April 13th, 2023
April 11, 2023
Just as we seem to be moving from winter to summer (spring weather may fly by) the desert is moving quickly! Art shows are brightly popping up as is the SUPERBLOOM! The hills are alive with color - more than I have seen in the desert in a long time.
April is a time for renewal and to get your creative juices flowing!
I, too, am moving quickly - TWO Workshops in April.
I invite you to attend either April 15th at Cactus Mart or April 22 at the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve or both!
On April 15, I teach “Spring Into Acrylics” in the beautiful Garden Green Room at Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley. This 9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. class will focus on how to paint with acrylics. We will work on tables and although it is not a copy and paint class, I will provide a choice of references or springboards! Beginners welcome. All materials provided! Register at my website.
On April 22, join me for a plein air class at the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve “Capturing Big Morongo Canyon Preserve with Acrylics” - also from 9 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. with materials included. I will provide painting materials, but encourage you to bring a clipboard, drawing board or lightweight easel and a folding chair. You will learn to paint what you see outdoors, and it is beautiful at the preserve! Register here or if you are having trouble registering online, let me know.
Photos Above: (1& 2) Cactus Mart Painting Class, Big Morongo Canyon Preserve (plein air class site), Cactus Mart Green Room, Boardwalk at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, open doors in the Green room
Spring is in the air. One of my favorite places to visit in any season is nearby Pioneertown which has grown amazingly more popular in recent years. In the 1950s, Pioneertown was built by movie greats including Gene Autry and Roy Rogers as a western film set.
Today, Pioneertown is even more well-known due to Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace which hosted a surprise concert by Paul McCartney (yes the Paul McCartney!) several years ago! Notable musicians play weekly. I often make the drive (only 5 miles from Yucca Valley) to buy some of the wonderful goat milk soap from JoAnne Gosen’s shop, Soap ‘n Goats.
Vintage Pioneertown, Joanne at Soap and Goats, Mane Street, Sir Paul at Pappy and Harriet's, Pappy and Harriet's, my FAVORITE soap ever! the late Anthony Bourdain at Pappy and Harriet's, visiting the baby Angora goats, bridal photo shoot - you never know what you might see!
The only thing more fun than visiting Pioneertown is painting it! In recent years, I have painted storefronts along Mane Street. My friend and fellow painter, Krista Wargo, organizes the Hi Desert Plein Air Artists and recently we visited Mane Street to paint on a lovely spring morning. I returned during the weekend to buy soap – and well, l this happened! Mayor Sam lives with the Gosens along with a lot of other adorable Angora goats!
My paintings of Pioneertown: a trio of my Pioneertown paintings, Pioneertown Church, plein air painting at Soap and Goats, "I Kissed the Mayor"(not my art), YES! this happened, Mayor Sam knows he's handsome (photo taken as Deputy), Mayor Sam in the house! and painting the Likker Barn
As always, I encourage you to nurture your creativity. Make time to splash color, gather some yarn, pen/pencil and paper (it’s Poetry Month!), plant some seeds!
"Happiness? The color of it must be spring green." ~Frances Mayes
If your find yourself on the road to Pioneertown, stop in Morongo Valley at Cactus Mart - something for everyone, including local art - and visit the beautiful Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, an internationally known birding site and more.
Visit my Etsy Shop featuring art inspired by places I love, “French Press and Mojave Inspiration.” June is around the corner, wedding month! Cards and personalized invitations available. If you would like to hear more about my adventures in France and how they influenced my art, listen to my podcast interview with Naim, the Parisian Celebrant, on the Paris Wedding Show.
Wishing you a revitalizing spring!
Inspired by all of you,
March 15th, 2023
After an unusual four days of show here, spring is finally making an appearance! I hope this newsletter finds you well! I am reviewing my own advice from my last letter!
Give yourself room to breathe.
Expect the amazing.
Very best wishes for 2023! There will be valleys to accompany our mountaintop experiences, yet I invite you to greet the new year with sincerity and intelligence and expect joyous moments.
Although I did breathe and took time to be still, January and February proved to be very busy, serving up two art exhibits, and I taught two workshops!
29 Palms Art Gallery - Hope in Sight -10 Women Artists; Pilates and Arts - Solo Exhibit - Desert Driven; 29 Palms Art Gallery - Paint & Sip Fundraiser; Desert Plein Air Association Festival 23 - Featured Artist
I am glad my exhibit "Desert Driven" at Pilates and Arts will continue up through April 4, and we have a second reception with an art talk on Saturday, March 11th. You are invited to attend my art talk, “Joshua Tree, Art and YOU” at 5 pm before the 2nd reception, 6-8 pm. Join us for an evening of discussion, conviviality and art.
The lower desert near Palm Springs is already displaying an array of wildflowers. Today, I took a hike in the lovely Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, an internationally-recognized birding site. https://www.bigmorongo.org/ where I will be teaching a half day painting workshop in April. I saw signs of spring – even a vermilion flycatcher (vibrant red migratory bird – so I am told!)
For those who have been asking about my next classes, I will be teaching two half day painting workshops in April in Morongo Valley, CA.
Cactus Mart - in the lovely greenroom – half day – April 15th. This class is for anyone who wants to learn to paint or would just like a painting getaway. All acrylic painting materials will be provided –$60.00. Bring a friend! Register now at Workshops - JANIS COMMENTZ California Painter.
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve – half day – (tentatively) April 22nd. Celebrate Earth Day painting outdoors! This plein air class will be for beginning – intermediate painters. I will provide canvas and acrylic paints—but you are welcome to bring pastels, oil or a medium you would like to use. You will also want to bring an easel or clipboard and outdoor chair. Registration will be available soon at https://www.bigmorongo.org/ (Tentatively $65.00)
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve; the Greenroom "Classroom" at Cactus Mart; two past Cactus Mart acrylic painting participants
So much of our lives are in flux.
While we begin to see spring, our neighbors the San Bernardino mountains are experiencing unprecedented and dangerous layers of snow.
Thank goodness we have the promise of each new season!
I wish for you ~
The joy of spring
Listen to music you love. Today my Pandora station is Bossa Nova Radio!
Time with those who “get” and appreciate you
Nourishment of mind, body, soul and spirit
Recent art/gallery gatherings have reminded me of how art has drawn us together in this dynamic, vibrant community – geographically and virtually!
I also want to salute women artists during Women's History Month! Who are some of your favorite women artists? I'd love to hear. Below art works by some of my favorites: Beth Lowe of Kommetjie, South Africa; Linda Christiansen of California, and Marie Laurencin of Paris. The first two are contemporary-Ibelieve in living history! The third is a lesser known, but fascinating Parisienne (1883-1956).
I invite you to visit my Etsy Shop where you can browse and purchase prints, cards, invitations and now a few original paintings inspired by things I love: travel sketches created in France and, of course, our lovely Mojave Desert!
Happy Creative Spring!
Inspired by all of you,
January 22nd, 2023
This month marks my 5th year anniversary blog post!
I have shared a variety of topics - from art budgets, art tools and tips, creativity for well-being, travel and encouragement for all who acknowledge the benefits of carving out creative space in their lives.
This year, perhaps the most we know is to expect highs and lows and to make peace with the ebb and flow of events in our lives. How do we live with the mysterious valleys that make our mountaintop views more joyful?
The past 5 years and our shared global experience have been a unique journey—transforming how we communicate, gather, educate, worship, exercise, and consume. And, honestly, there have been silver linings!
Art Connections have transformed my life.
In 2018, I traveled, and my cultural attraction grew into travel sketching and a small business revolving around my passion, French Press at Etsy. I was fortunate to make two trips before the world shut down! Virtual communication and podcasts boomed. Since then, I have connected with creatives around the world and developed a small community. Zoom and similar platforms have altered how we communicate.
Art connects us! Our creative paths lead to self-expression and better knowledge of ourselves. Art conveys emotions. Painting, dance, music, literature, cinema, artistic cuisine can launch us to unreached realms.
The sheer quantity of creativity (especially on social media) can be overwhelming, yet something deep inside draws us… to catch the light on a flower, the shape and color of clouds, the expression on a face. Rhythm and patterns can get our juices flowing!
One genre leaps to another. This may not be the Piet Mondrian image you first think of – but the title Broadway Boogie Woogie conveys the rhythm the painter felt and was expressing in 1942. And in the 1960's Mondrian influenced designer Yves Saint Laurent.
Piet Mondrian: Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942); Composition No. III with Red, Blue,Yellow and Black (1929), Mondrian inspired dress by Yves Saint Laurent (1965-66 fall/winter collection)
During the pandemic, a musician friend and I conducted a Zoom arts experiment. She played classical piano while I painted. It was her idea – and she said she had never watched any one paint before! She placed my Zoom image in view as she played and, of course, I painted while I listened. We learned a lot about one another – even though we have been good friends for over 50 years!
An intuitive relationship binds artists. We understand each other in a nuanced way and have a common history when we meet. Artists build on connections and inspiration.
Let me connect with you! I hope you will leave a comment or email back. What connections are you making? How are you inspired by others?
Good relationships build a good life and creative path. A path has long been a visual metaphor in my paintings---and I realize the creative path has led me to extraordinary encounters. Some may call it birdwalking or following a rabbit hole; I call it building on ideas and inspiration.
So far, January 2023 has held a bounty of experiences, each creating or developing connections and relationships.
On January 2nd our women artists Dialog Group, which has met for 10 years to discuss life and art, installed "Hope in Sight" at the 29 Palms Art Gallery, open Thursday – Sunday 11-3. My Paint and Sip Class Fundraiser on January 14th contributed to preservation of the historic gallery.
Above: 29 Palms Art Gallery Exhibit Opening and Fundraiser January 2023
On January 31st I will teach a one-day acrylic painting workshop in Palm Desert as part of “Paint the Desert” Desert Plein Air Association’s 2nd Plein Air Festival. You can register and/or sign up for a workshop at and we invite you to attend the exhibit at the beautiful Galen.
The creative path has led me to a February and March solo exhibit, "Desert Driven" at Pilates and Arts in downtown Joshua Tree - Opening Second Saturday, February 11th 6-8 pm. I love the space which celebrates mind, body, soul and spirit! Another connection: owner/curator, Tannis Kobrinsky, and I have mutual connections in the arts!
January can be a beautiful time in the desert, yet a hub of activity.
Let me encourage you to leave room to nurture your creative – artistic pursuits. Allow space for quiet moments. Beauty requires space as well as structure. Long ago, I heard that it is space that makes lace so appealing! Leave room on your calendar, in your life, at your table—for the unexpected!
Lastly, allow me to share an extraordinary moment of quiet wonder.
Recently, at the home of a very intuitive friend, she said, “I want to show you something,” and she handed me a tiny piece of pomegranate.
“I have a little bird visitor. If you hold it out, he will come and eat it from your hand.”
I stood extremely still and quiet – hard for me -- and he did! (The photo below is NOT my hand. For once I was being quiet).) Apparently, the little bird, a verdin, is the only one on the property of his kind and his nest has not been located. Over time, he kept coming closer and closer. And then ate out of her hand, then out of her partner’s, and then out of a client’s.
