"Sweet Baby James" - acrylic on cradled board, 12" x 12" x 1,5". Ready to hang. Click here to purchase this piece on Artfinder.
This piece was inspired by the writer Karon Luddy (check out her out on Amazon here), who recently posted the following Wendell Berry poem:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
After reading this and feeling the call of the wood drake resting, I knew one had to find its way into a painting. But why the title, you might be wondering? There was something sweet about this bird, and he felt at bit James Taylor-ish to me, and the song popped into my head and attached itself to the painting. And recently, I've been thinking about babies.
I am past the age of having babies.
For many years, I mourned this fact, avoiding babies and puppies and kittens and their sweet smells and softness, overcome by sadness at the loss of this ability. No more wild kicks in my belly. No more exquisite moments of tenderness with the very innocence of life itself. It was much harder than I anticipated. I was saved from this baby drought by my grandchildren, who brought back the bliss of giggles and playtime and noisy toys and Halloween candy and freed me from mourning. If only they lived closer to me (or I closer to them).
What is it about babies (human and otherwise), that squeezes our hearts and releases sweetness and joy? I was delighted to find that part of the neuroplasticiy exercises required...required me to watch videos of laughing babies every day. Why? Because it releases tension, floods us with good feeling chemicals and helps us heal. Try it for yourself: babies laughing at dogs. Good, right? How about puppies? puppymashup. The Boston Terrier eating cracked me up. :)
I might be past the age of having babies, but I am the perfect age for enjoying them.
This post is dedicated to baby Norah, newly arrived in Listowel, Ireland and already causing grownups to smile, make silly sounds and fall hopelessly in love.
"Great Balls of Fire" - mixed media on aluminum, 11" x 14". Ready to frame. Click here to purchase this piece on Artfinder.
A new substrate to play with - aluminum! The same slick grooviness as Yupo paper, but a lovely hard board behind it and a fabulous surface to scratch into and make marks. I will be using this support again - it is divine.
This piece was inspired by a prompt for an upcoming show - RED. What is it about prompts I love so much? Skew the masters? YES! One image, two visions? YES! Collaboration? YES! Rescued dogs? YES! Mannequin legs? YES! Maybe because a prompt gets me out of my own preconceived limits, and forces exploration and experimentation. A prompt also implies other artists are exploring the same concept, and there is a whole universe of groovy energy when artists are all creating together, even if they are actually creating separately from each other.
Of course, this got me wondering...what if I had prompts in my life? Maybe today's prompt is EXPLORATION, for example. Just by imagining having a prompt for the day, my wheels start turning and my inner cruise director jumps up and says "YES! Let's get going!" and I feel more like taking a side journey in my day. Or if my prompt was SPA, I might make time for a long soak in the tub or a massage. If I gave myself the JUMP prompt, I might reach higher for some things that seemed a little beyond me or take a risk on something I'd been avoiding. Hmmmm.....self-prompted days sound quite adventurous!
Taking my own advice, I am giving myself the prompt SMILE for the rest of this day, which includes a bevy of appointments and a few ho-hum tasks. If I grin my way through the day, I am sure to find some fun and mischief in everything I do. I'm curious, though, dear reader! If you gave yourself a prompt, what would it be?
"Yepa and the Magic Blanket" mixed media on aquabord, 16" x 20". Ready to frame. Click here to purchase this piece on Artfinder.
It has been a week of random events, curious meetings and mixed energies. In other words, a discombobulated week. But the randomness and disconnection is humorous, I think, especially when I try to put it all together. So I run through the week's events in my brain, looking for patterns and synchronicity, and WHOA! Hold it right there! Salvador Dali came up twice this week! Once during a gallery event, and again on a random link online. It's the only thing I've got this week, so humor me. :)
I had no idea there was a cookbook by Salvador Dali. Or any book by Salvador Dali, other than art books. Now I am not the most art educated of artists, so it stands to reason I might not be in the know. But a surreal cookbook? Indeed. Check it out here. This is a book I want to cook from. It might not be as good as Lobscouse and Spotted Dog, favorite recipes from the seafaring novel series by Patrick O'Brien, or Fifty Shades of Chicken, a naughty cookbook I got for Christmas one year, but it could make for some interesting dinners (especially if wine is also involved). It might just salvage any evening where entertaining guests is required.
But while we are on the topic of books by artists...there is a little SUPER TOP SECRET project in the works that might just involve an artist and a poet (nudge nudge wink wink) who happen to riff off each other's work and might feel the need to put together something truly phenomenal simply because you only get one wild and wonderful life! And so, well, why not? Magic is in the making even as you read this, and perhaps it will be just in time to put on your wish list for Santa. I can hardly stop happy dancing throughout the house!
