I don’t usually like to look back and reminisce; I am very much for looking ahead and plodding onward and upwards. However, this past year in 2013, I did SO much. I tell you, I am surprised I was even capable of doing even half of it. And overall, 2013 proved to be a great springboard year.

WARNING: As I am given to wordy introspection, this post could be long…

The Art
Overall, this was an amazing planning year. In February, I came up with a clear vision of what I want to see accomplished with my art and art business in the next few years, and I spent the rest of the year making them happen. Of course, many of my objectives are still in the works, but this year did see the start and progression of my Youtube channel, my first Giveaway completed, and the start of the 365 Day Charity Challenge (a charity project using my art to raise money to fight human trafficking and modern slavery).
Check out my Youtube Channel:
Visit http://www.youtube.com/user/stephoplingerarts to watch my videos and art comedy sketches!
Read more about my 365 Day charity project:
Visit http://www.stephanieoplingerarts.blogspot.com/p/365-day-charity-challenge.html to read more about the project!
I haven’t given this charity project as much PR as it deserves, but I hope to do better with that in 2014.
So far, for this charity project effort, I have raised almost $100!

Somehow, I felt very strongly that I should not apply and showcase my art in any outdoor fine arts festivals this year. Whether this was because of the state of my finances or a gut feeling about the festival business in general, I can’t remember, but it proved to be a VERY wise choice. In my email inbox, this year’s art festival recaps were dismal due to the lagging economy. I’m glad I dodged that bullet.
Instead, this year, I took to applying to juried art exhibitions and publications. I didn’t apply to many, and was accepted into the three I did apply for. I did a lot of recon this year researching for publications and juried arts exhibitions that I felt my art might fit. Hopefully, 2014 will allow me to apply for more and show more. But for now, a 2013 recap:
1) Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival  – Westmoreland Art Nationals: A Juried Art Exhibit
2) Loyalhanna Review (publication)
 
3) Latrobe Art Center’s Mr. Roger’s Regional Fine Arts Juried Exhibition
Another of my objectives was to be accepted into an artist association. I applied to two different Pittsburgh art associations. I was turned down for both and was a little heartbroken… until I realized I didn’t know how to have the canvases properly ready for gallery hanging, thus likely disqualifying me immediately without even a consideration for the merit of my work. I didn’t know how to prep my pieces for “gallery hanging” until I received one of my paintings back from the Latrobe Art Center, where they did so to my canvas for me. This is frustrating, but heartening. I intended to apply again in 2014; furthermore, I am taking a portfolio class at the local community college in hopes of learning these types of things.
As for painting, I started painting a very large 4′ x 6′ life size painting for part of a new series, I finished the large 36″ x 72″ painting in my Grandma’s basement, painted a new store front sign for the tree nursery where I work, and completed a few other commission portfolio pieces. I feel that I did not complete a lot, but in light of the charity project, I actually have produced quite a lot more than I thought I did.
 
I also re-designed and re-vamped my website. It is not complete, but all the main pages are, and I am very pleased with the result. I did a lot of self-portraits with my camera and created a lot of the headers. I really enjoyed this self-photographer exercises, loved the results, and loved what I was able to do with them both in the website headers and in a few of my youtube videos.
I also re-vitalized my signature. My signature is sloppy – I am constantly being teased for having the signature of a doctor. Well, I have officially decided to add my logo signature to all paintings and drawings for clarity:
I’ve successfully turned my bedroom into a functional temporary art studio before ringing in the new year. I am painting the last paintings of the year on a work table finally situated in my bedroom.

