This life we's strange, painful at times, but oh so beautiful.

I am a fusion dance artist and teacher, a fire dancer, and a visual artist. I draw inspiration from nature, music, and the amazing people that come into my life. I am also a conservationist who makes jewelry and found object multimedia craft type art in my spare time (when I'm not reading, writing, or lighting things on fire and dancing around with them). I love to dance barefoot on the beach, watch the stars move inexorably across the heavens, and to laugh with the people that I love. I am currently based in Greenville SC, working with Discordia Arts to provide unique and exciting entertainment to the Upstate.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Silk paint emotions

 Inspiration comes from many places. One of the things I learned early on in my life is that I'm happiest being happy. Many artists will say that they suffer, and that their suffering imbues their art with more feeling. I am not creative when I'm in emotional pain. Usually, instead of creating art, if I am hurting or upset, I curl up in a little ball and cry it out until I feel better. Sometimes I get drunk...yes, I know that alcohol is a depressant and that drinking to feel better doesn't work, that it's a horrible way to deal with my problems and that I will be judged for admitting it, but I figure that as long as it doesn't become a problem and I do it in the comfort of my own home or with people that I love and trust, then I can drink when I want to.

Every now and then, I have emotional pain that I can't cry away and I can't drink away, and it NEEDS an outlet. That's when I try to create with my pain. It never works. I can not express depression, loss, misery, or heartbreak through art. I express joy through art.
But I tried, and though the piece I ended up with was not as poignant or expressive as I wanted it to be, it did turn out to be a pretty painting.

And, most importantly, it did what I needed it to do, let me vent my emotions, take a step back from what I was feeling, and lock the pain away. I then had a few glasses of wine, called an old friend, cried some more, and woke up feeling purged, refreshed, and ready to get on with the art work that I do so well - Joyful art.

 I know that one of the purposes of art is to pull on the heart strings, so even though I do not often create art that expresses pain and the darker emotions, I certainly love others' work that does. Yet, when I paint, I am expressing joy, peace, a connection to nature, a fascination with imagination, and other generally pleasant emotions. I like to bring joy to others. I want people to look at my work and smile, feel peace, dream, and hope.

So, yesterday I put aside the darker emotions that I was feeling earlier in the week and chose to work on an idea I had been wanting to play with for a very long time - the wood nymph emerging from her tree.

I began with a sketch of the female form, focusing on where she would still be attached to the tree. When I transferred the sketch to silk, I made a few changes, choosing to elongate my nymph and increase the amount of hair she had, both for aesthetic reasons and because I could use the hair line down the left hand side of her body as a separation point for the dye.

When working with the resist lines, I am constantly trying to think ahead (like a chess or nine-ball game), I want to determine where the dye will want to go, how I will apply the dye to silk, where my color change lines will be, what techniques and colors I want to use, and whether or not I will have time to finish dyeing the area before the dye dries.

I was very satisfied with the outline of the piece, and started my dyeing with the leaves and some of the nymph's hair. I mixed 7 different shades and washes of green and applied them randomly to the leaves and some of the hair sections, then filled in the tree canopy with the same colors in spot dye application.

When it became time to fill in the body of the nymph and the tree, I started with the tree nymph's extremities, using a light red and brown wash and mixing in some darker browns. I wanted a slight textural contrast between the nymphs body and the bark of the tree, so I dyed the areas of the nymph that were separated from the rest of the tree by a resist barrier first, and then began on the arm, head, and leg that were open to the rest of the tree.

I used darker browns and some lighter browns over the top to create a patchy texture on the bark of the tree.
I then filled in the hair of the nymph with yellow and light reds. I checked all of my resist lines and then filled in the sky with a few light blue washes and water for texture. I chose olive and dark greens for the ground and used water to fade out the sections. I was extremely happy with the "rolling fields" feeling that I was able to create along the base of the piece.

