It’s been awhile since my last post. I’ve spent less time in my art journal due to the busyness of the year. I can hardly believe that another Christmas is rolling in. My daughter is home from break, which is always wonderful, and like many of you, I’m going to try to get through the work week, despite a lack of focus getting stronger as the end of the year approaches. Luckily, I have the whole week off for Christmas. Thrilling!
So, my art blog is precisely six months old! It’s been a delight to create and to evolve. I’m still madly practicing my art skills – I guess you never ever stop practicing. I’m a late bloomer and have never taken any formal art classes. Nothing ever quite turns out the way I would like it to, but I do see how my work has progressed over the last six months. I feel that everything looks better in my sketchbook than in a photo! This latest is just a whimsical work in lieu of the winter/holiday season, although it’s hardly snowing in Southern California!
Wishing everyone a beautiful week. May you enjoy the holiday season!
National Adoption Awareness Month 2018 is coming to an end. It’s been a very long, sad month for multiple reasons. Sometimes, I have to step away from social media because the chatter is too much. And, on Veteran’s Day, we had to put our beloved dachsund, Peppermint, down. It was one of the saddest days of my life, and I’m still grappling with the loss of my sweet friend. Life will not be the same, at least not for a while.
I was working on a sketch of my first mother earlier in the month and finally painted it. It was referenced from a black and white photo given to me by my sisters in Taiwan. I’m guessing ma was in her forties or fifties when the photo was taken. My sisters told me that I look very much like ma in her younger years. There are no photos of ma in her youth, as they were all destroyed. She also loved classical music, reading, and learning new things. We have that in common. My sisters and brother are also artistic – my second sister is a web designer, my elder sister draws beautifully and my brother is a photographer. I’m a late bloomer as an artist. I’ve never had formal training, and I am still not great at drawing eyes, shading and using paint, at least not in the way I’d like to be. In any case, I appreciate the art of practice and enjoy the creative process. I actually like the sketch better than the painted version. What I love about art is that it allows you to express without words. To this day, I’m not the best communicator. Perhaps that’s why I loved my dog so much – unconditional positive regard and love 24/7, without having to say a whole lot.
I’m glad that Adoption Awareness Month is coming to a close. Thanksgiving is around the corner, and I truly have much to be grateful for, despite the loss of Peppermint. May you make many happy memories with family, friends and loved ones, including furry ones, this Thanksgiving.
I never had the opportunity to meet my birth parents. They had both passed away by the time I found my biological sisters in Taiwan, whom I reunited with in 2012 after 40-something years of separation. I wasn’t surprised, as per my adoption contract, my parents were older when they had me. I once had a very vivid experience with my birth mother, however, that you can read about in my memoir. It was surreal to say the least. It is the greatest sense of loss never to know who gave birth to you. I am eternally grateful to be in reunion with my two sisters and extended family in Taiwan.
The piece of art above, prayer of a birth mother, is to honor mothers who have been forced to relinquish children due to a multitude of reasons, e.g., poverty, shame, lack of support, societal expectations and pressure, etc. They suffer great loss, and in many cases overseas, do not want to relinquish the child. I was told by my eldest sister that I was relinquished without the knowledge of our mother and my sisters by our birth father. My sisters said that after school, they would visit the babysitter and hold me. Then, one day, I was no longer there. To speak of our family’s history is very difficult for my sisters. I respect their privacy and am grateful for the knowledge that I do have about our family. Still, I’m left with so many questions. It pains me to hear others say of birth mothers that they relinquished or abandoned a child because “they wanted to give the child a better life.” Societies around the world do not make it easy for single, unwed mothers to parent a child due to stigma, lack of funding and programs to support family preservation, etc. Though I will never know my first mother, I believe that we are connected and always will be.
Well, today marks the first day of another month-long focus on adoption known as National Adoption Awareness Month. Throughout the month of November, there will be images, articles, campaigns that promote adoption. On the other side, Adoption Awareness Month brings mixed, often conflicted feelings for adopted persons. Experiences and feelings related to adoption loss, rejection, separation and, in some cases, reunion are stirred.
As a growing artist, I plan to make art this month related to my own personal experiences of adoption. In the piece above, I wanted to convey the sense of invisibility that has defined much of my life versus the power of getting woke. In all of my experiences as an adoptee, the feeling of invisibility has been the most profound. Invisibility for me feels like powerlessness, unimportance, differentness and not mattering. Over the years since coming out of the fog, however, I’ve gained a much deeper sense of self-acceptance and empowerment by sharing my story and connecting to other adoptees who share similar experiences. The reunion with my birth family also largely contributed to this growing sense of acceptance. So invisibility versus speaking out about adoption and trusting that what I say and do matters is a constant struggle.