Costuming, Cosplaying, and Sewing
I made SIX costumes this year! And three of them weren’t even for me!
This year in general showed a great jump in my sewing skills. Now, I don’t know if I have any particular future plans with sewing, costuming, and fashion beyond hobby, but I find that I spend almost as much time sewing as I do creating paintings and drawings. To me, fabric is just another creative medium – like film, music, writing, digital art, animation, body paint, photography, comics, manga, etc. I’d like to define myself as an Artist and to not have to worry about making distinctions in the type. I am Artist, therefore I create EVERYWHERE with EVERYTHING. Well, that’s the idea anyway. I hope to become. I digress…
The six costumes I made:
1-2) For TekkoshoCon, my friends and I went in an ensemble costume as the characters from Howl’s Moving Castle. I didn’t have the money to make Howl’s fancy jacket, so I made his simple blue-haired version. I entirely made Sophie’s dress for my friend, and I made Turn-up Head’s top hat.
3-4) Two Renaissance costumes, one for me and one for my friend Kait. These two turned out divine and amongst some of my best work, but they were a nightmare to finish. We were both short on time and ended up spending an all-nighter trying to get them together (i.e. I sewed furiously while giving my friend on-the-side quick lessons on how to cut out the patterns and pin the pieces together for me). We were two bleary sleep-deprived fools wandering through the festival, but we had a marvelous time meeting up with some of our friends.
 
Later, we tweaked the costumes and fully finished them and had a photo shoot with local photographer Liz Campbell from J&L Photography (View some of her work on her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/JL-Photography/358002404343954 ) The shoot was great fun, and some of the pictures turned out phenomenal:
 
5) La Catrina – My Halloween costume this year was actually a traditional costume/ image from the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). I painted my face for one of the first time in my life, and it took 2 hours to do!!! I watched a few youtube videos and how-to’s, found some cheap face paints at the pharmacy stores, and did it! The headdress I quickly made from black lace and a bunch of fake fabric flowers and hairpins. I also made the shirt earlier this year from left over fabric from a grim cape I had made last year.
6) Assasin’s Creed costume – I confess, I am not entirely done with this one – but hey! There’s still 12 some hours until the New Year! Who knows what I am to accomplish. xD The tunics of the costume are already complete, but the arm greaves, belt, and waist belt (man corset?) need to be sewn. This costume is for my little brother.
Others: I sewed many other things, though didn’t get to do the final details on a few of them – mainly, two jackets. I tea-dyed for the first time (in which you dye fabric with tea bags). And completely a few minor projects.
School and Soccer
I finally went back to school!!! This might not seem like much, but it is INCREDIBLY hard to go back to college after working so many years out of school full time. Actually, I continued to work full time and took mostly all online classes. 18 credits + 30-40 hours a week, YIKES! 
(To anyone in high school: what they say is true; it’s hard to go back! I wouldn’t recommend a gap year, even – scholarships become harder to find that you qualify for once you are outside the bounds of high school and the expected college time frame of 18-22 years old. Just plow ahead and get your BA over with!!) I digress again…
Oh, but did I mention, my first semester back, I received an A in all 6 classes? Well, I did. xD
I got on the women’s soccer team at the community college, my position as an offensive forward. I was soooo super happy! I LOVE soccer and literally follow the US women’s soccer team with scrapbook and all. I also love playing soccer and kick myself to this day for not joining the high school team. So, I trained ALL SUMMER. 
I ran everyday, I turned my front lawn into a soccer drill field, I bought ridiculously expensive and amazing looking soccer cleats, read Mia Hamm’s book cover to cover, and even re-arranged my school and work schedules multiple times and scrimped to pay ahead on payments so I wouldn’t have to work during the two-three month soccer season. UNFORTUNATELY… it all came to nothing. Because I got violently ill and spent the entirety of the training season bemoaning my painful existence.
Health and Physicality
Yes, I got sick. My stomach hurt painfully and constantly. I went to the doctor several times, and he seemed to think, of all things, that I was merely suffering from anxiety. I know my body and myself and knew that wasn’t the case and so went to a specialist for testing. Then, THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH called me, wanting to know how I picked up this stomach bacteria and reminding me of how I should prepare my food. It was some sort of bacteria that apparently you only pick up by eating raw chicken, drinking bad milk, and swimming in a strange body of water like the Nile River. Well, it’s a mystery, but I’m betting I drank some bad milk.
I was upset that I had to quit soccer, but in the long run, it turned out probably to be better that way. I ended up needing a lot more hours, and 18 credits + 30-40 hours work + art business and charity project = insanity. Adding soccer to that would have been horrifying, in the end. Still, even though I was keeling over in pain, I was still one of the best in-shape players on the team. Boo. 🙁
However, because of the soccer training, I ran my first 5k length jog! I didn’t get a chance to run in any official 5k races, but I finally got myself up to the fitness level of running 3-4 miles regularly. Running is very much a mind game, but my body, in the long run, never felt better! I spent most of last year fighting bronchitis and new allergies at my outdoor job, but my lungs were strong as a horse this year, which really shocked me when they didn’t immediately burn when I started running again like they always have. I am grateful. I slimmed down amazingly, and felt great and healthy about my body. (Unfortunately, during the last couple of months of this year, due to time constraints and outdoor Pennsylvania winter weather, I’ve fallen behind in my exercise fitness and gained some weight back.)
The only other down this year has been dislocating my collar bone and having to go to the chiropractor repeatedly this year. I fell hard while skiing at the beginning of the year, and never realized that I had dislocated my collar bone (even though I could not lift my arm over my shoulder…) I did know that, for the first time in my life, my back was out and was making me nauseous and headache-y, so I went to the chiropractor for the first time ever. I believe he ended up popping my collar bone back in place without knowing it because I did not have problems afterwards. I still had pain though and went to a shoulder specialist in September. They said my x-rays showed everything to be fine and that most likely my collar bone had dislocated but then went back in. They gave me a shot of cortisone in my shoulder and sent me on my merry way.
As you can see, I wasn’t feel so great after that tumble:
Mental health – this year has been my healthiest year since before 2007. I posted about this briefly on my facebook page, and I’d like to share it again here:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:5