Photos of the little verdin by Allie Irwin and Dan O'Dowd -
courtesy of Sacred Space: Bodywork for Women
Give yourself room to breathe.
Expect the amazing.
Very best wishes for 2023! There will be valleys to accompany our mountaintop experiences, yet I invite you to greet the new year with sincerity and intelligence and expect joyous moments.
Inspired by all of you,
Happy December 2022
My wish for all of you all is peace, joy, love and hope.
In the dark of winter, we celebrate an array of holidays, with light and love at the center.
I am looking forward to sitting down with family and friends, whether in person or across the miles, to enjoy some of our favorite traditions. As you do the same, remember to give yourself a bit of grace as the jingle bells start ringing. Reflect on the beauty of the season.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only thing that can grow is the thing you give energy to.” I encourage you to nurture your health, spirit and creativity – so YOU nurture those around you. Create beauty. Respect beauty—true beauty of the heart.
My Etsy Shoppe is busy with gifts that make holiday gift giving easier: cards, calendars and now six original artworks reflecting my travels this year on a pre-holiday sale! All easy to mail! Each painting is listed on the homepage of my website with a quick click to the artwork.
I am happy to partner with local merchants, Cactus Mart (Morongo Valley), Rainbow Stew (Yucca Valley), and Soul Connection (Joshua Tree).
And you may wish to keep a promise to yourself to paint or give one of my workshops as a gift! Consider a “Paint and Sip” fundraiser at the 29 Palms Art Gallery January 14th or attend the 2023 “Paint the Desert” Plein Air Festival (my workshop is on January 31st).
No matter what you will be celebrating this holiday…may we remember the poignant messages from A Christmas Carol:
"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!"
I wish you a meaningful holiday season and the best for 2023!
Inspired by all of you,
Autumn Greetings Changing Seasons
Carmel Beach path - acrylic study - Janis Commentz
October has evaporated, but autumn still awaits. I am grateful for my abundant fall. I hope my reflections remind you of a special place that you can return to. A place that reminds you of good times, perhaps of your dreams and people you love or have loved.
I traveled during "open art studio season" to studios in Monterey and Carmel. I love the central coast of California where I often visited as a child. Carmel-by-the-Sea holds special memories for me as well as magnificent beauty.
October is well known for sunny weather. However, because I spent 52 years in school, this is my first autumn visit in many years.
The one square mile town of Carmel becomes touristy each weekend, and I prefer to linger during weekdays, walking along the beautiful dog-friendly beaches and visiting special hidden corners.
Yes, I took my paints. Light and atmosphere in a different environment proves challenging and inspiring.
Carmel was originally an artists' colony of visual artists, writers, and more. Many names of note have been associated with Carmel and Monterey (definitely a topic for another blog!) Langston Hughes, Upton Sinclair, Edward Abbey, Robinson Jeffers, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ansel Adams, and more recently Doris Day and Clint Eastwood. This month, Carmel is celebrating an excellent new film about their creative history. I highly recommend a listen:
Official Trailer: Bohemian Soul: A Carmel Documentary | House of 8 Media
Film: Bohemian Soul: A Colony Awakens - YouTube
I learn much by connecting with artists. The entire coast was celebrating pumpkin season! Not the faux flavor in pricey lattes, but the real gourds and pumpkins of the season!
What I didn’t paint, I brought home in photos! A future of paintings awaits.
Quintessential Carmel-by-the-Sea: Sea Urchin and Periwinkle (like many homes - no address - names only), along Scenic Road - view of Point Lobos, early cottage style Carmel - Court of the Golden Bough, original stone home - early 1900s, my acrylic study at the gem of the missions - Carmel Mission, watercolor sketch along Scenic Road
Playing with different ways and times of day to capture the point at Carmel Beach - palette knife with acrylic and watercolor
Although I stumbled upon painters with workshops, spoke with painters in their homes and galleries, I sought solitary time to take in the beauty and sketch/paint on site.
Below, my reflection from a day at Point Lobos, the beautiful state reserve just south of Carmel:
Today, I decided to just take it in. Not feel as though I have to go, paint, sketch, do, be. But enjoy. When I was a small child, we walked here. In fact, my parents had a harness for me as a toddler so I wouldn’t fall off steep cliffs above the sea. Today, I am struck that decades ago I walked by the same trees, ancient, almost mystical cypresses.
Today, after a few overcast days, the sunshine beckoned me. Some say the mountains are calling. I’ve never heard a mountain call…but this…yes, the ocean and the seashore and the rocks call me.
Point Lobos is treasured by many. Barack Obama visited two weeks ago.
I take in the sights and smells and sounds and I feel close to my parents; it’s a meditative place.
So, today, rather than bring my paints, I decided that I would be.
Thinking about how I will paint. It’s the rocks that hold everything together! (In Joshua Tree, we draw rocks often). Sketch a scene. You can return at any time of day or weather condition to paint. Or watercolor your sketch from your photo to grow more familiar with your subject.
Feeling smug. I packed a picnic with tomato soup. It's the perfect Point Lobos lunch. Seated near the China Cove Trail, I am having one of the most delightful picnics ever. Picnics with my mom often centered around tomato soup in a thermos! Today Habanero cranberry cheese, apple wedges and H20.
On my last hike up the steep steps, I carried a backpack and easel. Today I am just going to feel the breeze and let the sights and scents soak into my soul
I sit on the bench above China Cove. How many have sat here attempting to capture the moment?
Sea glass green
The absolute epitome of sea green
Light dancing on the water
The scent of pinecones
Pelicans gliding across waterways
The gentle lapping of the waves
Grateful for the bench in the shade of the pine tree
Today, in October's radiant glow, I believe this is a taste of Heaven on earth. When I was a girl, my mother would carve a mermaid in the wet sand at China Cove. In 2003, I was able to carve a lovely sea lady for our daughter. Now a seal sanctuary—humans are banned from the cove; taking the steep steps down to the cove is a distant treasured memory.
POINT LOBOS STATE RESERVE: from top - Cypress Grove, my cartwheel - China Cove, my mermaid for our daughter 2003 - China Cove, China Cove, "China Cove" (sold) acrylic on wood panel 18x24 - Janis Commentz, moi in sand fort - China Cove, at Cypress Grove, "China Cove" watercolor 7x9 - Janis Commentz, Gibson Beach
FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES AND EVENTS:
I have not forgotten France and I am delighted that my new France Sketchbook Calendar 2023 was printed locally and is available at Esty and soon at Rainbow Stew in Yucca Valley.
November 15 - my 2023 Joshua Tree Calendar will be available
November 5 - Acrylic Painting Workshop at Cactus Mart
November 12 - a very special community “20th Annual Art and Craft Affair” My ravens are feathering up for this event.
In January, I am part of an all women exhibit at the 29 Palms Art Gallery and will be teaching a Paint and Sip class on January 14, a fundraiser for the gallery.
On January 31, I teach an acrylic workshop for the Desert Plein Air Art Association's 2023 "Paint the Desert" Plein Air Festival.
February exhibit at Pilates& Arts in Joshua Tree.
In this ever-challenging world, we are all seeking calm and encouragement. As the pods of the red yucca attest, each season is part of the process. Take time to enjoy the colors, sounds and events of nature. If you have children in your circle, teach them the joys of autumn outdoors. The wind gently blowing on a walk. A flock of birds dancing in the sky. Desert foliage transitioning. Listening to a friend. Encouraging!
What are your autumn activities? Does the rhythm of your pace change with the seasons?
Each community has a different art vibe.
Perhaps you must be an armchair traveler. Enrich those travels! With a careful search, many fascinating resources await online. Seek places you would love to visit. Seek out artists whom you would like to know more about. Study music, writing, drama! Share with young people in your life!
Get out the paints! Even the traditional Prang watercolor box is highly useful. Accept gift offers when people are clearing out art supplies! I feel I don’t need every new art material invented and tend to stick with the basics. Good watercolor paper, canvas, Golden and Liquitex acrylic paints, Windsor & Newton watercolors and gouache.
As writers must show up, so must visual artists. Habits are important.
My autumn entertainment: "Birdie Parade" small raven paintings in progress,
acrylic on wood blocks 5.5 x 5.5 x 1.5
I wish for you time to express your creative side and to nurture your soul before the busyness of the holidays. Treasure every memory made with those who are important to you! Enjoy each season.
Inspired by all of you,
Wishing you all the best for a Happy September. In a world where we have had a lot of surprises recently, have you had some happy surprises! Family news? Personal news? A good health report? I really hope so...and if nothing comes to mind, I hope I can at least lift your mood.
Yes, summer flew by, and I had a few moments when I felt like shouting or whispering, “Who stole my summer? or my life?"
It does not seem that long ago that summer meant lying on a beach towel – at the beach or in our back yard, reading a good book, listening to the Beach Boys or Stevie Wonder. Then I woke up, and realized this is now!
Seasons change. We change. Trends change…yet I’d like to focus on some of the things that remain constant and reassuring and even surprising, in a good way!
In a world of change, CONNECTIONS keep us grounded!
This morning I was reminded of connections I make bringing people together, teaching new skills, and introducing new places. I connected someone giving away art equipment to a prospective recipient, and each texted back that the other person is lovely! Yes, they are!
I attended a zoom exercise class taught by a childhood friend -- a long time real friendship and technological connection across states. These are lasting connections, and despite the chaos in the world right now, they sustain us.
What connections do you value? What are you doing to strengthen relationships? Have you made recent connections? Do you want to strengthen that new bond…? And, honestly, you may want to sustain your relationship with yourself—allowing yourself time to rest, nurture your well-being or develop a skill.
When I mix yellow with blue, I still get green! When I begin applying paint, I still feel joy. When I look at new artwork- I still see color/form/texture – and feel a sense discovery!
And I did get that beach trip! I didn't lie in the sun, but seeking what shade I could find under the cliffs or an umbrella in various coves and parks near Laguna Beach, I PAINTED! And yes, yellow + blue = green and I tried to capture the delicious, sea foam green and the light.
Woods Cove Crescent Park Heisler Park
Even the constants of seasonal change can bring comfort. September brings cooler weather and the anticipation of autumn. My life has always revolved around the academic calendar – and, yes, I loved school as a child. I hope to share a bit of that enthusiasm as I teach others about the fun of observing a landscape, characteristics of acrylic paint, and the joy of mixing and creating new colors. Connecting old ideas to new people. Connecting news ideas to old people!
Have you ever:
And since we are not the same, I had more fun creating differences!
SURPRISE FROM FRANCE! The week of my birthday, I received an invitation to be interviewed by my favorite podcaster, Krystal Kenney who created "La Vie Creative," weekly podcast about creatives in Paris and beyond, designed to help you enrich your inner artist and tap into your innovative gifts. You can listen to my interview HERE! Many of you know my France inspired sketches and calendars are available at my Etsy Shop, French Press. My 5th France Sketchbook Calendar is in production.
La Vie Creative My calendar in France! Cards available
I love teaching and invite you to register for my workshops if you are in the Joshua Tree area! Designed for beginners to intermediate painters --surprise yourself!!
