Recovery Gals Art Exchange. Summer Solstice Theme. Pink Cloud.

Three years ago, Sondra and I founded the Recovery Gals Art Exchange. If you don’t know what that is, you can read more about how it all began here. To see over 200 of the exchanges, we have a hashtag for the exchange and you can click here to see more at #recoverygalsartexchange.

Painting has been on the back-burner for me since May of 2018. I stopped painting after I had my first, debilitating panic attack. I just stopped. This was on the heels of my first gallery show for The Geographic called The Art of Recovery. I ended up delivering what I had completed to be hung, showed up for the opening and closing and promptly said - I’m never doing that again. I was operating in fear-mode. I was tapped out emotionally. I felt depleted. I had zero desire to paint again.

But something shifted in me during the evening of the full moon last month. I had this overwhelming desire to get an idea out of my head and onto a blank canvas. It felt like an emergency, as my friend Amanda Grace likes to say. Yes, a freaking art emergency.

A few months back, my exchange partner and I had a phone date and we got to know each other a little better. During our conversation, she shared with me about what lit her up - nature, photography, her journey to sobriety and her love of hiking. She shared that she had attempted to summit Mt. Whitney (tallest mountain in the contiguous United States!) four times, but her plans being thwarted due to her body being overtaken by altitude sickness each and every time she made the climb. She also shared that she was okay with the fact that the summit had eluded her. The training, planning and journey was part of what she loved about the goal and guiding other women to the summit was what made it all worth it. Plus, the mountain was still going to be there and when the time was right - it would happen.

Her confidence and ease talking about the elusive Mt. Whitney summit reminded me about the journey to sobriety for so many. A lot of starts and stops can happen. Research, attempts, false starts, turning back around and starting at ground zero is all part of the road to recovery.

Upon reflecting back on my notes from our call, I knew what I needed to make and set about doing it.


Since the theme this time around was PINK CLOUD, I decided to use a hardwood panel to symbolize the sturdy mountain and slathered on my favorite hot pink acrylic paint as a base. I then used black and green as the foundation for the mountain and added a bit of gold because, well, I love gold and it seemed fitting. It would end up being sanded down and just peeking through, but I thought it would be like a secret gold star underneath all of the future layers.


I added a thin layer of white over the majority of the painting. I lightly sanded down the mountain to create texture. I vigorously sanded down the areas where the pink was underneath on both sides of the montain to reveal a PINK CLOUD-like sky.


Next up was adding a triangles. This geometric shape packs a punch of meaning for me. First, it is the strongest geometric shape. I made them wonky and different to represent how many of us feel in early sobriety. I used India ink and a calligraphy pen.


As the mountain began to take shape, it was clear to me that the triangles would also represent the many different paths we take to attain a life we no longer want to escape from - some short and some much longer. The goal (sobriety) never changing, but knowing that the summit of sobriety is not always achieved in a straight line or on our first attempt. Quite often it’s done in fits and starts until it finally clicks and we find our way.


The PINK CLOUD is often characterized as a short period of elation or euphoria in early sobriety. Some think this can be dangerous because newcomers might come to believe that this magical, i-can-do-anything attitude is going to last throughout sobriety, when, in reality, the PINK CLOUD feeling is often short-lived. Some think that when the PINK CLOUD wears off that many will return to drinking because sobriety no longer feels good.


I can see where people might worry about those dangers, but I have always felt that the pink cloud moments of euphoria that I have experienced sporadically throughout my recovery were absolutely essential in giving me hope. As I climbed the metaphorical mountains of living life without my favorite numbing agents, it was a steep and careful climb up and out of my addiction. Sometimes I had a good long stretch of days and then things would go sideways. I’d regain my footing and either pick a different route or double down on the tried and true things that were working for me.

I came to believe that I needed those pockets of magical thinking so that I could push off from there and get back to the business of trying to reach the summit of my sobriety, which is a daily trek of me just doing the best that I can for the next 24 hours.

For me, the summit is no longer the goal. It’s in the byproduct of my day-to-day living, my rituals and routines. It’s in the lessons I’m learning from teachers. It’s in the way I’ve cultivated a life I no longer want to escape from. It’s my path, my mis-steps and my miscalculations that I learn my greatest lessons. It’s not all darkness, but traversing those dark times fortifies me and gives me strength to go out into the world and continue the climb.


