This piece started as an experimental watercolor and an underwater sea creature painting. Oh yes! Sharks, manatees and octopi cavorted in a tangle of seaweed and bubbles. But I didn't love it and so kept tossing chalky paint and burnishing and marking until this star-gazing countenance appeared...the sea became the heavens and the creatures swam away. Following the paint is a twisty-turning path, filled with surprises. The one constant between the beginning and the ending of this piece is the orange. And if you're curious, here is a brief history of that color.
Ultimately, this version resonated with me. In the current chapter of Mark Nepo's The One Life We're Given, he delves into the three fears: fear of the past, of the present and of the future, and of a time when he was paralyzed by all three occurring simultaneously. The silver lining of allowing yourself to fully experience fear is to be stripped of all the tools and tactics for dealing with them until "the chance to rely on no tools at all but on the substance of [your] personhood, trusting it [will] eventually meet the wind like a wing." It's all there - right inside us. The very substance of our personhood is the only tool we need to traverse the land of fear.
Let's meet the wind like a wing today. And raise a pint to our guests!
Here at malarkey central, brokenness is a bit literal, since I am learning my spine is more and more restricted with the passage of time. My initial response to this is fist shaking, tears and a lot of juicy words. But as I lean in and meet myself where I really am (needing help, slowing down) I can see the lessons waiting for me to embrace them. Asking for help - that is a big one for me - recognizing that stubborn independence sometimes has a steep price.
Mark Nepo, in The One Life We're Given, advises us to see all of life in the one thing before us - to be present with devoted attention to right now. "The threshold to the secret kingdom that is everywhere, hiding in the open, is that no matter the pain or weight we carry, we're challenged to regard whatever is before us as the only thing that exists." And in being present we come alive.
Being present in the midst of brokenness means looking away from our suffering and into the eyes of the person we're listening to, the dog we're playing with or at the painting we are creating. In that moment, we are no longer separate from the world, but one with all, head and heart connected and outside of time. "Eternity is in each moment", Nepo writes, "I am no longer looking ahead. I'm no longer looking for something better to happen in the future. Instead, I try to give my all to every blade of grass..." The world is full of heroes right now - brave souls contemplating their own blades of grass. I aspire to be one of them.
I do a lot of sketching during festivals. And I mean a lot. Sitting still away from your own home allows your brain to wonder places other than to the pile of laundry and things that need to be done. My best inspiration comes while traveling or being elsewhere and forced to just sit.
In a critique group last week, the challenge was given to use unusual placement in a painting. As I sketched some concept pieces, partially obscured faces became a bit of an obsession. Look for several of these to come. In this piece I celebrate the Baleja family (my dad's Eastern European roots) and distinctive noses.
Also heading back to school are the kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I felt so privileged to be one of the scholarship judges for their art students yesterday. As I was approached by one of the comfort dogs at the school, I thought at first "wait, I don't need comforting!" but then became teary as I pet the dog, realizing I was overwhelmed simply by being there. I did need comforting. Posters and signs everywhere show love, support, strength...but those kids! Those young folks who returned to class amidst a massive police presence, guards, locked doors and memories are the strength of our future. I am humbled by their courage, determined to support them however I can.
The winner of the scholarship is a young lady of inestimable talent, whose life has been forever altered by the shooting. She is not only a gifted artist, but a young entrepreneur. Her art will be on display at the student booth at the Coral Springs Festival of the Arts next weekend, but for those of you far away her custom creations can be seen (and purchased) here.
This week I rolled out my website update, including a storefront! Woot! Eliminating gallery commissions by selling direct allows me to offer flat rate shipping of $15.00 for any size painting anywhere in the U.S.A. Take a look - let me know what you think. In the meantime, I appreciate your patience as this website is a work in progress, not unlike a few paintings in the studio. :)
In the meantime, I give you these little snippets of my studio, crammed with things that inspire me....small works I adore and haven't framed yet, note cards from the best people on earth. Words that make me ponder or smile.
