because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Staring At Strangers

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My first attempt at painting a stranger in watercolor.

At age 48, in the throes of a divorce, I’m figuring out who I am.

What I like to do.

After not investing one iota in myself for the last 20 years.

People keep telling me to do things that I enjoy.

“Have fun,” they say.

It’s awful to admit, but the concept of fun has become completely foreign to me.

In an effort to find fun and fill my craving for a creative community, I joined a sketch group. Convening mainly on weekends, we travel to different locations to meet and commit art together.

I’ve found that I feel less lonely while making art in public, so in-between meet-ups, I’ve taken to visiting local coffee shops to practice painting strangers.

In stealth mode.

Unfortunately, people often got up after only a few minutes, leaving me with an unfinished piece.

Which was unfulfilling.

I was taking too long in an effort to get it right.

I realized I had to speed up my efforts and focus on capturing the essence of an individual – his or her energy – in a quick sketch completed in just 4 or 5 minutes.

Once I stopped trying to be perfect, an interesting thing happened.

I started smiling.

Suddenly, people are approaching me. They call me “brave” for painting in public. Sharing how they used to love to knit/weave/paint/sew/make quilts … until someone told them they were terrible, and they stopped.

Sometimes people pull up chairs to sit with me and we end up talking about art, children, politics, love, divorce, grief.

And then they aren’t strangers anymore.

This morning, I went to the gym and, in addition to my mat and my sneakers and a change of clothes, I brought a backpack filled with pens and pencils, watercolors and brushes. Settled next to a cozy fireplace, I spotted a man with a strong profile, staring at an iPad.

After I finished sketching, I decided to walk over to introduce myself.

Awkwardly.

(You know, because I’m still the same dork you’ve come to know and love.)

Anyway, Taylor graciously allowed me to interview him and take his photograph. I received his permission to post his face and his likeness here on my blog.

So I’m setting a goal to complete one new sketch each day for a month. I’ll see if I want to continue after 30 days.

The most important thing?

I’m having fun again.

And I’m meeting new people.

Taylor
This is Taylor. While working as a lifeguard at Walt Disney World, he realized he enjoyed the medical aspects of his job. He’s currently studying to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. And he’s a very good sport.

 

How’d I do? What brave new thing have you tried to do recently?

FRIEND – a 4×4 canvas of a Labrador Retriever, just $40

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For the last few weeks, I’ve been going canine crazy. While I may not be a dog owner, I can absolutely appreciate the love that folks have for their doggies.

I started experimenting with painting dogs, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. So far I’ve done a Weimaraner, a Wheaten Terrier and this White Labrador Retriever, with more to come.

4x4 acrylic painting with texturizing medium, just $40, including shipping to those in the United States.
4×4 acrylic painting, just $40, including S&H to those in the United States. Friends in Canada need to add an extra $8 to cover additional S&H charges

If you’d like this painting to be yours, simply type SOLD in the comments, and I’ll contact or — if you have an idea for a special order, feel free to email me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com.

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Extra views:

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Side detail
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Side detail.

Playing with Texture: Wordless Wednesday

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I’m crazy about texturizing medium, a paste used to add surface texture to a canvas. Stiffer than paint straight from a tube, I love to scoop out blobs of paste with a palette knife and mix in a few drops of paint. Once dry, texturizing paste doesn’t drip or droop. I like to create peaks and grooves with a palette knife, and you can also make press patterns into it, or use it as glue to add collage items.

 

Blobs of paint featuring texturizing medium.
Blobs of paint featuring texturizing medium.

I used texturizing paste is this part of my painting, Can you guess what these are?

What have you been experimenting with lately?

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GIVE – a 4×4 canvas – just $25

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This year I promised to spend more time cultivating relationships with people who bring me happiness and less time with negative and/or rude individuals. I’ve tolerated that for too long.

When you fill your life with people you love, giving isn’t a chore, it’s easy.

To that end, I’m offering GIVE today.

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This 4×4 acrylic canvas is just $25 and that includes shipping & handling anywhere in the United States! (Friends in Canada, you just have to pay a little bit extra.) I accept PayPal, so payment is secure and easy.