And from books by artists we can move on to books read by artists (well, this artist anyway), which would be Fearless Girls, Wise Women and Beloved Sisters, an incredible book of heroines in folktales which was given to me by a phenomenal writer. And one of the stories, which included a native american woman who wore a magic blanket, inspired Yepa to leap onto my art table and begin a drumming circle with the antlered animals . The cows and a gaggle of queens joined in, and they are now demanding breakfast. Sounds like the perfect setting for some surreal cooking.
"Wild Divine Child" - mixed media on aquabord, 18" x 24 ". Ready to frame. Click here to purchase this piece on Artfinder.
There is a huge amount of wisdom inside each of us. Likely enough wisdom to independently advise ourselves brilliantly on nearly everything in life. If we spoke to ourselves as gently, lovingly and wisely as we do to our friends and family, and if we actually listened to our own advice, I think we would all be really well-adjusted and zen-like.
Imagine, for example, if you could counsel your high school self on a few things. I'd tell myself to stop caring about what those other knuckleheads thought about me and just live my own wild and wonderful life. My young self would be advised to choose a wider variety of friends and to explore more in the arts. I might also tell myself those striped elephant bell pants were not flattering at all. And to be nicer to my sisters, because in the future I would think they were the bomb-diggity!
What things might you tell yourself when you first became a parent? How about not to fret so much about the mess, and to enjoy the sweetness of babies because they grow up so fast...and to go out and leave the kiddo with a sitter now and then, because it is good for everyone to have some separation. I would tell my young parental self to keep having interests outside of parenthood, too. Because they do grow up, and life needs to remain full and interesting after they are gone. And that forcing them to eat asparagus isn't really worth the battle.
When I paint, sometimes I think the characters are young versions of me giving advice to my older self. Like this piece, which tells me there is a wild divine child inside of me who loves to play in the woods and is both frightened and exhilarated by the woods at night, and I haven't given her much time in the trees lately. I will take her advice and get myself outside for some nature time.
In a true act of universal conspiracy of the very best kind, I came across a way to really give my future self some advice, just in case my 60 or 70 or 80 year-old self is in need of a voice from the past and a little wisdom from my own youth. At www.futureme.org , you can send your future self an email. It was interesting how really thoughtful I became in crafting just the right words for myself in the future - kinder, gentler words than my normal inner dialogue. As if I were sending it to someone else. It was a little "aha" moment for me.
If you decide to give it a try, I'd be curious to know - how did it feel writing to your future self?
"My Dear Old Friend" - mixed media on cradled board, 24" x 30"x 1.5". Ready to hang. Click here to purchase this piece on Artfinder
This painting has been a long time in the making. Not the actual painting, but the mulling over and contemplation part. It began two years ago when my great dane passed away.
About a month later on a road trip, a song came up in my playlist which moved me to tears. My Dear Old Friend by Patty Griffin. Since then, I have studiously avoided the song despite its haunting beauty, because it reminds me of Simone and the sweet pooch that she was. But a recent trip to Charlotte, the song popped up in my music and I let it play. Earlier this summer, my other long-time companion, a scrappy, ornery dog, also passed away. And I thought I was over his death - until the song played. The tears came again.
During my stay in Charlotte, I shared a sorrowful moment with my own dear friend who recently lost her faithful companion of fifteen years. And then another friend shared her loss of a pooch. And then another. On Facebook and in person....caring, compassionate folks who suffered the recent loss of their beloved dog. The universe was nudging the theme of this painting rather loudly.
There isn't anything we can say to each other to heal the loss. Time, a listening ear, a big hug. These things help. I think it's important to share our grief if we can. To tell stories of our little (and big) furry loves and to let the warmth of their incredible loving and loyal spirits become a part of who we are. And though I've painted each of my dogs, I wanted a piece to capture the loss as well. There is something about the loss of a pet - maybe it's the fact we could never use our words to tell them how we felt; the entire relationship consisting of sounds and body language without words. Perhaps we wonder if they knew how much they were adored. Or if we were forgiven for the time we got irritated and short-tempered. Or if they understood why we took them on that final visit to the vet.
I'm not saying the loss of a dog (or any pet) is like losing a person. But perhaps, in this small way, it is harder. Because the sum total of our communication was without the nuances of words in sentences, letters, emails, texts, voice-mails and videos. It all boiled down to the tone of our voice, the touch of our hands, the meeting of eyes. We wonder afterward, was it enough?
So this piece of art is born of the stories of those who have lost a dear one, the enduring spirits of the ones who've moved on, and one incredible song that, for me, brings it all together and helps me let it go.
Listen to "My Dear Old Friend" as sung by Patty Griffin and performed by Dance Dynamics below.
Jen Walls and her imaJENation