Thursday, January 31, 2008

Choosing Color: Create a Foundation Color Palette

Choosing color for your home is one of the most important aspects of decorating; it's what makes your living space inviting, happy, beautiful and uniquely yours. Through the process of choosing colors you begin to consciously create a home that nurtures everyone who lives there, creating a rich and beautiful life for yourself and your loved ones.

Yet this decision-making process is also one of the least understood aspects of decorating - and one of the most scary. I've written several articles about the role of color in interior design that will help you think about color in new ways. Sundrenched or Subdued What's a Latina to Do? is a piece I first wrote for Latina Style magazine. Though the title is spun towards the Hispanic market, my color and design advice works no matter what your social or cultural influences.

Bringing color into your home brings beauty into your daily surroundings and opens your mind to the richness of the world around you. Something as simple as painting a wall can open a door in your thought processes. The more you look at a variety of colors in the changing light of the day, the more sensitive you become to beauty. Become practiced at recognizing beauty in the simplest of things and soon you’ll notice that you’re living an abundant colorful life!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Hispanic Sacred Art - Painting a Ex Voto Retablo for my Sister

I painted this Madonna titled La Sirena Verde/The Green Mermaid for my sister, Alisa Acosta to celebrate the blessing of her 5 year anniversary of her recovery from cancer. Her dedication to all aspects of good health in the ensuing years inspires everyone who knows her. I gave it to her during the Christmas holiday. Thank you Alisa for all that you are! Sharing my sister's journey to recovery with her I am in awe of her strength.

Inspired by my Hispanic heritage, specifically my New Mexican ancestors, I painted this piece in the Hispanic artistic tradition of the Retablo in the Ex-Voto style. The image on an Ex-Voto is a visual acknowledgment and expression of gratitude for a blessing received.

Born in Los Angeles, we grew up on the Southern California coast. When we were children we spent many days at the beach across the street from our Abuelita's (grandmother's) house. Our memories of the beach are a source of happiness to both of us. We'd play in the waves, boogie board, pop buds on long strings of kelp, or walk out onto the jetty with brown sacks of warm tortilla chips fresh from my Abuelita's cast iron fry pan. On the beach, standing on the water's edge and facing west, with the Los Angeles metropolis of millions of people at our backs, we would look into the wilderness of the ocean. This strong, iconic mermaid reflects both the divine feminine along with the beauties and powers of the ocean. The dominant color scheme is my sister's favorite color -- green, the color of a clear, crisp ocean wave.

See more of my retablos. They are exhibited on the Hispanic Culture page of my website.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Painting BIG - My Life as a Billboard Artist

Only twenty years ago, a young artist could find paid employment painting pictures. Fresh out of art school or with a good portfolio an artist could find a job that increased their skills at the same time they made a living. Sign painting shops, billboard companies and printing shops used hands-on techniques and tools to make their products. That reality is now a thing of the past in all of those businesses. In 1988 I was one of those young painters. I knew when I got the job of being a billboard painter in 1988 that the field was quickly being extinguished by computers, I didn't know that it would happen as fast as it did. On that note, I am sharing with you my piece of the history of outdoor advertising in the years 1988 until Jan. of 1991. In 1988 in Bend, Oregon, I took the job as the lead and only (it was a small town of 17,000, though the largest town in the region) billboard painter for Carlson Sign. Carlson Sign, owned by Dick Carlson and his family was the dominant sign company in the entire Central Oregon region. They owned leases for billboards as far north as Madras, Oregon, south into Crescent and Chemult and east into Prineville. This meant that on the billboard business alone, Carlson Sign was well financed. Though billboards today are far less numerous than they were years ago, on that foundation, Carlson Sign company continues to be the largest sign shop in the region (and Bend has grown to almost 90,000).

So how did a 28 year old woman, afraid of heights get the job? Not because I had a newly-minted university degree in Painting, but because I'd been painting merchant's windows with sales promos for 5 years throughout the region and become the go-to-painter for this type of work. College degrees were a bit suspect in a painting shop, but my boss put aside his doubts to offer me a temporary job until they could get a real billboard painter from a big city. . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Internet Art Classes, What do YOU Think?

From time to time, I teach workshops and seminars. I began teaching at an early age, teaching skiing and swimming at the local mountain resort in Southern California when I was a teenager. As I grew in my artistry, I taught a variety of art classes and workshops, including a five year stint teaching drawing & painting classes at Central Oregon Community College, in Bend, Oregon.

I also look at my articles and books as the main method with which I continue to teach. Occasionally, I will teach a week-long workshop through Art in the Mountains. I usually base the curriculum on my book Paint Happy!