The PINK CLOUD concept has helped me to better know and understand that when I’m in a funk or down at the base of my metaphorical mountain that my feelings of defeat or discomfort are only temporary. I understand the beauty of my darkness now and how it delivered me to exactly where I am today. I’m grateful for it. I no longer fear it.

Knowing there is a PINK CLOUD somewhere in my future actually gives me a tremendous amount of hope and the desire to move onward and upward.

#recoverygalsartexchange :: Summer Solstice (WONDER)

During the last week of school, all of a sudden, I was inspired to work on my recovery gals art exchange. I had previously been worried I wouldn't be able to find the time or fit it because of my busy end-of-the-year schedule and my impending art show. 

It all worked out.

Just like it always does.


It started here. I wasn't ready to dig into homework yet and, if I'm being honest, I wasn't ready to wrap up the last few paintings in The Geographic series.

A fellow classmate had done an in-classroom demo demonstrating how to apply gold leaf and I was immediately intrigued. I drove myself directly to the art supply store and picked up a gold leafing kit. If you're interested in learning more about how to gold leaf, you can watch the Youtube video I watched before I jumped into the process here.


After applying black gesso to the hardwood panels, I scraped color across the panels using an old plastic credit card. Ultimately, I knew I wanted these pieces to be white with just a hint of color peeking through. Layers are an important part of my creative process.


Next up: I pulled out my childhood dictionary and looked up the word WONDER. I ripped of a piece of glassine paper from a roll I had shoved in a corner of my studio. I tucked it into my vintage electric typewriter and tapped out the definition.


I ripped off the excess negative space and placed it directly in the center of the prepped panel.


Then I used matte medium to adhere it and a Speedball roller to push out the air bubbles.


Next up: I applied the gold leaf, following the directions on the box.


And the final product was more than I could have hoped for.

I absolutely love how it turned out.


I removed the tape, sanded the edges and applied a layer of matte medium to seal it.

The month of May was a challenging stretch of days for this gal. I'm so grateful this art exchange gave me the opportunity to step back from my drama, my story, my challenges, and spend some time with myself in the studio, creating something from nothing for a woman I don't really even know in a bid for connection with someone who shares my common problem with alcohol.

The layers.
The darkness I experienced this month with my health.
And how I listened to my gut and knew that making art would lift me up and out of myself.
Stumbling upon my old childhood dictionary.
Looking at my name inscribed on the inside cover in my loopy handwriting from 1977.
Feelings of nostalgia bubbling up and enveloping me.
Having the time and space to let my mind wander...

Wondering why I didn't allow little Tammi to follow her childhood passions.
Wondering why I sloughed off the things that brought me the most joy.
Wondering why I conformed to other's expectations of me.
Wondering why I started faking it in my daily life.
Wondering why removing just one thing from my life gave me the opportunity for a bigger one.
Wondering why it took me finding my bottom to figure out I was my own worst enemy.
Wondering why I left myself so often; and
Wondering why I felt like an imposter in my own life.

Wondering why it took me so long to return to myself.
Wondering why I still feel awkward at times.
Wondering why I doubt my intuition when I know that it should be listened to and honored.
Wondering when I'll stop questioning myself.
Wondering when acceptance and surrender and willingness and open-mindedness will become second nature to me.

Wondering when curiosity and pleasure will be my guiding principles.
Wondering when I'll fully shed the shame of my drinking past.
Wondering why, in sobriety, each new day feels like a baptism.

And, deciding I don't need to spend my days wondering about any of this.
I know full well now that I have everything I need and,
I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.


I am a WONDER.

And so are YOU.

The Geographic :: Week 15

I hit an emotional wall this week. I have experienced moments of getting stuck throughout this project, but all of a sudden the enormity of the emotions that have been building up over these past 15 weeks has finally gotten to a point of eruption. I need to step away from documenting the project and just get back into the work without the distraction of documenting my progress.

This will be my last post about all of my works-in-progress until the show opens. To that end, I have added an event link on my website sharing the details about the opening reception on June 8th at Lawson Galleries in Guerneville, California. You can read more about it here.

I have also created a central place on my website where you can find all of my blog posts relating to The Geographic project. Click here to be taken directly to that page.