Once I was finished, I let the dye dry and sat and stared at this silk painting for a few minutes. It's everything I wanted it to be, and more importantly, everything I needed. I feel peaceful again.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

RoundCon - a henna photo blog

Columbia, SC
The Marriott Hotel
Feb 18, 19, 20

We arrived with absolutely no idea what to expect. It was my very first "con" that wasn't related to science or belly dancing. I had vague notions of what may occur from seeing DragonCon photos over the years from Atlanta friends, but I was aware of the fact that this was occurring in Columbia, SC....and thus would not be on the same scale as Atlanta. We tend to do big hair, big dinners, and big trucks in the south, other things not so much.

I set up my booth (one of maybe 10) in the Artists Alley portion of the event. I was impressed from the moment we walked in the door! The convention volunteers and crew were all extremely capable and seemed genuinely glad to see me.

I knew from reading the website that this was going to be mostly a gaming convention and that the anime track (the people that I expected to respond the most favorably to henna art) was new. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised. My very first henna application was for a very energetic and sweet trio that had me put their anime logos on their wrists.

At this point, I must send a shout out to the technology that is "smart phones." I enjoy some anime (Princess Mononoke being one of my favorite movies to date), but am nowhere close to being a connoisseur. But, even though I didn't know what symbol I was being asked to reproduce, customers were able to pull up photos from the web on their phone, point to them and say "I want that one."

I also received a visit on Friday from my friend Elizabeth and her sister in law. I had a great time with both of them, and they loved their floral henna - not too matchy matchy, but enough to tell that the same motif was being followed.

I continued the rest of the day on Friday and a good bit of the day on Saturday to do henna. Mostly, I was asked for designs from my book, but I did a few spur of the moment freehand pieces, including a pirate inspired floral piece - skull front and center. Gotta love it!

 Constantly throughout the weekend I was moved by the energy, kindness, and talent of both the convention goers and the other vendors and artists. The folks at the booth next to mine were incredible. Angela, sketch artist extraordinaire, was tons of fun and so was her fella. We watched each others' booths for bathroom and food breaks, chatted for a good chunk of the weekend, and exchanged art. She was amazingly talented, and I hope to see her again at other conventions.

To the left of me was Kris, the Seamstress....also amazingly talented, kind, and a great sense of humor. Never think that the vendors at an event aren't having as much fun as the attendees. We had a blast!

I had printed out a good bit of kanji for this event, something that I needed to do anyway, and I spent my downtime during the first day making up some templates for kanji inspired pieces. The dragon to the left was not one of them, he came about when the client looked through my book and asked me to combine designs.

I did more floral henna than I expected to. I also had more male clients than I expected. All in all, the whole thing was a lot more fun than I expected!

 It was a small con, but it was filled with wonderful people, high quality artists, and a sense of community. I will definitely be back, and I hope to be back more than once - it's always exciting to watch something grow, and I see nothing but potential in this event.

Choices - a product of my rambling brain

My  mother has always had a saying, “When god closes a door, he opens a window.” I do not share my mother’s faith, but I have felt the universe steering me in a particular direction, and seen first hand how when it seems as if you’ve hit rock bottom, an opportunity will present itself. I believe in synchronicity. The only trick is knowing the opportunity when it presents itself and having the courage to follow your heart. Which choice is the right one to make? Did I just close a door that I should have walked through? How can I know?

I am not a particularly courageous person, and I tend to be resistant to change, but I work hard at what I do, and I like to think that I try very hard to do the right thing. When I make a choice, I want to believe that I made the right choice, but I can't know - I guess that's part of the beauty in life...branching paths, each one shrouded in mystery. The past is the past, and we all try to let go of the past and move into the future – sometimes it seems as if any future would do, if only you could reach it.

I am an artist, a dancer, a scientist, a friend, and I want so badly to be myself all day long with courage and fearlessness, loving every moment and experiencing all that life has to offer to its fullest. Yet, I am scared. No matter what I want, money is always going to be a factor, and just because you love something with all of your heart and want to do it doesn't mean that anyone will pay you for it. We need food, we need shelter, we need car sucks sometimes, but such is the reality of life.

