2017 Ray of Light Series (update)

I've been wanting to give you an update on the Ray of Light Interview Series that I embarked on at the beginning of this calendar year (click here to access all of the interviews). I dreamt up the project in early 2016 and put it into motion on New Year's Day 2017. Self-imposed creative assignments are my jam, really (see here, here and here). The idea was to feature a woman in recovery from alcohol each week (on Friday) for the entire 2017 calendar year. It would be fun! It would be interesting! It would expand me as an artist! 

It would also teach me a shit ton about my ability to procrastinate and how to (eventually) ask for help - two things that I just so happen to have a hard time with in my life and in my own recovery. This project would serve as a much needed teacher.

25 beautiful, strong, fierce, determined, epic women in recovery that I featured from the first half of this year

25 beautiful, strong, fierce, determined, epic women in recovery that I featured from the first half of this year

The series started off quiet and slow for me. I asked my nearest and dearest friends in recovery to participate in the interview process, which was really just a few simple questions that I put into a google doc. I emailed the document to them and asked them to fill in their answers and send me a couple of photos of themselves that they LOVED, so that I could get started on the artwork.

Once I received those interviews back, I would lightly edit, format and transfer the information to this blog space and proceed to add links to all of the resources they would mention. I wanted the interviews to be an easy way for my readers to click on a link and be able to access the teachers, books and websites that the women mentioned in their interviews that aided them along their paths to recovery.

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The artwork was an entirely different animal. I started out big with 8" x 8" wood panels and eventually found my comfort zone with the wood panels that were 4" and 5" square. Smaller became more manageable, especially as the weeks started stacking up.

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Adhesives would turn out to be the bane of my existence with this project. I would try everything from Modge Podge to matte medium to glue sticks to spray varnishes and adhesives to UV-resistant clear acrylic coating - all with random unpredictability and unreliability. There was always a 50/50 chance if it would work out and that caused me a great deal of stress.

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Sometimes the adhesive would work beautifully.

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And other times... they would not.

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Sometimes the glue would discolor the women's faces. Not immediately, but slowly over time.

Nicole's face would eventually get some dark spots on it because of the adhesive/glue used underneath. Sorry, Nicole. I was just learning.

Nicole's face would eventually get some dark spots on it because of the adhesive/glue used underneath. Sorry, Nicole. I was just learning.

About three months  into this project, I stopped using a top coat spray varnish because the paper would inevitably react to it by bubbling up and forcing me to say a lot of swear words. 

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I started cutting out the women's silhouettes and using the negative space of the exposed pine behind the image to good effect. I would then tape off lines with 1/2" wide removable magic tape before applying colorful rays of light using acrylic paint.

Around the end of June, I would realize that all of the artwork would need to be done this way. Silhouette cutout, rays of color projecting from the woman and I was now on the hunt for an adhesive that would work like a charm.

I had to ask for help.

I reached out to my sober social media tribe and one friend, a graphic designer, would give me the advice I had been searching for since January. It wouldn't be fancy. It wouldn't be glamorous. It would be very utilitarian and it would work like no other.

Rubber cement and the lifesaving rubber cement eraser.

Rubber cement and the lifesaving rubber cement eraser.

Rubber cement would restore me to sanity.

So, that's where I'm at with the mixed media pieces. I'm nine interviews into the second half of the year and I'm no longer struggling with the collage-like aspect to the artwork, the negative space or the glues + adhesives.

Things are starting to flow.

This entire project has really helped me to face up to my dilly-dallying, too. I used to wait until Thursday, the night before I was due to post, to do the artwork and edit the interviews. I would find myself up until midnight trying to get it all done and getting pissed off at myself for putting off the work until the absolute last minute.

It felt good to have the gals hanging on my studio wall while I worked.

It felt good to have the gals hanging on my studio wall while I worked.

The women deserved better than that from me.

Hell, I deserved better than that, too. I just had to focus on prioritizing the work. Procrastination is a long-standing issue of mine. I wait until the last minute to pay bills, make a phone call or fill up my gas tank. All the while, this procrastination causes me a good deal of mental anguish (not unlike when i was trying to moderate my drinking). It had to end. 

I'm happy to report I'm two weeks ahead of schedule on the series as of right now. I'm learning so much about the women I'm featuring each week and all of the different ways in which they have recovered parts of themselves, their lives. I'm inspired by their fortitude and stone-cold honesty. I'm indebted to them for selflessly helping me with this project and asking for nothing in return.

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Last week, I finally sat down and penned a form letter to these women thanking them for their stories and their images. I lovingly packaged up each individual piece of art and popped it in the mail to each of them, a small token of my appreciation for their brave work and spirits.

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The first ray of light in this series was me. I used colored pencils and a favorite childhood photo. It's hard to see, but I was wearing a small locket. Obviously, I started accessorizing very young. I love this image so much.

The work I'm doing always reminds me to stay true to this girl who is still very much inside of me - the one who loved back-to-school supplies and would spend all day on her Summer Saturdays at the local public library volunteering to help re-alphabetize their card catalog system. The one who wanted to lip sync Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar in the 5th grade school talent show and never realized that goal because her bandmates got suspended. The young woman who dropped out of college because she got the first bad grade in her life (a D in English!) and gave up, but would get a second chance at a college career 25 years later. She's still here with me and I'm finally allowing her to be seen and heard.

She keeps me company in the studio to remind me where I came from and who I really am. 

I let her do the things she's always wanted to do.

I believe in her.

I love and respect her.

She's my beacon of light and love and a reminder to listen to myself. No. Matter. What.

Shine on, little girl, shine on.