Entries from September 29th, 2014

Summer Bloom

Monday, September 29, 2014

Summer Bloom
36″ x 48″

 I left town for the weekend in despair over this painting, the colors in disharmony. My nine-year old nephew Mason had declared the piece a failure. “I don’t like the petals or the leaves,” he said, in a statement that condemned most of the painting. “The colors are wrong, too,” he added, not at all apologetically.

I agreed, but I didn’t know what to do; I couldn’t see where it needed to go next. The thought of the dumpster occurred, and possibly setting down my brushes for good. When these thoughts come, I usually just need a little space from the work. So I took it, and tried not to worry that I’d lost the touch and would perhaps never paint again.

When I returned from my trip, I approached the painting with fresh energy. As I worked, the flowers changed, and changed some more, and then, like a camera coming into clear focus, I found the right balance and the painting clicked into place.

Rarely is it my instinct to step away and give the important things in my life the time and space to ripen. I’ve been told I was impatient from the start, eager to grow up, eager to get on with it, whatever it was. However, the natural world takes its own time, and cannot be forced. The same is true of healing, and art, and the great unknowns of the long horizons of our lives. So I need the reminders–that life and its natural unfolding can be trusted.

This painting gave me that reminder.

When I give time and space to a process, I just might be met by a bloom.

Art and Apology

Monday, September 15, 2014

“The reason not to perfect a work as it progresses is that, concomitantly, original work fashions a form the true shape of which it discovers only as it proceeds, so the early strokes are useless, however fine their sheen.”

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life (p. 16)

As I’ve worked on this painting, a friend has marveled about the gradual change from chaos to organization, about the many layers of paint and transformation that occur. “I had no idea so much went into a painting,” he said. “I thought you just painted one layer–that you just go straight to the finished work in one shot.”

Ha! It’s rarely been this way in any area of my life, and certainly not in painting.

Over time, though, I’m learning to appreciate the layers as they accumulate–each is necessary for the next, and I can’t see around the corner before I get there. Still, sometimes I catch myself apologizing to a studio visitor who sees a work in progress. “It’ll get better,” I say. “This isn’t the finished product.”

 But really, the apology is silly. In therapy, we say, “The only way out is through.” So it is with painting, too.

Effort and Ease

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Effort and Ease

My daily contentment derives from striking a balance between effort and ease, a creative tension that goes for art-making, therapy, relating to loved ones, tackling daunting work projects, and encountering the unknowns of each new moment.

In this emerging painting, I’m investing myself fully while easing into the process with as few expectations as possible. Here I occupy a colorful paradox, where concern and release walk together in a dynamic, exciting, and uncertain terrain.

For me, creation is as much the act of letting go as it is a building up.

A New Conversation

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A New Conversation

I sold the Survivors painting, and I’ve been missing  those big-faced flowers around the house. So last night I started this new one.

I had just two hours to work, so I gave myself a few parameters: Paint quickly, use all the paint, and follow my first impulse.

Working on a new painting is like the precious time connecting with a dear friend. I don’t get to see my closest friends every day; nor am I able to paint every day. But I carry our dialogues with me, and they enrich my quality of life.

With a new painting in process, I’m once more happily in conversation. As long as I keep showing up, listening, and trusting my instincts, the painting will lead me home.

Don’t use pink; skies aren’t green

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dont use pink

In order to re-engage with this still-unfinished painting, I had to break two of my own rules: Don’t use pink, and skies aren’t green.

The pink rule came from messages I received in childhood, messages about femininity, the frivolity of bright colors, and not drawing needless attention to myself through embellished appearance. I questioned this rule as I felt compelled to make pink leaves. Perhaps the rule has been limiting me, not just on the canvas but in other arenas of my life. Pink is putting it out there, without apology or self-censorship. Pink is flamboyant, worldly, exuberant, even childlike. I was taught that children should be quiet, obedient, seen and not heard. Seen, that is, but not in bright colors–not in pink. As the pink leaves came in, I realized I had ideas, not just about pink but (sorry here, if you love pink) about the kinds of people who wear pink, use pink, like pink. I had to come up against these rules and judgments just to paint pink leaves, pink leaves that won’t hurt anybody or otherwise cause damage or pain. Innocent pink leaves. And you know what? I love the pink leaves, possibly more than any leaves I’ve painted. Go figure.

The other rule, skies aren’t green, came from, well, never seeing a green sky before. The actual background color is a sea-green, which depending on the light, tends towards blue, green, or gray. In Tennessee, the green trees filled the skies in domes of luminescence. “Skies aren’t green” didn’t allow me to express the feeling of green skies. When I mustered the courage to break this rule, I was glad I did.

After working on this painting for much longer than usual, I’ve begun to think that commitment to a practice may be another kind of freedom.

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