Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 in Review

For me, the year actually began on December 30th, 2019.  That evening, my husband and I had to bring my eldest cat Tiger to the emergency vet because he kept throwing up.  We all ready knew he had IBD, but his vomiting had increased, and his energy was very low.  The next day, New Year's eve, we also had an appointment at his regular vet, where he had some testing done, and we got some medicine to take home.  That night, I got a 24 hour flu.  I rarely get sick, and this knocked me on my butt. 


The results to Tiger's tests hinted that he might have cancer.  Tiger was sick during January and February, and we thought we were going to loose him.  Then he made a miraculous recovery in March and April, due to a new supplement I had found for him, gel potassium  that helped reinvigorate his appetite and his energy.  His cancer got the best of him, though, in May, and he passed away on May 15th.  His passing really colored my year with sadness.  I still miss him everyday.  

January 1st I was to start a new job, hanging my first show as gallery manager in a local restaurant.  Though it had to wait a day because of my flu, we hung the show on the 2nd, and all was a success.  That job as gallery manager lasted three months before Covid came along, and then hanging art and hosting openings just didn't seem like a good idea anymore.  

In January, I did get to hang a show of my work at a local business.  It was fairly large, and I exhibited my linocut prints, and some large watercolors I had left from my painting days.  




In July, I helped facilitate, through the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), teaching 12 local artists about the business side of being an artist. We held weekly workshops, one night a week, teaching: marketing, branding, social media, presenting artwork to galleries, vendor fairs, and many more topics.  The workshops lasted 2 1/2 months, and it was a wonderful experience on so many levels. 

2020 was supposed to be a year of celebration.  My husband and I had our 20th wedding anniversary in August, and I turned 60 in October.  The original plan was a BIG vacation to Hawaii, one of my favorite places on the planet.  We didn't want to take the risk with Covid, so that did not happen. 


This year was the third year in my exploration in printmaking.  Usually I do an art show at the end of the year, a nice way to look back at all I have created in a year's time.  That did not happen this year, so I decided I would share with you what I created from January to December.  Fifteen new and unique images.  With different color editions, 21 new prints.  Not bad for a year of creative work.  









I look forward to my next year of printmaking and sharing with you.  Thank you for reading about my life in 2020.  

May 2021 be a better year for us all.  







Monday, September 28, 2020

Cherish

Because I take LOTS of photos of my work as I make a print, just thought I would share a few here with you.



This is the first block I carved.  Beautiful, isn't it?  Unfortunately, the word "Cherish" needed to be reversed on the block so that when I printed, it would read correctly.  



Here is what the initial block looked like when I test printed it.  Ugh!  I was bummed when I realized what I had done.  But because I really liked the image, I made a plan.  

I knew I wanted this to be a two color print, red and gold.  And I always cut my multi-colored blocks apart like a puzzle so I can ink the different colored parts separately, and then put them back together before I print.  Sooooo...




I decided to cut the mistake block apart and recarve just the heart again, this time, reversing the type.




And then I inked it to test how the block and the type turned out.  Perfect!  




Here I am, doing the actual print in two colors.




I used my new Wood Zilla press to make the printing easier on my hands.




The finished print.  I used Calico Safewash red ink and Cranfield oil based gold ink on thick, Stonehenge paper.  The finished print size is 10"x10."










Thursday, September 17, 2020

Spirit Guide

What motivates an artist to create a certain piece of art is usually personal.  Many times an artwork carries some emotional significance to that artist.  And then when the viewer sees the artwork, they are looking at it through their own personal perceptions and life experiences.  I think when you are drawn strongly to a piece of art, it's because it relates to something in your own life that has value and significance. 

I know this is true for my black cat artwork.  I have been told many times how the work reminds someone of their own black cat, or a black cat they know.  

My own artwork is full of personal symbolism.  When I started printing black cats, I wanted the black cat to be seen more as a symbol for all cats, not just black ones.  The inspiration behind the work is my cats, two gingers and a tuxedo cat.  But as I said, I think most admirers of my cat artwork are black cat guardians.  


