Monday, May 4, 2009

Oh, You're an Artist? What Media?

I’ve been hearing that question a lot lately and sometimes I’m not certain how to respond. I’ve worked in a wide variety of media over the years and naming every one of them doesn’t seem like the answer that fits the situation in most cases. I’ll generally say something like “well, today it was jewelry” or “I’m currently working in textiles and soap making.” I also hear people making a distinction between arts and crafts, considering soap making to be a craft and drawing or painting to be an art. Plus I sometimes hear people make the assumption that to be an artist means that I paint pictures. Well, I’m here to set the record straight. Or at least my little part of the record.Over the years I wrestled with myself, learning early on that art was considered a luxury by most people, the kind of thing one does if one has leftover time and resources. I believed at the time that I’d always make a living some other way, that art would be/could only ever be my hobby. But something changed all that. I remember the first time I came home to my identity as an artist. I was a student in college, I had three years of a Social Work degree and I’d just been denied entrance into the Social Work department at my college. I hated the classes and dreaded most of the professors, my grades were horrible, but I was learning stuff that was impacting my life anyway. (When I showed up.) Their rejection sent me reeling, I was young and ultra-idealistic and I wanted to make a difference in the world. And it seemed that my friends thought this is how one could go about that – by helping people as a Social Worker. It was a turning point for me, one of several. Now college was on my dime and I went off to Art School. I finished my education with excellent grades and a group of professors that I enjoyed. I had come home to my identity as an artist.Faced with real life on outside the hallowed halls of education, I got jobs. “Real jobs.” And I hated most of them. I’m rather creative and I tended to be bored out of my mind with a new job after only three months. My creativity was becoming a liability and there were very few jobs that I kept for any real length of time. I worked for liars, thieves and crazy people mostly. And in my thirties I found myself in the wilderness of Virginia, betrayed by my spiritual parents, suffering some huge personal losses and in one of the darkest depressions of my entire life. And something amazing happened.
"Lady Liberty" Watercolor
I had a dream in the night. I was in a room rimmed with doors and each door led to a different reality. There was one door that led to a well worn path that was hanging on by only one hinge. There were other doors that were solid and unyielding. I knew in the dream that something was about to happen, that I needed to prepare. I knew I had to close the doors to prepare. And so I went around that room pulling those doors shut. Some clicked closed easily, and the one door that led to the garden was so worn that I had to finagle it closed with a bit of stray wire. I left that room through one door and into other dreamscapes that evening.

