Posts Tagged ‘artist’

doodle power!

Posted in 7 deadlies, art, family, friends, gifts, journey, memory, notice, ponder, technology, time, UncategorizedComments Off on doodle power!

There seem to be plenty of articles lately on retaining your memory. As we depend more and more on smartphones to keep all our important information at our fingertips, we rely less and less on our memory. Gosh, I used to have over a dozen telephone numbers as well as addresses (zip codes too) memorized and ready to recall at a seconds notice. No more. I’m mortified to admit (sorry mom) I even have to look up my own dear mother’s phone number, now having grown lazy of mind, since at the push of one button I can dial her automatically. So when I read this great article entitled, ‘  The Power of the Doodle ‘ , it brought back a few important memories that I had long forgotten.

The article pointed out that doodling has the power to improve your focus and memory. This increases both the focus and attention you pay to your doodling. It can serve to increase your memory retention during that time so engaged.

Flash back to my 5th grade book report on the explorers. I had chosen Sir Frances Drake. It was my first serious book report and in all honesty I found Sir Frances Drake fairly dull subject matter. I remember discussing the assignment with my mother, who always seemed to know how to bring out the artist in me. (thanks mom!) She suggested I write the book report in a diary style, which I did, but then found myself adding doodle illustration drawings in the margins of the paper. Little wooden sailing ships. Antique map details. Things that helped to illustrate his ocean voyage, which suddenly became much more interesting to me now that I could connect to his journey through my doodles. I got an A+ for my efforts. God bless my teacher for not deducting points for drawing on my book report.

Now I’m in junior high school. ( still don’t know how I lived through that) I’m in Mr. Michael’s American History class and he is droning on and on about the French Revolution as I desperately try to stay focused. Mr. Michael’s was always kind enough to tell us that the test we would be taking would come directly from his lecture, so paying attention and good note taking was imperative. I’m listening to his words, but not looking up as I am doodling Marie Antionette’s head, cakes, and peasants in rebellion when I hear my name being called out…loudly.

“Miss Massaro, would you please care to share with me what is more important than what i have to say!?”

I just about fainted and now am about to be called up in front of the class to show that I am sketching instead of note taking. Public humiliation 101. I hand him my crazy looking notes with my weird little doodles in between historical facts, ready for the humiliation hammer  that is about to fall. Instead he hands it back to me and says,” Well, I am very happy to see someone is paying such close attention to my lesson.”

God bless you Mr. Michaels for seeing that I learned a little differently than other kids and keeping me on my young creative path.

I was red faced by the attention, but so relieved that I did not get chastised in front of my peers.

Art vindicated me again and I passed the test too. It seems the power of doodling indeed helps you focus. Not only that, it enriches the information you are surrounded by in a very physical manner.

I still doodle. As an artist it’s called sketching. I do it in any setting, anywhere I find myself bored or inspired. Boredom can often lead to inspiration. Sitting in the audience while my husband plays is no where near as interesting as being up there playing. So I draw. I sketch. I doodle. I am intently involved in not just the music, but the players, the audience and the environment as a whole.

I had no idea where I was going in my life back then, but others might have seen what was ahead for me. My mother, a few good teachers. We can never underestimate the influence one kind or encouraging act can have on a persons life –  at any age.

Let’s just keep passing it on and on. What a difference we can make, whether we know it or not.





straight lines

Posted in art, gifts, journey, notice, ponder, technologyComments Off on straight lines

” Oh, I wish I could draw.  I can’t even draw a straight line.”

This is the most common thing people remark when they ask what I do. I have heard it countless times. I want to tell them that there is no magic, just a certain passion, a calling perhaps. There is rarely a way to make a living wage outside of the commercial art world, so passion or a calling are the only things that compel you to make art. You do it because you simply don’t know who or how else to be. And that applies to dance, music, writing or any of the fine arts.

