The day after...a day for reflection, rest, recharging batteries and digesting all I've learned over the past thirty days.
It's always a shock to see all thirty pieces together at the end of the challenge. Even though the styles and subjects are varied, I can see cohesion - more so than in prior challenges. But what I really look forward to is seeing the sum total of other creatives at the end of this month. I have learned so much from them and their shared processes. So I will leave you with one more quote before I dive into a few days of hermit mode:
"...what we really gain from the art making of others is courage-by-association. Depth of contact grows as fears are shared - and thereby disarmed - and this comes from embracing art as a process, and artists as kindred spirits." From Art & Fear.
And without further ado, I must now heed the call of bossy queens in the studio and begin to make the morning tea.
"I AM THE STORM" - mixed media on paper, 11" x 15"
To go to the Festival-!
Into the woods!
Into the woods!
Into the woods,
Then out of the woods,
And home before dark!
From "Prologue Into the Woods", Into the Woods
Is it that time already? Thirty days have come and gone. We've journey together through the woods, facing giants and fears and wandering through colorful trees. We've met the villagers, cavorted with queens, thought some very good thoughts and shared our stories by the fire over tea. Thirty paintings, thirty narratives, thirty lyrics.
As we emerge from the woods, are we changed? Transformed? Altered? I am. It is impossible for me to take a journey (even a metaphorical cyber journey) without feeling stronger, smarter, kinder...better than I was before. And maybe a little less afraid.
In the tradition I began with my first 30 day challenge (5 challenges ago!), I am ending with a self-portrait. This one in the style of Stan Kurth. As I emerge from the woods, a little tired and perhaps bleary-eyed from lack of rest, my spirit feels unfettered, determined, wild and strong. Tribal, even. Because you, dear sweet readers, are my woodland tribe.
"Culmination" - mixed media on paper, 15" x 22'. Unframed. Inquiries: email@example.com.
Deep within the woods, Cinderella had planted a branch at The grave of her Mother,
And she visited there so often and wept so much
That her tears watered it until it had become
a magnificent tree.
From "Cinderella at the Grave", Into the Woods
I do a lot of thinking on road trips. Something about the solitude and being forced to sit still lets my brain wander pathways it otherwise might not. Mostly I blame the music. My travel playlists have some real sorrowful songs mixed in with the sing-a-longs. There is nothing quite like the open highway and Patty Griffin singing "The Mountaintop" to make every hound dog in my heart raise its voice to the sky. And I can't tell you how many times one of these mental byways on a road trip has inspired a painting.
Stan Kurth said it perfectly: "My work is the collective unconscious and conscious images, dreams, hopes, jubilations, elations, loves, blues, joys, biases, frustrations and thoughts of my life." As much as I'd like to ignore the sad bits and heartaches, they are a part of the creating like anything else. And sometimes they are the best bits in a piece of art.
During the workshop, Kurth's feedback on this piece encouraged me to look into the work of Rufino Tamayo. I've ordered a big hardcover book of his art so that I may study it thoroughly. In the meantime, check him out here. I think he is a kindred spirit.
My mom's birthday was this weekend. She would have been 78. As I hit the road tomorrow to travel back to the land of sunshine and humidity, I have a feeling she might be along for the ride. You never know who you'll run into here in the woods.
"Off the Beaten Track" - mixed media on paper, 6" x 15". Unframed. Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
He's a very nice Prince.
It's a very nice ball.
From "A Very Nice Prince", Into the Woods
It's the morning of the big launch party! Love is in the air! But first, day two of my workshop and a little communing with our inner shaman.
I was drawn to the shaman archetype for this class and hadn't a clue as to why. Following merrily along the path, I bumped into him when contemplating a new workshop, painted him and then painted him some more. At the time I thought "hmmmm. I wonder why this guy?" So I set him aside and skipped along the next path without giving him another thought, knowing the universe would give up his secrets if and when I was meant to know. That was about two months ago, before the workshop dates were planned. (ok, this might seem a bit humdrum, but follow along with me just another step or two...)
Fast forward to this week, when I created workshop handouts and a lesson plan. I am researching both the earth mother and the shaman, when SHAZAM! There it is. The shaman is also known as the "wounded healer". Part of this archetype is the transformative nature of suffering, tragedy, loss and pain. The shaman endures a major trauma in his life (physical, emotional or spiritual) and comes through it forever changed. He then uses the knowledge and insight he gained from this trauma to help and heal others. Whoa.
Think about it: on this workshop day, the 100 Love Notes launch party takes place. And who is at the helm of this project? A man who endured incredible loss and turned it into a quest to spread love around the world. I am gobsmacked by the universe yet again.
My little painted shamans have new meaning for me now. And I am so looking forward to seeing who peeks out from underneath the paint in today's workshop. I know there are stories to be told.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the "Pay What You Can" event this month! A whole bunch of affordable paintings and drawings are on their way to forever homes. Hooray!
"Byways and Meandering" - mixed media on paper, 13" x 15". Unframed. Inquiries: email@example.com
[LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD]
"Come what may,
Follow the path
And never stray."
Just so, little girl-
So many worth exploring.
Just one would be so boring.
And look what you're ignoring...