Saturday, September 24th - all day outdoor painting with acrylics. Register: Discovering Your Creative Vision with Acrylics - with the Joshua Tree National Park Association Desert Institute
Saturday, November 4th - Morning acrylic Painting class at Cactus Mart in the lovely partially outdoor green room. (Supplies provided for this one!) Register: Fall Into Acrylics
Saturday, January 14th 2023. Paint and Sip Fundraiser at the 29 Palms Art Gallery - A fun evening! More information coming soon
From my past workshops: Desert Institute, Cactus Mart and the Palm Springs Library
Most important, I hope this finds you well. Thank you for the connection that brought you to my newsletter. I wish you happy September and pleasant surprises!
Inspired by all of you,
As an artist, my goal is always to inspire, and although 2022 has presented many challenges, I continue to encourage those around me. This summer, we need a rest from the tension. It can be hard to rise above world circumstances and to stand up for what is right, while keeping one's creativity flowing! Let me encourage YOU!
With that in mind, Happy Summer and July!
Yes, our daughter, who knows me well, texted on July 1st, “Happy Birthday Month!”
People born in July are extra blessed, and I extend my best wishes to all born in July! In the Northern Hemisphere, my birthday occurs during summer, and I have been fortunate to celebrate in a variety of places. As a child, we often tent camped in Sequoia National Park. I have learned that fun does not always happen on its own—I believe it must be planned! I have enjoyed my special day in Paris (twice), Hawaii, Cambria, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Rancho La Puerta, riding bikes from Redondo Beach to Venice, Disneyland... I have spent my day with family, friends and alone (which can be very meaningful).
In the United States, July has become synonymous with celebrating liberty and July 4th—and I choose to celebrate freedom as I believe it was meant to be in our nation: freedom from persecution, to worship as we choose and to be allowed to seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I praise God for my many blessings!
Proudly, I share a birthday with Emma Lazarus who penned the sonnet today displayed at the foot of the Statue of Liberty:
“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
To get ahead or move more quickly, one must slow down…spend a little time “doing nothing” and dreaming.
If YOUR creative spirit calls to you on a regular basis—let me encourage you to show up, keep your tools in working order and have the grace to allow yourself to play! Music, dance, visual arts, writing— create alone or with others--- keep moving forward. Pursue your dream.
I am grateful for art friends who encourage me. And although I believe in healthy breaks from social media, it allows me to follow the paths of contemporaries, friends, past students and acquaintances—in their journeys. It is always a joy to see their progress!
My past summer journals and blogs—help me to check in. How does this year fit into the patterns of my life? Are there lessons to re-visit or projects to review? Have I made steady progress toward goals and released things no longer needed?
We were designed as creative beings. Our creative voice allows us to truly express who we are!
Slow down. Take time to be quiet. Perhaps research and celebrate a new holiday.
SPRING 2022 EVENTS
March Paint Out and Donation to educational programs at the 29 Palms Art Gallery
As always, my art is at
Cactus Mart, Morongo Valley
Rainbow Stew, Yucca Valley
Soul Connection, now in its new space, Joshua Tree
French Corner, Palm Desert
IlSogno (The Dream), Palm Desert
THIS WEEK: 2nd SUNFLOWERS FOR UKRAINE Painting AUCTION - in time for Mother’s Day!
UPDATE --over $1200 was tent this spring.
This cause remains on my heart. I would love to exceed our last donation of $602.00 from the first Sunflowers for Ukraine auction! 80% of funds earned will go to Reach Global Ukrainian Relief Fund.
TO BID NOW - fill out the contact form below. Place your bid in the comment section. You can also DM me on Instagram or Message on Facebook.
Remember, I am not a professional auctioneer, do no have fancy software and will keep it simple.
Bids begin at $110.00 for each painting. I will post bids on Instagram and Facebook at Janis Commentz every OTHER evening beginning Thursday April 28th. Bids will close Wednesday May 4th at 6 pm PST. NOTE #2 and #3 look similar!
Out of the area buyers will be responsible for postage; my estimate is ($50)
As we speak and read—the situation in Ukraine grows more serious. The last figure I heard is 8.5 Ukrainians are displaced (either within or outside of Ukraine). Agencies are struggling to bring much needed supplies to these distressed individuals. Moms, kids, grandparents…my heart is broken for them
Currently, Reach Global is providing food, shelter, fuel, legal aid, counseling, transportation, translation, supplies, child care, and medical assistance.
Hiking on the High View Trail at Black Rock Campground
As I compose this post, so much is swirling in my head:
The power of words
The importance of our messages
Reaching out to those in need
The newness of spring
The striking contrast of my life to the pain felt in Ukraine
This has been an amazing month. In mid-March I held an auction donating all of the proceeds of three paintings to Reach Global Ukrainian Refugee Fund. I was pleased and touched by the generosity of donors! I am planning a second event soon, and currently 20% of the earnings from my Sunflower cards at my Etsy shop or sold locally are going the refugee fund as well.
It IS spring…
“Spring" sometimes refers to democracy movements…striving to create the newness and beauty of spring. Will this be possible for those in Ukraine and its surrounding nations – just trying to survive the current brutal attacks? We so desperately hope so.
As artists, we strive toward beauty – or message.
Writers and poets know the power of words. So do politicians. As children, we are encouraged to ignore cruel words. Yet,they leave can leave long lasting wounds. Indelible images of horror do not dissipate quickly.
The power of image and metaphor in the hands of a masterful artist, photographer, journalist…can make the world a better place. I applaud photojournalists who are currently telling truth in their work. I have long admired the work of photojournalist, Lynsey Addario, who is now covering the events in Ukraine.
As we hear the war news and consider its effects on our own world, we often say, “Oh I am fine. I am not in Ukraine.” But are we?
Each part affects the whole. The stress felt in my back is the result of so many factors. Each of us is certainly put together differently, (remember Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences?) but we all need peace of mind, health, relationships and creative pursuits. While parts of our world are in turmoil, how do we keep our own garden vibrant?
I found this in my journal from two year ago, at the onset of Covid:
Part of me is determined to continue my France journal, and the other part asks - oh my gosh - people are suffering so…does it matter?
Mind, body, spirit and soul are connected. Every aspect affects our creative life. For me, reading my bible, poetry, inspirational travel journals, watching short creative video clips of friends watercoloring, walking and gardening has kept me grounded. Spirit connects us with God, and our soul is where we express our passions.
If you can be creative in some way – cooking, sewing, dancing, painting, remember how important it is for your emotions and spirit!
Our spring has been blustery – but our desert is green, by Mojave standards! Last week, I taught a Desert Institute workshop in Joshua Tree National Park, and although strong winds blew our plein air class indoors—we had a lovely day. Participants always inspire me! I will be teaching a morning painting workshop at Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley May 7th. There may a spot left. If interested see details here.
Teaching the Desert Institute Class "Capturing Joshua Tree with Acrylics" April 16th
On that note, what is on my easel?
I, too, am a complicated amalgam.
The desert - my environment
Memories of places, people - the ocean, Carmel, France, England, family friends, strangers
Human figures – a fascination since I was a child.
I need to tend my own garden—my creative, intellectual, physical, spiritual garden alive and vibrant with color. And that is how we feed others… by sharing and feeding.
As we grieve for Ukraine and make efforts to help, I encourage you to nourish your creative spirit! Strengthen your capacity to share that joy with family, friends and even those on the other side of the globe.
1 29 Palms Oasis - paintings donated to education program at the 29 Palms Art Gallery; 2 "Joshua Tree Sunrise" in Southwest Art; 3 A friend caught me during Zoom group; 4 Cactus Mart - site of May 7th morning class; 5 "Joshua Tree Sunrise" sold the week the magazine came out-serendipity; 6 Cards at European Bistro - Il Sogno "The Dream" - Palm Desert
Sunflowers for Ukraine
Dear Friends and Art Lovers,
As spring is on its way, we are reminded of events that- although far away, affect our world. This month, we long to come to the aide of humanity caught in this appalling war in Ukraine
Recently, I recorded in my journal words that express my hopes, despite the darkness:
humanity, kindness, nature, color, spirit, prayer, solidarity, sunflowers, friends, nourish, fight, determination, family, preservation, support, pride, integrity, truth, faith, hope, love, unity, justice, crisis, relief
As the week progressed - my words included resistance, bravery, admiration, persistence…
We have watched to many migrating, traveling with only what they can carry, children, pets. We have watched a brave leader who will not back down.
The Sunflower or Helianthus is an apt tribute and national flower for the Ukraine. There are over 80 species of sunflowers symbolizing positivity, strength, admiration and loyalty.
I am joining fundraising efforts to provide relief to Ukrainians.
This week, am auctioning three sunflower paintings on Instagram and will donate 100% of the proceeds to Ukrainian Refugee Response fund mobilized by ReachGlobal to support Ukrainian refugees.
If you are not on Instagram and would like to place a bid, please email me at email@example.com I will close bidding on Wednesday, March 16th at 4 pm PST.
I am willing to ship within the United States, and if you would like a painting mailed to you elsewhere, I ask that you pay the postage.
As we watch this crisis unfold, we are reminded that Ukraine has had a sophisticated art culture for centuries – and a vibrant art culture has thrived in recent decades.
Currently, art and museums are not immune to the attack. I am sharing two thorough articles from well-known periodicals (ArtForum and Smithsonian Magazine) reporting what is happening in the Ukraine.
As Easter approaches – a perfect symbol of rebirth are pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs which are decorated using the wax-resist (batik) method and covered in stunning motifs often taken from Slavic folk art.
Photo source: Smithsonian. Maria Prymachenko, Our Army, Our Protectors, 1978. Russian forces destroyed a museum which housed dozens of Prymachenko’s paintings.
Photo credit: mymodernmet.com
May we continue to support and pray for the Ukraine and peace.
I hope this season finds you well. As usual, I keep busy creating and teaching.
I have two spring painting workshops coming up and continue to sell cards and stationery at my Etsy Shop, French Press and Mojave Inspiration.
Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. "
Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love
This quote is true on many levels and seems most fitting now.
Winter is a time for amazing light. Painters understand that the long shadows are cast as the sun "moves south” creating this wonder. We long for the light during those long winter nights and celebrate with feasts of light.
I love to paint outdoors, but even on a dull or chilly day, I have hundreds of photos from local hikes and travels to provide creative sparks! Left to right: our daughter along Hadrian's Wall; Montfort, France; this afternoon's walk!
I am very grateful that Zoom has provided weekly meetings with friends and workshop participants! In fact, during the past two years I have met wonderful people and made good friends online-often turning long distance acquaintances into good friends.
I have been fortunate to have books and art supplies delivered to me.
And, like so many, I am clearing out, discarding what no longer serves me and creating comforting spaces where I can write or paint. My favorite writing spot is still the kitchen table!
I am nurturing treasured friendships —and I am learning that, as Julia Cameron says in Transition: Prayers and Declarations for a Changing Life (1999),
“Connections are alchemical. Friendships are not static. They are living entities that grow and change. Sometimes my friendships become strained, undergoing mysterious seasons of estrangement. I allow my friendships to alter and grow. I allow them to fall fallow and rest quietly until the season comes for them to bloom again….”
