Monday, March 18, 2013

On urban gardening like a boss 15 stories up, and my reversion back to childhood

Last year, my boyfriend, John, and I started an "urban garden" on our balcony. In the middle of the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver, Colorado, which is close to downtown. 15 stories up.

John has been watching too much Walking Dead and is preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Me, I just like having fresh, and organically grown food, at my disposal. I hate going to the grocery store, and I REALLY hate having to run for JUST ONE THING (which generally seems to be tomatoes, because I love tomatoes). It's great being able to instead just step out on my balcony and pick one from a plant, which takes about 10 seconds and because our balcony has a 4' wall instead of bars, only requires me to be dressed from the waist up.

We're currently prepping for Urban Garden: Year II. Last Thursday and Friday were absolutely gorgeous here in Denver (although it was probably snowing upwards up a foot in the mountains), so I spent those days readying our balcony for planting. I even turned a bunch of old scrap wood (where do we store scrap wood in an apartment, you might ask? You should see our "second bedroom" which also doubles as my art studio and John's music room) into an incredibly ugly but utilitarian table (which can be seen here on the left-- it's sturdier than it looks), which serves to raise our tomato plants up to the light.

Heidi & John's balcony garden at the Denver Sky Palace: Year II

I had a small art opening on Friday, but we spent the latter part of the day-time hiking the Travois Trail above Clear Creek Canyon in Golden, Colorado, with some good friends.

Hiking the Travois Trail above Clear Creek Canyon in Golden, Colorado...
well, actually stopping for a beer break. 

While I was tramping along through the mud and snow (we were at a much higher altitude than Denver while hiking), I started thinking about how my current state of existence is a lot like life was as a child. I grew up on a farm in South-Eastern Wisconsin, and spent most of my free time (in between chores, feeding and caring for our animals, making quilts for 4-H and being awarded the prize for "Best Poultry" at the Wisconsin State Fair with my white Leghorn rooster, George) coloring, helping my mom Mavis in the garden and eating peas-in-a-pod, building things out of discarded wood from my father's shop (he owned a home remodeling business), catching salamanders out of our window wells, and roaming around in nature for hours at a time with my small orange pony, Herbie, who was a ripe 32 years old when he passed away. And my life is a lot like that now, sans salamanders, and I haven't really ridden a horse since I had a horseback riding "accident" in college that involved me falling and landing on my head, and having to crawl home a mile with a concussion (that's really another story entirely).

Small Heidi, prepping for a life as a 
creative by building a "raft".

I'm constantly building frames for canvases, cutting wooden panels (I am allowed to use a power saw now), sketching, cutting paper, painting, creating things, re-creating things, pretending to be a grown-up. I'm incredibly responsible, but I try not to stress about a-dult responsibilities... and after years of worrying about paying for college, getting good grades, working 4 jobs while taking 21 credits, how will I pay my credit cards?, ...and my rent?, .. and how is it that I work my ass off and never get ahead?, ...and am I wasting my life? WHAT AM I DOING HERE???, I've reverted back to my childhood self, and I'm furiously, madly happy.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

On being a skinny artist

No, I'm not talking about keeping a svelte figure (although I do try to get in a daily jog to burn off all of the wine and cheese that I consume). I'm talking about the Skinny Artist website, artist directory and creative community, run by the everly innovative Skinny Artist mastermind, Drew.

I've been following Skinny Artist since I got involved with social networking via my art page several years ago, and frankly, Drew is an important and respected staple in the online artist community. I swear he's around every corner I turn (or page I click), giving feedback and encouragement, posting insightful and helpful articles (one of my recent favorites: "How to become famous in three easy steps"), making connections.  For four years running now, he has also compiled a list of "21 artists to watch" from within the worldwide social network of artists 'round the globe, which includes an extensive run-down of the artist's work, accomplishments, and projects, and why he thinks they're interesting folk. It is absolutely an honor to be a part of this list, as Drew admits himself that each year he regrets having to leave out so many deserving creatives. One of the most interesting things about being featured as one of the elite 21, is that Drew doesn't notify artists that they will be included (which means he compiles all of the information himself, without conducting any interviews or asking for any help-- which I dare say, must require a great deal of research), and he doesn't even notify them after the list comes out. Artists only discover this honor when someone else contacts them with a big fat congratulations

I've been road-tripping down the Southern coast of the US for the past week with my boyfriend, John Statz, who is a folk musician, and didn't have much of a connection to the internet or what was going on with my Facebook page, the online artist community, or the rest of the whole wide world beyond stuffing my face with as much seafood as I could consume, and enjoying the sight-seeing from Panama City Beach through Alabama and into New Orleans. I was, however, able to receive a message from another artist friend here in Denver (painter Tracy Wall-- I adore her work), congratulating me...


Seriously, what an honor... this entire list is a who's-who of inspirationally ass-kicking and name-taking creative folks from around the world. Each artist's blurb is incredibly genuine, detailed and heart-felt, and I absolutely love what Drew had to say about my work ethic and process, and my work itself. I adore this bit:

"The first thing that you typically notice about Heidi’s beautiful artwork is her incredible use of color.  She has this astonishing ability to transform everyday scenes from cityscapes, cemeteries, train yards, to the I-70 highway out of Colorado into these magnificent color explosions. Her work reminds me once again that art and beauty can be found anywhere if you have the ability to see it."

He also talks about my brutally honest approach to how I reached the point I'm at now-- frustration, lack of creativity, a serious consideration of breaking my graphite pencils over my knee and throwing my easel out the window, because I had boxed myself in.
"I don’t know how many artists (and unfortunately former artists) I have met who have told me that they stopped creating art because it just wasn’t fun anymore.  Not like the I-have-to-be-happy-all-of-the-time kind of fun, but more like the I-painted-myself-into-a-box-and-now-I-can’t-escape-my-niche kind of thing.

So many creative artists, especially those who have had some commercial success, begin to feel trapped. They find themselves spiraling deeper and deeper into their little niche until eventually they are smothered beneath its weight.  Heidi, however, was one of the lucky ones.  She was able to let go of her perfectionism and had a creative renaissance."

And it's true. After I finished my undergraduate degree in fine arts, up to my neck in student loan debt, a job as an international flight attendant that took me away from home and my paints for three weeks at a time, and a lack of people who encouraged me to explore creatively, I almost quit. And every day I wake up just bleary-eyed with happiness that I found myself again.

One last thing: I believe in the importance of being a part of a creative community and creating art-- not just to channel our own dragons and release our own demons, but as an extremely important part of creating a beautiful and ever-improving society. I believe in taking time off, sleeping enough, traveling and experiencing the world as much as possible, trying new foods that seem weird, drinking great beer and sometimes wine that isn't so good, and being able to laugh at oneself because SOMETIME YOU'RE JUST SO STUPID IT'S FUNNY. I believe that life is too damn short to be unhappy, and not a millisecond of time should be wasted being miserable. As my favorite author, Tom Robbins said in his novel "Still Life with Woodpecker": "Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature."

That's why this last bit made me tear up a 'lil:

"And that’s exactly what Heidi does — she brings her personality into her work as well as her social media interactions.  You can find her almost every day on Twitter and Facebook taking the time to encourage other creative artists and share their work.  If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to connect with Heidi online, you will quickly discover what a talented and extraordinarily nice person she is and why she’s definitely an artist we will be watching in 2013."

Bless ya, Drew. Thanks for all you do. 

Skinny Artist website (
Skinny Artist Facebook page
Skinny Artist Twitter: @skinnyartist