Monday, 13 February 2012

guest post: Ashlie Blake from PaintingBliss

I am so delighted to welcome Ashlie to the blog today! She makes beautiful mixed media art which you can find on Etsy, and has all kinds of exciting brooches (owls, people!!) and fabrics in development to add to her repertoire. Her blog, PaintingBliss is one of my daily reads; it manages to be both hilarious and inspiring, and her personality comes through in bucket loads: check it out and you'll soon be addicted too!

Now settle back with a nice hot drink and enjoy a journey through time and the seasons, through Ashlie's vivid memories and artist's view of the world.

Oh what a pleasure to be a guest for Miss Suki of The Owl Club! Hello there! My name is Ashlie Blake and I have an artistic blog called Paintingbliss. I am a mixed media artist, dreamer and all around lover of life. Inspired by nature and motivated by my own personal memories… my artwork often evokes an emotional response or at least a smile. 

Suki and I have a theory that everything in this world evokes a memory. We call these things, “memory triggers”. We agreed that it would be fun for Suki to prompt me with images and see what comes forth… here are the responses to the photos she sent. Hope you enjoy them! 

SUMMER
source: MikeClarkWeddings

My summers were spent in upstate NY where fields of soft yellow grass grew/grows high with harvest anticipation. Vast fields line the roads that were and still are my trip upstate. I would dream about lying in the middle of one of these fields where I would imagine I would hear the grass hoppers and bugs buzzing in my ears. 

Fields like this, where I grew long and lean during hot summer months, were home to wild flowers; for in between each stalk of light brown and yellow ochre mingled green stalks topped with pale pink or yellow flowers…often a random black-eyed susan would grow and something my grandparents called Indian paintbrush. 

I liked to pretend that the Indians really used these for paintbrushes of course (smile). My grandfather was related by marriage, and therefore not by blood…but he was very much my grandfather.  He was half Native American (his mother being from a reservation) he told me what these flowers were named…even if it was not their official text book name. 

Even at a young age – not quite knowing that I would be an artist, but knowing that I loved to draw – I was intrigued by the idea of a wild paintbrush. The tufts on top of fuzzy green stems were orange and black like a 1960’s shag carpet or bright yellow like a dandelion. They grew tall and wild and free. Exactly the reflection of the tomboy I was…always a free spirit…hands around frog bellies, picking vegetables from tangling cucumber vines, head in the clouds dreamer. 

My grandfather has now traveled to the other side, but often visits me in my dreams where he always takes the form of a Native American, headdress and all. We talk while sitting on a hillside without moving our lips. He does not look like him but I know somehow that it is. It’s so easy for me to be brought back to my summers of tall grass and Indian paintbrushes… and if you’re wondering, I still believe they were used for paint (wink wink).

AUTUMN
(n.b. this image has been substituted because it wasn't possible to embed it in the post: there is a link to the original I sent Ashlie underneath)

source: Granny Funk Crochet
{link to original image}
When we moved into our first house 9 years ago, my grandparents wanted to give us something that meant more than a store bought gift. From my grandfather we received a rocking chair that was his grandmother’s mother’s rocking chair. It is called a nursing chair as the armrests are just the right height for a nursing mother’s elbows to rest on while she nourishes her baby. 

My grandmother’s gift to us was a blanket that my grandfather’s sister made…a granny square blanket. The border was bright white, and the insides were bright shades of green, pink, blue and yellow. Obviously random for it was made of whatever was left of a skein. I loved this blanket and still do although it had to be thrown away. It had one too many washings, and more love than it could handle.  

Although I no longer have this blanket, I can still see it in my mind’s eye. I can imagine the texture of the yarn and tell you it was not the best yarn, but the most affordable. So appropriate for the farmer’s wife who made it…pinching pennies. My grandfather’s sister always crocheted, and was well known for her crocheting. I now love crocheting just as much as her. 

I have made many a granny square, and am currently working on a project with a dear friend where every week we swap a granny square. This summer we will piece our squares together and each have a completely random yet cozy blanket.

WINTER
source: Sander D
Being an only child playing alone was a common occurrence on any given day. So many a Winters’ day I would play outside in the snow alone…pretending to be an Eskimo, explorer, or just me. In the snow I would start off walking around, stepping deep into the snow wondering how deep I would sink…dreaming, wondering what I should do or make. 

Often I began with a snow angel where I could lay back and look at the white-clouded sky. Snowflakes would land on my face cold and wet, causing me to blink and get up…leaving my angel behind. 

In the snow I was always building. I would love to pile mounds high and tight, and then carve out the middles as to create my own igloo. This task would take days, and with each hour that passed time would pack the snow tighter or turn it more into ice than snow…making my igloo that much more permanent. Sometimes while building, the top would cave in and I would have to start all over again.  It was then that I would look for help from the neighborhood boys, and get it started again. 

I never felt the cold as most children don’t when playing outside. They are immune to the chill, and I see this now in my own children. I think making snow angels just comes naturally to a child. They don’t need to be taught how to do so. It is one’s natural draw to the snow that makes you want to lie on your back, opening and closing your arms and legs, creating the icy angelic imprint.  I think the next time it snows I need to make a snow angel for it’s been too long since I did so.


SPRING
source: lalagalore
For as long as I remember I have been infatuated with birds.  My grandparents always fed the birds outside their very large picture window.  In fact at one point they replaced their very large picture window with an even larger one…perhaps solely for the birds. 

I remember the day it was put in, the open hole of the house letting the breeze in. When I stood in front of this window I could see everything…so far and wide but especially the up close of the birds in their bushes or on their feeders. 

Bird books always sat in front of this window for use in identifying a new or unrecognized visitor. I would spend hours looking and identifying the birds… We would see something new or a migrating visitor and quickly rush for our reference books to find out what it was! It was exciting, fun…and dreamy. 

When I played outside I would always be in tune to the birds in the trees and where they were.  As a young teen walking to school I would listen to this one huge tree FULL of birds…wondering if anyone else paid attention to it.  I would imagine that this tree was the birds’ court house, and that they were all arguing over the fate of one bird.  In my imagination the inside of these tree limbs was like an 1800’s court room where all the onlookers would shout and banter over the crime committed. I always felt bad for the imagined guilty bird…wondering what these other birds were saying about him. 

As I grew I fed the birds, my mom fed the birds, in our first apartment I fed the birds, then in our first house as well. Now I can’t feed the birds and it makes my heart sad. We live in black bear country, and they break my bird feeders for a quick and easy meal.  So for the protection of our family and neighbors, I have to keep feeders down. 

That doesn’t stop me from enjoying the birds though!  I listen to them, look for them…teach my children their names.  I want my children to know the names of the birds, not just say “that brown bird” or “that red bird”… I want them to say sparrow and cardinal. 

Every year now in our home, we get two families a year in our bird house.  We’ve had sparrows, titmouses, and bluebirds.  Bluebirds are special to me, as each year my grandparents had bluebirds.  At our own home one fall, the brood of babies that were born that summer came back just for 15 minutes to say goodbye to their birth home. I was so happy I was there to witness it. They hopped off and on to the roof of their house and up and down the telephone pole where the wooden box hangs.  

Birds are amazing and free; they are to be admired and listened to…for they have lots to tell.

Thank you so much Ashlie for this generous, evocative, inspiring post, with so much to think about and imagine for the reader. I hope you'll come back and guest again! xoxo

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