I am learning the benefits of clearing our paths, allowing some to walk a spell with us, and to walk alone at times.
Maintaining good healthy habits, nurturing one’s soul, mind and body is crucial.
OK – did I take a dose of Pollyanna tea? Am I keeping my head in the sand? On the contrary. I am an avid follower of what we used to call “current events.” In fact, I feel better knowing, rather than ignoring.
However, for art, family, health, attitude, I am focusing on what I can do, not what I cannot, for the moment.
Creatively speaking, I have several projects going---and like friendships, some fall fallow and others bloom in season.
This year I changed the name of my Etsy online shop from FRENCH PRESS to FRENCH PRESS & MOJAVE INSPIRATIONS—to include art inspired by the mazing desert in which I live.
Many of my paintings this year reflect the landscape which has nourished me.
I continue to be immersed in learning about French culture, creating watercolor sketches and paintings that honor my travel memories. I am currently preparingg new Valentine cards and am not above approaching the owners of my favorite European and French restaurants as I dine alfresco. (Cards and calendars are currently available at Il Sogno and French Corner, both in Palm Desert.)
Leading a weekly group on an Art Zoom adventure – or as we like to call it Art Zoom Oasis—keeps my brain stimulated, preparing lessons about artists or techniques. We all share - tips on materials, supply resources, exhibits. In early December, we ventured out on our first “field trip” to our fabulous Palm Springs Art Museum for the Helen Frankenthaler exhibit.
What are you doing to keep your “art spirit” alive? In fact, that’s a great place to begin. If you have never read Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit, I recommend it. He was an inspired teacher with an extraordinary gift for verbal communication. The book is a compilation of observations and teaching notes of Robert Henri (1865-1929).
What creative directions are you pursuing? Allow yourself to indulge in new art forms and techniques as they beckon. Be patient with yourself and know that in season, one may bloom and another may remain inactive.
Seek the company of others and, in turn, seek solitude. Encourage one another, yet know your spirit needs quiet.
Practice kindness and patience. Joy is to be nurtured, even in difficult times.
Books that have inspired me:
In no order! This is simply a list of my favorites, casting citation format aside!
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Betty Edwards 1979
The Art Spirit Robert Henri 1923
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity Julia Cameron 1992
The Creative Habit Twyla Tharp 2003
The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor Gail McMeekin 2000
Linnea in Monet’s Garden Christina Björk 1985 (for children and adults)
The Gift from the Sea Anne Morrow Lindbergh 1955
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris David McCullough 2011
A Year in Paris Janice MacLeod 2017
I believe everyone can be creative!
My next in-person OUTDOOR one-day workshop, "Capturing Joshua Tree Landscapes with Acrylics" will be Saturday, April 16th, 2022 through the Joshua Tree National Park Association Desert Institute. Beginners welcome! Click for Class Description/Registration and for be sure to click the blue link to download class details and the materials list.
Please leave a comment about what you are reading, recent inspiration and your path to creativity!
Wishing you so much!
December 13th, 2021
Wishing you all the warmth of the season!
I hope that whatever you are doing, you are able to take time to be with those whom you cherish and to honor the holidays!
In light of this most unusual year, I hope your creative path brings good cheer, perhaps some tasty treats, memorable sounds and colorful treasures.
For 2022 I have two new calendars! My France Sketchbook Calendar 2022 is filled with travelsketches reflecting my experiences in France, and I have created a Joshua Tree Calendar for 2022. Our unique terrain has provided solace during the past 18 months. Both calendars and stationery are available at my Etsy Shop, French Press and Mojave Inspiration.
I wish you and yours a safe, healthy and meditative holiday. As we approach the solstice and the darkest, shortest day of the year for those in the northern hemisphere, may we be reminded that warmth and sunshine await on the other side! I truly believe creative endeavors have healing power. So, I urge you to sort through those art supplies, clear out workspaces, search for inspiration, and dare to dream of creative moments that will bear fruit during the long-shadowed, beautiful winter light!
My holiday gift to you is a list of inspirational podcasts and sites that have kept me going this year!
Each week, Krystal Kenny’s La Vie Creative introduces English speaking creatives living in Paris, and she has teamed up with Claudine Hemingway each week for a history lesson on famous and lesser known women in France’s history. I have learned so much and look forward to their podcast. You can also find
Krystal Kenney, at Miss Paris. She has introduced many authors and books including her own adventurous memoir, Paris: A Life Less Ordinary. Below you can see part of my collection!
Claudine Heminway can be found on Instagram at ClaudineBleuBlondRouge and at her fascinating website ClaudineHemingway.com which has a mini history lesson with each post! You WILL want to subscribe to her newsletter and learn more about the culture and history of France and Claudine’s beloved LOURVE!
L’Arrosoir flower shop insta https://www.instagram.com/larrosoirparis/?hl=enLooking forward to a trip to Paris? or armchair travel? Take a French cooking class with Véronique Dagneau-Bawol of Cuisine Elegante.
Or step into a historic florist shop with a new American owner! L’Arrosoir
Did you know there is an American Library in Paris, founded in 1920? A slice of its fascinating story during WWII is told in Janet Skeslien Charles' The Paris Library, a gripping and personal novel.
You may want a personalized wedding experience. Be sure to find wedding officiant, Naïm Terrache at The French Wedding podcast.
Let the links lead you!
Joshua Tree Afternoon, now available at Cactus Mart; me enjoying winter walk near Joshua Tree; Black Rock Shadows, juried into the Joshua Tree National Park Council for the Arts Expo and now in its new LA home.
Meanwhile, back in the Mojave
You will want to tune into Dawn Davis’ Desert Lady Diaries, profiling inspiring women who have made the desert their home, visit her Soul Connection Shoppe in Joshua Tree.
Books? be sure to catch Jean-Paul Garnier of Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree.
Or learn more about a collaborative creative experience at Two Women Talk curated by @projectmojavelight Diana Shay Diehl.
Holiday gifting? A few of my favorite local shops --featuring my art.
CACTUS MART in Morongo Valley, CA
RAINBOW STEW in Yucca Valley, CA
SOUL CONNECTION in Joshua Tree, CA
29 PALMS ART GALLERY GIFT SHOP in 29 Palms, CA
Remember, your creative endeavors will leave a legacy!
Christmas legacies! Santa designed and created by my mother in the 1950's, me enchanted by my mother's candy house and in a dress created by her; coconuntballs baked by my daughter using Grandma Commentz' recipe!
Wishing you a blessed holiday and a new year full of joy and hope!
Participants at my Desert Institute plein air painting class in Joshua Tree National Park
Happy Fall - which is very much in the air! Even the desert boasts fall color!
This season, I feel we are survivors, and I sincerely hope this greeting finds you and your family well – in mind, body, soul and spirit.
Joshua Tree National Park Black Rock Campground Park Center
Trials are a part of life. This weekend, I am allowing the obstacles which I am working through to recede and focusing on the beauty and happy events of this month!
On my mind? I want to celebrate community!
Although we often create in private—our creations are made to be shared, make a statement, be appreciated and enjoyed. Our creative expressions need an audience.
I am often reminded of how important the layers of community are.
"Laguna View " Janis Commentz, 11 x 14 oil,
in the permanent collection of the Glass Outhouse Art Gallery, Wonder Valley
Family can be wonderful encouragers, and unfortunately, sometimes they do not appreciate the creative family member. Even my mother, an extremely talented visual artist, was scolded during the depression for wasting time when she could have been vacuuming! My family often served as models as in the painting of my daughter above. My tip? Give positive feedback to artists in your family. Look for color, movement, something you can compliment! However, make sure your statement is genuine. This is especially important for parents who want to encourage creativity in their young. Provide access to paint, musical instruments and time!
Small Support Groups
For us grownups – life can be harder to negotiate. In years past I have been actively involved with art associations and facilitating drawing groups—all lots of work.
During Covid (and I know Zoom is not for everyone) my weekly Zoom group has been a high point of my week. I am certain participants would attest to the encouraging, safe harbor that has evolved, Originally, I invited a few friends and contacts and honed my Zoom teaching skills. If you don’t have a small group, find or create one. Not only do we share painting time, techniques, materials, artists, exhibits, and information from out various towns and states, but we have found surprises emerge. This community spirit has a powerful, positive effect on our art. Growth, progress, confidence…one tiny step at a time, all for showing up!
-one displayed her new painting series recently on our open studio art tours.
-another is discovering she can paint!
-some pop in and out sharing travel, new methods and media
-because it is zoom – we have seen studios from a variety of locations
We are fortunate to live in a community which has evolved into a true art colony. There was a time we dreamed of being an artist refuge like some of the famous California art colonies. There is no doubt we have reached that goal!
This year the Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours is celebrating its 20th year. If you have not visited-this is the third weekend! Although the tour is famous for its large colorful hard copy catalog, an online version is available as well as an app https://www.hwy62arttours.org/
Many of these artists have been become good friends over the years. Others are familiar faces I look forward to seeing at gallery events and on the tours.
The tour features 117 studios and over 150 artists.
Although I thoroughly enjoy opening my home studio (and I have been on the tour for 10 years) it has been wonderful to be the visitor this year.
Community can nourish. Be a positive influence. And I am reminded even as I write this – life is precious. Cherish those around you, and let them know they have value in your life. I have often been the do-er and the initiator; I am learning to accept invitations! I am allowing people to invite me into their lives—to enjoy more one-on-one lunch dates and conversations. How do you develop community? Often sweet conversations allow you to get to know an acquaintance better.
Studio visits: Esther Shaw with her fabulous paintings and sculpture; Anja Broenik of AnjaSF designs, with her incredible clothing designs and paintings (and moi); Wini Brewer with her paintings and her husband, photographer Bill Leigh Brewer's photography
And what does this have to do with art? Every facet of life affect art. My Zoom group helps me to “show up” and provides a layer of accountability. My family certainly enriches my life and provides purpose and occasions to express myself creatively. Our art community provides a platform to exhibit, share and appreciate art and the people who make it. And community is built through those one-on-one relationships. Enjoy the moments!
My first Joshua Tree Calendar is available in local shops: Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley, Rainbow Stew http://www.rainbowstew4u.com/ in Yucca Valley and Soul Connection in Joshua Tree and on my Etsy shop, French Press and Mojave Inspiration.
My Desert Institute class spent a fun day painting in the JT National Park learning about acrylic paint and the art of plein air. If you missed it, consider signing up for my April 16th, 2022, class. This class was recently featured in a new publication, Joshua Tree Voice.
This is my 8th year exhibiting in the juried Joshua Tree National Park Council for the Arts – Art Exposition. The opening will be Saturday, November 6th at the historic 29 Palms Art Gallery Saturday, November 6th from 5-7 pm. To view info about the selected artists, see https://jtnparts.org/jtnpca-featured-artists/
My aunt inspired many of the paintings by my uncle.
Family Memorial – In July I posted about the legacy of my 97 year old aunt in Lessons from a Life Well-Lived. This month we held a memorial and I feel celebration of family and community shone brightly.
