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146 posts categorized "Thinking Out Loud"

November 12, 2014


Rest in Peace Lisa Engelbrecht :: Trailblazing Artist


Yesterday, I learned that Lisa Engelbrecht passed away on Wednesday, November 10, 2014.

I had been aware of Lisa's health battles and though I am heartbroken with the news of her passing, I am also comforted in knowing that she is at rest. My heart goes out to her family and loved ones as they grieve the loss of an incredible human being.

I got to know Lisa Engelbrecht when I was her magazine editor. I love this shot I took of her during one of her visits to the office, as she held up her wonderful book: Modern Mark Making. I loved her visits because she always came with new and wonderful art to deliver, always with a smile and caring heart.

Lisa was a trailblazer with her lettering art as she applied her in-depth knowledge and skills and artistry to create modern reinventions that caused diverse people (including street artists) to find a voice within the world of lettering. Lisa was a leader in building a bridge for street artists to find a way into the art world and for the art world to open its heart and mind to the emergence of such a bridge.

2249_1096127246037_2153_nThrough our working relationship over the years, we developed a friendship.

This friendship was there for me after I segued from the magazine world into my new business venture ... a transition where I felt a bit wobbly at times, trying to find my footing. One of the first art workshops that I offered in my home during this transition was a lettering workshop with Lisa, right smack dab in the middle of my living room. She wowed them all. She was always there to be a sounding board, and to be a veteran artist who would lend her support to my ideas.

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LisaeAfter that workshop, Lisa created art on one of the walls of my living room, which is still there, and which I treasure.

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Lisa-1After this workshop, we had many other opportunities to collaborate as she taught in Studio Crescendoh, offered lettering demos in the studio during art walks, and also contributed her beautiful art for my book, Creative Lettering.

Untitled-5I believe artists ultimately want to be remembered because of the strength of their art, not necessarily because they are kind and good.

Lisa will remembered because of the strength of her art, and because she was kind and good.

Rest in peace, Lisa.

Love, Jenny

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September 30, 2014


6 Things :: Food, Flattery, and Criticism


 6 things on my mind right now.

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6 There is no "quick answer" to questions that I occasionally get like: "Hey Jenny, I have a really quick question for you. Can you tell me how to start and run an art studio? Just message me, would ya? My friends and I want to start one too." Well, the question might be quick but the answer is not. And with all due respect, the answer is based on years of blood, sweat, tears, and huge risks that I have personally taken. Though I'm sure there is no bad intent, it's insulting to be asked to just instant message answers to matters that I've invested years of myself into while I steal the time from my other projects to do this for people I hardly know. For those who really want to ask me questions on whatever the topic may be (usually it's publishing or studio-related) ... I have a path that allows for that to happen. And it has been gratifying to know that people who have used that path have found what I share to be helpful. :) 

5 Spontaneously and without warning, I've started to cook. It is the most wonderful thing that has happened to me. I wake up every morning excited about coming up with a menu. I feel it's one of the most creative processes and it has so many parallels to the process of painting. I love it and I love life more because I am cooking.

4 You may have noticed through the photos I post that I use things like butter, olive oil, chicken, beef, pork, coconut milk, and of course lots of veggies. I don't use grains, refined sugar, legumes and with little exception, lactose. As much as possible, I cook paleo. To me, coupled with regular exercise (that includes not just cardio but lifting heavy things), paleo is the key to long-term fitness.

3 It makes me happy to see The Mister and my son Andrew enjoy my food. That's actually the best part. Andrew and I had a good talk about it recently. He has a tendency to lose control with portions when something tastes good. Don't we all?! So when he was wanting more and more of something delicious that I had prepared for him, I said "Andrew, tomorrow is another day. I'm going to be making something different but also delicious so no need to consume and possess all of this right now."

2 What I said to him must have resonated because the next day, he mentioned how good food is like good art and the creative process, where we may think what we've made today is as good as it will ever get, and there will be nothing better and so we better hold on tight, and possess, and don't let it go and not think of making anything else. But of course tomorrow is a new day. A new day to let go, and create something different and wonderful.

1 Whether it's food or art, I am happy that I get to make what I want. Sometimes, when someone says they "love love love" a painting of mine, there's this notion that I ought to make more of that thing that someone "love love loves." And when someone hates a painting of mine, there's a notion that I ought not make more in that style. The privilege that is mine right now is that it matters not one Iota to me, whether my paintings garner flattery or criticism. I paint to express who I am, what I see, and what I feel. Georgia O'Keefe said it best: "I have already settled it for myself so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free."