Interested? All you have to do is type SOLD in the comments, and I’ll contact you.

I wish you all a year of easy loving and giving relationships.

xo

 

Messy Hands: Wordless Wednesday

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This is how my hands look at the end of nearly every day. I don’t mean to do it. It just kind of happens.

Thank goodness it's acrylic.
Thank goodness it’s acrylic.

When’s the last time you did something where your hands got dirty?

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What I Learned From My 2nd Art Show

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This summer, I had the opportunity to help a friend sell costume jewelry at a local Barn Sale.

“You should sell your canvases,” she offered.

I thought, How hard can it be to set up for a festival? I might as well try it.

The day before the show, I got $10 in singles, and I filled a baggie with nuts and fruit and yogurt.

Before the sun came up, I drove over to Sara’s house and helped to load her car with tables and chairs, bins and shelves, baskets and… oh yes, the humongous canvas canopy.

When we started driving, I realized that I no idea where we were going. As I followed Sara’s car, I cranked up the radio and enjoyed the morning breeze. But it was August, people. After we’d unpacked our cars, moved them to an adjacent field, and hiked back to our reserved spot, I noticed my shirt was sticking to my neck. It was hot. Damn hot. I wished I’d thought to bring a sundress.

The rest of the day was punctuated with little moments that kept reminding me I didn’t know anything about how to prepare for an outdoor festival.

Our sale took place in and around a barn.

In the middle of a field.

It would have been a good idea to have brought sunscreen. And wasp spray. And a fly swatter. A hat would have been a good idea too. And tissues. And lip balm. And Advil. I had no idea I’d need all those things to have a comfortable outdoor festival experience. Sara, a seasoned vendor, had everything: safety pins, zip ties, scissors, twine and tape, even bungee cords.

Did I mention I set up my display in 7 minutes?

It’s not enough to have a quality product. One must also have a degree in merchandising.

Besides a freshly pressed tablecloth, it’s necessary to have clear signage and extra-enticing displays.

I didn’t have any of these things.

Luckily, Sara how to artistically arrange her bling in bowls and baskets. She heaped bracelets on silver trays and draped scarves over wrought-iron racks. Sara’s tent was packed all day with women who couldn’t get enough of her inventory.

At one point, someone touched one of my canvases.

And then put it back down.

Long story short?

That day, I sold nothing.

Not one thing.

I pouted, I’m never doing another festival as long as I live.

And yet.

Four months later another opportunity presented itself for me to sell my stuff, and well… it seemed like a good idea to give the festival thing a second chance.

My handmade cards & canvases paired with Pretty Bird jewelry
My handmade cards & canvases paired with Pretty Bird jewelry

This time, the event was indoors. I felt more confident. No bugs. No heat. Plus, I had a better display and a pile of cute business cards. I’d brought plenty of change, and I was prepared to take credit cards.

They say you only need one customer. That one person to make your day worthwhile, and guess what? My customer showed up. She was looking for some special gifts, and I was just thrilled to have been able to help her with her holiday gift-giving.

I’m still trying to decide if I want to continue doing festivals. I certainly have a new respect for artists who participate in them regularly.  It takes a lot of work to research and prepare for a show, not to mention the labor involved with setting up for and traveling to and from a show. You also have to have a kind of mental fortitude because strangers sometimes make unintentionally hurtful comments.

Right now, the honest truth is that as long as I’m connecting with other people and making some money while doing it, well… that’s a great day for me.

What’s something you’ve done that had a sharp learning curve?

• • •

Oh, and it’s a good day for Lisa Kravetz! She commented on my blog and won the HOME canvas. I couldn’t be happier for her. Lisa, please email me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com and provide me with your snail mail address so I can send that canvas out to you as soon as possible.

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What does HOME mean to you? #giveaway

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HOME, a 4x4 canvas featuring acrylic paint & texturizing medium. Makes a great gift!
HOME, a 4×4 canvas featuring acrylic paint & texturizing medium. Makes a great gift!

Enough snow had fallen so Thanksgiving felt festive, but not so much so anyone had to worry about getting from here to there.