Last weekend, I returned to Bodega Bay and spent the weekend with dear friends at a vacation rental home in the community of Bodega Harbour. The bulk of my drinking career happened in Bodega Bay during the years I owned and operated my wine bar business in town. This township, this place, is the beginning of the end for me and holds a lot of painful memories related to my drinking and self-destruction.

It was a good thing my girlfriends were here to help keep me distracted from any feelings of melancholy. Instead, we walked on the beach, made art, watched Beyonce's Lemonade album, soaked in the hot tub, cooked, cared for one another and drank a boatload of La Croix.


It was exactly what I needed.

The historic pink + white taffy building, which resides next door to my former wine bar.

The historic pink + white taffy building, which resides next door to my former wine bar.

They hit the spot.

I returned home feeling filled up and re-entry was a piece of cake on Monday.

Possible new painting for the Bodega Bay series

Possible new painting for the Bodega Bay series

Tuesday, however, was an entirely different story. Real life obligations and deadlines slapped me i the face and I had a major anxiety attack on the way to my therapist's office. Life is funny this way, you know? Just when I think I'm all blissed out...BAM! Out of the blue, anxiety shows me who's boss.

No. 15 :: Buzzed

No. 15 :: Buzzed

I'm retreating for the next few weeks and digging into the remaining paintings that need to be reconciled. I finished one large format painting (above) and think it's DONE.

I'm close to calling it a day on this one (below). Just sharing a small section of it here with you. It gave me trouble this week, but my professor helped me find a way back in by using oil sticks. I loved using them. Very freeing. Great advice from her, as always.


Ten more paintings need my attention before I can wrap up the Valley Ford Series. It sounds like a lot, but they are in various stages of completion so they should come together over the next few weeks without too much trouble...unless I overthink them...which I have been known to do...


I have completed 12 out of the 25 small works on paper needed to finalize the studies I'm creating on paper as part of the Bodega Bay body of work.


I'm working hard to wrap up all of the above-mentioned paintings and studies before the last day of school on May 23rd. Wish me luck.

Thanks for following along. I'm going to be quiet for a little while and paint with my whole self - my heart, body + mind - and see what is born from my efforts.

The Geographic :: Week 14

Riding the wave of change from last week, I continued to quickly move out of the grey area with my large format paintings and found comfort in using oils again. I approached the works in progress with a new vigor and excitement. I felt like I knew what to do next and set about working with intention during my class studio time.

View of my neighbors fields from my home studio

View of my neighbors fields from my home studio

Adding in black oil pastel marks to delineate the color blocks felt like a natural next move. I use black lines quite a bit in my sketchbook drawings and I'm trying to incorporate some of those marks into the work. The circles I once loved about the piece have started to take on a too perfect quality and I think they might need to be painted over. I'm pausing, but will have to make a decision next week about them.


Working with purple has been a game-changer for me. The ability to mix different color values and incorporate them into the paintings has given them a different feeling.


Adding oil paints over the acrylics and blending of few of those initial black lines helped the painting take shape. Next week, I'll continue adding oils and blending and hopefully liven up the painting. I think the circles either have to go or get drawn over with an oil pastel pen to create a less perfect look.

No. 14 :: Cutoff before the flip

No. 14 :: Cutoff before the flip

The above painting was at the end of the day on Monday. I added in a few purple color blocks and then needed to wait a few days for them to dry. Oils do take a while to properly dry before you can paint on top of them. The sky felt good to me and the painting was starting to come together and not feel like two separate paintings. I had felt like the sky and the fields were not communicating with each other, but now I feel like they are at least talking.

No. 14 :: Cutoff

No. 14 :: Cutoff

By the end of my studio time on Wednesday, a lot more blending and color was added to the fields . I flipped the painting while working on it and had an epiphany - the sky should be the blur of the roadside as seen from the driver's seat on my seven mile drive home from the wine bar. I had been trying to create a blurred effect and thought it had to be in the sky, but that doesn't really make sense. The blur you see while driving is usually lower to the ground. I love the flip and the fields. I'm not loving one of the purple blocks of color on the left, but will fix that when I get back into the studio next week. For now, the new perspective has me delighted!


Adopting a new way of thinking about my work and choosing the opposite of my gut reaction has really served me this week. I'm still listening to my gut on whether or not it feels good or right, but making room for a new way to approach the canvases has changed my mood and confidence around the work. I feel like I've tapped into something these last few weeks and I'm totally digging the results..