Our weekend near Laguna coincided with the Laguna Beach Plein Air Festival “quick draw” which is really a very quick plein air painting event. https://lpapa.org/laguna-plein-air-invitational/
Lessons From a Life Well-Lived
Aunt Ellie appears as herself (woman in red) in my Uncle Emel's painting of the Parthenon in Athens
I am reflecting upon the gifts I have received from the past year.
This month, we lost the matriarch of our family, our 97 year old Aunt Ellie. I learned so much from her – about positivity and creativity. I am dedicating this blogpost to her and sharing lessons from a life well-lived! There is much to learn from this personal story!
KEYS TO LIVING A FULL CREATIVE LIFE
(What Ellie's life taught – my take)
Can these habits be learned? We learn through example. Ellie consistently demonstrated good habits and joie de vivre.
1) Be open to new things. Try new foods, visit new places, listen…be a lifelong learner.
2) Listen to many forms of music. Blast Pandora on a new channel. I signed up for a free trial with no advertisements and will probably invest! I’m selecting artists from Ellie and Emel’s collection---today Xavier Cugat and Charles Trenet.
3) Study all forms of art. Try something new. Take a class, read books or watch a YouTube videos…sketch, throw pots, paint, weave… After many years of observing and watching my Uncle Emel create, Ellie drew landscapes, trees, my uncle, objects on shelves, bouquets.
4) Keep asking questions to learn AND to encourage curiosity in young people. Let them comb your hair; take them to the theater! Our children adored her, and we are grateful our daughter-in-love had the opportunity to know her!
5) Suspend judgment – listen to all evidence. Research sources.
6) Be brave! Learn a new skill (such as swimming)—skiing, knitting, playing an instrument – whatever you have avoided, but secretly wish to learn! Overcome your fears.
7) Keep joy in your life—maintain a pragmatic, but cheerful attitude, with gratitude for all you have!
8) Clean out your purse once a week (as Ellie’s elementary teacher taught her). This can be symbolic of many areas of your life—review your workspace, to do list, and life often. Discard trash and keep what is truly important!
YOU MAY BE ENCOURAGING OTHERS MORE THAN YOU REALIZE!
(I hope you see some of your own good habits or some to adopt from Ellie’s life!)
Ellie’s positivity and wisdom teaches much!
Eleanor, whom we have always referred to as Ellie, was synonymous with good cheer, pragmatism and great tips. She lived respect – for others and cultures. I do not remember her without a smile—well only once. At eight years old, I turned on the garden hose (an actual firehose because they lived in a fire-prone canyon) full blast instead of off! She met me at the top of the stairs, drenched with that schoolteacher look, hands on hips!
She was my role model as I grew up – always stylish and up-to-date with current events. In her 80s, she continued emeritus classes.
I could publish one of those posters:
Everything I need to know I learned from Aunt Ellie!
She taught by nurturing and individualizing. Teachers will recognize the name of Madeline Hunter at UCLA, and Ellie was in her innovative program. During the 1960s, she created learning centers which spilled out into the halls. My artist/engineer uncle made workable machines for her first graders to build! She visited British “infant schools” and Japanese schools to study innovative techniques.
Her journalist training instilled her mantra, “Suspend judgment.” She looked objectively at all evidence and intelligently made decisions.
Ellie worked for a short time writing copy for the founder of the Gemological Institute of America. I found some of her typed articles ready for release to the September 1948 Jewelers’ Circular Keystone. At UC Berkeley, she babysat for the legendary Berkeley physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and when she applied for teaching positions, his letter of recommendation didn’t hurt!
This smart, modern woman met my uncle in the 1950s. She married my mother’s twin when I was four, and they shared a love of life, cooking, travel and art. As you can see her, she inspired art as well:
Ellie Among the Poppies, Janis Commentz Poppy Fields, Emel Smith Stonehenge, Emel Smith
Ever the encourager, she influenced me from an early age. At six, I wanted to be a teacher as she was (and I taught high school for 35 years).
Ellie made those in her life feel extra special.
She was an excellent cook – brightly colored orange and turquoise jars full of pasta, beans and goodies lined her kitchen. Food and music were important. She loved Mexico and Mexican art – especially Nativity figurines and Oaxacan candle holders. I hope to hook up their hi fi and listen to some of the records in their collection--- a random sampling includes Songs of Charles Trenet (Parisian cabaret), the 15th Annual Topanga Banjo & Fiddle Contest, Japanese Koto Classics, Harry Belafonte, Billie Holiday , Andre Previn, Xavier Cugat, Sounds of the Middle East, Herb Alpert, traditional classics….
She and Emel loved to travel and decided to add a new experience! Traveling with a young child. When our son was four, they proposed a vacation with us. What at a memorable, wonderful trip which included an alligator watching boat ride in Louisiana, visits to antebellum plantations and New Orleans! Expecting our 2nd child, I was just too tired to accompany them to hear jazz at Preservation Hall! Alas!
I paid little attention when Ellie skipped the swimming pools. Soon after they retired, we learned Ellie had never learned to swim. She was determined and signed up for lessons in their new retirement community. She overcame her fear!
As a model retiree, she followed directions. During hip replacement, she followed all therapy instructions and had the other hip replaced the next year. She wanted to continue her walks! Although not a pet owner – she noticed how canine friends wanted to speak and was certain they had their own well-developed language.
Of her many treasures, one of the most intriguing is her sketchbook from 2003-14 which she began in her 80’s. Her beloved emeritus instructor, Collette, created new classes each semester. Ellie’s notebook contains trees, people, items on the shelf, a list of the many species of trees in their community, and a section of detailed objects entitled “Things I saw”… an Indian grinding stone, the breakwater at Dana Point, sailboats and women wearing hats….
She and Emel organized senior art field trips. Ellie spent 20 years as a “living history” Victorian schoolteacher at Heritage Hill Historical Park in Lake Forest, CA always answering questions from young people with that sparkle in her eyes and asking questions to them thinking! She was delighted when our son and his bride chose to be married at Heritage Hill State Park in Lake Forest, CA; she kept pinching herself!
Aunt Eleanor was ever-cheerful throughout her long life! A good friend of mine described her as always adorable and animated! She encouraged me to make the most of each day, to travel and do as much as I can while I can. When I painted, she exclaimed that my uncle would be so pleased.
During my youth, Ellie’s other nieces and nephews lived across the US, and I had her “all to myself” on holidays. However, I know she made each of us feel as if we were all very special!
Emel and Eleanor
June Joy and Better Habits
New Better Habits. Give More by Saying “NO”
“What?” you say!
June is a month of celebrating achievements and anticipating new frontiers. I am learning from my new isolation habits!
What are you celebrating and looking forward to? How are you nourishing your creative flow?
From the past months, I have learned...
Cheap Joe's Art Stuff
June is a time of completion, celebration and some reflection. As you look forward to summer,
What are you doing in the studio?
Will you Paint? Sketch? Write? Play music?
To whom do you turn when you need to share—art talk and more?
Create a circle of painting friends to meet (in-person or virtually) and paint, chat, eat and share!
Sometimes we just need a fresh start:
See my YouTube video:
We will be sharing some of these techniques in my Art Zoom.
Contact me if you are interested in joining; I charge a small fee to cover the Zoom cost.
I am delighted to be teaching In-Person Workshops this fall:
Art Groove Camp for Grown-Ups September 10-15, 2021, Angelus Oaks, CA
Desert Institute Class October 16, 2021 Joshua Tree National Park (Black Rock Campground), CA
So, for the first time in a year and a half, it really feels a bit like “June is Busting out all Over!”
Happy Graduation and end of the school year to those in the academic world! Thank you for your dedication.
Happy Father’s Day!
Celebrate Juneteenth or Freedom Day, a holiday which connects us to our roots, both joyful and regretful.
Celebrate summer’s longest day, Summer Solstice!
June also boasts some lesser known holidays:
June 1 – Mint Julep and World Milk Day
une 3 – European Bicycle Day
June 4 - Hug Your Cat Day
June 6 - National Yo-Yo Day
June 9 - National Rhubarb Pie Day and Writers Rights Day
June 12 - National Peanut Butter Cookie Day
June 14th - National Bourbon Day…to name a few.
If you missed one, it's ok to go back and celebrate!~
In France, La Fete De La Musique is a day of music celebrated on June 21—musicians (of all levels, cultures and genres) are encouraged to play in public places. Musicians of all levels, cultures and genres are encouraged. World Music Day has spread to many countries. Create your own Day of Music!
I hope June finds you healthy with the prospect for creativity and some leisure. Nurture friendships—finally we can visit safely in small numbers! I hope you will soon see those loved ones whom you so desperately wish to hug!
Schedule special visits or issue an invitation! Wishing you a joyous June!
Inspired by all of you!
Recently, I had a fun opportunity to visit the home of art collectors, who own several of my works and art by many other Hi Desert artists. Herman and Dina Platzke graciously invited me into their home and nurture many artists! Herman is also exploring the painting medium and doing well. I love this painting of his granddaughter in front of the iconic stone at Jumbo Rocks! Thank you art patrons!
Periodically I send out a newsletter--maybe 6 times a year, and I would love you to sign up to receive it on the contact form. Here is the new letter for May.
Photo by Hilary Sloane - see her fabulous work at Hilary Sloane
Happy Mother's/Friend's/Father's Nurturing Day! It has been a long winter, but May is finally here! I want to wish you all a Happy May Day! Besides Mother's Day-several things come to mind. When I taught at Sky High School, we had a beloved school secretary, Josephine, who would treat the entire student body (about 100) and staff to ice cream on her birthday, May 1st! What a generous way to celebrate a birthday!
In France, May 1st marks Labor Day - and a day to share a bouquet of muguet (lily of the valley). These tiny white heralds of spring (my Grandmother's favorite flower) are sold everywhere - by vendors, in floral shops and in front yards-as American children often sell lemonade! In Brittany, I bought a sweet sprig of the lovely muguet. The lily of the valley (or muguet in French) has been given as a gift for centuries. Legend has it that the custom originated on May 1, 1561 when King Charles IX received a sprig of the tiny flower as a token of good luck. You may remember having a bottle of Muguet Perfume!
I continue to teach a Thursday Zoom Art Class - where we have moved from landscapes to introductory figures. We chat, philosophize and paint and I have been so inspired by the camaraderie!
I am adding more wedding images to the notecard collection at my online Etsy Shop French Press. I am delighted to have been interviewed by The French Wedding Podcast and will let you know when it is posted.
The Latest Blogpost
I invite you to read my latest blogpost---which celebrates Mother's Day/Nurturer's Day and the history of painting mothers and children: Here’s to hoping your Mother's Day and family connections are blessed! Art depicting mothers certainly began long ago.… Even if you are not a mom or your mother has left this planet, nurturing is what keeps us young, teaches us kindness and continues to courage. Nurturing is a special kind of teaching. (click here to continue reading)
No matter where you are this spring, I wish you health. I urge you to continue to be very safe about all your gatherings. Thank you for continuing to inspire me,
New wedding images for French Press
Here’s to hoping your Mother’s Day and family connections are blessed! Art depicting mothers certainly began long ago with images of Mary, a sacred subject….
