"Just the Two of Us" - acrylic on canvas paper
It is play week in the studio. Anything goes! There are piles of canvas paper, yupo and watercolor paper with experiments, doodles, dalliances and epiphanies. And some of them are making me smile. This pair, for example. Beginning with a loose abstract on one sheet of canvas paper, splitting the paper and adding the characters. Keeping the color palette minimal was a challenge, but I like the primitive effect. This may spark a series, I like it that much.
This is the wonderful thing about play. We hear a lot about it. Play is good for you! Bring out your inner child! More play, less work! But if you're like most of us grown-up humans, play is hard. I can find so many reasons not to play. Productive, responsible reasons. I can procrastinate on playing like it's exercise on a Sunday morning. But once I commit to play, and then fall into it, my mind clears, my joy soars and inspiration appears. Hello, muse! Great ideas, born in a moment of relaxed exploration - play, apparently, is more productive than work.
Think about that. If you could accomplish more in your life by playing than by working, why on earth wouldn't you play? It is a question I am asking myself often. Along with, if I put "play" on my to-do list, is it still play?
This month's challenge - make time to create and blog twice weekly - was the perfect incentive for me to devote time to play. I create every day, but creating just for the pure bliss of it is different than intentional creation. I think we need one to fuel the other. Play, like fresh air, exercise and healthy food, is just what the doctor ordered!
"Rabbit Malarkey" - pen and ink on watercolor paper, 16" x 12". Ready for framing.
It's spring! And the rains have begun here in south Florida. Overnight, everything is blooming and green. Also, I learned that fall and spring happen simultaneously here...the leaves come down as the new buds force them off. We have mounds of leaves mixed with pollen everywhere!
This piece was begun during "Hare-Do!", a ridiculous rabbit doodling class I taught at Ciel Gallery last month. With the arrival of spring, it was time to complete this project. And these rabbits did not disappoint! Silliness and mischief all in one. These two make me smile.
During the class, students shared their rabbit stories. And let me tell you, some of them were HARE-RAISING! To protect the guilty, I will not repeat those stories here. However, one of the students is a bunny owner, and I have since been delighted with the photos of her rabbit riding safely harnessed in a stroller. How adorable! The perfect mascot for spring cuteness and irresistible charm. Now, if only her bunny were wearing a bowtie...
"Tools in Hand, She Sets Out to Paint the World" - mixed media on canvas paper, 12" x 16". Ready for framing.
I recently read an excellent blog post by writer Dana Kumerow. Kumerow posits this thought: a writer is someone who writes (read this most excellent blog post here: writingtowardhome ). It was an "aha" moment for me. Geez! I am a writer! As things do with me, this idea sent me down a rabbit hole of epiphanies. A painter, following this logic, is someone who paints.
Just as Kumerow describes writers who shy away from being called such, I have seen painters terrified of the the same. In the beginning, I was one of those painters. And even sometimes now, when in the presence of magnificent artists with decades of experience and goo-gobs of notoriety, I hesitate to call myself a painter.
My dad gave me wise advice on this concept over thirty years ago. I had just taken up running, and was entering 5k and 10k races, and was overwhelmed by the speed of fierce competitors who ran the national race circuit. Let's face it, I was never going to be fast. It just isn't part of my physical make-up. So I had taken to calling myself a "jogger." But my dad would have none of that. He told me to always, always think of myself as a runner. Because, after all, I was running. And something about having permission to be a runner improved my times, added joy to my runs and kept me running for the next two decades. I've since had to give up running, but I still delight in catching myself saying "when I was a runner..."
Kumerow's post reminded me of my dad's wise advice, of the importance of claiming who we are and the positive impact it often has on our self-esteem, the results of our efforts and ultimately on the heights we may be willing to strive toward. If we don't self-censor the words we use to describe who we are, there is really no limit to what we can attempt. And, until we try, we really won't know what we are capable of.
So grab your brushes, all you painters! Claim your right to go out and paint the world as you see it.
"Her Head Was Full of Fripperies" - mixed media on canvas paper, 12" x 16" Unframed.
A double challenge day! First, the March bi-weekly challenge. On top of that, using the word "frippery" as the prompt for a painting. What fun! And perfectly timed. My head, like this head-heavy girl, has been full of extraneous stuff.
