Thursday, February 28, 2008

me, sick.

Not feeling well today...

Here is a photo of me, taken this morning.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Family Heirlooms


I know it's not big news, but here's another post about one of the brushes I use. Say you're excited?

My mother was an artist too; painter, sculptor and sometime potter. I inherited her brushes: all high-quality; some unusable; most, antiques! This brush stole my heart, if you can say that about a brush. I wanted you to see all the years of paint that are built up on the handle. It's beautiful.

I don't use it as much these days; I tend to use flat, wide brushes. And it seems about time to retire it. Maybe I'll have a little ceremony for it, along with the "Harvey Berin" pencil (from one of my mother's fashion illustration jobs in the 1940's)...
these are my family heirlooms.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Birthdays are weird...

or maybe they're just weird when you get older. Not that I'm getting so old, but let's just say I'm teetering dangerously close, I can't even say it.

But my problem is that I always want to do the Exactly Right Thing on my birthday, and that puts alot of pressure on me. So you'd think I'd be in the studio. But I wanted to take a day off. So I chose to head out to the mountain and ski; just a few runs. And it's beautiful out there; absolutely gorgeous. But what I realized yesterday, after 36 years of skiing (and still a timid intermediate) is that it's not My Thing. Not anymore. I'm giving up trying to be a Cool Skier Chick. I am choosing not to invest the time it would take to improve my skiing, because I'd rather invest it in becoming a better artist.

For awhile after I realized that, I was mad at myself for going out there, but then I realized:

I did the Exactly Right Thing for my birthday. And I feel so much lighter.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Creativity Habit

I'm just at the beginning of choreographer Twyla Tharp's book, "The Creativity Habit" and already I'm realizing how much I need it. Especially the lying in bed at 6:00 and wondering if I REALLY need to go to the gym...she swears that if I do this all the time, it will become ritualistic and I won't question it so much. To which I say, "ha ha".

But the other thing, the studio time:
I really am finding that going into the studio at set times is the only way to get in there. The act of creativity brings up a lot of whiny self doubt. (It can get ugly). So to just GO and BE. Much easier.

Some days are better than others...
and today's my birthday, so I'm going to do whatever I want.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cave Art

It's snowing, AGAIN. My studio is regaining it's snow-cave status (ice coming off the roof is meeting snow stacked up underneath) and that sort of dampens my enthusiasm to be out there.
If I didn't have the Underground Artists meeting in there this morning, I think I'd just stay in the house and bake banana bread instead.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Full Circle

"Phoenix", 2008
7" x 15" x 12"

Yesterday's post included a small photo of this papier mache/mixed media piece that I started well over a year ago. It was part of a series called "Mystical Receptacles". The forms were organic and undulating and somewhat pod-like, and I liked the idea of them, because they were sort of purposeless.

They were difficult to make, though. The papier mache layering went on for HOURS (not my favorite part of the process.) Some of them went through several incarnations, too, as I figured out what worked and more often, what didn't. With this piece, there was alot of "didn't". But I couldn't toss it. It still held promise, and besides, I liked the hanger-wire legs. Every so often, I'd do something different with it; just enough to keep me interested.

Yesterday I finished it, using recycled foil candy wrappers around the inner edge. The bright colors are reminiscent of my aunt and uncle's groovy living room rug, circa 1967. I'm almost inspired to do another! Or maybe not...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Inspiration & Relevance

artwork in progress by Melissa Lanitis Gregory

This post revolves around two things:

inspiration, and relevance.

Last night I dreampt about Madonna. I dream about her occasionally. It's odd when you consider that I don't like her songs much, but I find her strength and drive fascinating. When I woke up, I had some of those half-formed ideas that sometimes turn into art pieces. I ran out to the studio to turn the heat on, and do some thumbnails for a new series. Are these connected? I don't know, but I may want to figure that out... I'm working on revising my artist's statement, using Alsyon Stanfield's new book about promotion: "I'd Rather Be in the Studio". In it, she uses a series of questions designed to help artists get clear about the inspiration behind the work. How am I going to incorporate dreams of Madonna into an artist statement? Should be interesting.

my shoes

And relevance: This photo of my shoes seems irrelevant, but the fact is, I love the way the light comes through that sliding glass door, and shines through the screen that's leaning there. Noticing things like this, I photograph them. That's relevant to the creative process, just as relevant as the ideas that flew out of my head and into the sketchbook this morning; ideas for pieces that spring from my love of this place I live, and from the losses of last summer's Angora fire.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Alternative Gallery Spaces

As a born-and-raised New York girl, I loved this post on Alyson B. Stanfield's ArtBizBlog. (I just clicked on the link on her site that goes to the actual New York Times article, but as it's "yesterday's news", you have to register to read the whole thing. Read an excerpt at Alyson's blog).