I was looking forward to going around the table and sharing with everyone all the things for which I am thankful.

How lucky I felt: to be there – all of us all together – in a warm, cozy home where there is always a comfortable place to sit and a plate of delicious food to eat.

I wanted everyone to know that it’s true what your grandma said: your health really is everything;

That being home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling.

It’s a green toothbrush on the bathroom sink. It’s his bowl left on the kitchen table. It’s the sound of the garage door going up at the end of the day. It’s warm zucchini bread cooling on the countertop, the cat lying in that spot on the landing, the laundry twirling in sloppy circles.

If there’s one thing we share – no matter our race, income, religion or beliefs – it’s that we all want a place to call home, a place filled with love.

I’m getting back into the swing of the holidays by offering HOME  to one lucky commenter. how can you win?

Leave a comment in which you tell me what you think of when you hear the word “HOME,” then click HERE for additional information.

This contest is open to residents of the United States only. Enter as many times as you want between now & December 6th. One lucky winner will be announced on my blog on December 15th at 9 AM, so be sure to check back. If I don’t hear from the winner within 24 hours, Random Number Generator will select another winner.

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Professional GROWTH: a wee story & art

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I’m feeling better each day, y’all. I’m volunteering weekly at a local elementary school, I’m working a part-time job;  I’m exercising and reconnecting with friends and family members, and I’m feeling confident as a mom again.

And, of course, I’ve been painting.

With my creative process ever evolving, well… I’ve had to learn more about how to run the business end of things more effectively. I figured out how to create invoices and take payment PayPal.

And then I realized I have issues.

Not long ago, an enthusiastic buyer sent me dozens of messages via Facebook, email and text message. I thought we’d finalized things so I got to work; apparently – she sent me a Tweet requesting that I revise a few things. Needless to say, I never saw it, so I didn’t make the piece the client wanted. After this snafu, I realized that corresponding on so many platforms didn’t do me any favors. Now, I only communicate via email, and I make sure to confirm orders with people before I start any work.

GROW is a 4×4 canvas featuring acrylic paint, texturizing medium & buttons. Just $20. Interested? Type SOLD in the comments or email me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com
GROW is a 4×4 canvas featuring acrylic paint, texturizing medium & buttons. Just $20. Interested? Type SOLD in the comments or email me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com

Another one of my issues involves asking for money.

I feel uncomfortable every single time I ask for payment.

Every. Single. Time.

Until recently, most of my orders came from people with whom I’m friends with on Facebook. It felt weird to ask friends for money. I thought people were just being nice by buying my little canvases. I felt unworthy of being paid for something that I was dabbling in as a hobby. And then I opened my Etsy shop and the orders started flooding in. That’s when a friend told me she was concerned I was undervaluing my work.

“Just because you make small paintings doesn’t mean they’re worth small dollars.”

I squirmed around with that for a while.

Me? Charge more? What if no one wants my paintings anymore? That will be so embarrassing. And how do I change prices. And won’t people be mad if they’ve already bought a 4×4 canvas and now I’m asking more?

I have a tendency to be a people pleaser, which is to say that historically, I’d go to great lengths to make else comfortable, to my own detriment.

I’m done with that.

So here’s the deal: effective immediately, I take cash or payment via PayPal. (No more personal checks.) I won’t start work on anyone’s canvas until I’ve received payment. If payment is not received within 48 hours of placing your order, that order will be canceled. Starting in the new year, 4×4 canvases are $25, plus shipping and handling (if applicable). Oh, and I’m not delivering canvases anymore. Folks have to pick them up or I’ll pop them in the mail (for an extra $5.95).

These are my policies. (There are a few others, but you get the idea.) As my friend reminded me, policies establish boundaries for acceptable behavior and guidelines for best practices in certain situations. They offer clear communication to buyers as to what they can expect from me, the seller, and also how I expect them to act.

Still, I can’t help feeling like my policies sound rigid and kinda bitchy.

Professional growth for me is learning that it’s okay to create boundaries, to say yes or no to something and then stick with that decision. It’s believing my work has value, that I’m good at what I do, and that I have a right to request payment.