Choices...and weighing things. Sometimes something has to fall to the wayside. Sometimes we have to let things, people, moments, opportunities pass us by. It's not easy, but my mother has another saying..."god doesn't send us more than we can handle." I think that one is a bit more depressing than the first, but what it means to me is that you stand up - you stand up and shoulder your burden, whatever it may be. You make your choices and you live with them, because no one can have it all, and sometimes choosing one thing that you love means letting go of another. 

I love to dance, and I need it. I need it the way I need air, for when I'm not dancing regularly, it feels as if my body and mind are suffocating. I also love creating beautiful things - silks, henna, jewelry - colors and patterns, the play of light on fabric. I choose to dedicate my life to these things, and I have decided that I will throw myself at my art with everything that I am. Choices. I have made a choice.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stretch and Strengthen - the evolution of a dance class

I took my first dance class at a very young age. I'm southern, so of course, that meant tap class. I don't actually remember it, but my parents have a fabulous picture of me in a sequined pink tutu and tap shoes from my recital performance. I must have been all of 4 years old. In high school that tutu got a new lease on life as my best friend's head piece when we drove around the back country streets of our hometown singing loudly and off key (I wore a basket weave flower pot on my head, but that's a whole other story). Tap lead to ballet and gymnastics, and off course, musical theatre and voice lessons, which I loved....and over time, dance became less of a force in my life.

Dance made a serious comeback when I took my first bellydance class at the Y in Lexington, SC in the early 2000s (2002 or 3, I don't remember exactly) and I fell madly in love with the art form. I became a dancer again, and wondered why I ever quit. I love to dance. I love to move. I love expressing myself through dance, the release that movement gives, the rush of performing, and so many other things about dance. Yet, I quickly discovered that though bellydance is certainly my passion, it wasn't enough.

Emotionally and mentally, bellydance does fill a void that I need filled, but physically, it quickly became clear to me that bellydance alone wasn't giving me what I needed. In part, I discovered through bellydance that I needed more than bellydance. For example; floorwork - one of my very first troupe performances involved a significant amount of floorwork, and in order to do this safely I had to add regular strengthening exercises to my work out. Just to get to the floor safely and gracefully from a standing position required strength that I hadn't built through bellydance alone.

I began varying my workout. I would begin with a goal from bellydance (for example: great belly-rolls) and then break down what I needed to have in order to reach that goal (super killa abs and the ability to control and relax those abs) and finally, create a workout to meet that goal (straight crunches, leg crunches, scissor kicks, twist crunches, pilates inspired balance arm wavy things, core strengthening, twists, stretches, breathing exercises, etc).

I'm nowhere near where I want to be as far as dance ability or strength and flexibility, but I am worlds away from where I was when I did that first troupe performance at Tasty World in Athens, GA in 2006! More importantly, I've learned a lot about movement and my body, created some great workouts, and become extremely comfortable in my own skin...and I discovered a love for sharing this dance form with others as both a performer and a teacher.

I've wanted to teach a class on my workout concepts for years! Finally, I have the chance. I didn't know what to call it - but luckily, my long time dance partner and great friend Christy Fricks (owner of floorspace dance studio and director of Sulukule Dance Troupe), came up with the name, Stretch and Strengthen, and offered me the time slot to teach my class. So now I have the amazing opportunity to refine and define the way I work out into a class format. I have a chance to bring my crazy workout techniques to life and teach them to others...I'm so excited, I could dance!

Here is the class description
Stretch and strengthen

If you're looking for a way to lose that holiday weight, tone those hard to find abs, condition your body for advanced dance training, or just a unique and fun workout, this is the class for you.
Drawing from her experience as a dancer, as well as from yoga, pilates, and strength training, Jaidra is bringing you her own personal workout. Designed to increase strength, flexibility, and balance, this class is appropriate for all levels and body types. We'll workout, but have fun doing it!

Wear pants that provide freedom of movement, and bring a yoga mat. Water bottles are also encouraged!

Wednesdays 5:30 @ Floorspace Dance Studio in Athens, GA beginning March 2 2011.