Even if you are not a mom or your mother has left this planet,
nurturing is what keeps us young, teaches us kindness and continues to courage. Nurturing is a special kind of teaching.
Self – nurture is crucial to your creative side and a healthy existence.
Teach yourself small tasks
Perhaps add small simple figures to your landscapes.
Experiment with a new medium
Move from acrylic to oil paint.
Or oil to acrylic.
I have not yet tried encaustic painting and it’s on my horizon.
My mother was often excited about a new medium. She was a sculptor, ceramicist, and painter. When acrylics hit the scene, she used them with a gusto - not only for art but shoes, house repair, wherever it would adhere! During my middle school years, she taught me how to use acrylic modeling paste for school projects
…a round Aztec gilded calendar with carved patterns.
the head of a model of Louisa May Alcott. We used wire for her curls!
I now “borrow” my husband’s hand and belt sanders.
What did your mother or another nurturing person teach you that awakens your creative habit?
Hover on images above to see artists' names
Our world may be going through a metamorphosis, but nourishing skills and habits modeled by a nurturing individual is something to cherish and pass on.
Happy Mother’s Day, Family Day, Friend Day, Father’s Day, wedding season, vacation season!
May these celebrations evoke treasured memories of simple days and more restful lives.
To friendship and family!
I sincerely hope you will be able to meet up safely with family and friends this year. We are planning a small Christmas together and it will be like…Christmas!
I have painted my daughter often—but will perhaps dare to include myself in a mother/child work!
Thank you for allowing me to indulge in a bit of sentimentality.
Janis Commentz "Bikini Mom" oil on linen 2010 Janis Commentz - Baby Announcement 1985 - ink
YOU NEED A FRIEND
March--- a year into the pandemic, March Madness, the Ides of March – and finally Spring!
If you are at all like me, you just want to crawl out of hibernation into a warm semi -normal world. It’s been a brutal winter.
In the Mojave Desert, we have had about 7 dustings of snow—unusual for us and I think I am cold. This month we first ventured out to the Palm Springs/Palm Desert community for a restaurant meal, the first in a year! At a favorite French café-outdoors.
I also took myself on an artist date, visiting a beautiful garden nursery and an art gallery. I needed some color and warmth!
I feel in between worlds. Daylight Savings Time brings that unbalancing effect that shakes our visual world.
Unwittingly, I began a collaborative interdisciplinary project via Zoom (more later) and on the first day of Daylight Savings Time, and was surprised when my anticipated 3 o’clock light was really 2 o’clock light!
As we emerge from this strange cocoon—a bit perplexed, I urge you to continue your creative practice –or begin a new chapter!
Collaboration partner and me-a few years ago - collaboration first painting
Last year at this time I had dived into painting and was more productive than I expected. This year, I catch myself saying –more? I am a bit tied to my comfy studio and less eager to interact. The past few years have been a flurry of art related activities. This quiet spell is causing me to reflect on priorities, time, and my ability to say no.
The world around us may be physically opening up—somewhat prematurely—as much of Europe is entering a new lockdown. I have received both doses of the vaccine and hope you have been as fortunate.
So how can your creative practice keep you uplifted and purposeful? And while it is important to keep your boundaries in mind, I suggest an accountability partner. Someone mindful and attentive, but kindhearted and considerate of your needs. Yes, I said partner- so someone with whom you can be attentive and mindful. Someone to boost you when you need to be uplifted and share joy –and someone you can encourage as well.
And very likely, this will have to be via technology.
Zoom art friends sharing a birthday! Encouragement partners
Social media can be overwhelming, and we need connections that are personal and yes, intimate. Some circles from the past did not make the connectivity transition this year via Zoom or other long distance instant communication.
Accountability. I realize this word can carry negative connotations. The work world is full of teamwork slogans and artificial motivation measurements.
I am encouraging you to look in your circle for a person who is a fellow creative, who encourages you and honestly keeps you on track. Someone who cares about you and your art. Someone who might be interested in learning more about your artistic endeavors or genre –and here’s the key, someone whom you would like to encourage as well.
Recently, I embarked on a collaborative project and we do not know where it will lead. My childhood friend who lives in another state is deeply involved in music and dance. I would like to know more about her music, and she is interested in my painting process. Via Zoom, as she played the piano, I painted. We are reflecting and talking a bit more about the processes. We are not certain how this will evolve. We are each dedicated to our art and to motivating the other—and in a way, accountable on an easy going level where we check in to encourage each other---much as one might do with a gym or walking partner. Our friendship spans decades. We are fortunate in that. You may choose to share with someone new in your life. Encourage - as long as it is just that, encouraging! Remember your true accountability for your art is to yourself. Remember, if you need a friend, be a friend! And take joy in your power to encourage another person!
And a closing tip: As I often asked students to consider sending a note of thanks to a former teacher who played an important role in their development, I will ask you to consider writing a note of thanks or a tribute to a person in your life who played a significant role in in your creative progress.
I was blessed with several, and I’d like to note my mother’s very artistic and nurturing twin brother who contributed greatly to my artistic development. From building the truly wondrous doll house and easels (one when I was 5 and another when I was 50!) and years of encouragement, cheers to Uncle Emel!
Just one of many talents and projects. Uncle Emel painting the backdrop for a diorama which is now displayed at Heritage Hill state Park, Orange, CA Uncle Emel passed away in 2008
· “One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.” — Simone De Beauvoir
· “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
Bright Agave, 11x16, acrylic on canvas, recently sold
As water and air are vital to life, creative expression is vital to a purposeful life.
We ask, “Are we there yet?” How many more challenges we must face in the upcoming months. I hear a lot about fatigue, weariness, stress….
No matter how much patience, self-control, kindness we have mustered this year, it has been hard.
Not everyone has time to indulge in “creative” moments…or do they?
Yes, many are kept at tasks at home or on the job---essential workers, moms, dads…. All striving to remain hopeful.
In early 2020, I chose to address an aspect of encouragement with each blogpost. We have reached growth.
Growth affects our creativity and creativity affects growth.
Developing and expressing our creative side encourages joy, luster, vibrancy and joie de vivre. These qualities are the essence of what the Thomas Jefferson called the “pursuit of happiness.” Even the most timid may enjoy audacious expressions of art, love and joy!
As water and air are vital to life, creative expression is vital to a purposeful life.
Creative play! Above--create a '"rid" with a white crayon or candle; fill in the squares with fun color! Creativity in the kitchen; just set out color!
Ok—I’ll jump off the soapbox and focus on guidelines for YOU—to move forward – with a generous sprinkling of creativity in your daily life. How do we nurture creative actions in our home, on the job, in our children and of course, in ourselves? We cannot bless others unless we show grace to ourselves!
Our imaginations may be getting lost in the chaos of this new life, new expectations, neglect of healthy food and exercise, and changing Covid practices.
Our brains react to protect us when stress appears, draining blood and oxygen from the thinking part of the brain. So, what to do? There is good news! Our brains can be re-molded! Our brains have plasticity! One method is to recognize your feelings thoughts. – in an activity such as journaling or saying them aloud.
As you do this, ask yourself if your thoughts are based on truth and reality? Replace negativity if possible, with positive affirmations such as I can do this—I’ve done it before, I am good at ______________________(cooking, putting things together, gardening, encouraging people).
Meditate on something that it uplifting to you! Music, quotes, artworks….
Gather tools to journal!
Actually, this closely follows the advice of Julia Cameron. In over a dozen books such as The Artist’s Way, her main 3 steps always include free journal writing, walking, and what she calls artist date, where you take yourself on a date to admire something or interest or beauty -- to nurture your own spirit. It can be formal such as visiting a museum or bookstore or simply taking a nature walk or looking at store windows.
Despite it all, show grace to yourself so you can GROW!—or slowly drag yourself--jump into a space where you can nurture creativity. If you have a family—as much as possible, make your home a petri dish for creativity. Allow play, art messes (within reason) and freedom for kids to express themselves without having to achieve or perform. A Facebook friend posted a geometric mural she and her son had mapped out for painting his bedroom. I loved that!
If possible, at home and if you have employees, go beyond encouragement and honest listening to consider the sounds, colors, temperature and lighting. I had a homey ginger jar lamp in my classroom, and when students asked why - I told them ambience! They liked the warm, welcoming atmosphere.
Make creativity a commitment. Schedule time for learning, practicing, painting, researching –and record your progress. Take photos or jot notes about your progress…or just allow yourself that freedom to create and keep or toss, but enjoy the process! Don’t judge your activity by the burnt cookies!
Grow by boosting your creativity.
Be king to yourself on this journey!
Wishing you all so much goodness,
Plein air painting - take your watercolors outdoors!
*Note: Each month I write and rewrite my post, and usually it takes a couple of weeks to mull over. If you are in the Midwest, experiencing a winter much more drastic than normal or Texas, or anywhere, my heart goes out to you. Like a plant that needs water, sunlight and TIME—be king to yourself. Let your creativity sprout in God’s time.
January 9, 2021
As the temperatures drop and the sun begins its slow trek back toward the north, I just want to check in with you. As you may know, I am not a fan of winter, but I have learned to love the winter light with its long deep shadows which add drama and dimension to our Mojave landscape.
With this new year, I wish to spread some hope - and I am sharing an excerpt from my article recently published in our local newspaper, the Hi-Desert Star.
"We reflect on our past and must have hope for the future. What are artists to do in 2021? I suggest you be kind to yourself and pat yourself on the back when you make small progress. Keep creating. Work small. Create several times a week rather than forcing a huge project! Watch your health— sleep, exercise, a healthy diet, and spiritual nurturing are crucial! Follow the Covid essentials of social distancing and mask wearing
Kindle new interests.
Learn new skills.
Teach-share what you know.
Reach out, locally and globally.
We are not only missing hugs and contact with others. Artists miss the tactile elements. It is not easy to see the depth of brushstrokes, the thickness of paint, the characteristics of a medium, or even to know the size of a work. Ask questions! Interact with artists online or with old fashioned devices, a note or phone call. I received a Covid collection of cards this summer and I treasure them. My Esty business specializes in notecards and paper items with a personal touch and a French flair.
You have heard enough about Zoom! Yet, a virtual meeting over a meal contains the elements of breaking bread with another. If spirituality is part of your life, cultivate those connections. I meet weekly with women for Bible study and prayer and to provide encouragement.
Keep a journal or diary which includes gratitude.
During 2020, meditative hands-on activities such sewing masks, remodeling our rental (lots of scraping, sanding and painting) and making meals became important to me—connecting to the lives of ancestors. I often ponder how they lived with simple items.
As we begin a new year and confront the unknown, how do we inspire others and remain motivated?
Despite my love/hate relationship with social media, I maintain my accounts to promote new art and to communicate. I give myself breaks. Social media is not an obligation; it can be an opportunity!
This year I found it important to embrace the USPS! When I requested package pickups, I left 3x5 notecards saying #usps or #IloveUSPS. My carrier picked them up! At Christmas, when I gave her a calendar, I learned she loves the French Impressionists! Another positive connection as a result of Covid!