To that end, the 4×4 canvas above – GROW – is yours for $20. Because it’s still 2014. Interested? Write SOLD in the comments or email me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com.

Do my policies sound reasonable? And what are doing to promote your personal or professional growth?

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Do you BREATHE deeply?

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It’s Monday again, and – like last week – I’m back to offer a new 4×4 mini-canvas and share a little anecdote.

One of the things I’ve become good at over the last 15 months is meditation. Seriously, I can sit quietly for a ridiculously long time. That’s not to say that my mind is always quiet, but sometimes I actually get to stillness. When I first started my meditation practice, I was instructed to take 3 deep breaths. I was all, “Whatever. How can this possibly help me?” So I inhaled and exhaled and inhaled and exhaled.

I was hardly in a Zen place.

My teacher put my hand on my stomach. “Breathe so your belly inflates like a balloon,” she said.

Apparently, I’d been breathing backwards all these years.

Once I mastered inhaling and exhaling, I was able to relax more fully.

BREATHE is a 4x4 mini-canvas featuring acrylic paint & texturizing medium. Just $20. Interested? Type SOLD in the comments or email me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com
BREATHE is a 4×4 mini-canvas featuring acrylic paint & texturizing medium. Just $20. Interested? Type SOLD in the comments or email me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com

Who would have thought it was possible to breathe wrong?!

So how do you begin a meditation practice? It’s easy.

1. Sit or lie comfortably.

2. Close your eyes.

3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.

4. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage and belly. Make no effort to control your breath; simply focus your attention. If your mind wanders, simply return your focus back to your breath. Maintain this meditation practice for 2–3 minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.

Sounds easy, right?

Mindful meditation encourages the practitioner to observe wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind. The intention is not to get involved with the thoughts or to judge them, but simply to be aware of each thought as it arises.

Through meditation, I’ve been able to see how my thoughts and feelings move in particular patterns. I have become more aware of the human tendency to quickly judge experience as “good” or “bad” (“pleasant” or “unpleasant”). With practice, an inner balance develops.

In our hurry-hurry-rush-rush world, we sometimes feel guilty when we aren’t doing something.

I’ve soooo over that. Some people pray and some people meditate. Sitting silently is one of the greatest gifts I give to myself each day.

I encourage each of you to try it. Go ahead. Do it right now. Sit quietly and feel the chair beneath you. Feel your feet pressing against the floor. How long can you sit quietly without opening your eyes?

It’s important to take a few moments each day to let go of stress and, to that end, I’m offering BREATHE today for $20.

Have you ever meditated? What was your experience like? What was the biggest surprise for you? What was the biggest frustration?

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LOVE inspires art

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I’ve received plenty of positive feedback regarding my art work over the last few months. What started off as a distraction – something to help me get through the days while I was in physical and emotional pain – has turned into a wee business. It’s hard for me to accept the idea that it’s okay to make money doing something I like to do, probably because I’ve always had to work ridiculously hard for the few dollars I’ve made. I think I feel a little guilty when receiving money for my canvases because I genuinely enjoy making them.

But that’s a blessing, right? To genuinely feel passionate about one’s work?!

As I heal, I see now how LOVE is the most important thing we can offer others in this life.

A heart connection.

When one operates from a place of LOVE, all of our connections are enriched.

As a way of giving back, each Monday from now until the 2015, I’ll be offering one 4″x4″ mini-canvas. For just $20, everyone can afford to have an original piece of art. (If you live in the United States, I’ll waive shipping & handling fees.)

Featuring acrylic paint & texturizing medium, LOVE, a 4"x4" canvas is just $20.
Featuring acrylic paint & texturizing medium, LOVE, a 4″x4″ canvas is just $20.

If you’re interested in purchasing this piece, email me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com or, if you prefer, type SOLD in the comments. I’ll contact you as soon as possible, and you can have LOVE in just a few days.

Interested in customizing a piece? Drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do.

If you’d like to see other things I’ve done, check out Rasjacobson Originals on Facebook.

Thank you so much for sticking with me, y’all. Your comments mean the world.

What’s something you do that you would feel strange accepting payment for?

tweet me at @rasjacobson