"Abstract Landscape, Sunset", "Abstract Landscape, Trees" and "Abstract Landscape, Waves" (three studies) - ink and acrylic on aquabord, each 6" x 6"
The final daily paint-a-thon for 2015, then a little break before 30 Paintings In 30 Days begins on January 1. Today's studio time produced a trifecta of abstract landscape studies with my fabulous Adirondack Re-Inkers on aquabord.
Making abstracts requires me to squint mentally. To soften the edges around everything and pick out the basic shapes. To back off from perfect details and look instead for the essence of something. A hint, a suggestion, an innuendo.
The mental process behind painting an abstract works very well when getting dressed in the morning. (Now hold on a cotton-pickin' minute, you might be thinking. Abstracts and outfits? Hang in there, dear reader!) I actually learned this fashion philosophy from my sister, who has a knack for putting together outfits which present the essence of a person, without getting too caught up in matching colors with textures and handbags with shoes. It's very simple, really. Once you've got your outfit on, stand back a bit from the mirror and squint.
Now this will result in a slightly blurry image, which, according to the experts, is exactly what most people see when the look at you out in public. People are not likely to notice that your whites aren't perfectly white, or that your navy blues don't exactly match. They may not notice that your shoes aren't perfectly polished or that your hair is slightly askew on the left. They will notice this blurry image and immediately form an opinion, which will replace anything they may actually see up close (for the most part - there are some details too oddball to forget, truly!) because they've already formed an opinion.
Notice how this reduces the pressure to find the perfect outfit? What it does require is for you to select colors and styles which suit your body shape and hair and skin tones. Then don't worry so much about the rest. The same goes with your hairstyle - pick one to compliment the shape of your face, and everything else will be ok. Your squinty appearance will be one put-together person!
Now go forward into the new year embracing your own abstract image, and ditch the close-up realism. You will be a walking piece of modern art, pleasing to the eye and drawing positive attention wherever you go.
These abstracts are available, framed or unframed. Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I Picked These For You" - mixed media on aquabord, 6" x 6"
One more creature under a full moon for this week's daily paint-a-thon, this one inspired by the Mercer Mayer children's books, which I read to both children and grandchildren over a 30 year time span. The slightly odd-ball humor of the forgetful critter with good intentions and awful results always made me smile, and sometimes got a laugh from the kids, too.
Throughout these books, the critter breaks things, spills things, loses things, forgets what he's told, runs away, starts bathroom floods and gets tangled up in everything, and yet ends each story with a sweet moment where he actually comes through on something successfully. He is the perfect example of human-ness, even though he is a little critter.
And this got me to thinking. How many times have I had the most excellent of intentions, but the results were not so good? A few embarrassing moments immediately came to mind (those will remain unspoken!) along with times I put my foot in my mouth, didn't think through a plan ahead of time, meant to say one thing but said something else...well, you get the idea. Just the thought of these unfortunate moments is enough to make me want to hide under a rock for awhile to avoid messing up!
But then I remember the endings of the books...where the critter somehow gets it right. And the only reason he does so is because he keeps on trying. Over and over and over again, without getting down in the dumps or giving up, knowing he means well and therefore it MUST work at some point! And there we have it - a fabulous example of the power of optimism. The belief that you have the power to positively impact your life by your own actions, even if it doesn't happen the first time (or even the tenth time). Maybe this is why I so fondly remember these books?
So go out today, whatever your intentions, and keep trying. Believe in your own power. And be kind and gentle to yourself if you have a few spills, tangles and mishaps along the way.
This piece is available. Framed or unframed. Inquiries: email@example.com
"Fiona" - mixed media on aquabord, 6" x 6"
The daily paint-a-thon continues with another sweet creature emerging from the board. This one a rabbit, who reminds me so much of my niece that I had to give her the same name! Also, my niece has the most irresistible rabbit on earth (Toby) and so this was meant to be.
We had a pet rabbit when I was growing up. Kelly was a mean bunny and couldn't stand to be held (at least, not by me) and therefore did not fulfill our expectations as rabbit owners. Seriously, what good is a warm, furry creature who doesn't want to be held or petted? And we've had other such pets throughout the years...a dog who like to bit the faces of small children (Snoofer. Was it his name, perhaps?), a duck who brought worms into the house after a hard rain and a hermit crab who hated being in the cage and would wander the house after dark, ultimately ending up stuck under a dresser or sofa somewhere.
What did all these pets have in common? None of them were being the way we thought they should be. But they were being exactly the way animals are supposed to be - wild. There is a beauty and fierce independence in that. Rebellious creatures, they decided to be exactly who they were, and refused to conform to the conventions of modern civilization.
