Carnations on a Rainy Day

Sometimes I think wonkiness is part of my DNA.  Even when I measure things out and am very careful to try to follow lines, the things I make come out crooked or off balance.  It’s not surprising, I suppose, since I am crooked and off balance.

My latest painting was started last week when it was raining and had been raining for what seemed like eternity.  Before Valentines day, I bought a small bouquet of carnations to brighten up my room.  And they have lasted and lasted, a bright bit of pink and white to rest my eyes on when everything else seemed gray and overcast.

So I decided to paint them.  I wanted the gray background of the day, and so I put them in windowsill and went to work.  It became a case of starting out with reality and ending up with something else — hopefully my delight at having tenacious flowers during a tenacious rainy season.  But the measured window sill and frame I carefully drew became all out of balance as I painted, something I didn’t even notice til I scanned it.

Carnations on a Rainy Day, Acrylic, 8×10″ Joy Murray

Now it’s sunny and warmer, I’m starting to see spring blossoms here and there — camellias, daffodils, crocus, tiny hyacinths.  It’s not quite the big burst of blooming I’ll see as we get closer to spring, but I’m glad we’re heading that direction.  Meanwhile, I have my carnations, still  healthy, and this wonky painting that I hope shows the way  a flower can brighten a dark day.


On February 28th (Thursday),  I’ll be giving away a moon flower painting to one of my Patreon supporters:

Moon Flower Vine, watercolor and ink on paper, 7×10″

Patreon is a micro-donation platform that allows people who support my art to give a little bit each month to  help me buy art supplies, pay living expenses, and have a little security.  Even a little bit helps me so much.  The monthly donation is automatically taken from your credit card each month.

You can read more about this give away here

Thanks for your support and for reading my blog.


Thanks for reading my post.  If you like it share it.  If you find a typo, please let me know and I’ll send you a thank-you postcard.  

You can now follow me on facebook here,  Instagram@joymurrayart.

You can get prints and cards of some of my work on Redbubble.  They also print my work on lots of other items, including phone skins, tote bags, shirts and journals:

If you’d like to support my art and writing, please consider becoming a donor on Patreon.  If I get enough supporters, I can make this blog ad-free!  Here’s a link to my Patreon page:

If you prefer to make a one time donation, you can do so at  Please email me at if you’d like details.





My Guerrilla Garden

This summer I’ve spent a lot of time communing with plants.  I’ve had some changes in my life.  My adult daughter moved in with her two cats.  She’s going to help me out around the house while she regains her financial composure after changing careers.  So my studio got smaller, but it’s a good thing for us both.

I planted a lot of flowers in pots on the porch this summer, and if you follow my facebook page, you’ve seen the progress of that enterprise.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the back of my house, in the neighbor’s driveway, there’s been an abandoned motorcycle since I moved here over a year ago.


At least it looked abandoned.

I wanted to take some good close ups of the rusted gears, and the way things that once moved become stationary.  I have transitioned to using a wheelchair for most of my outdoor and indoor activities this year, and I felt a bit of attachment to the rusting old thing that once must have glided with ease through the streets of Memphis.  My photography was limited, however, by the quality of my camera as well as my ability to get in close without my own wheels getting stuck in the gravel pavement of the driveway.

I decided in the spring to use it as a guerrilla garden.  (I sometimes plant left over seeds in abandoned lots and in other people’s property just to see if they grow.)  I started adding pots of plants that might vine into and over the bike.  It’s in an awkward place, not much soil, inconsistent sunlight.  But I know plants strive to grow no matter what, so I went ahead and sneaked plants onto it.


But it didn’t really look right to me.  So I went ahead and planted some purple hearts in the ground around it.  I also planted some morning glory seeds hoping they were strong enough to handle the thin layer of soil under the gravel and dry conditions.  And within a month, things were growing:

And the morning glory was more than prepared to take a ride on those old wheels.


My neighbor told me about mid-project that it was indeed his motorcycle, not really abandoned by some former tenant.  He’d bought it to fix it up, but that he’d never had time to.  He was happy that I was able to create a little garden with it.

Then a few weeks ago, he told me that someone had bought it to fix it, and would pick it up soon.   It’ll be interesting to see if the morning glory will continue to grow even when the support is taken out from under it.   I’m not worried about the purple hearts, they grow and grow.  They don’t let circumstance stop them.

For now, though, the old motorcycle is still there.  Thriving in it’s disrepair.  Rust settling in deeper and deeper and my little bit of wild gardening twining through it.

This summer.  I’ve felt like I’ve been in a fallow period artistically.   I haven’t been painting a lot.  I’d planned to paint the flowers I grew on the porch, but instead, I do brief pencil sketches then just sit back and meditate on color, on growth, on life.  On Change.  I keep thinking things in my life will settle, but sometimes it feels like change keeps knocking me off course.