I've been asked by people in various parts of the world to do on-line art classes. I've wondered exactly how I should structure the classes to best benefit the student. If you have any ideas and/or are interested in this type of instruction, let me know.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Controlling with a Light Touch

Planning a painting or any project reveals that planning is about levels of control. Sometimes a plan is so cursory that it's just a light sketch. More of a push in a certain direction than a map to get to a particular place, whether physical or metaphysical.

Because the first painters I ever saw in action were Edward and Maxine Runci, I followed their example and only created a light sketch with paint on the canvas. With experience that habit became a philosophical approach. I learned that for me my commitment to creativity was the practice of creativity in many forms.

Because painting is risk-free (in the sense that parachuting isn't) I prefer that what happens after the beginning of a painting be a bit of a serendipitous surprise. I like the dance between control and lack of control. I've learned that controlling an image with a very light touch can lead to something better than I could have consciously planned. This can get me in trouble sometimes, but that's what gesso is for. Gesso is a thick white primer that can cover months of seeking without finding. If gesso isn't enough, I move on and move the piece to the burn pile.

Whatever the outcome, the risk of failure is worth the satisfaction of creating something new.

Some artists call this approach stream of consciousness. I suppose that the word stream refers to the sense of flow I feel when this approach is really working well. My book, Paint Happy! North Light Books, 2002, 2004 presents a version of this approach, albeit with the light touch of control being the restriction of keeping the imagery upbeat.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Creative Chili Cookies

Kathy Southwick sent me this picture of her version of my Hot Chocolate Cookies. In my recipe I describe these chocolate and chili pepper cookies as thin. Along with the picture, Kathy shared that though she originally shaped the cookies the way the recipe described, she tried rolling dough balls in granulated sugar, resulting in a rounded thick cookie with a sparkly finish. She assured me, "These are great! One bite and I'm ready to party!" She suggested that serving them with margaritas is even better.

Not only are her cookies great (and yes, they do taste good with margaritas) -- even better is her creativity and confidence in the outcome. I like her idea so much I added Kathy's suggestion to the original recipe. I love it when I know that I've inspired someone to have fun and be creative.

See more of my original recipes on the recipe page of my web site.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Watching Great Artists at Work - Edward Runci and Gerry Lopez

So... what do a former pin-up artist turned portraitist and one of the best modern surfers in the world have in common?

I've been lucky enough to watch both of them in action. The late Edward Runci was my first painting teacher. I was twelve years old when he and his wife Maxine invited me to attend a painting workshop at their home in Big Bear Lake. Gerry Lopez lives in Bend and surfs sometimes on the Oregon coast. He's also a board shaper and stand up paddle surfer. He's a generous guy, sharing tips with any of us beginners lucky enough to be on the water with him on the Deschutes.

Last fall, I watched Gerry surf at Pacific City. The waves were 8 - 10 feet and he was out there all day, carving turns with his paddle and standup board. Watching a surfer from the beach rather than on a video or film is like the difference between live-theater and a TV sitcom. Go to the beach, you'll be glad you did. I was struck by the elegance and beauty of his movements in such a way that watching Gerry reminded me of the first time I saw Ed Runci paint.

The elegance and economy of movement was a beautiful thing to see. Both men wasted little effort; Runci with a brush and Lopez with his board.

I was struck with their quiet passion. Without fanfare, Gerry was on the water more than anybody else that day. He's a life-long surfer and he's still so into surfing that he's out in the cold Oregon coast waters longer than anybody. Mr. Runci was in his 50's when I first met him. In the midst of a long, very prosperous and successful art career, he began every painting he made with enthusiasm and love of the medium.

The beauty of the medium shone because of the man. Like the perfect dance partner, both artists showcased the medium in all of it's beauty, so much so that it seemed easily accessible. Watching Gerry, I could almost feel my body responding the swell and curve of the wave. Watching Ed Runci, I could imagine the image appearing from my canvas as if it were stepping forwards from a darkened room.

I've devoted my art practice primarily to painting -- thus I deeply understand the expert artistry of Ed Runci's work. I began learning to surf last summer and I'm in awe of the artistry of Gerry Lopez.

Edward Runci (and his wife Maxine) left hundreds of paintings and images behind with their passing. Thankfully, Gerry Lopez is still surfing the planet. Check out his blog entry on the Kialoa paddle blog.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Accent Wall Color Advice

Dear Cristina,
I need help! I have this beautiful stone fireplace in my living room and I have an accent wall. I want a color that will bring attention to the fireplace and make it the focal point. The other walls in the room are a light tan. Please offer suggestions.

(via website contact form)

Dear Lisa,
An accent wall is a large area of isolated color that repeats the color of a furnishing or accessory like a sofa or vase. Paint one accent wall and it’ll look great. It’s presence helps to focus the eye on a portion of the room.