But people so often fail to connect their natural creativity and how it intersects with their daily lives. Making a beautiful birthday cake. Laying out a garden. Singing songs to your children. Restoring a classic car.  A disciplined yoga practice. It’s those daily moments in life that require no ruler whatsoever that makes us all artists to a certain degree. It’s the fine art of living that is available to all of us everyday.

And that brings me back to the ‘straight line’ comment. I want to tell them, that’s the beauty of being an artist – you don’t have to ever draw a straight line. It can be a curved line. A dotted line. A colored line. A digital line. But make your life line, using whatever tool or medium you choose.

“Your job is to draw a line from your life to your art that is straight and clear.”  (from ART & FEAR)

studio without walls…

Posted in art, journey, memory, notice, ponder, technology, time, travelComments Off on studio without walls…

My year of a ‘studio without walls‘ is going very well. Of course the beautiful weather contributes to working on anything outside, but that has not kept me from sketching and drawing on location whether it be camping or nightclubs. I laughed when I recently read an article where the author posed the question, “In this age of digital media, are we taking too many pictures?”

I confess, I still take lots of pictures, but I do reference them and often. But executing a drawing, or painting while on location is an entirely different experience.  It’s immersing yourself in the scene, looking very, very closely at your subject, taking in the overall feel of the space and environment. It appears to be  a much more personal moment than the camera in that the  result  captures the ‘hand of man’ in a way that is undeniably tied to the artist.  Mostly it’s the knowledge that ‘time’ plays a very specific role in a drawing or painting, and rarely do people recognize the time it takes to survey a scene, find a unique point of view, and then capture a moment that will be lost in an instant with a camera. What most people fail to recognize is the time it takes the person behind the camera to make the decision to snap that image. Maybe what I am talking about here is intention. A photographer has a deeper intention behind the lens than the masses of people behind their smartphones,  iPads, and digital cameras . So perhaps to answer that authors question, ” … are we taking too many pictures?”  I would say –  yes. At least without the proper intention.

But I am  also speaking from an artists’ point of view. It cannot hurt to consider  for a moment, what you miss when you are busy trying to ‘get the shot’ instead of experiencing the moment more deeply.  Be mindful that you don’t substitute the moment for the shot. Try at least to be in the moment, locking it into  memory and then taking the shot. Don’t remove yourself from that moment where you have connected to something meaningful. To lose the experience but freeze the moment seems like cheating yourself out of life.

My ‘studio without walls’ year is waking me up again in a most stimulating way. My feet rest solidly on the ground and I’m finding great pleasure in experiencing moments in a very deep and thoughtful way.

PHOTO CREDIT – Sarah Cowen  ( shot with the most excellent intention)

a time for thanks…

Posted in art, explore, Fredericksburg, gifts, journey, nature, notice, ponder, time, Uncategorized1 Comment

Rather than just one day, November 25th, I think the entire month of November should be set aside for giving thanks. After all, to my mind, there are countless things to be thankful for.

My sight, for one. Being able to see the daily wonders and changes as nature moves through her cycles is breathtaking to me. Here in the Texas hill country, the many crossings provide peeks down dozens of the  most beautiful natural passages.

I think as an artist, seeing is how I come to best understand life. And I am eternally grateful for that gift.

                             Because it’s not what you look at, it’s what you see.

nature gets the last word

Posted in journey, nature, notice, ponder, Uncategorized1 Comment

As an artist, it’s both frustrating and humbling to constantly be reminded how futile it is to try to beat nature at creating beautiful things. All efforts seem so futile when you look closely at the simplest of things … the patterns on a seashell, the colors of a bird’s feathers, the clouds overhead. I use nature as my teacher and every day is again a reminder there is simply no way to learn these wonders in such a short time. It’s like always being in kindergarten.

I remain always on my knees in appreciation of the wondrous beauty of it all.

If someone or something always gets the last word, let it be Mother Nature. What good and lovely hands to be in, from the beginning to the end.