I have less than four weeks to finish 11 paintings for this Valley Ford series. I'm not freaking out.

I'm currently in Bodega Bay for a girls' weekend and plan on creating a batch of watercolor studies that will serve as the Bodega Bay portion of this body of work. I'm not sure how they will turn out or how many I'm gong to make. I'm just going to let it flow.


I'll let intuition be my guide.

I've added a tab on my website where all of The Geographic weekly blog posts are listed. You can click here to access same. 

The Geographic :: Week 11

I’ve hit a wall with painting. I’m not feeling it. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels with the Valley Ford works in progress. I’ve set them aside.


Going into the week, I had thoughts of just priming canvases and playing around with liquid acrylics. I brought Heather Day’s catalog with me to school and found a lot of inspiration within those pages.


I had imagined big pools of color representing the waters surrounding the little fishing village of Bodega Bay, where I worked and owned a wine bar, and called home for six years. There is a bumper sticker sold in town that says:


Words started popping into my head that connected me to place [Bodega Bay]:

San Andreas fault line
my faults
crossing over the line
low tide
high tide
seaglass smoothed by the ocean
memories smoothed by time
found objects
raw beauty
beach as church
wine dealer
wine pusher
spilling my guts
spilling my secrets
burying my head in the sand
self-esteem like tiny grains of sand
bodega bay was the epicenter of my drinking
the beginning of my end
small town
anonymity not possible in a small town
drink to quell my anxieties
socialize to a fault
barely afloat
drowning in my existence
no anchor

Four canvases ended up getting gessoed while I pondered the next step with this body of work. 


In chatting with my professor, she threw an idea out there about working on paper and she shared a little bit about her process when doing so. I jotted down a few notes and felt energized. Approaching the blank page is still very much the same feeling as approaching a blank canvas, only smaller. I felt like this was a perfect next step for this series.

I gessoed some toned tan paper, as well as a bunch of thick black paper found in the studio at school. I dropped some black india ink on a few of them, let them dry and packed them up to work on at home over the next few days.


I also took myself to the local art supply store and gathered up a few new supplies (watercolor papers in varying dimensions and a few liquid acrylics) for the project. There is nothing like new art supplies. Nothing. I’m imagining that I will produce a grouping of 25 or so works on paper and then display them in a grid-like fashion.


So that’s where I’m at. Not a lot of physical progress lately and I know that will have to change if I want to get all of these done by the end of May, but I’ve given myself some grace with this project. I was suffering from anxiety attacks and one was still lingering at the beginning of this last week while I was in class. I took Wednesday off. I’m typing this while my husband drives us down the coast to Morro Bay to spend the weekend with our friends from Paris, France.


I’ve packed minimal supplies, but hope that is a good thing and will allow me to focus on keeping it simple. My five year old little french friend is my early morning art partner. He reminds me what it used to be like when I made art alongside my son at the kitchen table in the wee hours of the morning.

Thinking about my son  just brought up a memory from my time living in Bodega Bay…

When my son was in preschool, he would wake up so early. I was usually hungover, but pretending not to be, so I would get up with him. There was a period of time that I would get him dressed, put on our rain boots and trek down to the beach to look for seaglass. I used to live and die by my tide chart and when low tide hit, especially negative low tides, you could always find me out there combing the beach for glass made soft by the ocean. Those salty seas would smooth the rough edges of the broken shards of glass. In 2006, they were like finding diamonds in the sand.


My hangovers never stopped me when the low tides would hit. If I’m being honest, i usually liked to do this beach-combing by myself. It gave me time to mull over what exactly happened the night prior and I could sort out my feelings about it, about myself, about life. But when I was on morning duty with my three year old son, he would tag along. His little body was closer to the ground and he had laser sharp vision for finding seaglass. It became our thing. I would spend hours walking the beach with him, walking off the hangover, walking off my shame and restlessness (or at least trying to).

I felt so empty back then. It was like I was going through the motions of being a wife, a business owner, a mother and a woman in this world. I had no idea who I really was. It felt like I was playing house and I wondered when is a grown-up going to come in and tell me how this is really done? 

I felt like a faker.
I felt like a total fraud.
I felt like I would be found out. Hell, I even sort of wished for that.
I felt trapped.