It concerns a rather brave art gallery in chi-chi Chelsea. Here in Tahoe, we also suffer from a dearth of gallery space, and my friends and I are always trying to think of possible alternatives. If anyone has any great alternative gallery stories or suggestions, send it along!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Art That Goes "Boing"

Or, more specifically, Art That Goes "Boing" in Public.

The finished Underground Artists anniversary helmets, complete with a "boingy" bead at the top, were delivered to our "between-the-meetings" art meeting. This is a more informal get-together that we recently started doing, because meeting every two weeks is just TOO LONG a time to go without connecting with each other in person. Instead of getting together in my art studio, we meet at a local coffee house for a caffeine/sugar/support fix. Instead of focusing on art issues, we talk about "whatever". It helps.

Anyhoo, I brought the art helmets to Friday's group, and lucky for me, Kristen (aka "Scary") and Barbara (aka "Muddy") immediately put them on and wore them the entire time. (This is why I love these women.)

Reactions from other people in the cafe varied: I went up to the counter for something (okay, it was a cookie) and the young and humorless counter person pretended I was NOT wearing anything unusual. (Actually, I'm sure she sees alot of odd things in her job; maybe she's just jaded.) But other people looked over at us and smiled. One nice older gentleman came over and started talking to us, but by that time, I was ready to go and had on my Elmer Fudd hat (excellent for snowblowing!) and I think he commented on that first; but he did ask about the helmets. I loved that he was curious and open enough to start a conversation.

The intention was not to attract attention; the meeting was just the best way to deliver the art. But once we were there, and it became clear that we were going to WEAR them, it became an interesting experiment in people's reactions to my art.
What would your reaction have been?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Celebrating a Year of Underground Art

Okay, well, it was more like last week, BUT, the Underground Artists have been meeting for a year now, and as the founder, I felt like it was reason to celebrate. The group has been the most amazing experience, and it was important, I felt, to mark this anniversay, with, say, wearing a bowl on one's head.

Or, an Art Helmet.

These are the surprise I mentioned; I couldn't post photos here this week because Kristen would be reading. I made three of these; one for each of us. They're my unique brand of recycled paper/papier mache/mixed media art. On the backs, they're personalized. I'm actually running out the door right now, but here are pics!

This art group has been a huge gift for all of us. For anyone aspiring to move towards greater creativity, I highly recommend getting together with other like-minded creative people. It's been an amazing experience, and we can't wait to see what this year will look like...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mutant Cantaloupe

For all you know, I might be creating mutant fruit in my art studio... (note to self: file "mutant fruit" idea for future use.)

You don't get to see the whole thing until Friday...
so here's a cropped shot of one of the new art pieces. I'm using a different paper for the texture this time, and I like it.
It reminds me of cantaloupe.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bowls on Their Heads, part ii

Short post this morning; the boys are back from their trip and things are a bit of a mess here...

BUT... my friend obliged me by sending the photo of her Russian mother-in-law with one of my bowls on her head!

I love this picture, even though it's rather backlit.

See? Everybody likes to do this. Send me a photo of yourself with a bowl on your head and I will post it here! If it's one of my bowls, even better...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Artist Insomnia

Maybe you've experienced it: awake at 2:30 am, scribbling quick sketches or notes on the bedside pad...

Last night, my muse kicked in before I fell asleep at all, and quickly (and neatly, or so I thought) wrote a few lines before I forgot. Or worse, before I thought and thought and thought about the idea.

Later, I woke up again (or maybe I never really fell asleep) and thoughtfully turned the paper over, to write a bit more on the same subject. Brilliant! I then went to sleep.

This morning, I looked at the pad by my bed. Apparently, I'd had the super idea to turn the paper over BOTH times I'd written on it. It now says (and barely legibly, I might add):

"Absurdity? (arrow pointing down to illegible mess of words)
more 3D
new clockatforms 08
play w/MS
horns?dy art
nubby thing
(there's a scribbled design in here somewhere too)
pendulum less fits layers
within piece face?

I actually know what it all means. But alternatively, I could publish it as a poem.
(I'd show you a photo of the actual mess, but the boys are still gone with the camera!)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Oprah for President

No new photos today; Alan took the kids on a trip to Death Valley, leaving me camera-less and all alone... not that I mind. I love being left alone for awhile. (Although not TOO long... )

But that's okay, because I can't show you the new art helmets anyway... they're going to be a surprise, so don't say anything, okay? I'll post them for you to see when they're finished, which will be Friday, with some luck. It's somewhat of an excersise in how quickly an art helmet can get done, if it needed to... but that's not why I'm making these particular pieces.

(I can't tell you that either; it's a surprise, remember?)

In the meantime, with my noisy boys gone, I've had time to think about Alyson Stanfield's question she posed in her newsletter last week:

What does success as an artist mean to me?