When Danielle of GetNeat organized my studio some time back, I asked her to leave room for inspiration. And she gave me this magnetic strip which spans the length of my room underneath shelves that reach to the ceiling. It is covered from one end to the other, images clipped in stacks. It grows weekly.
This mini gallery includes works from Patti Bryan, Dotty Seiter, Carol Edan, Caroline C Brown, Susan Schanerman and more. Each of these artists has touched my life in some wonderful way (and they happen to have small works or notecards to collect).
It is vital to surround ourselves with uplifting views. Whether it is the art on our walls, the flowers in a vase or the views out of our windows. Our eyes crave visual candy.
The next chapter of Mark Nepo's The One Life We're Given is all about windows. There is an ancient dwelling called a cob house which is known for being built with truth windows - windows showing what the wall is made of instead of opening to the outside. "We would do well if our walls had truth windows, so we could be honest about what they're made of," says Nepo. But he is speaking of the walls we put up in our lives.
He reminds us that "windows go both ways, letting things in and out, and letting us see and be seen." Oh! Letting things in and out, letting us see, yes and ok. But letting us be seen...that's where we cringe and cower and close the blinds. Even posting this little window into my studio makes me squirm just a bit. Like the blog itself, a little truth window into my life.
So why do it? Nepo again: "...hard as it is at times, love your window open, and become the opening itself until your walls come down. When the walls come down, the opening is everywhere." Here's to becoming the opening.
When you were younger (or, perhaps even now, you wild thing!) you might have day-dreamed about changing your name. I always thought mine (Jennifer) was rather conservative and proper. It didn't speak of exotic adventures or the freedom to be unconventional. It was...safe. Don't get me wrong, it is a fine and lovely name. But as long as we're running down the road of day-dreaming, my inner wild child would choose the name Lola.
So when I am getting ready to speak in public or demonstrate art, I might occasionally call her out to give me a little more showgirl quality. WWLD? What would Lola do? She would sashay up to the microphone and put on a show. Lola isn't afraid of anything. Jen might be shaking in her shoes, but Lola is shaking off her shoes to dance.
Lola and I want to thank you, dear reader, for following us on this thirty day painting marathon...I am sad that it is over, but ready to rest and go back to a less frantic routine. Never fear, twice-weekly blogs will continue and 30 Paintings in 30 Days returns again in September. In the meantime, sweetlings, thank you, thank you. I am honored by your presence on this journey. xo
The penultimate day of the 30 day challenge and a return to abstracted seascapes. This one is an experiment with texture, with scored gesso over 300 lb watercolor paper and about a dozen layers of paint, scratchings and buffing. A little pink on the horizon for our happy Westley and Buttercup as they ride off into the distance to live happily ever after.
This is an especially special painting for me. Number 800. Yes, that's right - 800.
When I first set off on the path of art, I was advised to paint 400 pieces. After 400, it was said, I would know what the heck I was doing. I determinedly counted each and every painting until I reached that number (which we celebrated a couple of years ago right here, dear reader!) and then kept on going. So the question is, do I feel doubly capable after 800? Hmmmmmm. As with any skill we set out to master, the more I know, the more I know I don't know much. I feel more in awe of the masters than ever. More in awe of people in my art tribe who create astounding art. And more humbled by how many really grand artists there are in the world.
But I do feel less intimidated, more willing to try just about anything and less "in my head" about whatever I am painting (or needle felting or collaging). And I do get a sense that my hands just work even when my brain wanders off...like running and problem solving, I guess. Your body keeps moving even when your mind isn't all there. There is also a freedom from preciousness...I am less attached to the art and more willing to paint over it, alter it, tear it into pieces.
One thing hasn't changed in 800 paintings - the miracle of a finished piece. The ten foot view, when I step back and look and wonder "how did I do that?" and a sense of surprise. I am ever grateful to be on this path, following the paint.
Jen Walls and her imaJENation