Wednesday, April 30, 2014

7 Simple Ways to Start Your Day On the Right Foot

As an artist, I am always working to improve my skills. As a human being, I am always seeking ways to keep myself healthy in body, mind and soul. Here are some things that I have been incorporating into my morning routine that have truly helped me to start my day off on the right foot.

1. Stretch Your Body
When I wake up in the morning, the first thing that I do is stretch my body. I have lower back issues, so I focus a great deal on stretching that area as well as my hamstrings and legs since I spend a great deal of time on my feet.

2. Move Your Body
Getting to the gym can be a challenge with a busy schedule, but I feel so much better when I get exercise in. I have started to incorporate a small amount of exercise into my morning routine. After my morning stretches I will focus on one part of my body and work on that. For example, I will do as many push ups, squats, lunges, crunches, etc. as I can. I usually only have time to focus on one of these, but even that little bit will get my heart rate going and help me to have more energy through my morning.

3. Hydrate Your Body
After a night of sleeping, my body is generally pretty parched. Drinking a full glass of water gives me an instant boost and helps to keep away headaches and other aches and pains that might deteriorate my mood throughout the day.

4. Fuel Your Body
Your body needs fuel to function. So make sure that you keep breakfast as your most important meal of the day! I have personally found that 1 egg on a slice of multigrain toast will keep my body satisfied for hours. I will often pair it with a green juice or acai juice so that I get a nice dose of fruits and veggies too. Play around with what breakfast works the best for you, but stay away from overly processed items and make sure to throw in some fruits or veggies.

5. Stay Inspired
I personally find a great deal of inspiration in the bible. So I have an app on my android called Laudate that I refer to every morning for the daily mass readings. Each reflection that it has also contains a prayer. However, if this isn't your thing, there are plenty of apps and websites that have daily inspirational and motivational quotes, such as Words of wisdom are always inspiring!
For art related inspiration, 'The Daily Book of Art; might be a good option for you. It has 365 readings that teach, inspire and entertain. It can be found on here

6. Stay Cheerful
When you are in a good mood, it instantly changes the mood of others around you. You will also find yourself better able to handle the problems that you encounter throughout the day. I find that driving to work with my local Christian Rock radio station instantly changes my mood. I drive to work with Wally from The Wally Show (website here) and his show makes me laugh so much that it's difficult to be in a bad mood. We have all encountered the drivers who should never have been given drivers' licenses. Often these encounters leave us in a less-than-amicable mood. If I am playing music that makes me happy, I find that I stress less, drive slower and enter my workplace in a calm and happy mood. If you don't already have a favorite radio station, start experimenting. Otherwise, grab some of your favorite CDs or your Ipod.

7. Make Goals for Your Day
I find that setting realistic goals at the beginning of my day really helps me to stay on track. I'm personally a list maker, so I keep a small notebook where I can physically write these tasks down. I love being able to physically cross things off of my list. As I get things done, I feel a sense of accomplishment that helps me to keep my good mood going.

What are some things that you do in the morning to keep yourself healthy and happy?

Which of the things that I've listed would you find to be the most challenging to incorporate and why?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Finding Joy in Simple Pleasures

Let me confess something to you, dear readers. In my 'old age' I am finding myself to be more and more attracted to the simple things in life and less and less attracted to the things that society tells us we should be attracted to. ( wealth, power, etc) I am currently engaging in one of my favorite day off activities. That is to say, I am sipping my favorite tea and writing a blog post to you while planning out my day. An added bonus this time is that I also have some beautiful roses to enjoy as there was a wedding at my day job and I was able to take a few of the leftover roses home with me.

 So let me amend my original statement. I am sipping my favorite tea while gazing in awe upon the beauty of these roses. Upon reflection, I don't believe that it's the roses, or the blog posts or even the tea that is making me so happy though. It's the stillness in the morning while I plan my day and take a moment to ENJOY THE PRESENT. The present is lovely and still and the future is filled with hope and possibilities. Once I get going working on all of the things on my to-do list, that stillness will be broken, but for now I am embracing this peace with every ounce of my being and reveling in it.

With holy week impending I am finding my life to be in a constant state of chaos. My day job is frantically preparing for Easter and my responsibilities as a cantor and choir singer are also quite frantic. From this Sunday, through Easter Sunday I have no less than 5 performances at my church. Finding time to create is getting to be more and more of a challenge right now. I am still doing my sketch-a-day series but am finding myself missing days here and there and frantically trying to catch up with them. This has been leading to even more stress. I don't know about you, but I want my art to come from a place of joy. If I'm stressed out and frantic, then all of the fun has been taken out of the creating. I was reprimanding myself for missing days, but I've stopped that now. I am simply doing my best and not beating myself up when I am too tired to do a sketch.

Here are some of my latest sketches...

What are a few of your favorite things? What simple pleasures do you enjoy?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Unspoken Stories Behind Famous Paintings

I recently came across a very interesting blog post by James Gurney. (author and illustrator of the Dinatopia books) If you love art and aren't following his blog, then I highly recommend that you do. He is always posting interesting historical facts about past artists as well as helpful information regarding techniques. This particular post was about the artist John Everett Millais and his friendship with John Ruskin (a famous art critic,author and artist at that time)

We all know that art is a form of storytelling, but we forget that there are sometimes even more interesting stories hidden behind that artwork.

Case in point...

"The Waterfall" by John Everett Millais, 1853, oil

John Everett Millais painted this careful study of a woman beside a stream during a painting trip to Scotland. The woman is Effie (Euphemia) Gray, the wife of John Ruskin.

During the long days that it would have taken to paint this picture, one can imagine John and Effie getting to know each other. Effie was unhappy in her own marriage to Mr. Ruskin, in part because of a very awkward situation that unfolded on the Ruskin's wedding night. 

Until his marriage, Ruskin's idea of women's bodies had derived from his encounters with classical statues and paintings. Confronted by the reality of Effie's nude body on the wedding night, he was shocked and dismayed. 

No one knows for sure what exactly blew his mind: it might have been either the pubic hair or the menstrual blood. Some have argued recently that the sensual reality of woman's body conflicted with Ruskin's mental image of an idealized young female. Others have argued that Ruskin was a pedophile as he later had relationships with girls very much his junior.  (though many believe that he never had any sexual relations within his lifetime) The way Ruskin put it later at the annulment proceedings: "It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it."
Millais and Effie had fallen in love, but this led to a big problem, because the whole point of the Scotland trip was for Millais to paint a standing portrait of Ruskin in a natural setting. Having established the natural backdrop, Millais returned to London, where Ruskin posed for him in the studio. Millais called it "the most hateful task I have ever had to perform." 
    "John Ruskin" by John Everett Millais , 1953-1954, oil on canvas

After the portrait was completed, Ruskin and Millais broke off relations, and Ruskin's marriage was on the rocks. Effie, still a virgin, sued for annulment.

Ruskin may have been turned off by Effie, but Millais wasn't. They married in 1854 and had eight children together.
If this story interests or fascinates you, then you'll have a chance to see more in the upcoming movie 'Effie' which was written by actress extraordinaire Emma Thompson. ( who also acts in it)

I'm excited about one of my favorite art movements finally coming back into vogue and am looking forward to seeing the pre-Raphaelites' artwork finally taking it's much deserved spotlight. I'm also a huge fan of Emma Thompson so I'm REALLY excited to see this upcoming film which was released in the UK on March 4th, but currently has no US release date. Hopefully it will be brought across the pond soon! :)

To read more about John Ruskin
To read more about John Everett Millais
To learn about the Pre-Raphaelites