You said the rest of your room is tan. Without seeing your room, I’m not going to throw out a color for you to use, so here are a few suggestions about how to find the color that works.

When you choose your accent color consider the colors of both the fireplace surround, furnishings, textiles, floorings, ceiling and trim colors that are in the room.

Use paint chips and identify those colors. Put them all together on a table in that room and then choose an accent color that meshes well with the existing palette. If it seems at all daunting, think of it like choosing the colors of an outfit to wear. Look for an accent color that will pop the other colors, enhancing the focal point of the fireplace.

I wrote an article about this topic for a national magazine. Here is an excerpt about using color both on accent walls and in rooms that visually connect with each other (like great rooms):

Because the isolated color of the accent wall doesn’t lead (or connect) your eye to another area of the home, flow is not enhanced. That’s not a big deal as flow may not be important for that part of the room. Paint a few more accent walls and the lack of flow (or connection) becomes a big deal. The reason a few accent walls don’t enhance flow is because the color is on only one wall surface (or plane) so it becomes a graphic or two-dimensional addition to the room. Connect that accent wall color to the same color on the ceiling or an adjoining wall and the color now occupies two surfaces (or planes), making the color part of the three dimensional architecture of the room. That’s why you aren’t sensing flow with a few accent walls. It’s simple; you’ve got to have a sense of three-dimensional space to have flow. In other words: For color to enhance architecture, it has to be on enough surfaces that it contributes to the shape of the room. Read More….

I’d love to see a photo of your finished project.
Cristina Acosta
See examples of my color consulting portfolio and articles on my website. Call me to schedule a color consulting appointment in Bend, Oregon or a phone appointment if you don't live in Oregon.

Read more of my Choosing Colors blog entries.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Athletics and Art

Today I skied in the annual MBSEF Great Nordeen 15k Nordic ski race in Bend, Oregon. The temperature was in the high 20’s F and it snowed the entire way. I don’t know my ending time yet, but I finished behind the elite pack with enough time to get some of the good snacks!

Racing is relatively new to me. My daughter is a young elite athlete. Her life’s direction was so unknown to me that I decided to explore it by competing athletically. I’ve always been athletic but never before embraced competition. During the past 4 years I’ve done quite a bit of Nordic Skate racing, a little multi-sport racing and even a half-marathon.

The first race I competed in (42k Great Nordeen) I came in at 186 out of 190 competitors. As strong as I was, I learned that I knew little about how to best use my energy and effort. Over the years I’ve worked my way to a finish that tends towards the middle of the pack for my age and gender. Occasionally the really good athletes go on vacation and I place in the top tier.

Putting in the hours building aerobic base gives me time to mediate and think. Athletics and art aren’t as far apart as you might think. Sport is art & creation. The Greeks knew that so well they invented the Olympics. Watch an athlete and the strength we witness is often a combination of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual power. Elite athletes are so elegant and economic in their movements that they make their strength look both effortless and formidable. In the service of a person’s best life, strength is a beautiful thing.

Here are a few thoughts about athletics and art that keep me going:
  • My commitment to continue begins before I even see the starting line.
  • Practice doing it right before building speed.
  • Plans are an idea. Count on reality to change them, and be fluid.
  • Expect emotional and physical highs and lows, they’re the rhythm of progress.
  • Believe in my preparation & keep moving. I can do much more than I think I can.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Lose Track of Time? Focus & Organization Aren't all They're Cracked up to Be

Artists are notorious for not paying attention to time. Some people may (and do) call that trait selfish or unorganized. Enough of us creative types have this trait that I don't see it as a character flaw, though it can be a problem. Like needing glasses or having hay-fever, there are tools available to help (not cure) us.

I've noticed that when I'm focused on a creative project I lose track of time. Despite beepers, timers and other techno gadgets I don't notice time. I may look at the clock. I may even repeat the hour to somebody and still not get the significance of the current time and my relationship to it.

Yesterday I wrote that I would give you some tips to nurture your creativity. The more I think about it the more I wonder if this is such a good idea in January. Maybe the attention and action this type of list hints at and the time it would take is more of a September or October thing. January is already overloaded with Things-To-Do. Besides, if you're already engrossed in something, a tip that takes more time is only going to cause you more trouble.

So.... here's my compromise: One tip. One is easy. And the especially easy thing about this tip is that it's an overlay. You don't need more time, you just overlay this idea over other things you're already doing.

Notice Beauty.

That's my tip. It works like this. Putting away groceries? Notice the beautiful colors and textures of the produce and bakery items. Stuck in a traffic jam? Lots of beauty here -- the car next to you might be gorgeous (Or even the person in it!) Going to the dump? (Really!) beauty is found in both excess and simplicity.