We must develop skills such as patience, resilience, and openness, especially to the unexpected.
Keep your life sane!
Create home comfort centers. Typically, artists collect a lot of stuff. Neaten up! Clear out! Read for information or imagination! Place chairs, tables or baskets with your needs conveniently: pencils, colored markers, notepads, journals, inspirational books, Kleenex….
Savor the seasons. Study changing light and its effect on your painting or other art forms
Find ways to help others. Give back!
I gifted my France Sketchbook calendars and Zoom classes.
I hope we, as creative thinkers, can turn problems into opportunity, peace of mind, satisfaction, and contentment during 2021!
I was reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s words in Walden. May we take note:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. — Henry David Thoreau, Walden."
Please, dear friends, stay safe this year. I thank you for your interest in the arts and wish you joy with your own creative projects. And please, tell me what you are doing! Post a comment below!
Inspired by all of you,
Link to complete page
More information available: Zoom Art Classes, available artwork, my Etsy shop: French Press (which is offering my 2021 calendars this month at 25% off)
Mom's Wingback Chair, watercolor, Janis Commentz (available on cards)
October 09th, 2020
Restoration for the Art Soul
Even before the pandemic was underway, I had chosen encouragement as my blog message for 2020, following my acronym:
We have reached restore, which is now very appropriate as we enter the fall season.
In a few weeks we will turn back the clocks, but we know we cannot turn back time. We have always known we are part of a larger community, and that has become immensely apparent during 2020. Being part of community means starting with ourselves!
As an artist, restorative time is crucial. Even though we have been isolated for seven months, my life has been full of activity: Zoom meetings and virtual gatherings. October is traditionally “art month” and I am moving at a steady pace. This week I completed a YouTube video bio as past of the “Art for Heaven’s Sake” project and I placed my France Sketchbook Calendar 2021 in my Etsy Shop: French Press Art by Janis Commentz. I have two classes to teach this next week, an acrylic plein air class for the Joshua Tree National Park Desert Institute and a Youth Zoom class for the 29 Palms Art Gallery
Currently, my November calendar is a beautiful, unfilled space.
As the leaves begin to fall, I too wish to shed a few things – to see clearly what lies ahead. I need to clear clutter from our home, activities from the calendar and activities in cyberspace that merely fill without feeding the soul.
Many of us know that “restorative” poses in yoga “ allow us to relearn the art of relaxation while developing the skills and abilities to self-soothe. It enhances our healing capacity through helping us regulate the stress response and re-balance the nervous system”—from yoga coach Meghan Johnston.
As we move from seven months of isolation into the unknown, as artists and creative beings, we crave the restorative season. Think of a squirrel gathering treasure of nuts and acorns. In fact a study from professors in the Department of Psychology at University of California at Berkeley, and published in the September issue of the journal Royal Society of Open Science (2017) — claims that tree squirrels use a mnemonic technique called "spatial chunking" to sort out and bury their nut scores by size, type, and perhaps nutritional value and taste. When they are hungry later, it is theorized, they can remember where to find what they want.
Squirrel study by Albrecht Dürer, 1512
This may explain the need to re-organize during this restorative time. I plan to thoroughly sort and re organize my studio. I work more efficiently and happily when I know where things are. Even when they do not look organized, I remember where objects were placed during the last organizing activity.
Like the leafless tree, in restorative mode, collect things that strengthen. Gather kernels of wisdom and truth, reach deeply with your roots into rich soil.
Prepare now to feed your artistic self with activities, people and provisions that will contribute to your art. Long walks in nature, quiet reading of works that uplift, strengthening exercise.
As a painter, this is when I put the dictated art projects aside and play! What images have I longed to explore. What medium have I not used in a while?
Last studio organization - needed again!
I meet with a group each week to inspire creativity and although we originally met to paint, we are exploring the foundations of drawing, remembering my colored ink, pens and other drawing materials. The simplicity of line and contour! The advice from classic authors such as Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain; Kimon Nicolaїdes, The Natural Way to Draw; and Robert Henri, The Art Spirit. Our meeting has become a nurturing space. One individual is looking forward to a bone-muscle surgery and is planning now how she can prepare her space for quiet, nurturing art practice as the recovers; like the squirrel, she is planning, collecting and organizing!
May I suggest also helping to restore the spirit of neighbors. Here in California, many have been devastated by fires as well as the pandemic. For example, apple orchards in nearby Oak Glen have been badly affected. Nearby Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley, which carries my artwork , posted: “ If you’re going to @rileysatlosrios in Oak Glen for your apple cider be sure to stop at @action_true_value_ in Cherry Valley” to contribute to a donation. Look for those in need. Often, they are silent and not reaching out.
Part of restoring ourselves is helping to restore our community. Creativity should spread generously to uplift others.
Seeking Our Roots
Yes, it’s been one of the most unusual Julys I can remember.
As I write, I am nearing the close of a solo pilgrimage to one of my childhood havens, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. I am eager to share reflections and tips for pursuing your creative practice. Quiet time can be healing.
Carmel is world-renowned for its rugged shorelines, mystic cypress trees bent by the wind, the almost too charming architecture initiated by Hugh Comstock in the early 1900s,, and Pebble Beach. In the early 1900s – writers, musicians, painters, actors flocked to the colony and established a haven for creativity.
These childhood photos tell you my story: Mom 'n me, four generations at Carmel Beach (late 50's)
I think it's easy to see why I am drawn: I feel especially close to my parents when I visit Carmel and relive memories, while creating new ones.
My childhood in the 50’s and early 60’s included annual visits to Carmel. My artist mother would scope out galleries and sketch as we drove the coastline. This was an era of beginning tourism, but, for the most part, our visits to Point Lobos and along the famed 17 Mile Drive were met with few fellow travelers. Fast forward – this week it was teeming with tourists, most masked, and in town, many cafes have moved into the streets. I remained isolated cooking my own meals.
I cherish time for reflection and the silent birthday retreat; the time has been sweet despite startling differences from other visits.
Cartwheelin' - me definitely a few years ago; my mother would carve a mermaid in the sand at China Cove and I was able to sculpt one for my daughter on a mother-daughter trip in 2011; and China Cove on a sunny visit in 2015 with our son and his wife. The cove is now a seal sanctuary, off limits to humans.
So – my admonition -- create a retreat for yourself. You may not be able to escape as I did. Simulate a beach or mountain or desert retreat atmosphere in your home or studio! Where are those seashells? The woodsy cabin treasures? Desert detritus you have collected? What creative activity do you wish to pursue?
During time alone, I read short devotions and poetry, journal, take long walks and sketch. When my own family traveled, (my adult children still tease me about bringing a dictionary when camping) I had a bottle of magnetic words for inspiration; during my retreat, I pour out a few each morning and ponder. This morning’s random words were: book, new, release, tree, drown, yes, skeleton… I immediately began to think of the old figurative cypress trees along the 17 Mile Drive that were named, The Ghost Tree, The Witch tree...long ago fallen.
Historical photo of the famous "Witch Tree" landmark
at Pescadero Point, Pebble Beach, September 1962.
The tree was blown down by a storm on January 14, 1964.
Quiet time can be healing – even 45 minutes can do wonders - as a restorative gift. If you have not read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s 1955 classic, Gift from the Sea, consider it required reading! (and it led to the title of my original blog, Desert Argonauta!) I am grateful for my physical get-away to escape the busyness of even an isolated life, Zoom meetings, mundane chores, and caring for others.
My words from the jar (love the plexiglass coffee table!); books, tea, candlelight; feet up on the deck; a walk along the beach, desk view, beach at twilight (the Walker House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, in the distance).
Lessons from this week:
Be kind. The world is in incredible turmoil. No matter what issues you take to heart, some are easily offended. Stay true to your beliefs, but in love with patience.
Be kind to yourself!
Remember your childhood and honor those who stood out as role models. What made your time with them special? Be that light in someone else’s life – AFTER your retreat!
PAINTING / CREATIVITY TIPS
If it is in your soul, paint, (write, sing, dance, make music)!
Short opportunities can be golden: a sketch, a color study, a few apt words.
If moved, paint outdoors (or from life, flowers, objects, your imagination)!
Grab whatever supplies you have and go to your subject. It may be in the backyard, from your car seat, a public bench—or climb a bluff. Go where the sun and mood take you and be open to opportunity: a parking spot, a bench. Take what you can carry. Take a quick hike to see if what you need: a chair (or sit on a rock, bench, stump), easel to paint? small notebook to sketch or watercolor? backpack.
When people see me out painting, many remark, “Oh I would love to do that! "You already know my response!
Your image will most likely never be what you imagined, but you will improve the more you paint or draw. Don’t be “precious” about your drawings; they are exercises!
Loosen up! Try new techniques: watercolor, sketching with a twig dipped in ink (or coffee), scratching with charcoal, scribbling…my quick study after a slow deliberate drawing is often more satisfying, more evocative of the subject.
The watercolor sketches below show a long version (left) and a quick version without preliminary pencil (right). The last one was after I packed up - hit the trail , took another look and had to do one more!
Color awareness. Not only do weather and time of day affect color, but place plays a huge role. Latitude and geography change the entire scheme. My Southern California desert palette is significantly different from the cooler grey tones of the Central Coast. Allow yourself time to adjust. Keep painting. Be patient but persist in simulating the colors you see. Imitate the appearance or character of what you see.
Each exercise is a small lesson in color, shape, value. Imagine these as taking notes! Remember the photograph does not equal the human eye! But it offers a record.
Think design and simplify! What you leave out is more important than what you include. What is the essential quality of your subject? I think this applies to writing, painting, composing and all art forms.
Be brave: talk to local artists. Ask questions. Listen to artists' advice, but adjust to your practice, what works for you.
Encourage other artists: I had a fun conversation with this young man (above) at Carmel Beach, Sean Conroy, painting from his colorful van.
Persist! You will be frustrated by small things: closure of parks, forgetting items, lack of restrooms, light and fog moving in and out, a fence – persist!
Sometimes, the best refuge is a public spot – I notice such a difference in where I situate myself, masked, distanced. I often drive around a block three times, waiting for an opening. Be open to those who may stop and visit; take your cards, why not?
Two on the trail - delighted to be photographed
Sketching through the fence at Cypress Point- I knew I could look out and imagine it not there!
Take only what you need (and can carry), but double check: paper towels? water/medium? brushes? –and don’t draw on the back of another watercolor in your tablet as I am wont to do.
Take snacks, a lightweight backpack, and wear clothes with zippered pockets (one for my tiny zippered pocket wallet designed by artist friend Christine Lamb and one for my phone).
Be alert. As an older woman I feel safer, BUT I am always alert. I use the same if not more stringent safety precautions in the U.S. as elsewhere.
How much is God revealing to me? How much am I listening and watching? I think Moses of the Bible was a visual learner; God used a burning bush to get his attention! God certainly reveals his majesty to me daily as I observe, hear and smell the beauty of the sea, rocks, even my desert home.
Find a place where – YOU can take
Find your roots
Retreat and grow!