^Several years ago, I heard this verse and Janel Koloski’s testimony, and I realized that depression is not ingratitude or self-inflicted, self-centered, selfish feelings, but rather that I was experiencing a legit illness no less real than a physical one. It set me on a road to recovery. Today, I remember severe depression with a shudder, but I am no longer shackled by it. Praise God

Style, Personal, and Events
I dyed my hair BLUE. Granted, it wasn’t the greatest blue color for me, and my hair is too dark for it to be very vibrant, but I did it and so can cross it off my bucket list. I hope to dye it again in 2014, perhaps if I can get my hair striped and bleached.
Another short punk haircut. Just one this year. (I have a great fear of going to the salon, and with all the work I put into this year, I only revitalized my style once. The rest of the time was chin length, wild, “hippy” hair.)
I became a feminist. Actually, I already was one, but I finally found out what feminists actually believe and realized there is a whole body of discussion talking about and advocating about all the things that frustrated me and certain basic lack of rights I sometimes find myself facing just because I am a woman.
Feminism has become a dirty word in our culture and a topic that is miserably misunderstood and misinterpreted, but really a feminist is anyone who believes that women should be treated with equal rights and respect as those given and shown to men. It’s really not complicated. If you believe in any kind of civil rights – well, feminists are just a group searching for civil rights for women. 
  