I know I can answer this, but it's something that I FEEL more than something I can put into words, so I've been working it this week. It's been really hard to put the sensations onto paper. But there are some parts that are easier to articulate, like, oh, say: be on "Oprah". (ha!) I don't watch tv much, and never during the day, but somebody told me to tune in to her follow-up on "The Secret" last week, so I put it on while I made dinner....and you know what? I love Oprah. How can you not love Oprah?

But I digress. Success, my vision for my art; I'm still working with it. Got a couple more days before the boys come home and chaos resumes.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Papier Mache on Video

I found this beautiful video this morning, and wanted to share it. Leah de Prizio does incredible papier mache work. (Click on the arrow, then click again.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Studio Time, Skiing Time

papier mache and mixed media art helmet by Melissa Lanitis Gregory

Speaking of time spent in the art studio...(weren't we?), I didn't work in the studio on Tuesday. It was so beautiful and sunny and gorgeous out that I took the day off from making art, and took my kids skiing. But, art never leaves my mind for long, and I had one of those cool mini-epiphanies that's about something you already know, but it comes to you in a new and useful way.

I was watching my older son ski, and he's so comfortable and relaxed on his skiis; just looks like he was born on them (he practically was). And here's me: been skiing since I was eleven, now it's a few decades later (give or take) and I'm still just a solid intermediate. And (here's the mini-piph) I realize that it all comes down to the time one puts in. Even after all my years of skiing, he's got so much more time on his skiis than I do (especially since having kids!) that it's just second nature to him.

And, so it goes for the art. The more studio time you put in, the more you're going to feel comfortable on your skiis. No, wait... The more studio time you put in, the more comfortable you become with your art: how you make it, how you get it out in the world.

My husband is taking the boys skiing today. And where will I be? In my studio!

Bowls on Their Heads

Maybe I'm going to start a new blog. Maybe it will be titled "Bowls on Their Heads" and will feature all of the photos I can find of this phenomenom. Here's one. After all, that's how this whole "art helmet" idea started...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

You, an Art Helmet, and Some Chocolate

I finally got the gas stove fixed in the studio (couldn't get it going all weekend), which is a good thing as it's 5 below zero here this morning! I plan to go back in there today and start some new forms for a new batch of my recycled paper/papier mache art earrings....

Thanks, everyone, for all of your responses on the papier mache Art Helmets! (Seems like "My Viking Valentine" is a favorite.) If you'd like to have your photo taken with one of the helmets on, I am thinking of going up to Riverside Studios this weekend... I thought it would be fun to take some photos of people wearing the papier mache helmets. I'd like to be able to post them on the blog, if I can get folks to agree to that!

Whaddya say?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

History of Art (Helmets)

Paper Moon Studio

I thought I'd take a break from shoveling out the art studio to go on a bit about the art helmets featured in the previous post. What causes an otherwise sane person (hmm... that might be a stretch) to create a papier mache/mixed media art helmet in the first place? And why should we care?

papier mache and mixed media art helmet by Melissa Lanitis Gregory

To begin with, let me just say this: the Chinese were the first to make papier mache, and they used it to make helmets that were USED IN BATTLE. (Alot of varnish?) Pretty amazing. So we can all breathe a sigh of relief: these art helmets are (mostly) for decoration.

I didn't start out to make art helmets. But one day, my son turned over one of my papier mache bowls, and stuck it on his head. Okay, he's seven... these things happen. But then my friend's 60-something Russian mom? There was something going on here. People just wanted to put things on their heads, apparently. So, I make art helmets now.

This latest batch was completed under a deadline, so I finished all three of them in about two weeks. Things were going great until I decided to add pastels on top of the acrylic paints; they need a spray fixative (my acrylic varnish smears them) so I frantically ran to the college bookstore (only source for art supplies here) and hurriedly applied a thin layer under less-than-perfect conditions. It didn't work, but you'd never know unless I told you. Oops. I just did.

The best part about completing these, though, was when I delivered them to Riverside Studios last week; Lorien, the jeweler, came in and immediately stuck "My Viking Valentine" on her head. She turned around with a big smile on her face.


Read an article about the helmets at the Tahoe Arts & Mountain Culture website.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Art Helmets: Every Valentine's Dream

papier mache and mixed media art by Melissa Lanitis Gregory

papier mache and mixed media art by Melissa Lanitis Gregory

Well, they may not be dreaming of them YET, but these papier mache and mixed media pieces will soon replace heart-shaped boxes of just wait!

So here they are: "My Viking Valentine", "Sonnet Bonnet", and "Love's Labours", created for Riverside Studios' February show, "Cupid's Courtyard".
Riverside Studios is a cool shop/gallery located in Truckee, California at 10374 Donner Pass Road. Besides the month-long Valentine's theme, they are having a special "Wine and Chocolate" event on February 9th; if you're in the area, stop by, eat a bonbon, and try on a helmet! (For more info: (530)587-3789.)