"The Homestead by Morning Light" Watercolor plus Colored Pencils
The following day I sat at my desk (I was working as an art salesperson in a high end gallery that dealt in antique artwork) I began to explore what this amazing vibrant dream meant to me. I believe that dreams are parables, and sometimes meaning can be found there that applies to life. And I found in that dream the story of my life. I had tried many different things and nothing held my attention though I always went home to the same hobby. I had a visitation that day with God. There was an amazing presence in that room, it was a very rich spiritual environment that day. And my Creator began to show me a few things that I hadn’t really understood up until that time."Dogwood" (my first art quilt) hand dyed fabrics, sheers, beads and ribbon.
I pulled out paper and began to write down the labels on all the doors of my life, all the opportunities I’d had and all the things I wanted to do someday. And when I finally sat back and looked at the list, God gave me a gift of clarity. I saw on that page a person who had tried every door in the room but never gotten very far down any path. I realized that it was time to close all the other doors and walk through the one marked “artist.” And it hit home. My Creator had made me to be an artist. And while others may consider it a luxury or something only ever worthy of being a hobby, it was and is my calling.
"Floral Pearl Necklace" sorry the photo is so washed out.
People who have had a brush with death talk about their lives passing before their eyes. Well, I had my theology passing before mine. All the Bible verses I’d studied looking for meaning were now parading through my head. And some things clicked into place like nothing I’ve seen before. I could write volumes of the “download” that occurred in that place that day (I will write that book!) but this isn’t the place. I can only say that that day I became aware of a sense of calling and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. I recognized that I had skill, ability and knowledge that had been given or orchestrated by God. I was an artist, it was a revelation. That is my open door, and that is what my dream taught me. I realized that day that it didn’t matter what media I worked in, what mattered was that I released and reflected the beauty of God into the earth. And that can be done in a million different ways."Healing Hands" created for John Dufour with prints made for the Dufour family.
So I work in a variety of media, some folks will consider some of them art and some craft. I tend to believe that anything that an artist does is art, that craft is for those with hobbies. Not to suggest that everything I create is worth sharing – no! I have quite a bit of reject projects in storage, just ask my ex-husband! "The Winter Rose" pen and ink drawing for a program cover.
I’ve sold artwork or won awards in the following art media: In art school I concentrated mainly on painting and Interior Design in addition to a wide variety of media that I explored there. Jewelry design - beading in particular. My biggest award to date was in jewelry design and I’ve had work on the back cover of beading magazines and in catalogs. "Autumn" Mixed media college, cinnamon, pumpkin seeds, paper towel, buttons, photos, glazes, etc.
I won a “Best in Show” award for a piece that was mixed media collage with glazes and found objects.
"Iris" Watercolor layered with Colored Pencils
I’ve also won awards for a piece that was a combination of watercolor layered with colored pencils and another piece that was a pencil drawing. "Iris" a pencil portrait inspired by meeting Jeff Chapmen-Crane
Another award came for my hand painted art glass (not molten glass work but creating a finish on reclaimed glass.) Let’s see… polymer clay, mostly to make beads and jewelry components. Uh… painting in acrylics, oils and watercolors. Drawing in pencil, pen & ink and colored pencils. Recently I’ve revived an interest in quilting, launching into hand dying fabrics in cotton, linen and silk and very soon I’ll be trying marbling some fabric. I’m looking forward to that. I’ve done some banners and art instillations with fabric in a congregation I attended in the 90’s that was very open to experiencing God through the arts. I’ve designed a few homes and designed quite a few renovation projects and done all my own Interior Design work. I’ve toyed with metal clay, print making, ceramics, enamels, wire working, and metal working.
"HOPE" a quilt inspired by the work of Melody Johnson
I do all my own product photography and dabble in other kinds of photography. I’ve worked for quite some time as a professional cake designer and I’ve toyed with gourmet chocolate. Oh, and a florist, I did that also for a few years. And that’s all I can think of at the moment.
"Tiara" custem order for Prom inspired by the work of Bekki Fahrer.
Product Photography by Charles Garratt
Oh, I write poetry and other stuff. I have co-written and directed an impressionistic drama, and I periodically perform music – vocal and piano. I dabble in guitar and I’ve written a few songs. So clearly I’ll try anything that is creative. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I’m the Soap Lady at the local farmer’s market. I love creating new kinds of soap that marry the visual elements of color and texture with the sense of smell. I consider it an artistic treat to include fragrance in my work. That laundry list sounds like I’m bragging but I know that the gift to create didn’t come from me, I am only its steward. And that only by Grace. So ask me again what media I work in and I’ll respond with what I’m doing at the moment. Tomorrow it might be something else altogether. I’m an artist and honestly the media really doesn’t matter - at least not to me. I was designed to create, to release God’s beauty in the earth. And so with a huge helping of God’s grace… ever onward. I am Carmen Rose. I am an artist. And I am grateful.


  1. Very good my dear. Great way to put it all into words! Ms. Creative!

  2. I get it.
    But then you knew I would.

  3. What a blessing to have read of your journey. Much of it parallels my own journey. We can call ourselves glorifiers and let people just ponder what that means. Thank you for a wonderful and inspiring post.

  4. All of your work is wonderful Carmen. You definitely have opened the right door!

  5. Wonderful post today. It is a blessing to be shown the path and see yourself as you are meant to be. I have had a similar experience and it has shaped the person I am today. I have often pondered why I am so fragmented as an artist. I have many interests and have come to believe when your ideas come from a higher power you may be led down many roads. Wishing you many more creative days this summer.

  6. What a lovely post, and I could relate to so many of the things you expressed. I continue to be amazed by all the different things you seem to do so well -- you truly are blessed.

  7. A friend/co-worker always called me an ARTIST, but I never agreed with her. I dabble and play with and in many different medias,and don't feel proficient in any of them. Thank you for sharing your dream/vision with the world,for now I look at what I create in a much different light. Marcia R


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