The more I try to simplify my thinking, the more I realize how much junk is in my head. Unnecessary junk. The kind of junk that weighs you down before you even have a chance to roll out of bed in the morning. Do fripperies come in a swarm? Do they look like jelly donuts? Are they sticky? Becoming aware of the frivolous thoughts seems to produce more of them! Or maybe I just see them more clearly.
Anyway, this piece made me smile as it emerged on my worktable. She reminds me to choose carefully what I place on (in) my head each day, or risk looking (and feeling) quite ridiculous.
"Conversations" - mixed media on gallery wrapped canvas, 18" x 24". Ready for hanging.
The second painting for week two of the March challenge. This is a paint over piece. You won't likely see any of the original painting peeking through this one, which has many layers to create the textures. Just in case you're curious, the underpainting is one of the moon series pieces.
Showing art involves attending many opening night receptions and awards ceremonies. There are many wonderful aspects to these events, but for an introvert, the mere anticipation of such an event can cause enormous stress. Casual conversation with strangers or with new acquaintances feels exhausting. We don't always get the subtleties of social conversing. For example, we crave meaningful connection and depth in social interactions. Which means more than three minutes. So we find ourselves overstaying the three minute limit and wondering why others are moving away from us and desperately grabbing the arms of passersby to rescue them. Introverts can be conversationally clingy. Either that or we remain aloof, wondering how quickly we can exit the room.
Recently I attended a reception for a really gorgeous art show. This time I set an intention before I entered the room - easy conversation, connection and freedom from anxiety. And guess what? I was able to be a swashbuckling introvert (putting on my best daring pirate) and to find a few amazing take-aways from the show. Being truly present to the event and out of my own head was delightful.
This piece emerged from the series of conversations that evening. Individual connections weaving a tapestry of creative souls, richly textured, overlapping enough to bring us all together, albeit briefly, on a metaphorical canvas.
"Lunetta and the Little Giant" - mixed media on two cradled boards. Ready to hang.
For the month of March at Ciel Gallery's "Little:Big" show, another collaborative piece with contemporary folktale writer Robert Webb. This was the first collaborative piece for Robert and me, and it is the first public showing for this work. Ready to be enchanted? Read on:
Lunetta and the Little Giant
By Robert Webb
In a time that is all but almost forgotten, there lived a young boy in a village. In the beginning he seemed quite as ordinary as any of the other children. As he aged he grew very tall. He continued to grow until his twenty-fifth birthday. By then he had reached a height three times as tall as any man in the village.
At first, all the villagers marveled at the statute of this young man. However, as time went by, they became weary of his size. He was constantly crushing carts, breaking barrels and squishing any poor soul that found themselves beneath his behemoth feet.
Each day the giant became more aware and concerned about his effect on the village. He eventually decided to move away. He said his goodbyes and departed. He lumbered across the land and came to rest on a secluded patch of sand on the coast. It was there that he built a cottage and made it his home.
From time to time, visitors journeyed close to the giant’s home, but at first glimpse of the huge man, they scurried away and never returned. It was rare that anyone would venture close enough to even speak with him. This made him very lonely.
He spent the isolated days skipping large stones into the ocean. Each stone carried with it a wish of friendship. He hoped the sea would take that stone into its depths where the currents would whisk the wish around the world. Maybe then someone would come to visit.
One special day, when the giant was most lonely, he found the largest boulder on the beach. And with the greatest strength ever mustered by anyone in history, he lifted it and hurled it across the ocean. It skipped until it soared completely off the face of the world. There, in the heavens, it came to rest. As we all know, the heavens are a magical place. The boulder began to glow and take on a life of its own.
It opened its large eyes and looked down at the little giant on the coast. With an angelic voice, it said to the giant, “I know why you are sad. I have sat near your cottage and watched you cast the same wish into the sea every day. Do not be sad anymore. I will stay with you if you will just give me a name.”
The giant gave it much thought while the boulder floated patiently in the sky. After a long while he decided on Lunetta. She must have thought this name was very splendid because she glowed even brighter than before. As she promised, she stayed with the giant night and day. It was a wonderful friendship they both enjoyed.
Within a few weeks she noticed the giant was becoming a little thin and weak. She asked him if he was ill. He explained that when he hunted at night all the creatures could see him coming. Her bright glow made it difficult for him to sneak up on all the rabbits and goats that he loved to eat.
Lunetta quickly created a solution. She agreed to slowly fall asleep every month. She allowed the night to once again be covered with darkness. Once the giant had his fill and his belly was as round as he was tall, she would slowly wake up again.
