Friday, August 29, 2008

Endless Summers... Goofy photo of me and friends circa 1981

Summer comes up so fast. It doesn’t officially start until Jun 21st, but I always feel like the best part of it is over by the 4th of July. The fireworks go off and the sweltering heat and humidity starts and lasts well into September. The days start to get shorter around June 20th and I feel that the days with the longest amount of light are the best.

If I could live somewhere where it always stayed daylight up until about 9 o’clock, I would. Short days depress me. I still have this memory of taking the 5-6 o’clock bus home from working at the mall and the interior bus lights were on because it was dark outside. I also remember working at the warehouse- going to work in the dark, and coming home on the dark. I hate that more than you can imagine.

The illusion of a longer day makes you feel like you have more time to get things accomplished, rather than parking your ass in front of the TV and feeling like the days are squashed into the tiniest space imaginable.

Summer also reminds me of days spent “Up Home” at my Aunt Evelyn’s house. The sound of blue jay’s calling always reminds me of being a child and having no responsibilities except having to come in for dinner when called.

We’d have sleepovers, staying up late to watch old scary black and white movies long after our regular bedtimes. We’d wake up early and go swimming in my cousin’s pool. The small above ground pool that took up their entire cement “back yard,” sounds coming through the windows of the adults playing cards inside.

I remember running 5 times down to the corner drugstore for candy, only to be yelled at by the clerk the 5th time around because I wasn’t wearing shoes. (She had claimed to have told me each time prior but because I was a young child pumped full of sugar and excited to be away from home and swimming on a beautiful day, I probably didn’t hear her.

We didn’t have a lot of money when I was young, and I often times remember never having all of the necessary changes of clothing when I would go and visit somebody. Meaning that I sometimes couldn’t go swimming because no one had anything that would pass as a suit for me. Or I’d have the wrong shoes. My feet were and still are very sensitive. I have a hard time finding things that don’t rub, or make my feet burn. So I don’t think I always had proper sneakers or flip flops for the occasions at hand.

One time I remember going down to the local community fair with sandals that were ripping my feel to shreds with blisters. I think my Aunt Evelyn managed to find a band-aid at the bottom of her purse and that kept me from losing my mind.

Written 05/30/08

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mandala - Art on Black Paper Part 2: Successful Products.

Doodle on Black paper

For a while, I was on this kick to create art on black paper. Without the proper drawing impliments, it's somewhat of a challenge. You need a product that's highly pigmented so it will show up well on black paper.

I also had a little difficulty in finding black paper that I liked working with. Artagain and Strathmore have black paper tablets available, but my favorite black paper is Canson's Mie Tientes. It's not a cheap paper, but since I don't work with it all the time, it's worth it to me to have a little on hand for when I do want to use it. It's silky smooth....

I tried lots of different implements on the paper that didn't work out. Crayons, (like Crayola) had too much wax content to show up on the paper at all. Oil pastels worked but smeared easily and have a very offensive odor. They were also too large to work with for small detail. I didn't want to work with pastels due to the smearing issues. (I have a hard time keeping my hands from touching the paper as I work.) I also tried gel pens. Have I mentioned how much I hate them? I had about a dozen different kinds and none of them would write without skipping on any kind of paper I tried. Paint pens worked pretty well, until they start to run out and you have to shake them to get them going again.

My favorite product for working on black paper are the Caran D' Ache Neocolor II water soluable crayons. They can be sharpened, they don't smear on the paper and are very vibrant in color. They were used on the above image on the Mie Tientes paper. The Neocolor crayons come in both regular and water soluable versions. The water soluable version is just that - draw on paper, run a wet brush over it and they act like watercolor paints. (They are not suitable for painting on the black paper.) You can also take a wet brush and just touch the tip of one of the crayons to add a bit of color to your brush for painting. They are very versatile. They sell sets of 10 that could be used in place of a pocket watercolor set.

051307 Prismacolor Mandala on Black inspired by Blue Sea Art

The image above was created with Prismacolor colored pencils, but there's a trick involved. I did not test every brand of colored pencil to see what worked on the black paper. I tried my Prismacolors and a few colors, (mostly pastel) would show on the black and then others wouldn't. The above image was created by drawing the design in white colored pencil first, and then adding color on top. The white pencil acts as a primer for the colored pencil.