This year, I became more verbal both about human trafficking issues and feminist issue – because believe it or not, they actually feed into one another and what feminism strives for also helps the abolishment of the sex slave trade.
Violin & music – my musical life suffered greatly this year. Due to the busyness this fall, this semester was the first since high school that I was unable to participate in the local community strings group rehearsals and recital. I miss a lot of my friends from there. My beloved violin teacher Mary Volker died last December, and I have not had the heart to try and replace her teaching just yet. I have practiced little and just feel rather lost.
The Pittsburgh 48 Hour Film Festival
A friend and I were video editors on a film crew. We survived.
Long story short, the experience was pretty horrifying. Not so much for the make-a-film-in-just-48-hours, but more of the complete lack of communication in general and horrible lack of professionalism among the college crew. Plus, the editing program we were given to use was a total bust.
Mark for the negative column, mostly.
I seemed to have kicked my kdrama (a.k.a. South Korean television drama) habit… only to replace it with British drama.
I went and saw the Duck in Pittsburgh at the Point:
I fell in love! with Tom Hiddleston.
Haha! Just kidding. I think everyone in the world fell in love with Tom Hiddleston this year.
I had to throw that little joke in there. 
I’ve had a blissfully single year, purposely, and liked it that way.
I struggled a lot with self-expression this year and how to represent myself to people. I read a quote recently: “Politeness has become so rare that people mistake it for flirtation.” This is one example of my frustration this year. People constantly mistake my politeness for being a push-over. CONSTANTLY. I don’t want to become another rude American, but I do not like being dis-respected or belittled behind my back for not doing so. On the other hand, I have developed and am working on a new art series that uses my self-portraiture to express certain personalty ideas and to express my thoughts on social problems. I am very excited about it and hope to have enough completed to start revealing later in 2014.
I made a new friend.
Finances
This is an awkward topic, but to be very brief: The beginning of the year started out VERY badly, and very scarily. But as the year progressed, I managed to get my feet back under me financially AND got another job starting in 2014 for the unemployment season from my regular outdoor job. Progress, finally.
Overall, this is the first year since graduating high school that I finally felt like I was on my feet and had a leg up on life. It only took 7 years.
My New Year’s Resolutions
I don’t usually do New Year’s resolutions, as I believe firmly in doing what I resolve to do right then and there and not wait for another year – or even another day. However, this year’s New Year celebration lines up with re-upping a few of my resolves. 
1) Be Savage
No, I don’t mean go raping and pillaging. In fact, I mean exactly the opposite. It takes great courage and might to oppose a global society that thinks disrespecting women is okay and that human trafficking is no big deal. I’d like to call myself one day an abolitionist and a human rights activist, and being meek and quiet isn’t really going to help anyone.
Also, what I mean by this, is also not to be so timid. My inherent personality is NOT timid, but I’ve been taught to be so by society because I’m a girl. I no longer intend to live timidly. I want to live raw and honestly.
2) Be more verbal
I wanted to speak more about human trafficking and women’s issues. I want to continue combining my art with these mediums. And I want to continue remembering to think about other people outside of myself.
3) Be less self-centered
My mental health and finances and other areas improved greatly because I focused so much on myself this year. I don’t think this is a bad thing. But I fear I may have been less generous with other people. I try to shun materialism and keep everything in perspective – do I really need ANOTHER pair of heels when I could give that money to someone who can’t afford shoes to put on their own kids in the middle of winter? I’ve lost sight of that a bit this year, and I want to re-orient myself with this life philosophy.
4) Start reading my Bible again.
5) No-Sugar diet – A year and a half ago I revolutionized my life by eliminating excess man-made sugar from my diet. I cut out soda and allowed myself only ONE dessert treat a week. I also cut back to allowing myself only one pizza meal a week, as that was a major problem. I even cut out most cereals because of how much sugar they contain. This was NOT a DIET but a LIFESTYLE CHANGE. There is only one case of mild diabetes in my family, but after evaluating how much sugar I ate and after watching someone lose limbs because of diabetes, I decided I needed to change my life’s diet. The result: ENERGY. I can’t even explain how much a difference it made. I was a WORK HORSE this year, and I largely think it had something to do with the effects of this healthier diet. Plus, everything tastes better without the sugar addiction.
The reason that I am bringing this up now is because ever since about Thanksgiving, I have trashed this great diet and now have less energy. I intend to re-up and cut out the sweets and man-made sugars again.
6) Run my first official 5K race and work up to the level of 10K.
7) Play my violin regularly again. 
8) All my art plans, which I am going to leave you all wondering about. Stay tuned to see what all I’m planning for this year!

Happy New Year!

May 2014 bring you lots of joy and love!
Blessings,
Stephanie Opinger
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