August 26, 2014


Working Artist with Art For Sale


When I was filling out the customs form during my recent flight to Korea, there was a place to write down my occupation. For the first time in a long time, I found that I did not hesitate in writing down "artist." I didn't write "editor" or "author" or "publisher" or any of the other titles that I'm used to putting down. Titles that have always made me feel more "legitimate."

Artist.

Actually, the only other word I regret not putting down is the word "working."

Working artist.

That's who I am. I make art and art is my work.

Photo-21
As a working artist, part of the cycle of what I do is to create art, and then market my art, and then if all goes well, sell my art. Creating is nirvana. Marketing is hell. Selling is the step back to nirvana.

Not too long ago, I was in Eric Silva's studio. He's one of my favorite jewelry artists who I discovered through my friend, Amy Hanna. We were there to take a lesson from Eric. During our time together, Eric shared a story about how he responded to a visitor years ago who asked him how he could stand all the dust in his studio from all the sawing, soldering, and sanding that is involved with his work. He told the visitor that he loved the dust because in the end, the dust is evidence of his process, which is ultimately what belongs to him ... and how the actual beautiful jewelry pieces that result from the dusty process go out into the universe, created by him, but ultimately, not belonging to him.

As I've gradually segued into my reality as a working artist over the years, I've noticed that there is a critical mass of people who ask working artists if their work is for sale ... and they do so in a quiet voice, with bodies tight and steps lightly taken, as though there are sleeping kittens nearby that they don't want to wake up. And I've also noticed that I've responded with a similar quiet voice, body tight, and steps lightly taken to quietly whisper "yes i do ... shhhh ... let's not wake the kittens ..."

There are many who say they "love love love" a painting but that "surely it can't be for sale" because I must love it too much to ever sell it.

Admittedly, there are paintings that I love more than others. But I've never felt a pang of regret in letting even the ones I adore (or even the ones that are extremely personal) out into the universe through a sale. With each piece that goes out, I feel a lift, a lightness, where I feel that others who understand my art are helping me carry my load, as I turn yet another corner to find new and beautiful urgency to create my next. This is where I understand with depth, what Eric was talking about. Working artists create and keep and hone their process and that process includes offering their art (that is always and never theirs) for sale.

A working artist who sells her art does so because that is her work. That she sells does not automatically make her a sell out. That happens when she decides to become a creator of the untrue, the hollow, the compromised, the after-thought.

I am a working artist. Managing the scenes I witness both in nirvana and hell through the sales of the things I sincerely create ... through a beautiful process riddled with dust, splatters, stains and all.

August 14, 2014


Memories and History :: Haruki Murakami


As I write this post, I am enjoying a homemade ice-blended banana-cocoa smoothie, and halves and pieces of cashews (much cheaper than whole cashews but just as delicious). Delectable, after having fasted all day to do blood work, in a hot house that'll cool down in a few hours.

Once the post is done, I'll start reading more of my new book that I got at Barnes & Noble today. I was there wanting to pick up another piece of fiction to read after just having finished Karuki Murakami's masterful novel as recommended to me by my daugher: Norweigian Wood.

The fact that I did this (that is, reading a complete novel) is a pretty big deal for me because I haven't read a novel in like 2 or 3 years. Novels are all I used to read ... and then things shifted a few years ago when all that I read became non-fiction (primarily copy for art and crafting books).

I knew that Murakami had just released his newest work: Coloress Tsukuru Tazaki ... and I loved the idea of continuing with a second Murakami book ... but I wasn't sure if now was the time to move forward with his latest or to move backward with his earlier works.

So I sat down in the bookstore and started reading.

Photo 3There's something about his translated words. Each one so crisp and lucid and engaging. No confusion. No complicated tangles, yet with great depth.

I was pretty sure with each page that I read that I was going to buy this book—with gratitude for having found myself back in the delicious world of fiction. But it's when I got to page 44 and read the 10th line from the bottom that I stood up and went to the cashier to buy it.

"You can hide memories, but you can't erase the history that produced them."

IMG_5395I noticed the receipt listed other books that I may also like, based on my purchase. Not sure how long that's been going on but I noticed it for the first time today. Just five titles fished out as recommendations, out of the thousands out there. I know I can't ever read them all, even if I spent the rest of my waking hours reading fiction. This truth sort of bums me out. But I guess that's how it goes. I read what I read. I don't read what I don't read.

How I choose to read what I read is related to who I meet and don't meet, what I do and don't do, who I love and don't love, and ultimately how I allow myself to get influenced and live.

August 11, 2014


Suicide is not selfish.


Nobody likes the word "selfish."

It's a word that means to have a lack of consideration for others, and to be concerned with one's own personal profit or pleasure. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all are selfish to a degree but none of us would ever want to be described as such.

