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Me: Part 2

Us and boysAfter a couple of years in the country, we relocated back to Nashville where I went through two years of high school before another move to Murfreesboro, an hour south of Nashville. During my high school, I got involved in school programs, ranging from sports – basketball, track and swimming – to acting (yes, acting!) and church (I was secretary of our CYO group) and even earned a 100 hour badge as a candystriper volunteering at the local V.A. hospital.

Despite all these activities, the transition to Murfreesboro was tough since I’d left some close, wonderful friends behind during a crucial time in my teenage years to try to gain acceptance in a school where most everyone had grown up together. I processed my feelings in writing and escaped into books even more. In fact, I often got in trouble for reading off-topic in class — even honors English class.

I absolutely loved writing and felt comfortable doing so. So much so, that in college, I frequently wrote other student’s term papers along with my own.  I left school to earn a paycheck, married young and soon had a couple of children and life as a stay at home mom bringing in a little side money as a sportswriter for a local weekly paper and then working as a stringer for another local newspaper.

My tumultuous six-year-marriage ended so I entered the ranks of the 9-5 employed in customer service. A few years later I remarried a wonderful man — my best friend — and continued to work, too busy to write. I returned to school and received a B.A. (cum laude, I might add) in Mass Comm from Middle Tennessee State University. While there, I was writing for the school newspaper and as a stringer with the Tennessean, covering some random stories from a major pollution issue to the cotton crop’s prospects to tragedies such as a young boy dying from diabetes.

After graduating, I moved into a fulltime reporters role with a suburban Nashville daily paper and wrote for a few years longer before deciding a corporate communications job would be more lucrative. I simultaneously joined forces with a friend of my brothers and co-wrote a screenplay and, with my partner’s approval, wrote the subsequent novel based on the story. It gathered dust on a shelf as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raged on but I’m glad to say became my first published novel, Empty Sky, which was finally published in 2014.

The art came into play this way: My two sons joined different branches of the military and served in Iraq. They both served in the infantry and both were embroiled in some of the worst fighting during our years there. My eldest, a Marine, was in Nasariyah in the beginning of the war which was described as “a Turkey Shoot, with our Marines as the targets.”  My younger son was in the mechanized infantry in Anbar Province where half-ton IEDs were the widow-makers and son-stealers.

I’ll be honest. It unbalanced me for a few years. Not that I became a raging alcoholic or ended up in an institution. Rather, I let anger and outrage over what I perceived as an egregiously ill-advised course of action eat away at me. I was bitter and intense and outspoken and not a pleasant person to be around.

Then I found art.

My sons were stateside and safe and I was able to let down my guard. With a makeshift studio beckoning, I taught myself some basics and took classes and workshops and found a community of fellow artists to paint with.  It was the release I needed and at once my soul felt so much lighter!

Technological advances sent my consulting business the way of travel agencies, and forced me to find steady employment. I did, and have since moved to Florida with my husband. Thankfully, we have a great home with a great studio and separate office where I can paint or write as is my inclination. I decided after finally publishing Empty Sky last year to take a stab at completing the sketch of another story I’d started years ago. Over this past several months I finished it. It is my sweet second novel The Gray Lady of Long Branch and it’s being released August 25.  I hope you’ll consider reading it!

 

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Coming home

Our new home
Our new home

Here I sit on the last night before we close on the purchase of our lovely new home in a pleasant and serene community in Central Florida.  It’s been a long journey, both figuratively and metaphorically speaking.  I left our comfortable Tennessee home last June to take a great job in Florida.  The dog and I started with an air mattress and folding table in a tiny, hot second floor apartment with a kitchen smaller than the size of our former master bathroom!  Hubby extraordinaire (David) joined us after sprucing up and selling the house in September when 90% of our belongings were placed in storage.  The remaining items and the three of us were crammed into that small space with little light or room to breathe.

After getting most everything packed up and ready for the move for the second time in less than a year, here I sit tonight, processing this journey. I am so filled with emotion knowing it’s about to reach its end. Or start, as it were.  It will mean a chance to settle into a home we love in an area that abounds in glorious flora and fauna. And it will mean a chance to unpack all the art supplies and materials and books and inspirational mementos I have missed for so.very.long.

My soul is tingling with anticipation and excitement as if ready to meet a new lover for a secret tryst. But this is real and is out in the light of day. It is due, in some part, to those sacrifices we made these past nine months. And it is due to my starting at the bottom again, two years ago taking a job in retail with meager pay hoping it might just lead to something more fulfilling, which, thankfully it did!