My morning glories, hibiscus and moonflowers bloom only once and then they fall away, their bright brief task in life carried out with color and grace.  They go to seed and another flower takes it place.  I check the plants each morning for buds and for new flowers.  My marigolds, petunias, celosia blaze out, and will bloom til the end of summer.  It’s mid-August and I’m sure they know their days are numbered as the sun slowly changes angles and they keep growing towards it.  And I am with them, every day, watering, tending and delighting.

So, now as I see my garden’s progress, I don’t feel it’s been a fallow time.  Only a change in season.  All these little growing things are here for the summer, then they will go fallow, and with or without me, they will come back.

I think we all need fallow periods for our roots to grow, so when the time comes, we bloom freely and with whatever color we can muster.

Life is change, but I feel rooted in it nonetheless.



Thanks for reading my post.  If you like it share it.  If you find a typo, please let me know and I’ll send you a thank-you postcard.  

You can get prints and cards of some of my work on Redbubble.  They also print my work on lots of other items, including phone skins, tote bags, shirts and journals:

If you’d like to support my art and writing, please consider becoming a donor on Patreon.  If I get enough supporters, I can make this blog ad-free!  Here’s a link to my Patreon page:

If you prefer to make a one time donation, you can do so at  Please email me at if you’d like details.


Autumn Inspirations

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, but between the Chronically Inspired Workshop and the Portland Open Studios, I’ve been pretty inspired.  I’ve also been deeply lost in thought about life and death, the thoughts and meditations that seem to arise in Autumn.

I had a wonderful conversation with Sara Swink, a vibrant ceramic artist,, about the art I make related to bodies in transformation.  She told me of a piece she made that came out of the kiln cracked at the breast and a woman who saw it and loved it, because it reminded her of her mastectomy scar.

A scar of any kind is a bit can be interpreted as a flaw, but it is really a mark of survival — and I have to say I admire the knitted skin of a scar much more than the delicate patterns of tattoos.  I have seen some artful tattoos patterned around scars but I think a scar itself is a powerful symbol of renewal and the body’s yearning to heal and be whole.  I have a scar from a major cut on my thumb and a major surgery on my wrist.  It has a long seam one little keloid bump that I interpret as a web.  You can’t see it very well in this photo, but in person it’s dramatic.  The skin is strong and smooth.  My hand works perfectly every day in spite of the fact that the thumb was cut to the bone and might have never worked if they hadn’t sewn it back together.  The knob of  my wrist bone broke off in a fall and was put back together with a screw.  Ahh, the miracle hand.

Miracle hand

One of the women in my Chronically Inspired class almost died from Lupus a few months ago, and she now has a tracheotomy scar on her neck.  For a long time she wouldn’t look in the mirror, then she felt like she should wear a scarf to keep from scaring people — but she got hot.  Now she barely thinks about it.  It’s a line, a life-line, a neck jewel that says survival.

So I got the idea to do an homage to scars, and have been working on doll who has had a mastectomy called Survivor, a sculpted doll about 18″ high.  It’s gone through many transformations (no surprise) and taught me a lot about how to balance things and make good armatures.

I’ve also been working on a doll for a friend and some ideas for heart ornaments.

This is also a season of mourning from me.  My younger brother died about 2 years ago.  We don’t know his exact death date.  He had schizophrenia and was often  uncommunicative.  His last call on his cell phone records was October 25th.  He wasn’t found until November 11th.  I mourn his death, but  more so, I mourn his illness that isolated him so badly, although he was high functioning and succeeded in being independent.  I have had many dream visitations from him since his death and he seems much happier.

Halloween used to be a favorite time, and I loved the whole macabre celebration.  Now I feel removed from it.  It’s a more sacred time and I don’t like seeing the glorification of insanity, wounds and zombies.  I didn’t actually see my brother’s decayed body, but we had to do some clean up of his apartment and the smell, the disorder, the fluids, the remnants and the depth of that experience has not left me, and I can’t get into the celebratory mood.

I wondered how I would feel today.  I wondered if I should erase the date of his last call and forget about it, at least on the calendar, make the memory less date related.  But something makes me want to honor this day, his memory, the thoughts I have of him as a boy, the odd things he taught me about perception.

Then yesterday I woke up to the sound of the first full rain of the season, so soothing and somber.  Years ago, I wrote a story about my son finding a loaded gun in a friend’s house, based on a true event.  And yesterday, in that time between waking and sleeping, listening to the voice of the rain, my brother’s voice came to me and retold that story, and his story, and my story, in such a profound way that I leapt from the bed and wrote it down in my little red book I keep by the bed for writing emergencies.

So today, I get to work on this new story that combines sorrow and magic; about the wisdom that the passage of time and the acceptance of loss bring.  It’s turned out to be a good day, a blessed day — the bonds between me and the world beyond life feel soft and comforting.

I’m not going to wear a costume for Halloween.  Instead I’m going to tell stories — about scars, about friendships, about portals of the mind, and about visitations from spirits far wiser than I will ever be.

He lives on in my dreams