Photo-9When my brother committed suicide last November, there were several people who said to me that what he did was the most selfish thing a person could do. I think the intent of that statement wasn't to hurt me. But it did. The intent was probably to try and comfort me. To help me know that there was nothing that I could do to stop him. Because he was going to do it anyway. Because he was selfish.

I haven't ever replied back when these statements have been spoken ... but I've been taking all this time to develop a proper response. 

On this Monday, the 11th day of August 2014, the day when I have learned (along with the rest of the world) of Robin William's untimely death through his apparent suicide, I'm ready to respond.

Ready?
Here it is.

It's not about you. It's not about me.
It is and was about him.

After my brother's passing, I read a lot of research about suicide. Suicide is usually associated with severe depression. When a person is severely depressed, all they see and feel is a painful darkness that seemingly has no end. It hurts to numbness. And it's not that they are wanting to be inconsiderate but the only thing they can consider is this abyss. And it's not that they want to experience pleasure or profit. They simply want the pain and darkness to end. They don't want to hurt anyone. They want to stop hurting.

It's not about any of us.

For those who are reading this post and mistakenly thinking that I am per chance advocating suicide, I have a response.

Ready?
Here it is.

Fuck off.

How could anyone advocate such a thing?

So then what would I advocate for? I suppose something uniquely genuine for each and every severely depressed person. So that each person can find the thing that switches on the light in the darkness ... maybe the right doctor, or the right friend, or the right coach, or the right teacher, or the right kernal of corn beneath the refridgerator, or the right medications, or the right something else that happens with effectiveness so that the abyss could come to an end without life coming to an end on purpose.

My brother was not a saint for how he lived nor for how he died. Neither was Robin Williams.

Regardless, there is not a day that passes without my feeling the heartache of his passing. I miss him. I take comfort in knowing that he is at peace.

My heart goes out to the friends and family of Robin Williams during this tremendously difficult time. May he rest in peace. And may all the happy that he spread through his genius work be remembered with unending smiles.

Nanu-nanu.

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June 03, 2014


Conceptual or Intuitive?


Some things floating in my mind these days.

1. After my Boat People art show that happened earlier this year, I started feeling this weird pressure. It was a pressure that I felt by way of a small voice within me saying something like this: "OK Jenny. Now that you're done with this show, stop letting boats appear in your art. You should be done with that. Move on to your next." This pressure felt really bad and made me feel restless and uneasy and uncomfortable. What I have realized recently is that that voice is fucked up. Who the hell is it to tell me that just because I've painted boats that I am no longer able to? It's arbitrary and it's illogical to impose a timeline and a ban like that. So I've decided to take that pressure off of me and allow myself to let boats appear in my art to the degree that I want them there. And to not let them appear if I don't want them there. And to have them evolve as they appear if I want them to evolve.

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2. Speaking of evolution, I've been seeing a few other things in my art and my environment, which you may have noticed. Namely, the vagina. I see them everywhere! I also see antlers, bows, arrows, and a few other things. And whatever I see, I usually go with it.

3. But when I think about #2, I wonder if I'm really seeing all that or if I'm surrepticiously infusing constructed concepts into my paintings. In other words, is my process intuitive and abstract or is it conceptual? Other great questions: What is it that we allow ourselves to see? What don't we let ourselves see? What do we force ourselves to see? I think that topic is quite interesting. For the most part, when I begin a painting, it is very intiutive and abstract. And at a certain point, when I let the canvas really speak to me, I do see things. But why do I see vaginas and antlers while another artist might see something completely different? When is intuition actually concept and when is concept intuition? Perhaps they are more inter-related, is what I'm thinking lately. Not so separate.

4. So all of this talk makes me think about Regina Spektor's song, On the Radio, which I adore. The lyrics pierce my heart:

This is how it works
You're young until you're not
You love until you don't
You try until you can't
You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else's heart
Pumping someone else's blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don't get harmed
But even if it does
You'll just do it all again

  Jenny

May 27, 2014


Bravery: If not in my art, where?


Before I ripped up the piece of paper where I had written down my response to the question, I wasn't certain that that is what I would be asked to do. Rip it up into teeny tiny pieces, that is. I suspected that that might be the course but I wasn't 100 percent certain.

And because I wasn't 100 percent certain, what I wrote on that paper isn't really and truly what was beating in my heart, wanting to be written and released.

It was a response to a prompt given by art journaling instructor Orly Avineri, who said to think of a time when everything changed, and to write about that time.

God.

There have been more than just one time for me, really. And some of those times I'm less fearful of discussing openly, while some other times I'm much more fearful of discussing openly.