My latest linocut print, "Spirit Guide," is layered with symbolism for me.  The first layer of significance is my love of tigers.  They have been my favorite wild animal for as long as I can remember.  I love the beauty of these cats.  Black and orange and white.  What's not to love?  And I love their strength and fierceness.  They remind me to be brave and strong and bold.  Even in my vulnerability. 


But this piece is also about my cat Tiger, who recently passed away.  Tiger was the first cat I ever adopted.  Before I met him, I knew I wanted a ginger cat, and I knew I was going to name him Tiger, because of my love of the big cats.  My cat Tiger fit his name.  He was beautiful, but he was also fierce. He always had a bit of a wild streak in him, which I'm not sure a lot of guardians would have put up with.  But when I adopt, it is for life, so we worked it out.  Tiger was the alpha in the house, always in charge of the other furry family members, and my husband and myself.  We loved him dearly.

I learned so much from having Tiger in my life, about love and caring, forgiveness, caring for a sick pet, patience, other animals.  The list goes on and on.  He was an inspiration in my artwork for years, and an inspiration in my life.  My best companion and friend.  

So another layer of symbolism for this piece is that it represents Tiger.  I looked up the expression, "Spirit Guide," on Wikipedia, and they explain it like this: "In western spiritualism, a spirit guide is a spirit that remains after death, that acts as a guide or protector to a living human being."  I also saw the expression explained as a guardian angel, guide, or enlightened being.  An animal in spirit.  I like that.  It may or may not be true, but I like feeling like he is still with me in spirit.  He is certainly held closely by me in my heart.  I think of him every day.  

So when you view my print "Spirit Guide," you may just like it because you like tigers, like I do.  Or you might have other personal meaning that you see in this piece.  Either way, I hope you enjoy this print. 


 


Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Path Made Clear

Every week day morning, I like to start my day with a walk.  I just started listening to audio books, and what I like to listen to is inspiration.  It helps fire me up as I walk, giving me extra energy, and also inspires and motivated for my coming day.


One book I listened to recently, is an audio book by Oprah Winfrey called "The Path Made Clear:  Discovering Your Life's Direction and Purpose."  I LOVED it.  Oprah wrote it and reads it.  It is full of her philosophy and life experiences, as well as wisdom from others she has interviewed over the years including, to name a few, Elizabeth Gilbert, Deepak Chopra, Ellen Degeneres, Joel Osteen and many, many more.

As a child, I was in touch with my purpose at a young age.  But I was not raised in a family that encouraged me to follow that path.  I think like many people, my parents were practical folks, thinking an artist's path some magical fairy tale, and unachievable and impractical goal.  "Be an accountant," I was told, "you're good at math.  Be a banker."  Anything but an artist.  

Part of what this book talks about is how you really have to believe in yourself, believe that what you want is achievable, and that you can have it or achieve it.  Once you start moving towards that goal, life will unfold before you to help you move in the direction of your dreams.  

Oh, there is so much wisdom in this book.  My description is just one small tidbit from it.  If you like being inspired, and inspired about living the life of your dreams, I would highly recommend reading or listening to this book.  I even bought the book itself after I listened the audio version.  That is how much it inspired me.  



Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Center of the Universe

"Center of the Universe," in two color versions


Do you have a cat in your life that you consider to be the "center of the universe?"  I bet you do.  

And I do too.  My eldest cat, Tiger.  Tiger is the inspiration behind this particular print.  He is the center of MY universe.  Adopted him 13 year ago, and he has changed my life for the better in so many ways.  Cats can do that.

"Center of the Universe," black ink on white paper


I have been drawn to the symbol of the mandala for many years.  As a symbol, the mandala represents the universe.  "Mandala is a Sanskrit word, that loosely translates to mean 'circle' or 'center.'  Mandalas are circular designs symbolizing the notion that life is never ending. The imagery depicts the universe and the symbols represent one’s spiritual journey, the cycles of birth-life-death, and the interconnectedness of all living things."  I like that.