Coming out of the fog woke me to some important truths about myself – that my story does matter and that my voice can be used to empower adoptees. Staying woke is vital. I encourage you to tune into the voices of adopted persons. After all, we are the experts because we’ve lived it. Read a book or memoir written by an adoptee, listen to an adoptee-hosted podcast or read an adoptee-curated blog/website or an article written by an adoptee. Check out this link for a list of multiple adoptee-centric resources. I hope that you’ll take the time to explore adoptee stories and listen to adoptee voices.
We are approaching my favorite time of the year, fall! Temperatures are slowly cooling down. We’ll have another warm week, then hopefully temps will stay cooler. In the spirit of Halloween, one of my favorite holidays, I drew this fella and his pumpkin friend. I really didn’t like how the background turned out. Initially, I was going to draw a spooky tree against a dark blue/black background with stars, but decided to try a Van Gogh-ish “Starry Night.” I wasn’t quite able to use watercolor and acrylic paint in the way that I’d hoped. In any case, it was fun and another learning experience. Here’s to Halloween and sweater weather!
You are blood. You are sisters. No man can break that bond.
In 2012, I reunited with my birth family in Taipei, Taiwan. I had been searching for them for nearly three years before making contact with my oldest sister via email. I had the help of a social worker who was also Taiwanese. Going back to Taiwan, the country of my birth, was one of the most profound and beautiful experiences I have ever had. To walk the streets of my home town was simply magical, and the ten days I spent with my sisters were extraordinary.
My sisters are older than me by ten and eleven years. I also have an older brother, a niece and a couple of nephews, and an Uncle, who is the patriarch of our family. Unfortunately, our parents had already passed away, so I did not have the opportunity to meet them. I continue to keep in touch with my sisters, brother, and niece via social media and hope to return to Taiwan next year.
The drawing above is of my sisters and I – my second sister is to the left and eldest sister to the right. I’ve been wanting to do a sketch of the three of us for awhile now, and after a visit with a dear friend of mine from Arizona, I was inspired to finally put it to canvas.
If you’d like to learn more about my reunion, you can actually read my memoir, Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir and Search for Identity. Contact me if you’d like an autographed copy, as I have a few soft covers still available.
To my sisters, you are an inspiration.
Quote above by Kim Boykin, A Peach of a Pair
I have always been fascinated by the whimsical, magical, and mysterious
I have always been fascinated by the whimsical, magical, and mysterious. My adoptive mom gave me a vintage book of fairytales when I was a young girl. It was a hard-cover book full of well-known fairy tales. The colorful illustrations seemed larger than life and fueled my imagination. My favorite story was Hansel and Gretel because of the fantastical pictures of the witch’s candy house – every kid’s dream home. The book became well worn over time.
My mom eventually gave many of my children’s books away, including a large collection of Nancy Drew books. I have no idea where they eventually landed, but I hope they fell into good hands. Perhaps my fascination with the magical explains why my favorite literary genre is magical realism and why I’m so drawn to the stylized whimsical art of Tamara Laporte, whose website is called Willowing Art. I also love how Tamara encourages the mind-body connection, noticing and acknowledging what sensations or feelings are flowing inwardly prior to beginning a piece of art, especially when feeling blocked creatively. She encourages a kind of empathic holding of these emotions or experiences, then sending compassion and empathy to them by way of a loving message, e.g., there is sadness, and my sadness is okay, etc. You can watch Tamara’s YouTube video on how to deal with creative blocks here. She then demonstrates how to draw a whimsical mermaid art journal page. It’s quite fun and fascinating! Tamara is such a master at layering and blending color and texture. So inspired by her work..
The little piece featured above was a fun doodle – I have a long way to go, but it’s really fun to draw for the simple pleasure of creative expression. I don’t particularly like painting as much as sketching and often like the initial sketch better than the painted outcome. Painting is a difficult process to me; however, it has been interesting to experiment with color using different mediums. So far, I haven’t liked the alcohol-based paint pens, as I feel that the color is extremely saturated, and I don’t have much control of the color. I remember Kelly Rae Roberts saying in one of her podcast episodes that you have to make a lot of bad art before getting to the better stuff. I used acrylics and watercolor for this gal and actually liked how she turned out. In between the bad stuff, there are a couple that I truly like.