022807 Jamani Mandala

In this last image, I used one of the cheapest methods of getting color on black paper. The red came from a what I call a Grease Pencil. Some call them wax pencils, or China Markers. The cost about a dollar and are nice & pigmented & smooth to write with, but the available colors are limited. The silver in this image came from a paint pen.

I had not set out to paint on paper, but if you do- there is a type of watercolor paint called "Gouache" that is highly pigmented and should work well.

Strathmore Artagain Pad
Caran D'Ache Neocolor II Watersoluable Crayons
Prismacolor Pencils
Canson Mie Tientes Paper
Grease Pencils
400 Series Black Field Drawing Books

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Blind Faith

Blind Faith

There is a blind man that lives in my neighborhood.

Over 20 years ago when I worked in a mall, my friend Don worked in a shoe store across the hall from me. That same blind man entered the shoe store and my friend Don sold him a pair of shoes.

After the sale had been completed and the man left the store, Don came over to me with tears in his eyes and said, "I just sold a pair of shoes to a blind man."

I understood where his tears came from- that the blind man had to have faith that Don would sell him a pair of shoes that fit well, were reasonably priced and respectably fashionable- a pair that wasn't some ugly cast off from five years ago that nobody wanted to buy.

He entrusted Don to not take advantage of him because he was blind.

Every time I see that man, I think about a person placing their complete trust in someone else's hands.

Sometimes placing blind faith in a person can be difficult, especially if you've been hurt before. It's just too easy to shut down and become distrustful because you don't know a person's true intentions.

Not everyone in life is going to extend you this level of trust, but when they do, try to do everything you can to not sell them an ugly pair of shoes so that your relationship will continue to grow stronger with every action.

As with every relationship, it boils down to an equal exchange of energy. If someone is willing to put themselves in your hands, honor them by giving back until the exchange feels right.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Doodling on Black Paper - Part 1

(Originally written 03/07/07)

This is a bunch of scribbles & doodles from trying out different pens on black paper. This is Strathmore paper, which I just can't stand. I just bought some Canson Mie Tientes black paper but haven't tried it out yet. (See a future blog posting on how much I love the Mie Tientes paper.)

There's several types of Gelly pens represented here. Did you know that there were different types? While most of them will put down nice color on black, they skip, get thin and are otherwise inconsistent.

My favorite was a silver/blue pen that had a lightning bolt on the cap - and while it laid down a perfect silver line, sadly, the silver smudges when dry.

There's a Pilot Extra Fine Silver marker here, and it's pretty nice except when it starts to sputter & run out. (Then you need to shake it to continue.) Nice to doodle with but don't get into something detailed or you might end up disappointed.

Crayola crayons are too waxy, and other than the white, are pretty much useless on black. There's a Stabilio yellow multi-surface marking pencil that did ok, but not great.

Next up are the Caran D'Ache Neocolor II Water Soluable crayons. They were pricey, so I only bought 2 - purple and white. Wow Wow Wow. They are niiiiiiiice. Oh - and they can be blended with a wet brush, and you can do wet on wet with them. This is a mighty bad-ass product. I want more.

Lastly, are the winners - el cheapo China Markers/Grease pencils in white and red. (Of note is that I've also tried various colors of Prismacolor colored pencils and some laid down better than others - but they are not represented here. Same goes for my Cray-Pas oil pastels.)

Strathmore Artagain Pad
Caran D'Ache Neocolor II Watersoluable Crayons
Prismacolor Pencils
Canson Mie Tientes Paper
Grease Pencils

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Mandala is a Form of Self Exploration Through Meditation

081608-Mandala, originally uploaded by biffybeans.

The Mandala is a form of self-exploration through meditation. It doesn't matter where you start, or where you end up... What matters is tha tyou took the time to be introspective. To be creative without judgement. To allow yourself a moment of time to be PRESENT.

For me, much like drumming or chanting, the repetitive nature of the work puts my mind at ease.

Art heals your mind, AND your soul.