(featured photo by Catherine Massaro)

The Happy Home

Posted in art, home, journey, memory, notice, ponder, time, Uncategorized1 Comment

Many, many years ago, ( when I was in my early 20’s) I took a battery of psychological tests, one of which was to ascertain skills and interests.
My three highest rankings came out like this:

1. officer in the military
2. homemaker
3. artist

My lowest score was nursing.

I was initially mystified by these results. What did these three seemingly unrelated professions have in common? It was explained to me that all three of these loved organizational behaviors. In the military, following organized thinking is very important when large groups of people must follow suit to accomplish a common goal. An officer though? Well, it showed I wanted to be in charge of the goal, leading rather than following.

The homemaker, having been raised in the bra burning era stunned me as well. But here it was again – organizing a well run home, replete with children, is highly organizational. Martha Stewart created an empire on this very premise. ( I love you Martha)

Now to the artist. Artists are lumped into the crazy bin of those living on the edge of madness and poverty. To the uninitiated in the arts, nothing could be further from the truth. The process of printmaking for instance, requires tremendous organizational thought both in the mind as well as the act of printing. Artists are forever trying to figure out the organizational principals of creating ideas that begin in the mind, but end up as a sculpture, a painting, a song.

So back to the happy homemaker. I have always enjoyed my living spaces. Apartment or house, boat or campsite, it was an organizational challenge to both decorate and create a refuge. It should be a happy place, and indeed, anywhere I could set up a ‘home’ environment was a happy place to me. I like to think all my mother’s efforts to teach my sister and I the skills of homemaking contributed greatly in my appreciation of this realm. But as it turns out, it was never the ‘home’ that made me happy, it was the exercise of organizing the space. And as it turns out, organizing space , color, shapes on a canvas was not any different for me than organizing furniture, plants, or rugs in a room. Organizing things settles my mind and helps me make sense of things. So while a home can make you happy, it’s sole purpose should not be ‘happiness’. What does that mean then if we become suddenly ‘unhappy’? Is our house to blame? We cannot perfect our lives by perfecting our homes.
And just as there is organization in nature, we should strive to find that lovely balance of organization within our home to sooth the mind and create that happy place to buffet us from the noisy, complicated world we have created outside our doors.

(featured photograph by Catherine Massaro)

The Escape Artist

Posted in 7 deadlies, beginnings, journey, secret suffering, timeComments Off on The Escape Artist

So, this is a rather long story if you care to indulge yourself in epic failures I’ve had, that somehow changed my life for the better.

I landed a job once at a time when I needed it most, though my entire life as I knew it was going to hell. A place I had always dreamt about working, New York City.

The job started out in Long Island, Central Islip for those of you who know that part of the world, but since the showroom was in Manhattan, I was able to convince my boss that I could get more done working out of the city rather than the manufacturing plant in Islip. I was thus spared the daily ride in to Penn Station on the Long Island Railroad, plus the indignity of living in Central Islip.

The job was more money than I had ever made, but my expenses were as well. I was paying a lawyer for a divorce, my shrink for my sanity, my son was in a private school in Connecticut and I was slowly going bankrupt from it all. So I needed that job just to hang on to my crumbling life. As circumstances would have it, my boss was a complete shit head of the most manipulative, evil, diabolical kind. A truly dangerous fellow who liked trapping his employees into personal loans for cars, and their children’s college debt, vacation home mortgages and the like and then holding their feet to the fire knowing they could not quit on him. He would then proceed to humiliate and verbally abuse them publicly in the workplace, knowing they were trapped. I had a fellow working with me, dear Julian, who warned me from the start to never, ever, take a thing from him and I heeded his warning. Came a day, when the entire sales and creative team was at the big conference table to review sales from market week, and the shit started hitting the fan – big time. Mr. Evil started at one end of the table ( I was at the very end) and one poor schmuck at a time, he berated their work and them personally till I was almost white faced watching their humiliation. He was however, making his way quickly towards me, and I realized my father would be turning in his grave knowing I was working for such a despicable man. I had had enough of being manipulated in my marriage, saw the ugly connection of putting up with crap and the long term harm it had done me, and suddenly my therapy kicked in and I knew I had to make a call. I slowly put all my files into my briefcase, stood up calmly and faced him down at the opposite end of the big oval conference table and said exactly that –

“If my father knew I was working for such a horrible person he would turn in his grave. I quit.”