This happened each month until the giant grew so old that he had a long white beard that reached the sand beneath his feet. He lived each day with as much happiness as the first day he met Lunette. Much like all things, the giant faded into time. But Lunetta continues to this day to slowly fall asleep and wake up each month hoping to see her little giant waiting there for her by the sea.
"Spring Transition" - mixed media on gallery wrapped canvas, 12" x 24". Ready for hanging.
Week two of the March challenge. I continue to be inspired by organic shapes and the emergence of spring. Moody winds are crossing south Florida this week, bringing warmer weather and banishing winter (such as it is here). Add to this a solar eclipse today (visible in Asia but not here, unfortunately) and there seems to be a clear transition from one thing to another with a full symphony of natural world accompaniment.
Inside I can feel the transition mounting. A sense of excitement, a little nervousness, spurts of energy followed by a time of rest. Things changing, yet unannounced. A bit woo-woo, but it is there, palpable. The change of season has this effect on me.
I find myself contemplating ancient peoples and their seasonal rituals. Many of these involve "spring cleaning" - the home, the body, the mind. Detoxifying and ridding yourself and your environment of negativity and things that weigh you down. I wonder how many of you do this instinctively? This week I've been rearranging things, clearing out unused items, smudging daily. Tiny repairs are getting done at last. Large projects (removing the 1980's wallpaper in one bathroom) are getting on the schedule after months of procrastination.
There is a sweet duck nesting outside my window in a pile of her own down. She's been vigilantly guarding her eggs, fluffing the nest, keeping them warm for about 10 days now. This duck is a new mother, young and inexperienced. She doesn't know what wonders are about to appear in her life, yet she faithfully prepares the way. Her instincts provide her with instructions for ancient spring rituals. I find this magical.
"Amber in the Rain" - mixed media on canvas, 18" x 20"
There is this bright ray of sunshine in Portland, Oregon. She is pink and sparkly and floats through the city streets like a magical orb. She is shiny when others are dull, brilliant when others are dark and dreary, and true to her heart even when it pains her. She is Amber, and this piece is her inspiration.
I believe in unicorns, fairies, dragons and wizards. And that they manifest in people. Come on, you know a few of these, don't you? People who seem sprinkled with pixie dust, enchanted and otherworldly. I have worked for dragons (fire-breathing nasty pieces of work), been mentored by wizards (people who make things work in the world, removing obstacles which seemed insurmountable) and played with fairies (the people who party all night without feeling the effects us mere mortals are plagued by). And I have met a unicorn. A human unicorn pure in spirit and sensitive to negative emotions. A believer in everlasting love and beauty, an enchanted person. Someone who makes you believe in yourself, your goodness, your potential. Someone whose mere presence makes you want to reach higher in your own life.
So when Amber reached out and suggested this piece, I felt magically enchanted and drawn to paint it. Blame it on the pixie dust, but when in the presence of unicorns, we must create without limits.
"Seedling" - mixed media on gallery wrapped canvas, 24" x 12" x 1.5"
It is spring here in south Florida. The nurseries are full of vegetable seedlings, young trees and annuals ready for planting. Our first spring this far south, where gardening begins while northern states are still shoveling snow and the ground is yet frozen.
This piece was inspired by a large, empty seed pod found during a morning walk, its husk still holding the dark imprint of where seeds once snuggled contentedly. Spring had arrived without my knowledge - seeds already freed of their pods and rooting victoriously in sandy soil. I wasn't prepared! What happened to months poring over seed catalogs planning my spring garden? Inside, I had been waiting for chilly days and bleak landscapes to spur my garden planning.
As I reflect over the nearly ten years we spent in our last home, I realize it took me many seasons to become in tune; to anticipate and plan at the right times. I had only just begun to know when the azaleas would bloom, when the leaves would fall, when to put tomato plants in the ground. There is a certain peace and serenity to feeling in touch with the natural order of things. I felt rooted.
So this piece of art celebrates our first spring here - the first lesson in nature's deeply southern moods and the first step toward synchronizing ourselves with a new landscape and planting our own roots in new ground. Where shovels sink easily into sandy soil and there is no clay to battle. Where summers are wet and wild and winters are dry and mild, and where spring shows up on our doorsteps one morning bearing gifts.
Jen Walls and her imaJENation