I felt landlocked in my soul, even though I was surrounded by water and beautiful people in my life - my husband, my son, my community, my friends.

I felt unmoored in my own life.
I felt like I was drifting.
I felt like I was lost at sea.

I felt like a raw nerve.
I felt like I was crawling out of my skin.
I felt all of it. Everything. All the time.

My thoughts are interrupted by my husband, who is driving, when he asks me what I’m doing on my computer. I pause and tell him about the memory of my compulsive beach trips and I ask if he remembers that time in our lives. He raises both eyebrows and says, Um, yeah. I was obsessed for a period of time with collecting these broken pieces of glass. Thinking back on it, it was my first knowing that I wasn’t living right. I didn’t know how to name it at the time or even know exactly what was wrong, but I think deep down some part of me knew that drinking wasn’t serving me or my family very well. It would take another nine years for me to finally quit.

Whew. I gotta stop here. This is all I can write about these memories for right now.

My husband is driving through thick fog and heavy rain, listening to Panic by The Smiths on the radio, my son is plugged into his device listening to who knows what in the backseat, and I’m sitting in the passenger seat tearing up over the past and acknowledging where I am in the present moment of my life.

Today, I feel like a piece of seaglass, smoothed by time and hard fought battles. My edges made softer by the rough experiences in my life and laid bare on a beach to be picked up and treasured.

There is only one me. 
I am unique.
I am my own found treasure.

The Geographic :: Week Eight

In an effort to stretch out my newly adopted slower pace from last week, I started off this week by meeting a friend for coffee first thing Monday morning after my son's carpool drop off. The week unfolded with a string of commitments for me and my family, which is nothing new right? We all lead busy lives and there is not one woman I know that isn't juggling her calendar, her lists or the management of her home on a daily basis to make it all magically happen.


The work for this painting project has me digging deep into emotional terrain that I haven't visited for quite some time. I feel a spiritual connection to the old me and I'm kinder to her during this process of recollection. While unearthing some of these memories has been hard, I feel like it's been made so much easier because I am sober and have the presence of mind that won't let me wander too far down the path and into pity party territory. I'm vigilant about sticking to the truth, with as many facts as I can remember. But when you drink to excess, like I often did, things do get murky.

However, when I go to bed at night, my mind has had a different plan. My poor decision making has quietly been haunting me while I sleep. It's been quite an emotional week. In dissecting the landscape of my drinking habits over the course of many years, I'm revisiting my reckless behavior in my dreams. The excavation of my past has me vividly recreating certain painful and sketchy situations, often ending in a dire consequence. It's been a pretty fucked up way to wake up.

One of my wet gessoed panels fell on me today

One of my wet gessoed panels fell on me today

In an effort to quell my (almost daily) anxiety attacks over the last two weeks, I met with my sponsor to talk about what I could take off of my plate in order to help even out my emotions.

What we discussed was whether or not I should push forward with the additional 4th step work having to do with sex conduct and harms done (yes, it's a real thing) with my sponsor that we had just started a few weeks back. Actually, my anxiety attacks started right around that time, too. Hmmm. She suggested that we hit pause with that work and pick it back up once my work is complete for the art show in June. At first, I balked at this suggestion. I told her it felt like more procrastination on my part and that I think I needed to push through. She gently offered (as she does) that I reframe my thinking about the old story that Tammi is a Procrastinator with a capital P and, instead, look at hitting pause on my step-work as a version of self-care.

Gold star-seeking Tammi Image taken 2016 by  Laura Schneider Photo

Gold star-seeking Tammi
Image taken 2016 by Laura Schneider Photo

I resisted.
I told her I was hearing her, but I wasn't fully signing on for the delay.
I didn't want to quit.
I wanted to finish the work that I set out to do.
I wanted to get a gold star for doing the work. 
I told her I'd think about it and get back to her.

And, I went home and thought about it and came to the conclusion that she was right. Dammit.

I hit pause on my step-work and the world didn't end. The anxiety attacks haven't stopped, but I have a feeling they might.

The panels I ordered from the local art supply store didn't come in until late Monday afternoon, so I didn't go into the studio on Monday. Instead, I did some research on painting techniques, listened to podcasts, made notes on The Geographic project and took myself to lunch. Remember, self-care must be part of my process with this body of work!

