Compelled to Create

Thrift Store Jesus #2

Thrift store Jesus: wood plaque

Jesus…asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:13-16 (The Message)

I name most of my “thrift-store Jesus” finds, but not this one. To me, this piece doesn’t lend itself to a clever name. This is one of my favorites, simple and striking. I’ve always been fond of the rustic wood-slice plaque look, to me it says old Colorado (even though I’m sure it was popular in other areas, too). But what is special about this piece is that I think it is very original. I don’t think this came from a pattern, it doesn’t look like a kit. The plaque was painted black, then the image carved out of it. I wish it was signed or dated by the artist, but there is nothing.

So, why this piece right now? We are nearing Easter, a time when many think about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. This image is a typical Catholic Jesus, with the crown of thorns. I was always told that the Catholic images usually emphasized the crucifixion, but the Protestant Jesus was a risen Jesus (thus, the empty cross). To be real honest, I think both of them are missing half of the point—you can’t have one without the other. 

But I do find it interesting how we tend to create our own “Jesus.” You could argue that it is “just an image…we know that wasn’t how Jesus looked, blah, blah, blah.” But I think we have a lot of reasons we imagine him as we do. 

My husband, Jim, isn’t too crazy about “paint-by-number Jesus” (my first thrift-store Jesus). In mock frustration he asked, “When is this supposed to be? When was Jesus standing around in his “Sunday best” holding up a cross?” Jim doesn’t really understand all about promo photos and marketing and press releases and all that stuff, but I’m sure that is what this was. It’s just a public relations piece….right?

I can just imagine Jesus walking along with the disciples having the discussion quoted at the beginning of this post. I think he stopped right in the middle, looked each of them straight in the eye, and asked, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?” 

I think he would have the same conversation with each of us, asking, “Who do you say I am…that’s what I really want to know?”


“Portion Control”—the Incomplete Shape
February 28, 2009, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Art, creativity | Tags: ,





The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

Albert Einstein


These are entries in the Green Pepper Press Street Team. This is a monthly challenge by Michelle Ward. I have not done it before, and just barely am making the deadline this time…or maybe not, depending on your time zone. But, I have been wanting to do it for quite some time.  

This month’s challenge was “Portion Control”—showing part of a shape, rather than all of it. This is basically one of the basic graphic design “Gestalt” principles—that your brain “finishes” what it sees of a familiar shape. Thus, something that is hinted at is more interesting than something that is obvious, basically because it intrigues your brain and involves it in the process. If the entire shape is there, your brain just says, “Oh, that’s a circle” and moves on to more interesting things. Your brain enjoys it more if the image is a little mysterious and you have to think about it.

A lot of logos use gestalt principles. Once you become aware of some of the principles you start seeing them everywhere. It’s really interesting. 

Anyway, hope you enjoy the artwork. It was fun, and I desperately needed to get out and do some artwork!

Natures Artwork: “Run Over by a Truck”
February 6, 2009, 6:31 am
Filed under: Art, creativity, Nature | Tags: , ,

beeswax leaf


Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees.

David Letterman (1947–)

I know…it’s way past fall. But I love this Letterman quote, and with the fall leaves on the artwork I thought I could get away with it. It’s even funnier to me after living out there for a while!

This is my first real foray into using beeswax. I really loved it!

The surface is a standard background I use a lot; foamcore covered with brown kraft paper (kind of papier maché style). It creates a great texture and color to start with. A few layers of paint and ink were added. Then came the beeswax—to attach the leaves, feathers, and tissue.

The center leaf is one of the big cottonwood leaves I picked up last fall (and blogged about in Nature and the Creative Impulse). The piece is about ten inches square, so the leaf is about the size of my hand…probably not all that big for easterners, but for Colorado trees, it’s pretty big. 

Feathers are one of my favorite things, and these two are a couple of cool finds. The text on the piece is all foreign, and is off a dress pattern. I loved the way the beeswax made the tissue paper disappear, so all you really see are the words. 

So…why “Run Over by a Truck”? Because the smaller cottonwood leaf in the center was laying in the street for quite some time before I picked it up. It literally had been “run over by a truck” (and many cars, no doubt). I loved it’s frail beauty. It is so fragile that I thought  completely covering it with beeswax was the best way I knew to protect it. 

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck…I hope I come out as beautiful in the end as the leaf.

The Painter in the Basement
December 17, 2008, 6:18 am
Filed under: Art, creativity | Tags: ,

Rocky Mountain landscape

It is the creative potential itself in human beings that is the image of God.

Mary Daly


Rhema Muncy, a young reporter from the Loveland Reporter-Herald came to interview me yesterday. In many ways it seemed more like a casual chat with a new friend than it did an interview. We talked about many things: my handmade journals, my artistic “journey”, paint-by-number Jesus, and Christianity. But, most of all, we talked about creativity—what inspires creativity, why it is important, why I think everyone is creative…stuff like that.

I continued to think about these things long after Rhema left, and one particular person who came to mind was Harold Pennock. I hadn’t thought of Harold in quite some time. He was the father of my aunt/grandfather of my cousins (I don’t know if that makes him a “great uncle” or anything…I’m not good at that kind of stuff). I remember one particular visit to Harold and Pat’s home when I was young. I discovered that Harold was a wonderful landscape painter. He painted beautiful Rocky Mountain scenes in his basement. And that’s where they stayed…in his basement. 

I don’t think very many people ever knew that Harold was an artist. I don’t know that he would have even called himself an artist. I know he didn’t seem to want anyone to see his paintings, and he didn’t want anyone else to have his paintings, he just wanted to paint. For many years I felt like it was such a shame…what a waste of talent to not share it with anyone. 

