This week's chapter in Nepo's The One Life We're Given is about grace. "Effort is keeping the break in our heart open, while grace is the light of everything not broken washing the break clean." There is a stream of life we all return to, in the end. A stream of unbrokenness, an unseeable river connecting all living things. As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (say his name ten times fast!) points out in his book, Finding Flow, we can join that stream when our efforts are wholeheartedly pursued, whether we are working in our gardens, washing dishes or painting. Effort prepares us for grace. We can't plan it or control when it happens. We can only dive in.
As January draws to a close with a super blood blue moon, it is time to dive in to the next thirty paintings in thirty days challenge. Let's wholeheartedly pursue some magical painting together under the blue moon. Howling is optional. :)
This piece, for example, was inspired by a demonstration by Jean Haines. Her style isn't my style. Yet something about her process whispered to me. Using a discarded piece of watercolor paper (it had some old sketch marks on it) and a number of washes and textures, these lovely blooms began to emerge. Truly a transformed "fail", this one. Haines' technique definitely follows the wind, and it is full of joy.
More from Nepo: We can't know what direction awaits us if we hover too close to the shore...we must leave the shallows...and make our way into the open, where we can drift in the deep. This is not a year to hug familiar shores, dear reader! Which has me wondering - what shores do you hug tightly? What might happen if we let go together?
"I faced what everyone has to face: the prospect of dying without having true lived..." from THE ONE LIFE WE'RE GIVEN
What if my life ended right then and there, just like Mr. Muscovy? Have I truly lived? Will the lingering sweetness of the last piece of perfectly ripe watermelon I ever ate sustain me for all of eternity? Have a tasted so much of life that I am fully and completely satisfied?
It has been seven months since my dad passed away. As I am sure many of you may have experienced with your own parents and grandparents, I watched the man discover all the things he really wanted to do just as life was taking away his ability to actually do them.
Nepo advises us to "honor the truth of our experience and learn from those who've loved us." On a day which, on the surface, seemed full of sadness and reminders of mortality, there was the gift of this reminder - we can chose to live wholeheartedly right now, seize this day, this moment, and wring every drop of experience out of it.
The universe, in its odd sense of humor and synchronicity, brought up this song on my playlist in the studio. A melancholic whisper with a haunting melody.
This month I was focused on revisiting failed paintings. Until I painted a fail on top of a fail, and then I decided to try something else for a bit. It might have something to do with a huge boulder rolling downhill covered in things gone wrong, unexpected stressors and contractors coming and going over the last few days. The muse isn't fond of distractions, interruptions and stress. Sigh. But I feel completely revitalized after playing with wool, and am ready to go back into the studio again.
Well, maybe I'll just order a kit to make one more animal first. In case I need more woolen therapy.
While we wait for the postman to deliver said kit, let's explore the meaning of the donkey as a spirit animal. Donkeys have the reputation for being stubborn, but it's really higher intellect and self-preservation - if they sense something is dangerous, they simply won't do it. If the donkey is your spirit animal, you are gifted with the ability to instantly trust your instincts and intuition without question - supremely confident in your own inner guidance system.
As a beast of burden, the donkey symbolizes being helpful to others. But there is a caution in there - be certain to set boundaries or risk becoming entirely immeshed in take care of others' problems. Your lesson is to learn to say "no."
If a donkey shows up in your life, it is time to make your own decisions, tune out the opinions or advice of others and to stand your ground on important issues.
Though often seen as less glamorous than other creatures, the donkey is an intelligent, gentle leader who guides others through the darkness. The perfect message for us during Martin Luther King Jr's birthday week. :)
"Resplendent Morning" - mixed media on gallery-wrapped canvas, 24" x 12". Ready to hang. Available on Artfinder.
We all learn as much as we wish to and no more. We learn in different ways, sometimes by not learning…. My way is by trial and error, by groping, stumbling, questioning. - HENRY MILLER
Oh Henry. Yes and yes. Trial and error...stumbling. My methods exactly.
The month of extreme painting make-over, flip or flop (art edition) continues. In this piece I tackled two goals - to make-over an old painting AND to add a new twist. After a field trip to Blick and a basket of florescent paints, I was ready to roll.
But first, let's define a "failed" painting. It can mean a painting that is obviously ugly. Or a piece that just misses the mark. Or one that I particularly liked, but no one else did (a marketing fail). Or one that everyone else liked, but I couldn't stand. Or, finally, a painting that is of a certain age that no longer qualifies for competitions and no longer represents my style as an artist. Sheesh! That's a lot of fails!
I'm a self-taught artist. While on the one hand, this makes me fiercely dedicated and determined, on the other hand it leaves me without a real root in art history. So I had no idea Henry Miller painted, or that he wrote a book about art.
But this quote...it is exactly what I do. I sneak up on whatever I painted the day before to see if it changed overnight. Most times, it has. Now I realize this is just my view of the piece changing with a little time and distance, but it is such an eye opener that it feels rife with magic. Some mornings I cannot wait to turn on the studio lights before even making my coffee, just to catch a glimpse of a painting caught unawares.
This month, I am focused on "failed" paintings...those pieces piled up in the corner or under boxes because they just didn't sing. This little sweetheart was one of those. She sat for months in the corner, looking sad and awkward, finished but not right. It's kind of funny, because I paint versions of this piece often, so you'd think I always get it right. But no, these characters have minds of their own, and this one was crazy stubborn. Until she wasn't. I am so delighted she decided to sweeten up and embrace the paint. I will be stealing looks at this one for awhile.:)
It is officially the end of the holidays here, with my son heading back to school today, the tree tucked back into the attic and the ribbon and wrap all gone for another year. My husband and I are mumbling about giving up treats and exercising more. The stores are bursting with Valentine's candy and cards. I fully expect swimsuits to arrive in the next few weeks (which only further emphasizes the need to exercise more) and then it will be Halloween...
Time is racing, running, sprinting faster than I can possibly keep up. And so I will drag my feet and dig in my heels, determined to slow things down. Which can best be accomplished by painting or yard work. I plan to do both.
The first art exhibit of the year was hung yesterday. I find so much beauty in these gatherings of painted souls. There is an abundance of creativity and imagination in the world; I feel it is full to bursting. Maybe this is the reason for swirling storms and cloud walking giants - an explosion of feisty creativity from color-saturated heavens.
And now, curl up in your blanket, grab a hot cup of joe and gaze at the people of the whale.
Normally, January 1st would see me diving into the semiannual 30 Paintings in 30 Days event hosted by Artist Leslie Saeta. Fortunately, she postponed the paint marathon until February this year, which gives me a lovely pause and a gentle slope to climb until then. It also give YOU, dear reader, the opportunity to consider joining in the melee! There is nothing quite like it to jump-start your mojo, and to give that pesky inner critic the heave-ho.
There is a cold front blanketing the country, even in Florida, where cool temperatures and rain feel like a gentle hug from Ireland. It's the perfect weather to organize the studio, contemplate new projects and to purge everything that makes me feel ho-hum. It is nearly a ritual with me, this clearing out of things that don't bring me joy. And that includes paintings and art supplies, many of which find themselves re-homed (or painted over) during the clearing process. This clearing process makes space for new things, experiences, people...like reserved seating for VIPs. We just don't know who or what they are yet.
Jen Walls and her imaJENation