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This realization is something I admitted to and shared at the end of the 2-day workshop that we had with Orly. "Brave" has become such a throw-away word these days, I think. But saying it isn't the same as doing it. I mean for a grown adult woman like myself who seeks to be uninhibited in my art to hesitate and hold back and resist in really and truly "going there" on just a tiny piece of paper illustrates the point.

I ask myself: if not in my art, where will I be brave? And if not now, when?

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May 11, 2014


Top 10 List :: Motherhood 2014


10 things about Motherhood on my mind.

Jenny Doh

10. I've not always done my best. Not surprising. No one ever always does their best. Sometimes, I have done average. Or less than average. In spite of that, my kids turned out ok.

9. Motherhood isn't the end all be all. Sometimes it's really tough. And even if you never become a mom, I think you can live a fulfilled life.

8. Having said 9, I know for sure I've become a better human because I have had the opportunity to be a mom to Monica and Andrew.

7. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to have had a 3rd or even a 4th child. I like to imagine what they might have looked like. And how Monica and Andrew might have related to them.

6. I am grateful that I didn't stop at just Monica. If I had, I may have become a preacher of dogma about how to raise children after just raising one child. But with Andrew, what I learned is that each child, no matter how similarly you try to raise them all, are different. Each child is wired differently. I am grateful that I didn't become that mom of that one child going around being unable to understand this important truth.

5. When my kids were little, I became frumpy. Hair, make up, clothes, body ... lots of neglect. And then after they started getting older, I thought to myself: "Why am I frumpy? I still have a life to live. I'm not just a mom. I'm a mom and so much more. I don't want to be frumpy." And so I took action. Just because someone's a mom doesn't mean they want to be invisible in terms of their womanhood.

4. When I think of my own mom, I know she hasn't always done her best. And I need to recognize that is because she is a human. Just like me. Sometimes, she's done average, other times, less than average, and occasionally, the best.

3. The thing that makes my heart happiest is when I see my two children show affection and protection for each other. It makes me believe that once I'm gone, they will be there for each other.

2. I hope that at the end of it all, my children and I will love each other as we remember the best we did for each other and forgive each other for all the ways in which we did less than best.

1. Because it all happens so fast. And without a manual.

Have a happy Mother's Day. If you want to. ;)

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May 08, 2014


Staying in My Own Business


I was recently asked what advice I'd give to a person just starting out on their creative journey. I responded by saying that I'd give no advice at all. When asked for clarification, I said that I'd never give advice to anybody unless that person came to me specifically, seeking me out to ask for my perspective. I mean, who am I to go around advising this or that to a hypothetical someone? I have my story and my experiences but those are my experiences and my story. Others have their stories to live and learn from, right?

This desire to focus on my story and expressing my story without preaching, commanding, or judging others has been growing within me for the past couple of years. As I get better at it, I am acutely aware of Byron Katie's observation that indeed, staying in my own business is a full-time job.

I hope that with each passing day, that I become better at staying in my own business. Because I don't want to be that person ... you know the one ... the one in everyone else's business ... wasting time and creating energy that is the opposite of elevated ...

Photo-99As I've shared here before, I have a therapist. I'd say that that is one relationship where I seek Therapist out and I pay Therpaist to give me opinions, advice, insights, and even commands. But even Therapist knows that effective therapy isn't about telling me what to do, but asking me thought-provoking questions that I answer for myself where I discover insights on my own. 

The beauty of art I feel is that as I stay in my own business, I can choose to express what my business looks and feels like ... packaged not as advice or anything like that but simply an offering and sharing of who I am. A portal to view and experience that offering if you want to. And for those who happen to peer in, it connects with who it connects with and it repels who it repels. That in and of itself is endlessly interesting.

May 07, 2014


My Days


After almost two years of shooting arrows, I feel I'm finally starting to shoot semi-decently. I had one major problem about a year into it when I had a wrist injury from boxing that just made me regress with all things archery. I had to go back down in the weight of my bow limbs after having worked my way up and generally, I had to rest my wrist and hope that time would heal it back to health. It was so discouraging. Cause when your bow is light, arrows don't fly or land with strength.

IMG_0539My coach who used to come to Santa Ana no longer does so I go to Long Beach to see her. It's worth it though. She's got the goods. She's been reminding me all this time about the importance of practice. Of course I know that and agree with that but finding time to actually do what I know and agree with has been a whole different matter.

But finally I feel I'm in my groove.

It's all about protecting my time. Making time for what is important to me and not letting things that aren't important to me rob my time.

My days.

Early morning boxing/training. Then arrows right after that. And then work on my computer. And then a good lunch. And then art. If I'm lucky it goes that way. Sometimes I'll put it all aside for someone/something. But I've learned that there aren't many someones or somethings worth doing that for.

I like my rhythm. It helps me worry less about this and that.

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