But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate his love of creating just for the sake of creating. The end product didn’t seem to matter all that much, he just felt the need to paint, so he did. Not to make anyone else happy, not to sell art, not to show anyone his talent. I think the only reason Harold painted was because Harold wanted to paint.

I guess you could say he was “compelled to create.” I do think it is an interesting phenomenon, the need to create only for the sake of creating. I imagine there are a lot more “basement painters” out there than we realize. Have you known any? Are you one?

Compelling others to create
December 1, 2008, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Art, creativity, thrift stores | Tags: , ,

Halma Journal

The key question isn’t “What fosters creativity?” But it is why isn’t everyone creative? Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled? I think therefore a good question might be not why do people create? But why do people not create or innovate? We have got to abandon that sense of amazement in the face of creativity, as if it were a miracle if anybody created anything.

Abraham Maslow

The journal above was created as a thank you gift for Mary, a fellow thrift-store-maven from Ventura, California. Mary sent me this Halma game she unearthed there. The game is a little like Chinese Checkers (which of course, has nothing to do with China and isn’t really checkers). Anyway, there are no copyright dates or any of that nonsense…waaay before that I guess!

I scanned the unusual box image so I could use it several times. Then I altered it some for Mary’s journal. On the inside front cover I put a copy of the instructions. It kind of seems German…but if you know what language it is, leave me a comment. 

Halma inside front cover


One of my other favorite finds is a book of cheerleading motions from the 50’s. I included a page from it in her journal. This also shows some of the journaling cards I stash in the envelopes.

cheerleader and cards

Of course, Mary loved the journal! But the coolest thing was one of the comments she made, “It’s like a piece of artwork that isn’t finished yet, you’re invited to add to it and finish it yourself.”

Maybe that’s one reason I’ve been so “into” making these things the last several months. I’ve always believed that everyone is creative, and I want to encourage that creativity. This is one way I can do that.

So, if you want to create in one of these wacky journals, just check out my etsy shop. And go create something!

The downside of creativity
November 25, 2008, 7:43 am
Filed under: creativity | Tags: ,


The life of the creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes.

Saul Steinberg


I’ve often told people, “We would rather rip out the carpet than vacuum it.” And it is totally true! With two creative types in the household, maintenance is a four-letter word!

My husband, Jim, began another project this weekend. He is very handy around the house, and together we have done huge amounts of remodeling over the years. We love to start a new project. But finishing it…?

It gets to about 95%…then…nothing. That last little bit is soooo hard for us to get motivated to do. It’s not fun and exciting anymore, so it’s on to something else!

So here it is. A record of the current unfinished projects:

# 1) The studio.

This was a wood shop (really, really rough!). Jim redid the inside, replaced rotted eaves and whatevers outside…etc, etc. (photos of all of this some other time). But, the inside of the doors have never been painted. It’s tough to tell from the photo because the sun was setting right in the window, but they are still gray primer with quite a lot of dirt and a little bit of “Great Stuff” foam stuck on them.

Studio doors





#2) New windows.

We replaced a number of the old windows and the patio door. The trim around the patio door has still not been replaced.










#3) The rocks!

This has been this summer’s project, and it’s almost killed us! Almost 600 square feet of river rock that has been there for over 20 years, with no border between rocks and grass. So it was more grass and weeds than rocks. We removed ALL of them, put down new weedblock (it did have plastic under it at least) put a border around them, washed the rock, and put it all back.We got to the end of the front area about a week ago, but we still need to put a little more border at the end and move some of the rocks to even it out near the end.



We didn’t get to the rocks on both sides of the driveway, another 120 feet (but only a couple of feet wide). That’s going to have to be next year.


So, this weekend Jim decided to start a NEW project! Replacing the cover over the patio in the back. It had the fiberglass cover on it that had some broken spots, a lot of the wood is rotted, etc. 


Maybe I should document all the art projects that are not finished…or maybe not.

We have nothing to fear…
November 23, 2008, 6:39 am
Filed under: Art, Perfectionism | Tags: , , ,


India Recycled Journal

India Recycled Journal

Of course, the rest of the quote used in the title is “but fear itself.” I couldn’t remember who said it, so a quick Google search revealed that it was Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first inaugural speech (that is certainly timely)!

The actual quote is:

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Of course, I could talk about a million things many of us are afraid of right now; but I am thinking about fear and creativity. One of the biggest barriers in my artwork is my fear that it won’t be “good enough.” Good enough for what, I don’t know. 

The journal above is one of about a half dozen I created over the summer when I was learning how to do the coptic bookbinding stitch. I didn’t want to put any journals for sale on etsy until I felt they were “good enough.” I won’t admit to you how often in my life good enough never happens. 

I’m not advocating putting schlock out there. But, quite often I am amazed at some of the things people sell, or teach, or write, or…whatever. Sometimes, I know I have something better to offer. But since I don’t think it’s good enough yet, it doesn’t see the light of day. So it really doesn’t matter what I have to offer…because I seldom offer it! 

But really, it’s just fear. Fear of what I’m not real sure…fear of what other people think…or of being wrong…of being criticized…all of these things.

So here’s the second part, my challenge to myself:

The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.

Albert Einstein, (attributed)

I think everyone has heard some version of this idea; that we can’t do the same thing we’ve always done and expect different results. This has been on my mind a lot the last several months, and I’m trying to do some things differently.

Even starting this blog is “stepping out of my comfort zone,” getting over my fear of putting something “out there” that someone might reject. So, thanks for reading…and go check out my imperfect coptic bookbinding on etsy, too.

Then tell me how you’ve been able to look fear in the face.