Create it, ponder it, then give it away. 08/08 SMS

Mixed Media Mandala -

Lamy EF Safari filled with Private Reserve Burgundy Mist ink.
Pelikan M200 .07 CI filled with Noodler's Bulletproof Black ink.
Prismacolor (yellow) colored pencil
Winsor & Newton watercolor paints (Bijou Box)
Cachet 7x10 watercolor book

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mantra Mandala Hand with Seeing Eye

From 07/01/08: Fountain pen art. Drawn with a Pelikan M200 Fine nib, with Noodler's Black ink in a Blick 8x10 sketch pad. Yes, a little larger than I usually work with. I would have worked on this one straight through but I had to put it down to watch Hell's Kitchen. The eye came out in the 2nd session.

The mantra is for removing obstacles: Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha.

PS - Happy Birthday Mom!

Mandala - The People in Your Life

I have come to the conclusion in my almost 40 years on this planet that all of the people you encounter in your life, be they friends, relatives or co-workers, have all entered your life for a very specific function.

The purpose may not always be immediately evident.

Sometimes they are there to console us through troubled times and sometimes they are there with us to enlighten us to our own higher purpose in life.

Sometimes they are there to bring joy into our lives, and sometimes to make our lives more difficult but with the purpose of us learning from these encounters.

Sometimes these people are aside us throughout most of our lives, and sometimes they are there for only a fraction of a second to pass along a simple message about ourselves.

Upon occasion, it becomes frustrating when people seemingly vanish from our lives without so much as a goodbye, but those people are often the ones that we should consider as having served their purpose and look closely at the message our relationships with them have left behind.

Sometimes it's also necessary to re-think a particular relationship if it is no longer serving your higher good. People can change, and your relationships with them can change as well.

Be grateful of the people in your life now, as well as those you are no longer in contact with. They have all served a purpose in your life and without them, you would not be the person you are.

Every relationship is important. Overlook no one. It's all important. And remember that you are just as important to another person as they are to you.

Remember you are at the center of it all. Take nothing or no one for granted. Appreciate everyone no matter how frustrating at times. Everyone is a part of you and you are a part of everyone else. Take nothing for granted. Appreciate everyone in their own way.

06/15/08 Stephanie

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another Transformative Experience at Jim Donovan's Summer Rhythm Renewal

With Jim Donovan, originally uploaded by biffybeans.

Stephanie with friend and mentor - Jim Donovan.

I just back from Jim Donovan's Summer Rhythm Renewal and it's really difficult for me to put this experience into words. It was my third year attending the event, and each year has been more transformative than the last.

The Rhythm Renewal is held in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania, at St. Francis University, where Jim is an instructor of music. The event consists of 4 days of drumming, dancing, concerts, impromptu jam sessions and plenty of opportunities for self exploration.

Although held on the grounds of a Catholic University, the event is not religious by nature, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that there is a certain spiritual and uplifting nature that comes from the music, the dancing, and being around so many like minded people.

Jim Donovan is at the center of it all - teaching a workshop each day, and having his band "Drum the Ecstatic" perform at a concert on Saturday night. Jim is one of the founding members of the band Rusted Root, but left the band in 2005 to raise his family and to teach - something he felt that he always was meant to do. (And he's pretty darn good at it!)

Having been a longtime Rusted Root fan, I first because aware of Jim in 2005, when he came to perform at a local music festival. Shortly after that, I attended one of his "Yoga of Drum and Chant" workshops, and I can literally say that the experience changed my life forever.

I attended the Yoga of Drum and Chant workshop because I wanted to drum - but ended up walking away with so much more. In this particular workshop, Jim uses simple drum rhythms played on a West African goblet shaped drum called a djembe, combined with vocal toning, (chanting) to allow people to turn off the constant mind chatter and learn how to be more "in the moment." Repetitive drum patterns played at a specific tempo allow "entrainment" to occur. Entrainment happens when both halves of your brain come into balance (synchronize) which can result in a truly transformative experience. The chanting, typically ancient Sanskrit and Tibetan mantras such as "Om" or "Om Mani Padme Hum" and are made up of syllables which can be thought as vibrational devices for deepening one's thought.

So if the drumming and chanting weren't already enough to keep me coming back, there was Jim's underlying messages of presence, (the opposite of multi-tasking) of removing bad habits and patterns that no longer serve your higher good, as well as openness and internal growth.