As I marched out of the room, watching the looks of horror on my fellow coworker’s faces, he screamed at me, “You will never work here again!”

No problem, I was gone. It was time to go. And I felt like a bird let out of a cage as I marched down 5th Avenue free from tyranny – until I got to Washington Square, when it dawned on me that I was now living in one of the most expensive cities in the world… without a job.

Well, long story short, things got bad and things got worse. Within 2 months I crashed and burned both physically and emotionally and landed back in Buffalo, filing for bankruptcy, living with my mother, completely incoherent and on lots of Prozac. That’s how things can go when you make grown up decisions. I just knew no amount of money was going to be worth that paycheck, no matter how much I was loving being in New York City, and I surely was loving it.

But the most wonderful thing happened … I started to get better fairly quickly after I let go of the nightmare that had become my life. I crept slowly and painfully back into the working world, one sweet little low paying job after another, eventually without pharmaceuticals, and a newfound strength and freedom. Where I landed about 5 years later is sort of a fairy tale ending, but it just goes to show … you should know when it’s time to go!

(featured image – oil on canvas, THE ESCAPE ARTIST, by Catherine Massaro)

the heat is on

Posted in explore, food, nature, notice, travel3 Comments

We’re having a heat wave. Should be over 100 for the next 3 or 4 days. I’m waiting to see if it breaks a record in Death Valley as they are predicting. If you have never driven through Death Valley, though I would not recommend you go now (February is nice!) it’s a wonderful surprise, and very ‘desert’ beautiful. Plus you get to stand at the lowest spot below sea level in the U.S. The starkness of a desert landscape is so beautiful to me and I took so many pictures of the sand dunes. But it’s not for everyone. All of nature is beautiful to me though – I have yet to find a corner of this country that I did not find beauty in. Or maybe it’s through an artists’ eye, because after all … being an artist is all about noticing things.


(photograph by Catherine Massaro)

Taos tripping

Posted in explore, friends, journey, memory, nature, time, travelComments Off on Taos tripping

Usually around June, like a migrating bird, I start leaning towards Taos, New Mexico.

I must have been around 27 years old when I first learned of Taos. At the time I was hosting a weekly life drawing group out of my home/studio in Kansas City. Gosh it was a great group of women, one of which went on at great length one week about her recent trip to Taos, where she attended a week long watercolor group. My dear friend Maureen and I were mesmerized by her stories and made a vow to go that following year. Not only did we go that year, but for 15 subsequent years thereafter, we made it our annual painting trip. I recall only one year where we had a break – that was a post miserable divorce for me when I was stone cold broke, and during her husband’s kidney transplant. It was always the highlight of my year and I think hers as well. Eventually we abandoned the workshops altogether and simply went on our own.

If you have never had a great painting buddy as an artist, I can’t really explain the kinship. Nor can I relate the connection or bond you develop with a place. And that’s what it was like for  us and Taos.

So, here it is June, and here I go again. Sadly not to meet up with Maureen to paint, but happily to be with another dear friend and old neighbor, Victoria. Almost 10 years ago when I lived in Taos, Victoria lived across the road in her sweet domed house. Life on the Arroyo Hondo mesa, on the outskirts of Taos proper, was rugged and windblown but magnificently beautiful. Easily the most beautiful place I have ever lived. As always with these beautiful places I have been privileged to live in though – winter came. Cold, wind and the dreaded snow.

But New Mexico got in and stayed in my blood.

” …become intoxicated by this irresistible high-altitude landscape they now share with previous generations of settlers. As Georgia O’Keefe once wrote:”

“If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.”