I lift my teacup to these domestic rebels! There is honor in being who you are, even if you are a hermit crab.
It makes me consider Toby in a new light, however. As I ponder his incredible ingenuity in figuring out the magical source of food in his house, I wonder if some of our animals are likely to take over the word one day?
This piece is available, framed or unframed. Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org. Toby not included.
"Kiki" - mixed media on aquabord, 6" x 6"
The Daily Paint-a-Thon continues with a many-layered sweetheart named Kiki. This piece is another paint over, with the prior piece underneath adding some delicious texture and primitive roughness. Once again, I love this piece so much more repainted.
So I am continuing to practice training my thoughts. Now they require much more persistence than training a dog or even a dolphin, I believe. My thoughts will not respond to repeated offerings of treats, for example. Instead they will tackle me immediately with "you don't need that piece of (insert yummy treat name here), you need more exercise." Right away, treats give control back to my negative nellie. My thoughts also don't respond well to negative reinforcement, such as denying me said treats. They will, instead, tell me how it is exactly what I deserve, and why I should not expect treats ever.
How do you train a stubborn brain? My inspiration for solving this problem came from the news.
Whenever I see news headlines or hear the stories at the top of the hour, I am immediately tense, stressed, worried and sometimes downright frightened. It is an effective way for negativity to take over my thoughts AND my emotions, at least temporarily. I decided to hijack the headline news and use it for my own positive purposes. My morning journal pages have now become MAJOR NEWS HEADLINES OF OUTLANDISH POSITIVITY! Think I am crazy? Maybe so, but give it a try. Write yourself a morning news headline. Something like "FLORIDA WOMAN CONQUERS NEGATIVITY WITH NEWS HEADLINES" or have more fun with "MOOSE SIGHTING IN SOUTH FLORIDA - CROWDS LAYER THE STREETS WITH TASTY TREATS AND STOP TRAFFIC FOR MOOSE SAFETY WHILE SINGING IN PERFECT HARMONY"...you can do this, right? Maybe your headlines are more like "ICE CREAM CURES EVERYTHING! UNLIMITED ICE CREAM FOR ALL!"
All I know is this: after writing and reading a couple of outlandish morning news headlines, I am smiling and ready to start my day with positive thoughts. And my brain, so thoroughly entertained, didn't even realize it was being trained.
This piece is available, framed and ready for hanging. Inquiries: email@example.com.
"Edward in the Evening" - acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas, 6" x 6"
The daily paint-a-thon continues with a little color and paint on a dreary day. It has been raining here for awhile, everything cast in the soft glow of cloud cover and diffused light. This is a lovely break from the daily sunshine (I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where there are 276 overcast days per year. Sunshine can be oppressive down here!) and I find myself enjoying the way colors take on a different personality in the softer light.
This is a big day for us, with the return of a world-traveling son after several months of adventure! He will spend three weeks sleeping, eating and gearing up for the next six months across Asia and Europe. A brief hibernation before he sets off on the next adventure.
Hibernation is a necessity for introverts. My son is highly introverted, as are 90% of my family members (including myself), and we all recognize the need for solitude in huge quantities. Introverts are largely misunderstood. To be introverted doesn't mean you are shy or fear crowds. What is does mean is your energy is restored by being alone. Extroverts, on the other hand, feel quite refreshed after being with others, and crave company.
So no big party with crowds and noise for our world-weary introvert. Just some of his favorite foods, a quiet evening and a long rest before the holidays. With any luck, he might emerge from the cave by Christmas Eve.
This piece is available. Ready for hanging. Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Meahpaara" - mixed media on board, 6" x 6"
Three straight days of rain and the studio is beginning to look like a madhouse of projects in process. The dogs are pacing back and forth through the house - the natives are restless. And out from under the paintbrush appears this little creature under a full moon. Clearly, the painter is beginning to feel wild and restless, too!
Meahpaara means "piece of the moon", and she does appear to be lunar to me, casting a little glow in the darkness.
I am reading a fantastic sci-fi book called The Speed of Dark. Though it is futuristic it has a lot of interesting science in it, mostly dealing with brain function as relates to autism. I love when a piece of science fiction is rooted in science enough to make it so credible that I am drawn in completely, and this is one of those books. It deals with a future in which people with autism can choose to have treatments to remove the autism, and whether or not someone can separate who they are from how their brain functions. Would you still be who you are if you changed the way your brain processed information? Hmmmm.
What I do know is changing how I think about things changes the way I feel, which in turn influences choices I make and interactions I have with others. And I believe if I thought in a new way repeatedly over time, it would change who I am in some way. But perhaps people are more fluid than we think, changing over time with what happens both inside and outside, and it is just a matter of directing the change toward the kind of person you want to be.