After the signing of countless documents and the tiresome humping of boxes and driving back and forth, will come the joy and pleasure.  First, the unpacking of boxes filled with items nearly forgotten for the better part of a year.  Then, the digging in and getting back to that which I love more than nearly everything else on earth (except my kids, husband and hound): making art.

If all goes well, you may not hear from me for another three months!

Signing off,

Maura

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The all-important studio-to-coffeepot distance!

As I was putting on a pot of java to brew, I realized how lucky I am to have a studio where I can create and – more importantly – not have to move things, pick up and put away because it is NOT a dual space.  Most of my fellow CANN members are not so lucky and I feel for them and all out there who don’t have a studio of one’s own.

My eyes remain wonky at times although I went back to the eye doctor for a checkup.  He told me I’ve been doing the eye exercises wrong, so I’m working on doing them better.  We’ll see.  If no improvement, it’s onto a neuro or ENT specialist, I think.  So this blogpost is more links than direct info, mea culpa…

Anyway, back to the home studio theme of today’s blog.  I decided to put in some research and found a few interesting links, below, that might offer advice for those considering one of their own or that, like me already have one but want to improve it.

Cherylscott’s e-how contribution describes blurring the borders so one can create anywhere in the home.

This Esortment article lists and explains the whys behind some of the necessities to consider in setting up a home studio, but I prefer

Urbanpaintbrush’s explanations, images and details better.   In fact, I just happened on that site for this blog post and methinks I’ll be paying many more visits there in the future!  (LOVE IT!)

But the Award for best detail of stuff needed, definitely goes to Jennifer Young who hails from Richmond, Virginia.  Great explanations and information, Jennifer and all.

Now, back to the title of this post.  My studio is in an addition we built in July, 2003.  I remember the timing well because we needed a room to bed my oldest son Kris and four other Marine infantrymen he was returning home with for a visit after his first tour in Iraq.   From wartime recollections to making art.  I’m glad we’ve been able to make that transition.  And the measurement, by the way, is seven steps and if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading for another mugful right now!

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>Four artists, my house = a great day of painting

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Can I just say I was in my element today?  I mean, there I was, painting, in my home, with three of my dearest friends painting along with me!  Oooh!  Heaven! 

Lucilla, Margot, and Lynne that I paint with at the Centennial Park Gallery and Art Center joined me for the day since it’s “Summer vacation” there in that program. 
We spread out on the dining room table and all worked on watercolors together.  At the start, Lynne gave Lucilla and I a lesson in loosey goosey watercolor work on sunflowers.  You can see her gorgeous rendition in the photo above.  After we picked her brain clean, we started in on Margot who shared with us her style of painting mountain landscapes.  I’ll post a photo of that at the bottom after I’ve finished working mine to publishable status in the next day or two.  But it was just a grand time with the girls.  While Margot was teaching us, Lynne moved her stuff to the floor.  She says she finds it more comfortable spreading out that way.  In the lower left of the photo you can see another fabulous – I mean truly grand – floral watercolor she did right there in about 2 hours time.

At lunchtime, we dined, perversely, in my studio on a card table set up there so we didn’t have to move a thing.  I had prepared a Chicken Broccoli Braid (and putting the link here is a test to see if Lynne really does read my blog since she’s been after me for the recipe).  We also had some great watermelon and a fantastic roasted stone fruit and rosemary dessert that was to die for. 

There, together, both painting and dining, we all discussed the merits of certain paint colors, the different manufacturers (Lynne is a huge fan of and exclusively uses American Journey by Cheap Joes now with the exception of one – Shadow Green, produced by  Holbein), our favorite brushes and even paper too.  Ironically, for not having to pay a workshop or class fee, I got far more out of our day of “studio time” than many other times.  And it occurred to me, Lynne would be a tremendous spokesperson for American Journeys. 

I am whipped now, though, so, as Lucilla would say (and squeeze her fingers together and spread them out), Caiou! 

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>Do try this at home!

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At least that is what I’ve found… Working in my own studio, I feel comfortable and can explore on things that might seem too ambitious for a 3-5 hour class where I have to tote all the gear in, subject myself to Hazel’s criticism, and work with limitations of size and scope.

So over this weekend, I tackled this lovely piece – it’s a 16 x 20 acrylic based on a photograph I saw recently and just loved because of the colors. I love the simplicity of it too. What do you think?

I am giving it to my older son, Kris, who has a small but bare apartment in Brooklyn Heights, NY. He needs color and I need space! I hope he loves it!