France to southern California,  then northern Ohio, and back...  At each step of the way,  I took deep breaths and said/thought/sung to myself: 
"We'll see how brave you are..." 
When it came time to go into my mom's home, and clear everything out... 
discovering just how bad her hoarding had become, then having to sort through it all ... 
finding little precious keepsakes I'd made for her... having to watch some of her paintings and her lifetime of collected memorabilia go into the trash bin...
 "We'll see how brave you are..." 

Facing my family and friends... keeping it together, making it through dinner and drinks,
"We'll see how brave you are..."

On the way to the memorial, writing the eulogy in the back seat of my aunt and uncle's car, my hands were so cold, and I was starring at that blank paper, with pen in hand, not knowing what was the right thing to say, what words could possibly be enough ... 
 "We'll see how brave you are..." 

Mom's memorial service...
 Stepping up onto the little stage, the light in my eyes, my heart in my throat...
"We'll see how brave you are..."

 Preparing the placement


...more photos are behind the cut :

Teaching mixed media art lessons at a local school

Last Tuesday, I had the marvelous adventure of  teaching mixed media lessons (in French!)  to two classes of students, approx 50 kids, around age 12,  at one of the local primary schools. What an amazing experience... and such educational experience, for me, too!

(student artwork: a still-life of paints, crayons, brushes, and a self portrait of the happy artist)

 I was invited by an acquaintance (merci!) who is part of the school's ¨Parent Association, to present the lessons as part of their annual International Week (this year's theme being Art and Sculpture). Never mind that I always swore "I will never teach!"; as per usual, of late, when asked, I said "yes!" without hesitation.  It's inevitable, maybe it's in the genes (I come from a line of teachers,) but no matter how many protestations and oaths I swears, I cannot elude teaching art... and now, not so secretly, I even enjoy it!

Both classes were French-as-a-second-language students, so there were quite a lot of Anglophones present, and much to their delight, I'm fluent in English, so I was able to translate for them, when needed. Of course, delivering my introduction and subsequent lessons in French was a bit scary for me... I've been a French speaker for about 7 years, but I still make a lot of mistakes, and I've never had to do any sort of public speaking en fran├žais. The fact that the students were, as a majority, not proficient French speakers, was a comfort for me.

I was asked to show examples of my work (no nudes, since some of the non-European kids' parents might object,) and then lead a lesson in "my style."  Of course, defining "my style" is a bit daunting, because I'm always experimenting, with both style and medium, so it's a bit difficult to define my art in terms of any one particular style.
Variety is the spice of life!

So, after looking over my recent work, I narrowed it down to a few styles that seemed to be where my art is going, these day...

I opted for a really textural (and a little messy!) style, which I have been using more frequently in my own work, that involves destroying old book pages, collaging them on paper, and then laying down a coat of gesso, before drawing with graphite pencil, and painting over the surface with both watersoluable crayons and watercolour paints.

(Sometimes, with this technique, I mix in coloured pencils, acrylic paint, glitter... but, for the purposes of this presentation, with such a limited time factor, I didn't want to over-complicate the lesson.)

Creation, beginning with destruction...

I thought, what 12 year old wouldn't love the opportunity to rip apart books and tear up the pages?! All but one of the kids got really into it, especially some of the boys, who nearly tore apart the bindings!

It was great to introduce them to gesso and watersoluable crayons, too, both of which were totally new to them.

 Watching each student's piece come together was really fascinating. I don't have children of my own, and since I'm an only-child (and my husband is not in contact with his siblings,) I don't have nieces and nephews, so my exposure to children's art mostly stopped once I became an adult.
I loved seeing how each child used the crayons differently, and how some of them were really careful and precious about collaging their paper, while others were haphazard and chaotic about the placement. It was so much fun to encourage them to totally destroy the pages, and then to pound down the collaged paper, before painting. FUN was exploding, all over the room!