And now that I have talked myself in a circle (perhaps influenced by both the shape of the moon and the circuitous route the dogs are traveling around my feet), I think I'll curl up on the sofa with this book.
This piece is available, currently unframed. Inquiries: email@example.com
"AJ" - mixed media on cradled board, 6" x 6"
The daily paint-a-thon continues with a little primitive portrait of a girl I greatly admire. AJ is a teenager like no other, and exudes such a strong and vibrant energy that I was not surprised at all when her visage emerged from the board today.
Teenagers normally terrify me (I've raised a few, so I have experience behind my fear), and being a teenager was terrifying for me as well. But lately I've noticed something wonderful...there are people in the 13-19 age category who are amazing and funny and brilliant and kind. No, really! And self-assured and creative and super intelligent. AJ is one of these people. And I find myself mesmerized.
So I started thinking - how would my life be different if I had been a teenager infused with these same awe-inspiring qualities? Immediately I knew I would have chosen a different path in college (something wildly creative and full of exploration!) and for sure additional degrees. I love going to school! And I would have felt free to express myself (how I dressed, what hobbies I pursued, who I hung out with and the things we talked about) without so much self-censorship. Now I do not have a crystal ball, but I can just imagine the results decades later - a purple-haired 50-something dancing and drumming in the back yard during a full moon.
But hold on a minute! I may not have purple hair (only because I am allergic to hair color products) but I have been known to immerse myself in a shamanic full moon journey, complete with drumming. Hmmmm. And I now have a wildly creative life and feel pretty darn free to express myself when I feel the need.
Perhaps my awkward teenage years did not interfere with my becoming just who I am supposed to be after all. And while I ponder that some more, I will continue to watch the new brand of teenager with awe and fascination, wondering where their amazing abilities and interests will lead them. Rock on, AJ, rock on.
"No More Bungee Jumping" - pen and ink on paper, 12" x 16"
Daily paint-a-thon continues with a return to pen and ink. There was nothing abstract about my feelings of pure panic today, so I returned to the human face and my beloved watercolors.
So why was I in a panic? My world-traveling son posted a video from Costa Rica. A video of a 500 ft bungee jump (his, of course) complete with helmet camera. Now there is nearly nothing worse than to listen to your child scream as they plummet to their...bounce back up. Holy crap in a basket.
Now of course he told me he planned to do this. But hearing about it and listening to it are two completely different things. And watching it with my own two eyes? Torture. Anyway, during this conversation I casually asked him "what's next?" thinking he would make some joke about eating crickets or getting a tattoo. But no! He actually had other plans. "Skydiving in Europe," he said. Like it is nothing. Good gawd. And I am sure there will be helmet-cams there, too.
Perhaps this is part of growing up (me, not him) and letting your children loose in the world, free to face daily perils of their own choosing. I, for one, will not jump out of a perfectly good airplane.
This piece is available. Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org. Helmet not included.
"Abstract Landscape VIII" (a study) and "Abstract Study" - acrylic, ink, pastel on aquabord, 6" x 6"
My daily paint-a-thon was temporarily derailed by a fabulous Thanksgiving week and then a much needed surgery for my dad. Today's pieces were created over the last five days, a bit at a time between festivities and hospital trips. My self-imposed challenge was to take two identical boards and media (including the colors) and create two abstracts: one an abstract landscape and the other a true abstract. This project was amazing fun and quite magical!
What I discovered while working two boards at a time is the beauty of eating a tangerine. You might be wondering if I've lost my mind here, but bear with me. I've been streaming some dharma talks by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk known for his ability to make buddhism understandable to anyone. One of his talks is about the practice of eating a tangerine really as a metaphor for how to remain in the beauty of the present moment.
Being present is challenging for a type-A multitasking productivity-oriented person like myself. And yet it is what I need most. The practice of eating a tangerine without thinking of anything other than the tangerine - its taste, texture, smell, relationship to the air, water, soil, clouds, people and how it feels to eat it - is actually really tough! If you don't believe me, give it a try. Count how many times your mind wanders away from the tangerine. But it is a beautiful, peaceful, restorative practice if you stick with it.
Painting these two pieces simultaneously was like eating a tangerine. I was so engrossed in the colors, textures, lines, movement of the ink on the board and the magic appearing before me that I felt fully and completely present. My mind was a blissful oasis of "now."
Go spend some time with your fruit! Fruit, like art, is a meditative and restorative practice.
These pieces are available, with or without framing. Inquiries: email@example.com. Free piece of fruit with every purchase.
Jen Walls and her imaJENation