And so for the last three years, I've attempted to get to every one of his workshops within reasonable driving distance, culminating each year with the Rhythm Renewal in Loretto. You start to see familiar faces at each event, because so many people are tuned into what Jim is all about. Registration day at the Rhythm Renewal is always a treat - meeting up with such wonderful people that you haven't seen since the previous year's event.

The Rhythm Renewal also brings together a wonderful faculty of instructors that teach such classes as African Drum and Dance, North Indian (Tabla) drumming, Didgeridoo, Introduction to Shamanism, percussive workshops, and Women's Rhythms for Everyone. There is also an opportunity for any participant to be part of Saturday night's concert event by performing with the Rhythm Renewal drummers.

This year, I made new friends, talked to old friends, played a lot of drums, (kit & djembe) danced my ass off, took my shekere playing to another level, spent time to be introspective and generally had a fantastic time.

Truly in the moment

If all this wasn't already enough of a blessing, Jim invited me onstage to play shekere during the last song of Saturday night's Drum The Ecstatic International concert. The song was Santana's "Jingo" and yes - there is a video, and I will post the link as soon as it's available.

Playing shekere with Jim Donovan's band - Drum the Ecstatic International

Thursday, August 7, 2008

02/02/08 Lehigh Valley Day of Drumming : Moe Jerant and the Jamani Drummers perform "Fire" with special guest
Jim Donovan (Rusted Root)

February 2nd, I co-organized an event called The Lehigh Valley Day of Drumming.

Morning and afternoon drumming workshops were taught by
Moe Jerant and Rusted Root drummer, Jim Donovan.

Later in the evening, we held a concert which featured Moe Jerant and the Jamani Drummers, with special guest, Jim Donovan.

The video above is a performance of the song "Fire" an adaptation of Ubaka Hill's song, "Fire on the Mountain."

While I am no longer performing with Jamani, I owe a great deal of gratitude to each of these people. To Moe Jerant, for everything she has done for our local drumming community, and for giving me the opportunity to perform with Jamani. YOU helped get me to that next level and I will forever be appreciative.

To my fellow Jamani sisters, I love each and every one of you. Each one of you had so much to teach me about myself. You are all unique and wonderful souls. Don't be strangers.

Moleskine Doodle. Boston to Philadelphia

Originally written 02/22/08

Was in Atlanta on a business trip Tuesday-Friday of this week. Was to fly back from Atlanta on an 8pm flight, Friday night. (Through Philly, as I couldn't get a direct flight from my local airport.) So around dinner time on Thursday, we hear of the impending snow/ice storm that's due to hit the Northeast. I jump on the phone to US Air and manage to book us an earlier flight (2:40pm) in which they have miraculously waived the $100 change fee (because of the weather) and $240 difference in price. (Strange, the flight time & price difference was the same...)

Leaving work at about 11:15am, we head to ATL. Having checked the web numerous times before we left, we see that planes to the Northeast are running about 5 hours behind, but amazingly, our 2:40 flight is still on time. 3 miles from the airport, I get a text message that our flight has been canceled. We take the rental car back and head in to the US Air ticket counter and sit in a line with about 20 people in it that does not move for what seems like an hour. An hour and a half later, we make it to the ticket counter and are told that everything is booked, no flights, flights canceled, other carriers full....

The agent (ED) finally finds a way to get us home. He books us from ATL to Boston, then to Philly, and then to ABE. Ha. I surrender (check) my bag and never expect to see it again.

We push, bully & beg our way through the millions of people going through security because we have less than 45 minutes to make it to our gate, and it takes about 30 minutes to get through security, (on a good day) then another 10 to take the train (inside the airport) to the D terminal, which of course, is the last stop. We run to our gate and make it with about 5 minutes to spare.

But everyone is still just sitting there. For 5 minutes, 10, 15..... I finally go up to the counter and ask what the delay is, because nothing was posted at the agent's desk. I'm told that they are waiting for the Captain to come up to let them know if we are going to fly. (??????) And so I say to the agent, "You mean this flight might get canceled?" to which she responds, "Yes. It's probably going to get canceled." I try deep breathing, I imagine my happy place, but I can't help getting a bit snarky & frustrated. I go back to my co-worker and tell her that I'm furious with the guy back at the ticket counter (Our buddy Ed) that booked this flight, since he probably knew that this flight was also going to get canceled and he just needed to do something for us to get us out of line and on to the next person.