I really hope to see a lot of folks there - you'll get a chance to learn some of my personal workout techniques. And if you've never raced a group of women across the floor using nothing but your glutes to power you, then you're in for a super treat!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Creation of a Peaceful Piece

We live in turbulent times, to say the least. Today I felt the need to create something that not only brought me peace, but that would hopefully bring this emotion to the viewer as well.
Sketching Ideas
For this piece, I began with the idea of a woman in lotus position. I used a google image search of "lotus position" to help me visualize what I wanted the central figure to look like.

After much frustration and sketching, I realized that though I may eventually revisit some of these drawings for a yoga inspired piece, that I wasn't going in the right direction.

I knew that I wanted this particular silk to be bold in color throughout the central figure, so I focused in on the idea of the chakras as a focal point with the person playing mainly a background role to the color.

Final Sketch
After taking a short break to let myself recalibrate mentally to this new idea, I sat down and quickly sketched the figure to the left.

I had my focal point.

I then began the process of transferring the design onto the silk. At this point, I made some pivotal design changes. I decided to make the figure more gender neutral by making the curves in the body less pronounced. I also chose to keep the crown chakra within the top of the head, as opposed to radiating slightly above as it was in my original drawing.

Resist Outline
I chose to rework the idea of a lotus flower - though I still wanted to include the lotus in the design, I didn't have room on this silk to have the flower be a central aspect of the background like it was in my sketch. I chose instead to include a smaller flower behind the central figure and mirror that with a flower underneath the figure.

The figure was crowned with radiating lines.

I kept the chakras overlapping but open so that  the colors would fade naturally from one chakra to the next.

When I started painting, I chose once again to work from the center of the piece outward. I kept the resist lines in this painting very large, so I wasn't as concerned as I normally am about flooding my lines, but I sill enjoy painting the figure first and following with a background color.

The chakra section of the figure was the easiest, as I knew the color order and placement before I began. I chose to paint on dry silk. I know there are two schools of thought on this, but for me, I find that the colors are more even when placed on dry silk. Wet silk is easier to fade, but dry gives a more even color where there is no fade.

To aid in the faded sections, I used water liberally over my dyes. I also tend to fade the lighter color over and into the darker color. One technique I use for this is painting a section of lighter color, placing a line of the darker color where I want the fade to end, and then going over it with the lighter color and water until the two lighter color sections meet.
Focal Point Finished

Remember that it is extremely important with professional quality silk dyes to paint wet to wet - if the dye is allowed to dry (and it dries fast) on the white silk, there will be a very distinct line. These lines can only be removed by going back over the dye with water or more silk dye.

Now it's time to paint the rest of the figure. I started with the legs - and chose a blue to purple fade because I thought it would look nice. It was only when I stepped back that I realized I was creating another mirror effect and decided to follow it through the upper body as well.

I chose a red, magenta, and orange color palette for the lotus behind the seated figure, and following my theme of mirrors.

*sidebar - though originally the only play on mirroring was having a flower both behind and below the figure, it became a deliberate (and I think very important) part of this painting when I painted the figure itself. I hope that my audience will not just note the occurrence in shape and color, but in the theme of the painting itself, for certainly to have peace without we must have peace within - and we are all a reflection of our surroundings as well as those that we choose to share our lives with. Peace begets peace, much like love begets love, and though there are always going to be oppositional forces to these, it must all start within.

I chose the green to blue fade on the base of the silk both for the very "natural" feel that I believe this color combination evokes but also from a land to sea or land to sky sort of perspective. I wanted the base of this piece to be both bold and serene, and this color combination seemed perfect.
Background Started

I decided to use a yellow/orange and blue/purple color palette in the radiating lines at the top of the piece. I continued painting on dry silk and using water and a very large brush to create the fade at the tips of the lines.

At the end of the day, I am extremely pleased with this piece. It honestly turned out even better than I expected it to. The colors are vibrant and bold for the most part, but there is a harmony in this one that is not completely planned. When I began, I was searching for a way to express my own hopes, as I feel that the best way to combat darkness is with light. This one is full of light, and I am filled with joy - and an overwhelming sense of peace myself. I will sleep well tonight.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Birth of a Silk Painting

It begins with a concept.
I wanted a fire goddess type woman for my abstract series "bodies in motion."