48 x 48 x 1.5 inch hard wood panels (BEFORE)

48 x 48 x 1.5 inch hard wood panels (BEFORE)

On Wednesday, I showed up ready to get busy.

I needed to gesso the two 48 x 48 inch panels and I had to be pretty efficient about it. I didn't have a lot of time to waste because I needed to bring these two panels home, so that I could paint on them over spring break.

The two freshly gessoed panels will need to communicate and start a dialogue with these two larger format paintings (below) over the next 10 days (while I work from home instead of the school studio).

WIP: No. 12 - Lush

WIP: No. 12 - Lush

WIP: No. 13- Parched

WIP: No. 13- Parched

I popped by the hardware store tonight and purchased a large canvas drop cloth, so that I can paint on my front deck.

View from our front deck in Valley Ford, CA - March 15, 2018 Photo credit: Steve Hecht

View from our front deck in Valley Ford, CA - March 15, 2018
Photo credit: Steve Hecht

This photo is not enhanced. The late afternoon sunset was bathing the fields in this golden, glorious light. Look at all of the value changes in the color green and the monochromatic grey sky. 

I'm completely inspired by my surroundings this week. 

On my drive home from town, words kept popping into my head that related to the landscape, as well as my thoughts on the past and my drinking days.

Not Sustainable
Mowed Down

This is what it looks like when lightning strikes a cow. The cow did not survive the strike. Photo credit: Anna Erickson, Hands Full Farm, Valley Ford

This is what it looks like when lightning strikes a cow. The cow did not survive the strike.
Photo credit: Anna Erickson, Hands Full Farm, Valley Ford

We had a big thunderstorm here late Wednesday morning before I left for school. The thunder shook my house with picture frames shifting, glasses rattling on the open shelving in my kitchen, and my dog hid under my desk. Lightning struck a cow on my friend's ranch just two miles away.

The extreme beauty and fragility of this place is never lost on me. I'm so grateful that we moved here when we did back in 2006, even though I didn't know why I was choosing to move here at that time. 

I loaded up all of the Valley Ford paintings that are in progress to work on over spring break.

I loaded up all of the Valley Ford paintings that are in progress to work on over spring break.

The phrase geographic cure is one I read in the Big Book of AA. It references a desire to relocate in the hopes of reframing one's drinking - a fresh start in a new place. Escapism, really. When I moved here it was under the pretenses of buying a home and settling down, but if I'm being super honest - I liked the fact that I would living at the top of the lane on a dead end dirt and gravel road. I could isolate and be alone with myself. My drinking would escalate here.

Living in the valley of Valley Ford felt like what I deserved. I felt a loneliness that even today I can't fully describe why I felt that way. I was surrounded by good friends, a wonderful husband and the best kid. But the feeling of incomprehensible demoralization was always with me near the end of my drinking. All I wanted to do was to drink and be left alone. I felt hidden and tucked away from the community that used to keep such a close eye on me when I owned my wine bar in Bodega Bay. I felt liberated, too. I felt like I deserved to drink the way I did because, hey, everyone else I know drinks this way, too. Which was a story I told myself for years.

But I no longer feel like I need to shed this town or the memories I made here, even the bad ones. Actually, I feel quite the opposite. I feel a need to embrace it, re-inhabit it, make it mine again.

Laying claim to my art cubbies at school 

Laying claim to my art cubbies at school 

Memory is always reinventing history. Memory is how we see history in the present day.
— Clément Cheroux, Senior Curator of Photography, SF MOMA

This quote made me pause and wonder if my memories are, in fact, reinventing history. I'm trying to paint and summarize how it was, but maybe that can never be a fully accurate portrayal. If memory is how we see history in the present day, then these paintings will illustrate my own history but with the added benefit of my current history, too. It doesn't have to be all doom and gloom with this project. My transformation can be factored into the landscape, too.

So many layers.

This is what I love about this project. I get to channel my feelings into the work and turn these thoughts over and over in my mind, like rocks in a rock tumbler. They seem to be coming out softer, smoother and with less of an edge. A softening of my memories is happening in real time. 

Blank slates. Fresh starts. Do-overs.

Blank slates.
Fresh starts.

I'm accepting the ways things were and acknowledging where it led me.
I'm letting a lot of these feelings go, as they no longer serve me.
I'm forgiving myself in the process, too.
I'm finding greater peace and clarity about those years I drank the most.
I'm acknowledging that's who I was then and that's not who I am now.
I'm extending myself some grace.

