It also tells a little secret...that even some of the greatest artist of all time might not have been in control of their studios. Whimsical creatures and quirky characters seem to have a long history of dazzling and demanding attention, all the way back to the kaiba (oriental seahorse) and suisa (water rhinoceros) of Hokusai.
Don't tell that to the pig and the cat, though. Shhhhh.
I just finished reading The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, which prompted me to toss all my old journals and personal diaries. The author suggested we all have a box labeled THROW AWAY to store our personal items in, and then trust our families to do just that when we die. So I raced for the trash can with armloads of journals. Why? Because when my dad passed last year, we found a folder labeled FOR GEORGE'S EYES ONLY, and of course we opened it immediately. I can't unsee the contents of that folder, and wouldn't want any of my kids to be scarred unnecessarily by my own private whatever.
As the trash truck drove away with about thirty years of my scribbles, I was prepared to be upset - to feel that I had abandoned myself, as Randall said. What I wasn't prepared for was the feeling of vast space inside. A space that could be filled with new imaginings, new dreams, new anything. Hmmmmmm. That got me thinking.
My husband and I played "Let's Move to Nebraska" during Hurricane Irma. Lately that game has morphed into "Why Not Move to Oregon" and some daydreaming about living along the rugged seastacks of the Pacific coast. So I asked him during one of our nightly dog walks/philosophy sessions what he thought about leaving everything behind and beginning again. To my surprise, my stuff-hoarding man was open to the idea of re-defining ourselves and our space. But I suppose it isn't so scary when we would still have each other: witnesses to our lives and reminders of halcyon days gone by. Also our conversation was pure conjecture. A safe zone for risk taking.
But I am looking at my stuff with fresh eyes, wondering what else I can drop-kick to make room for more potentiality. I have been firmly instructed, however, to keep my fresh eyes off a certain someone's baseball hat collection.
Using ink in a painting is pretty much a forced surrender. The ink cannot be controlled, nor can it be completely covered. Like an old hurt deeply buried, ink returns - seeping up through gesso and acrylic paint, regardless of the number of layers. A reminder of what came before, and the need to embrace all that is our experience, even the parts we wish to bury. Ink becomes a lesson in making lemonade of lemons. Who knew certain art supplies mandate a personal archeological dig?
There is one aspect of the enso process I truly enjoy - vocal painting. The more theatrical of the enso painters use large brushes (imagine brooms) and martial arts stances, along with guttural growls and shouts. Now DO try this at home! There is something delightfully mischievous about shouting and growling as you paint circles with big arm gestures. Not to mention the looks you get from certain family members wandering by your studio door...though it might be more impressive if I weren't in a flowery bathrobe and pajamas.
And speaking of physicality in artistry, here is a previously unreleased recording of Prince, along with a video montage of his incredible dance moves to start your week off right.
There are forces in my life pushing me forward right now. Daring me to do this or try that, abandon one thing and pick up another. And then my fowl feathers sprout and I am all flapping arms and BAGAAAAAAWK. Nepo has no room for chickens: "Since there will always be voices calling us back, a central part of the work of awakening is the need to stand firm in our newfound wakefulness." Logic tells me standing firm requires strength, like a super hero chicken or something. But Nepo says no, standing firm requires honoring the gift of our sensitivity, our tender heart, and allowing that to become the source of our strength.
Our human nature turns us back from change because there is comfort in the familiar. "The only way is forward, a step at a time, becoming ever more sensitive and resilient," says Nepo. My sensitive inner chicken is going to need a cape and a mask.
Thank you, dear readers, for your many comments and shared stories about the art in your personal spaces this week! My underpaid assistant (um, husband, I mean) drew a name at random from a bowl this morning. Congratulations, Mary C!!!! A piece of art is on its way from me to you.
Over the last year, I've been curating a collection of art for my own inspiration. A piece here, a piece there. None with a decorative purpose - just following my heart's desire and grabbing those that move me (and that I can afford). Slowly, methodically they've been framed and hung. There are odd pairings and quirky bits, sentimental pieces and show-stoppers. It is nearly done. Nearly. What I wasn't prepared for was how much these pieces impact my day-to-day life. Walking into a room with something wonderful on the wall (or a couple of walls) elevates my mood and changes the energy in the space - I feel a little boost of joy when I catch one out of the corner of my eye.
As an artist, I hear a lot of industry talk about art being a non-necessity - that people won't buy it during troublesome times, that it is a luxury item and so on. And perhaps, for some, it is so. But through my own collecting I am experiencing the opposite: art is more necessary during dark days and uncertainty. It brings a feeling of hope and limitlessness, adventure and possibility.
And so I am curious, dear reader! What impact (if any) does the art on your walls have on you? Are there pieces you treasure and why? Leave a comment below. One of you will be selected at random to receive a small piece of my art. Let's deck the walls!
It must be whimsical week in the universe, as I was led to a post on the artist Tsuguharu Fujita, someone I'd never heard of. His art is whimsical and quirky, just as his personality and manner of dress. I've read he was quite successful as an artist, a testament to the popularity of whimsy even a generation ago. A kindred spirit from the past...thanks, universe!
If we drop further into the whimsical rabbit hole, we stumble across an online magazine dedicated to whimsy and a article introducing us to some current whimsical artists. STOP RIGHT THERE! There is a magazine about whimsy? Indeed!
Naive (or whimsical) art is a genre crossing continents and generations. It is a fast growing category, which some hypothesize as a response to a world which is increasingly dark and stressful. But what IS it exactly? "Naive art uses childlike innocence to lighten reality" says Nirel Matsil, Naive Art Online. Nirel further defines how naive artists accomplish this:
• Bright colors – Naïve art utilizes colors and mixed media that are not true to reality and often juxtaposed against one another.
• A childlike perspective – Naïve art often creates the illusion that objects are floating or positioned without anything solid anchoring them in place.
• Live creatures, people, and flora – The focus is almost always on animated characters and never on inanimate objects.
• Precision of detail – Naïve artists often pay very close attention to the soft borders, intense backgrounds, and fine lines of their figures and objects.
Maybe you fell asleep reading this description because you haven't had your coffee yet...perhaps a video is more your style?
the Pat Dews workshop, and I couldn't be happier with the result. :) I've got my sights on two more of the starts this week. Also in my viewfinder - Mark Rothko and Willem deKooning. Giants of abstraction and people I long to understand.
Even as the number of pieces in progress in the studio grows, I hear Mark Nepo's words tumbling about behind the scenes of my creations. "What we accomplish and create matters. But we're not defined by what we create. We're defined by how the engagement of our being shapes and creates us." Oooooooh he's a smart one. What defines me is how engagement shapes and creates me, even as I am shaping and creating other things. It isn't what but how. And in its circular and confounding sense of humor, with this thought the universe has just abstracted the concept of creating even as I create abstracts. Oy vey. I am gonna need more coffee.
Notes to myself on beginning a painting - Richard Diebenkorn.
I am secretly delighted by some of these....perverse carefulness is intriguing! As is using the destructive potential of boredom. Chaos, now, that is a steady state in my studio and in many of my paintings. It is certainly the state of my calendar. "Attempt what is not certain" - this is a call to ADVENTURE and EXPLORATION! Oh yes! My heart sings at that one.
And so, this little piece, following some of these rules on top of a workshop start, leaves me a little giddy and mildly euphoric. Can one be just a little euphoric? Perhaps that makes me just a smidgeon Pollyanna. :)
Jen Walls and her imaJENation