Do this often enough and you're going to go-to-the-next-level in your observation of beauty. You're going to realize that beauty is like snow -- there are as many types of beauty as there are types of snowflakes. Beauty isn't just about the decorative and sanitized. Keep your attention on beauty and you'll notice that like the black and white of the ying yang symbol, your idea of beauty shifts with your perceptions.

And then -- well, you've lost track of time.
True! But you are the richer for it and so is your work. And that, after all is what our favorite timely friends, clients and associates appreciate about us.

In my teens I began experimenting with methods to focus my mind. Brought up in a tradition of Christian Prayer, that was the first action I recognized as a mental tool. Subsequently I've delved into other things: yoga, movement meditations, sitting meditations, and more. My favorite method that I return to (regardless of what I'm experimenting with) is the Silva Method. Introduced to the Silva Method in the 1980's I have found it to be very practical. Yes, it can get wu-wu. (Most any metaphysical process does.) But, even if you aren't attracted to the metaphysical, the Silva Method of mediation and mind control has something for you. Practical methods such as:
The Three Finger Technique
The Glass of Water Technique
The Progressive Relaxation Technique
and much more will give you the tools to minimize stress.
I highly recommend the Silva Method. Give it a try. The risk-free terms are on the website.
Silva Life System - Empower Your Mind

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Window Painting Work Kept Me Going

Creativity is a value we encourage our kids to embrace. Art sets for kids and artsy pre-school and elementary school projects are the norm. Somewhere along our life-line creativity is no longer a primary value. For most of us, by the time we are done with high school we are done with creativity and on to "the real world".

I'm writing this blog to share with you my story and process in the hope that you will be inspired to live your happiest and most creative life. You already are an artist. Your medium is your life. Whatever your job or life's work happens to be, how you live creatively within that work is where you can flourish creatively.

Being an artist seems like it would be a shoe-in for a creative life, but for me, it wasn't. Art stayed on the easel or as "work" for about 10 years before I got a clue. I've been a professional artist since the early 1980's. I began my professional life by transforming my fledging drawing and painting skills into a sideline business painting holiday windows for merchants. Here are a few of my original designs from the 1980's. Eventually this work and the work it led me to paid for my University degree in Painting at U of O in Eugene, Oregon.

Despite all of that experience and education, a basic idea eluded me. I was so worried about doing it right, about getting every skill I could and constantly learning from others that I neglected to listen to my inner self. Granted, I was working like crazy to eat, stay housed and be educated, so I can understand why self-discovery wasn't on my A list. Nonetheless, I stuck with the practice of art long enough to get to that place.

In my next post I'll share with you the tried and true things I've being doing to get my art off the easel and into the rest of my life.

Photos: I painted these with water-based poster paint in the 1980's. At first, I drew the basics free-hand with a light sketch using a bar of Ivory soap. When I got better, I drew directly with white paint to set up the lettering and art.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

January Newsletter

Cristina_Portrait_Retablo_web.jpgDear Friends,

Happy New Year! The rush and fun of the winter holiday season is behind us and I'm tired of cooking and eating! On that note, my gift to you is a recipe for Brown Sugar Beauty Scrub. Stir fresh mint andAn Angel Whispers Into My Ear.jpg orange zest together with simple ingredients and you are in for a calorie-free treat that will leave you refreshed and ready to act on your inspirations.

The New Year is also a time for resolutions. Team inspiration with imagination to discover and create resolutions that have power and meaning for you. When I make resolutions and plans I like to think about what has positively inspired me. Sometimes inspirations are famous people or events. At other times inspiration is closer to home.

Close to my home and heart is my sister, Alisa Acosta. She recently celebrated her 5 year anniversary after undergoing treatment for cancer. Her dedication to all aspects of good health in the ensuing years inspires everyone who knows her. In the tradition of the Ex-Voto, I painted a Madonna titled La Sirena Verde/The Green Mermaid to celebrate her life and gave it to her during the Christmas holiday. Thank you Alisa for all that you are!

A resolution needs a plan, and a plan involves a practice. Whether that practice is spiritual, physical or fiscal depends upon your resolution. As an artist I've learned that when I consciously practice a creative act, my attitude (and my day!) is often better. I don't have to pick up a paint brush or write an article to be creative. Some days, it's not practical. My practice it to pay attention to beauty in all forms. It's a practice that keeps me connected to myself and the world around me. Those connections are the waters in the well that feed my inspiration.

Though it's about creating a plan for a home project, I want to share with you an article I wrote, Plan for Success. The principles are basic to any successful plan. I'd love to hear from you and learn about yourSirena_Mermaid_Verde.jpg inspirations.

Live Happy,