Sometimes I look up images online or work from a photo that I've taken. More often than not, I sketch out what I'm planning prior to drawing resist lines.

This time, my sketch was representative - I chose a simple, curvaceous representation of the feminine, deciding to focus on the use of color and shading to portray the emotions of the figure.

I played with some background ideas and reworked my "fire" to the right of the central figure - the original sketch was too clean - I wanted a bit more chaos in my fire.
Resist on Silk

For this piece I chose to go straight to the resist lines, rather than sketching the line drawing on the silk. As the piece began to come together, I made some changes from the original drawing.

I increased the amount of hair that my goddess had, while keeping the pieces large enough for a bit of shading. At this stage it is particularly important to pay attention to the size of the space that will be dyed in reference to whether or not shading, multiple dyes, or water will be used in the painting process.

For this piece, I had no intention of flooding any of the resist lines. After the resist dried, I went back over the piece to make sure that there were no breaks in the lines. I also made some changes to my background, including the addition of a "shadow" at the base of the piece.

Starting to Paint

Once the resist lines are dry, I'm ready to start my favorite part of the process - the actual silk painting.

For a piece that is this intricate and large, I generally paint the details first. At this stage, if I flood a resist line or find a break in the resist, it is still possible (though difficult) to fix a mistake, so I paint areas where I am more likely to find a break (detailed areas with thin lines, such as my goddess' hair) first.

I begin by mixing a variety of washes in the set of colors that I plan to use - for this piece, I wanted the hair and the fire to emulate one another while staying distinct in color. To this end, I chose a red/brown color palette with highlights of orange and yellow for her hair.

I used water and the lighter washes to create fade effects in some pieces of the hair, while leaving some strands very flat. My hope was that when taken as a whole, the variety in technique and color would give an additional depth to the piece.

I allowed the hair to dry and then moved on to the main body of the figure.

I chose a fade technique within the body of the figure. At this point I am thinking ahead to how well the entire piece will contrast with the background colors that I have in mind. I know that I want a blue background at the top of the piece so I mix my colors for the central figure with purple so that there will be a distinct variation in the color of the background and the focal point of the piece.

Since this piece is the representation of a fire goddess, I used water to lighten and fade and mix streaks of dark blue and purple through the face and arms of the figure into the red and finally orange of the base.   
Next, I painted the fire using a color palette that was similar to the goddess' hair. I darkened my reds by using more concentrated dyes and put more emphasis on yellow. There are no browns in the fire, but I used a mix of techniques similar to the process by which the hair was dyed to keep these two portions of the piece similar yet distinct.

After the body and the flames dried, I began work on the background of the piece. I chose to start at the bottom and work up.

I chose a palette of brown/deep green and kelly green for the first section of background, knowing that I would eventually fade out the brown and move into blue greens and mostly blue for the other sections.

It was within the lowest section of the background that I encountered my first problem with this piece. The left hand resist line on my shadow didn't hold. I had a few options - I could have grabbed a hair drier, quickly dried my fabric and used alcohol and water to try and stop the bleeding, reinforced the resist line and then re paint the piece....but I decided to run with it.

I added water and purposely painted over my resist line, soaking the dye and letting it run. Since I still had a strong line to the right of my shadow, this process ended up producing a really beautiful "fuzzy" effect on one edge, and I'm pleased with this happy accident.

I continued fading the greens up the piece, finishing with a mix of cyan and navy/purple mixed with blue green edge in the final section of background. For the first three background sections I chose to work wet on wet - painting the silk with water before adding dye.

For the final section, I switched up my process and painted the dye directly on the dry silk, using water over washes to fade and mix the colors directly on the silk.

While the silk was still wet I added large crystals of sea salt in waves across the last section of background. The salt will absorb some of the dye, creating a random pattern of lighter splotches wherever the crystals are on the silk.

As I type this, the silk is drying. To finish, I will remove the silk from the stretcher frame, wrap it in news print, steam it for two hours, wash to remove the resist and excess dye, and iron to finish. The finished piece will measure 15x60 inches.