I feel like I'm finally coming home to myself through this work.

The Geographic :: Week Seven

Last night I spent the evening in San Francisco with a few members of my sober lady tribe to listen to writer, philosopher, theologian and storyteller, Peter Rollins and former Pastor Rob Bell talk about the concept of being human, connecting with those things in life that are holy and how to step back and make a shift in your life. A Holy Shift.

Listen to the prophet of your anxiety.
— Pete Rollins

I've been suffering from anxiety attacks again. Also, vivid nightmares about relapsing, as well as dreaming about fully actualized paintings for this project. I'm not surprised. I'm delving into new work with my sponsor and it's bringing up a lot for me. Anxiety used to play like background music in my day-to-day life and after I quit drinking alcohol (and later coffee), the volume was turned down considerably. Over the past seven weeks, the proverbial knob on the stereo has been turned up and these attacks are physically and emotionally draining me. I'm trying to listen to the prophet of my anxiety, but I can't quite tell what in the fuck it's actually saying.

No. 3 Blackout in progress

No. 3 Blackout in progress

When you cannot speak your truth, the symptom is the way your body tells the truth.
— Pete Rollins

Part of the anxiety could be related to the pressure I've added to this project by committing to the June show at Lawson Galleries in Guerneville. When I wrote out my proposal and commitment for this semester's work, an art show was a possible end-of-semester goal, but now it's a hardcore reality. I know this falls in to the good-problem-to-have category, truly I do.

A feeling of overwhelm has enveloped me lately and the fact that my throat was closing up on me was my body's way of telling me the truth of the situation. I needed to listen up. The symptom manifesting in my body was the anxiety. I used to drink at these types of symptoms and that remedy, that medicine is no longer available to me..

No. 3 Blackout in progress

No. 3 Blackout in progress

In order to drop back into the work, I shared my feelings with my professor at the beginning of the week. She listened and offered up some sage advice about what it means to be an artist. And that's the thing, I have started calling myself an artist but a small part of me still feels like an imposter. I'm not being self-deprecating here, I'm just being honest.

To be human is to be who you are and who you’d like to be.
— Pete Rollins
No. 3 Blackout

No. 3 Blackout

My word for the year is GRACE. I have been struggling with its meaning, but when I heard Peter Rollins utter this sentence last night, what I've been feeling lately all started to make sense.

Grace can be found when you stop the frenetic pursuit.
— Pete Rollins
No. 13 Parched

No. 13 Parched

I love everything that comes out of Pete Rollins's mouth. He has a way with words. That man has a gift.

I've been engaged in the frenetic pursuit of something ever since I quit drinking. It's almost like I'm playing beat the clock when it comes to my own creative pursuits. The feeling that I'm making up for lost time is always with me from the moment I wake up until I lay my head down on the pillow at night. Some might call it drive or ambition, but it feels clunky this week and completely lacking of any kind of grace.

No. 13 Parched

No. 13 Parched

When I left the studio this week, I felt unburdened, excited even, about the idea that I am going to paint like I want to without any preconceived notion about what these paintings should end up looking like for the show in June.

A holy shift is when you stop.
— Pete Rollins

I am going to do a hard stop this week and shrug off my future-tripping ways. I need to recalibrate my own expectations for this body of work and take a long pause from my overactive, alcoholic-thinking and hope the anxiety subsides.

Acknowledge the whole and then step back and make a shift. Then draw a circle around it and make it holy.
— Rob Bell

I'm searching for grace this weekend. 

I'm stopping the frenetic pursuit.

I'm inviting a shift to occur.

And I'm definitely going to draw a circle around it and make it holy and allow myself to move on.

The Geographic :: Week Six

This week started off wonky. I messed up my kid's carpool schedule and, as a consequence, that prevented me from being able to get into the studio on Monday. Instead of stressing about it and future-tripping, I gave myself a little grace. I figured out that I had plenty to do for this project that didn't involve actual painting, but included writing, photographing landscapes around Valley Ford and writing in my art journal.