I sit down, sulk, trying to surrender to the fact that weather is not something I have control over.

Unbelievably, we are eventually called up with a quick "Flight 9011 (yes, that was really the flight number - and trust me, I got the heebie-jeebies when I saw it) is now boarding and the gate will close in 1 minute. There are only 13 (OMG - not thirteen.... I'm afraid of the number 13.....) of you, come on up."

As I clap with joy and run to the jet way, I hear a man say, "But they said there weren't any more flights going to Boston...." and that cooled my heals and made me sad. I didn't even want to go to Boston, but it's the only way I could get home.

Once on the plane, the captain comes out to talk to us about the flight. He too mentions that with there being so few of us, that we are welcome to spread out and sit where we like. I tell the captain about the man that said he couldn't get to Boston and how there might be people out there that would like to get on this flight. They call back out to the agent, who I assume makes as announcement because they found about 20 more people who were able to switch their tickets and get on this flight. (Ironically, the man that made the original comment did not get on the flight) This holds up take off for about 45 minutes. But it doesn't matter, because we are still going - yay! It doesn't even occur to me that we might get stuck in Boston, because nothing is really flying anywhere. We are also told that this particular flight will eventually be flying back to Philadelphia and we ask if we can just stay on board. :o)

And so, we take off for Boston. A 100 mile an hour tail wind gets us up there in no time, but.....the airport is closed due to snow removal. Sigh. We sit in a holding pattern, (read nauseating circles) over Provenance, Rhode Island for about an hour.

We are eventually cleared to land, and my friend smartly avoids telling me that planes slide off the runway at Logan airport all the time....

We have to get off the plane and re-book our Philly flight because due to all of the delays, we have now missed our connection to Philly. We only have a few minutes and as I run to the bathroom, I try looking for a store where I can buy a Red Sox hat for my Braves loving husband. No dice - not enough time. Ironically, we do end up getting right back on the same empty plane, same captain, etc. We will now not be able to make our final connection and are placed on a stand-by flight for 11:05 to get back to ABE. I am fairly certain that we will not be flying into ABE that night.....

We sit on the ground for another good hour until the plane is de-iced and we are cleared for take off. Because of the delay, it's almost certain that we will not be making our final connection. (And where are our bags? Where are they going to end up?) Luckily my co-worker has called her husband and has asked him to pick us up at the Philly airport. We land in Philly, pick up our ride, and an hour and a half later, are home. This doodle was created while in the air from Boston to Philly.


Just in time to kiss my husband and wish him a happy anniversary which had actually ended at midnight, but since I hadn't been to bed yet, it still counted. :o)

US Air did a great job of taking care of us in this crappy weather and to Ed, the ticket agent in Atlanta, I'm sorry I was silently cursing you out when I thought the Boston flight was going to get canceled.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Clear Your Mind Through Art - Mandala

Clear Your Mind Through Art, originally uploaded by biffybeans.

Clear your Mind through Art

Be Free if only for a few Moments

Breathe then let it go.


Sometimes you need to take a little time to do something.

A little something that lets you clear your mind. To rid your mind of the constand chatter. The chatter that keeps you from thinking clearly. to clear your mind so you can hear the right things to do.



In memory of Bob

In Memory of Bob

For 6 years, I created and sold my handmade jewelry at craft shows, art festivals, etc. I started with simple beaded designs and ended up doing a lot of wire weaving and metal work. Everything I did was cold connected - cold connections being various ways to attach things together without the use of heat.

All of the skills I acquired through the years were things I taught myself through books, or by reverse engineering a design I found interesting. The piece shown above was my first completed piece of metal work. I had been inspired to work with copper after seeing Jesse James (the bike builder) build a motorcycle out of copper. (Copper Chopper)

Once completed, I named this piece in memory of a former co-worker.

I used to work with a man named Bob- a simple guy that used to enjoy walking around the hardware store to get ideas for home improvements. Sadly, Bob died at an early age from an inoperable brain tumor. When I first started doing metal work and was stocking my toolbox, I couldn't help but think of Bob. This piece was sawed from copper sheet, hammered for texture, filed smooth, drilled & tumbled. I attached the handmade jump rings and oxidized it with liver of sulfur.

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