From "Hello Little Girl", Into the Woods
Here we are, journeying through the forest, when we come to a crossroads. It may be one fork in the road, or perhaps a dozen interesting trails heading off hither and yon. What do you do? It is interesting to be an observer when others are making choices. Some people (take my husband, for example) will want vanilla ice cream every time, no matter how many exotic flavors are available. Others (like one of my sisters) will try the most interesting thing on the menu, even if there is good chance she won't like it, just to experience it once. And then there are folks who really struggle to choose at all, perhaps worried that any choice might end up being the wrong one.
It isn't much different with artists. Some of us love to paint the same thing, the same way, variations on a theme for a lifetime. There is a groove we get into, and there is no desire to leave it. Others are experimental, always using the latest medium, support or tool and have a huge repertoire of varied, exciting styles. And some feel pressured to make a choice between one style and another (galleries tell us to choose one style and stick with it - create a cohesive looking body of work) even if they aren't sure yet.
I don't believe there is a right or wrong way to choose which path to take, in the woods or in a creative pursuit. Except maybe to make sure the path is the one your heart longs for. Even if your heart wants to sit with the choice for a bit. Following our heart's desire makes us vulnerable, but not doing so is the certain path to regret.
There are a lot of voices in our lives advising us which path is best. The authors of Art & Fear tell us "the only pure communication is between you and your work." Whatever your creative pursuit is, you know the best path for you. Sit down with your work and have a little chat. The two of you will sort it out perfectly.
Just one more quote from the book, because it made me smile today:
"Art is often made in abandonment, emerging unbidden in moments of selfless rapport with the materials and ideas we care about. In such moments we leave no space for others. That's probably as it should be. Art, after all, rarely emerges from committees." Art committees. Hmmmmm.
I'm going to take this trail here on the left of the stream. I'll let you know where it leads me. :)
"Reverberation" - mixed media on paper, 15" x 22" (unframed dimension). Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Princes wait there in the world, it's true.
Princes, yes, but wolves and humans, too.
Stay at home.
From "Stay With Me", Into the Woods
Oh gosh - can I just tell you how I catch my breath when I look at this piece? It is another big stretch piece from the Stan Kurth workshop, and I couldn't be more delighted. It's like I've climbed a huge tree here in the woods and am looking way far down to the forest floor below. I can't believe I did this. :)
But I did. It was day two of the workshop, when I got good and mad at the underpainting - it wasn't giving me any clear pointers for where to go next. So I grabbed red, mixed it with gesso, and attacked the paper. Pure emotion, pure intensity and determination. I stopped thinking about it. And therein lies the key. I had to get out of my own head.
There is a lot of pressure when painting in a workshop. Twenty or thirty sets of eyes, people walking around and commenting and watching. It is easy to start wondering what everyone else is thinking about your work and get caught up in an inner dialogue that ties your gut in knots and interrupts the muse like nothing else. Getting mad is a good way to shut that up! ha ha! But don't throw paint at your table partner.
Kurth says: "You have the power within you to make art any way you want, without the fear of what anyone else might say or think. Turn off the internal dialogue with all of those critics looking over your shoulder as you paint. Let your intuition guide you." wow and YES.
It is tempting to stay safe at home rather than venturing out into the woods (or into a new style of painting). I am so glad we decided to head out on this journey together, dear reader! If you are experimenting with something new, I'd love to hear about it. :)
This is such an interesting concept. I am intrigued, and will begin to spend more time listening to my own work. I suppose the hardest part is setting aside all the emotion and opinions I have about my art. Kurth provided us with the perfect quote to keep us on the right path: "When you're in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you - your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics...and one by one if you're really painting, they walk out. And if you're really painting YOU walk out." (Philip Guston)
While I ponder this further, I am listening to a gaggle of bossy queens, who tell me what their art needs is more queens. Oy vey! Off I go.
"Home Before Dark" mixed media on paper, 15" x 22" (unframed dimension). Inquiries email@example.com
Into the woods,
Then out of the woods,
And home before dark!
From "Prologue Into the Woods", Into the Woods
We're in the home stretch of our journey into the woods. The last week. I am feeling a bit wistful, anticipating the end. The second chapter in Art & Fear says "fears arise when you look back, and they arise when you look ahead." Indeed.
This piece, created in last week's workshop with Stan Kurth, is an entirely new direction for me, and I am deeply satisfied in this space of chalky abstraction and symbolism. There is power and protection in this one. It is difficult now to recall just how many layers are here, but to give you a better idea, it began like this:
A big part of the lesson in this workshop was letting go...letting go of attachment to bits and pieces of the painting which did not enhance the overall composition, letting go of controlling the paint, embracing what happens and then letting the painting tell you what needs to happen next. Letting go of control.
It took me a while to get it. One morning in class, I had to shut out all the distractions around me and just think for about 30 minutes to understand what this painting was saying. It clearly was not telling the story I started with. But its story was better. I just had to listen.
The book emphasizes this lesson throughly,. "Control...is not the answer. People who need certainty...are less likely to make art that is risky, subversive, complicated, iffy, suggestive or spontaneous...uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all-pervasive companion." There is much more, but you get the idea.
So dear reader, we are out here in the woods, letting go of control. It feels risky - daring - brave. And a little bit wonderful.
Jen Walls and her imaJENation