"Center of the Universe," gold metallic ink on black paper


So this print, "Center of the Universe," is all about the special connection we have with our four legged furry friends.


(Information about Mandalas from:
http://spiritualawakening.weebly.com/mandalas-what-are-they.html)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Best Day of My Life

Today is my cat Tiger's gotcha day.   You know, the day of his adoption.  That was 13 years ago today.  My husband and I were walking past a neighborhood pet store, and Friends for Life, a small local shelter, has having an adoption event.  I tried my best not to look at the kittens.  I knew I wanted to adopt a kitten, but I was planning on waiting a few months before doing that.  But I have a HUGE soft spot for ginger cats.  I looked.  There he was.  I was in love. The rest is history.



In the 13 years we have shared our lives, I have been through some ups and downs.  Jobs and career changes, losing another beloved cat and dog, starting new jobs, adopting new furry friends.  Through it all, I have had my buddy by my side.  I am grateful.

He wasn't always the easiest cat to live with.  Tiger has always needed to be the dominant animal in the house.  Even over the humans.  Tiger lives with two other cats, and a dog, and Tiger rules.  And they know it.   I have also had aggression problems with him.  So much so, I'm not sure if another person would have kept him.  He used to attack me when he was young.  But for me, once I adopt, it's for life.  So I did all I could to work with him and his aggression.  It was tough.  We have made it to the other side.

Tiger, my buddy.

 Tiger is the first pet I have ever adopted.  So he will always have a special place in my heart.  I have learned soooo much from him.  About unconditional love, for him, and from him.   About patience.  About animals in general.   And of course, he has been an inspiration in my artwork. 

"Magic Carpet," print inspired by a photo of Tiger.

"Wise One," print inspired by a photo of Tiger.
Adopting Tiger really was one of the best days of my life.  And yes, we will be celebrating Tiger today with all his furry brothers, and some of his most FAVORITE food, tuna fish.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Black Cat Awareness Month

Did you know that October is International Black Cat Awareness Month?  Being that I just completed a series of artwork with a black cat theme, I thought I would shed a little light on the plight of black cats.

Black Cat Handmade Prints @MaryAnnTestagrossaArt

"The creation of International Black Cat Awareness Month came about after it’s creator, Layla Morgan Wilde, noticed that while there are two days dedicated to black cats in the world (One in the UK, one in the US) there wasn’t anything dedicated to them on a national level. Such an observation is desperately needed, as superstitions surrounding black cats had gotten so out of control that shelters won’t even adopt them out during October any longer. Too often the cats were being adopted as part of the Halloween holiday mystique, and would be abandoned or worse after the holiday passed.  Throughout the rest of the year, it’s typically more difficult to get them adopted.  How much more difficult? Black cats have the longest wait in shelters and are adopted at a rate 50% lower than any other color of cat, which we can’t understand at all."  Shelters across the country call this "black cat syndrome."  Black cats are overlooked again and again by adopters because they associate them with bad luck, black magic, and other negative superstitions.

Black Cat Handmade Prints @MaryAnnTestagrossaArt

This issue doesn’t apply to only solid black cats. Tuxedo cats, cats with a white chest and sometimes paws, are equally hard to place.  I can tell you personally, we have a tuxedo cat and he is the best.  We adopted him from a local shelter, and he is funny, playful and so loving.  One of our best adoptions yet.

What can you do to help black cats:

1.  Adopt a black or tuxedo cat, or two, from a local shelter. 
2.  Keep your black cat indoors, especially at Halloween time.
3.  Donate to black cat organizations.
4.  Donate to cat shelters.
5.  If you are a black cat guardian, talk to people about how great your black cat is.  Educate people.  

(Above quote shared from:  https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/international-black-cat-awareness-month/)