It also included firming up the dates with my friend, artist and fellow recovery badass, Gayle Cooper, for our upcoming gallery show which we are calling The Art of Recovery. To give you a little background, Gayle and I met in the rooms. She is out about her recovery and I've always connected with her over art and our mutual love and adoration of all things France. In early January, she approached me and asked if I would be interested in participating in a show with her at a gallery where she had done solo shows before. I was immediately flattered and then nervous, but knew that I had to step up and say YES. Her offer appeared at exactly the right time, as I was about to embark on my own self-assigned project, The Geographic.

Show dates will be June 5th - July 9th at Lawson Galleries in Guerneville, California.

The opening reception will be held on June 5th from 5 - 8 pm.

The artist salon will be held on Sunday, June 17th from 2 - 4 pm.

The First Friday Art Walk in Guerneville will be held on July 6th from 5 - 8 pm (all galleries open in town that night). A great way to see lots of art + take in the town.

This will be my first gallery show.


Over the weekend, I attended a print workshop in San Francisco hosted by self-taught designer + style icon, Lotta Jansdotter. I have long admired Lotta's designs, lifestyle books and business acumen. It was a thrill to meet her in person + learn from her in real time.


We made prints using small potatoes, simple carving tools + screen printing ink. We focused on creating simple patterns and designs. Repetition, positive + negative spaces were key to creating a cohesive + attractive design.


We also did a little block printing using our carving tools, a stamp pad + textile ink.


The stationary turned out really well.


Why am I telling you about my print workshop when this is supposed to be a blog post about my painting project The Geographic, you ask? Well, I'm gonna tell you.


You see, everything I make informs everything else when it comes to the work I produce. I like it when one medium spills over into another and I love learning more about my own process - what works and what doesn't. I like to co-mingle my interests and see what gels or just becomes.

For example, I took my gratitude journal along with me to the workshop in the hopes that I could create a page for that day using one of the prints or techniques I would learn. And, that's exactly what I ended up doing (see above). Now when I look at the page, I will have the workshop + the day imprinted in my mind, too.

Circles are my spirit animal and then color, especially hot pink. It's funny because I grew up in a household where my mom loved pink and I vowed NEVER to have it in mine. Fast forward 35 years and I freaking love it. Go figure. Never say never, right?


I didn't stress too much about painting this week. I needed the extra time and space to think about what was going to be my next move with all of the paintings I currently have going. I also needed to hit the art supply store and buy new wood panels and supplies for the project. Making art is not just about making the actual art. I'm learning that finding inspiration, going to museums, and taking workshops are all part of my creative process, too.

No. 12 - Lush

No. 12 - Lush

My loose plan is to focus on finishing up the under-paintings for all of the Valley Ford works-in-progress by the end of next week. Once those under-paintings are done, I think I'll switch to oils. I I plan to apply horizontal bands of color over the existing acrylics or use washes and see how the colors underneath shift or change when the washes are applied. I hope they wow me.


This week I started a small tryptic using the leftover paint from painting No. 12 (above). This is an experiment to see if I can come up with something a little less controlled and try to harness that blurry or buzzed feeling I'm wanting to achieve through my work on a few of the canvases. 


I'm trying not to be overly precious with the canvases and making marks that feel intentional + haphazard at the same time, if that makes any sense! These paintings feel like play to me + are really enjoyable to make.


At the end of my painting day on Wednesday I had completed the under-painting on my 36 x 48" canvas (No. 12) and had a good head-start on this tryptic (above).


I quickly taped and gessoed two 20 x 20" wood panels that I think I'll use for the Bodega Bay paintings, which I have yet to start. That will be a completely different process and feel than the Valley Ford landscapes I'm currently working on.


These are sample canvases that I started using fluid acrylics. I'm not ready to jump all in with these paintings yet and think I'll wait until after Spring break to start working on the Bodega Bay series in earnest.


For now, I'm simmering in the Valley Ford work and really digging how it feels and where they are headed. I'll spend more time with the smaller canvases this weekend and wrap up the under-paintings and bring them to school next week to see how they all look together. 

I think seeing them all together will tell me what to do and where to go next with them. They'll talk to me and I'll be intently listening to what they have to say.

Ray of Light Interview No. 36 :: Anna Davies

Ray of Light Interview No. 36 :: Anna Davies

"As part of my recovery I embraced minimalism. I got rid of probably 75% of my belongings and now only own things that I either really need or really love. Some people assume that removing things from your life somehow leaves you lonely or joyless but in my experience the opposite is true. It’s very freeing." - Anna Davies

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