My REAL answer to the black and white selfie challenge (yes I took this!) I posted a more flattering shot on Instagram, but I think this comes closer to the real me. Yes, I’m now turning into my great grandmother (shown in one of the first photos on this post!) Tear in the hat and all! Doing what I love. Painting at the beach! and my mask in reverse makes a vintage neck tie.
What is the headline for this photo? FINDING MY ROOTS
ART that Changes the Heart
This 2016 street work by Banksy criticizing the use of teargas in the “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais has appeared on the French embassy in London. The artwork, which depicts a young girl from the film and musical Les Misérables with tears in her eyes as CS gas billows towards her, appeared overnight.
What that sound goin’ round?
It seems like we have experienced much during the past few months, weeks, days.
My blog is dedicated to encouraging artists and the creative spirit—but there is much to ponder.
The last few weeks have become a surreal combination of events, feelings, and visual images.
Pablo Picasso's 1934 Guernica is regarded by many art critics as one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country town in northern Spain, by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy at the request of the Spanish Nationalists.
For over 80 days, the globe has struggled with its reaction to the Covid virus and experiencing stages of grief. Essential workers, young parents juggling home schooling with work, teachers recrafting their art and adapting to virtual classrooms, have all have experienced prolonged stress.
In this bizarre altered universe, the globe seems to experience many events together as we all wait for a vaccine.
The latest deep global wound has affected the world. The murder of George Floyd has exposed a raw nerve.
Norman Rockwell's the Problem We All Live With 1964, is considered an iconic image of the Civil Rights Movement. It depicts Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African American girl, on her way to an all-white public school during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis. Because of threats and violence against her, she is escorted by four deputy U.S. marshals.
All parts of the body are connected to the heart and we are reminded again, that as a culture we have heart damage. We have put wealth and willful ambition in front of humanity and dignity for all.
In the midst of the pandemic, we recognize that we need to have sincere and long lasting self-evaluation and change.
Several months ago, I dedicated this blog to encouragement—and following my acronym for E-n-c-o-u-r-a-g-e, I am at O—Observe.
Dorthea Lange’s photographs of migrant families and interned Japanese Americans helped to bring attention to the needs of many during the depression and WWII.
Some definitions of Observe include:
and decide where our art practices may lead.
Théodore Géricault's 1818-19 The Raft of the Medusa drew his inspiration from the account of two survivors of the Medusa—a French Royal Navy frigate that set sail in 1816 to colonize Senegal. The captain had not sailed for over twenty years. After the ship ran aground on a sandbank, there was a shortage of lifeboats, used for the wealthy. Those who were left behind had to build a raft for 150 souls—a construction that drifted away on a bloody 13-day odyssey that was to save only 10 lives. The tragedy became a major news event and scandal of its day and the public were scandalizd by the reality depicted in the monumental painting. 16′ 1″ x 23′ 6″
Recently, I read an artist’s post that during these trying days, painting seems irrelevant. I disagree.
During these powerfully charged days, art can influence!
Art must be an ongoing tribute to creative expression by all people, created by God in his infinite wisdom.
Art encompasses many forms – the painted image, spoken word, film, dance—and our lives are changes by it.
My prescription is to create art for the heart—and that can change the heart!
The heart as it supports
dignity for all
Whether your art overtly depicts images to promote racial equality or abstractly conveys emotions to promote dignity, I encourage you to keep your paintbrushes, pens, camera(phone) and creative tools close by.
Cultivate a Sense of PLAY
I have found that I am happiest when I have a project -- preferably a creative one! And I hope that during this unparalleled time, you are finding projects to keep you not only occupied but fulfilled.
Last month I offered tips to nurture creativity.
Nurture creativity in yourself and others:
Look for beauty in everyday objects and nature.
Write in a journal - your observations and your reactions.
Organize and sort your supplies.
Study a new subject: I’m studying French with a free ap.
Rekindle an old hobby.
When you get a creative idea - go with it!
Do not fear opinions of others or your own inner critic.
As we now move into our 8th week of isolation, we are finding the experience is definitely pushing our envelopes as we strive to remain strong, cheerful and considerate…and as those who disagree with you, whether they are across the bed, hall, town, country or world, are taking a bit more of your determination!
I hope you are pursuing painting, dancing, singing with gusto! In March I created an acronym for this year! How appropriate it is!
Word 3: “Cultivate a sense of play!” As the world is in a serious condition, we need a sense of humor and a dose of laughter to keep us healthy, as much as we need to isolate, disinfect and self-distance.
Remember moments during your childhood when you laughed raucously! When you giggled as a toddler or...as a teen! What brings a huge smile to your face now, even if you are alone. Do you still chuckle out loud when you read something funny?
When did you last allow yourself to PLAY? If you have young children around you, you are most likely reading fairly takes, silly joke books, or playing silly games – just to brighten your time together.
US News & World Report says play can make you healthy, happy and more productive. Even during the pandemic:
In your creative experience, what brings you joy?
I think color is an important mood booster. Did you ever open a new box of Crayolas with a frown on your face? Maybe it’s a new set of pastels or paints that brings delight today. Or nail polish? Or food coloring!?
I have seen a LOT of creativity with colorful masks lately!
In the northern hemisphere, it is a beautiful spring! And for the southern, autumn. Two of the most color laden seasons of the year.
Color-mixing can be an enchanting exercise. You can make a chart or just dabble! You may create gorgeous colors – or mud. (But then you know how to make mud when you need it!)
Non painters may enjoy a little coloring so I have created some coloring pages to print and color—you can follow the original painting or created your own unique work of art! Here is a link to a free Printable pdf of the these coloring pages. Click here.
Many exercises and experience help us to think about color. Sometimes just looking at works by favorite artists inspires your palette. The impressionists often used bright sunny garden inspired colors. Seasonal colors have a specific palette. One very fun ideas that I call using scent sense (and giving credit to painting teacher Pauline Agnew) is inspired by scents—from aromatic oils, fruit whatever you enjoy. Scent is also a powerful reminder of memory. Before room scents were created, my grandmother place apple wedges on light bulbs—to create an apple aromatherapy! Mix up the colors that the scent elicits and play with abstracts. To me, the eucalyptus made me think of sagey greens, and golden browns. Use your imagination. Interestingly, each of these abstracts began with a mental image of somewhere I knew with eucalyptus trees@!
Play with stokes when imagining a painting by a favorite painter—such as Monet or any favorite colors. You may even appreciate the colors absorbed by your paper towel or baby wipe!
Play with acrylic (or other) paint on gessoed watercolored paper or canvas. This demo turned into a work of art.
Bright Agave, Janis Commentz, 10 x 10" acrylic on canvas
Squawk!, Janis Commentz, 6" x 6" , acrylic on wood, (SOLD)
Sometimes a crazy idea or color will guide you. I awoke with this image of a yellow Joshua Tree in my head and painted it.
Yellow Joshua Trees, Janis Commentz, 18" x 18" acrylic on wood panel, (SOLD)
Have no fear—not a painter?
Play with collage…poetry....Tear magazine images. Glue to a sheet of paper or cardboard with starch or a glue stick or if you have none of these—flour and water to make a paste-apply with paint brush.
Dreaming of Paris, paper collage, Janis Commentz, 2019
Flower Pots at the Luxembourg Palace,Janis Commentz, ink on paper NFS
I’m not suggesting your baking will match the amazing Paris macarons of Ladurée but allow yourself to go a little crazy with baking cookies or other goodies. Just Google crazy, creative colorful cookies!
Photo by Janis Commentz, Ladurée store window, Paris 2018
Whichever project you embark on this week, I just hope you stop, take a recess for your soul, and play. A we know, play can elevate our emotions and dispel anxiety!
Download my FREE coloring pages here.
Stay healthy! Love to you all!
Art During the Health Crisis
This Tuesday will mark three weeks of isolation.
For me, this year was transitional as I began an online business and scheduled workshops. Just three weeks ago, I was packing new art supplies to teach a painting workshop. As I watched the news and received a caution letter from UCR regarding cancellation of Desert Institute classes, I began to understand….
With isolation, we are experiencing classic phases of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They do not necessarily follow a single order, and we haven’t been grieving very long.
In this health crisis, my goal is to encourage others - and myself. I remain pragmatic.
As I wrote recently in my last blog: Mind, body, spirit and soul are connected. Every aspect affects our creative life. For me, reading my bible, poetry, inspirational travel journals, watching short creative video clips of friends watercoloring, walking and gardening has kept me grounded. Spirit connects us with God, and our soul is where we express our passions. (janiscommentz.com)
Acronyms help me to discover new ideas. Mine reminds me of how to encourage.
What am I doing? I keep a schedule and start the day with positive reading or movement. I have never cooked or cleaned my kitchen so often. I’m eating better than usual.
I am making art about what I want - not what sells or what others think I should paint. I love the desert, but my heart is drawn to the Impressionists. I am painting and sketching purely for my own taste.
As I paint, I listen to upbeat music or uplifting movies. I set a timer for 20 minutes to limit listening to news. I keep in touch with good friends but have cut back on social media. I have participated in Zoom groups, and that is a revelation. Our lives will be forever changed in some ways.
I have tried filming myself painting and even made a little screen test (by myself) to perhaps share on virtual workshops. We do not know how long we will be isolated, and I like to plan ahead. Currently the virtual world is filled with art - online classes, free virtual museum tours, and images.
On another note, part of me enjoys the more leisurely pace. All of us were on a mad go-go-go trajectory. My creative juices do not turn on and off like a faucet. The grief process affects them. At first, my denial kept me packing for workshops, thinking we could just meet as a small group. When I heard the Indian Wells Masters tennis tournament had been canceled, I knew it was enormous. We have all experienced anger during this time.
Surrounding myself with beauty and quiet helps. I urge artists to gather the tools they enjoy—brushes, pencils, paints –materials many have been hoarding for years. Create order. Many of us have created photo libraries to paint from, and, here in the desert, we still can take peaceful walks. I don’t remember looking out my back window so often- and almost every time, I see a bird, bunny, coyote, squirrel, hiker or off roader. I have a wealth of visual inspiration.
I am not pressuring myself into making art. We need to be gentle with ourselves at this time. Some of us have aging parents or others who still are dependent on us. Finances are worrisome. Just figuring out to shop for food is a challenge. Keeping up appearances is a bit harder-with non-essential services, such as routine dental appointments, stopped.
I think a lot about the lives of my ancestors and how they existed in a quiet world.
My advice to artists - and I said I would move to the 2nd word in my acronym, nurture. Nurture creativity in yourself and others:
Look for beauty in everyday objects and nature.
Write in a journal - your observations and your reactions.
Organize and sort your supplies.
Study a new subject: I’m studying French with a free ap.
Rekindle an old hobby.
When you get a creative idea - go with it!
Do not fear opinions of others or your own inner critic.
The paintings I’m working on are all to suit me, all not quite finished, but my inner critic is a little more forgiving these days.
This January 2023 marks 5 years of blogging about creativity, well-being and encouragement. Thank you to the many who have visited my website! I welcome comments and questions.
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