Entries Tagged as 'play'

Delayed Gifts

Friday, August 21, 2015

“There is a sympathy outside ourselves that knows, carries, and protects a message sometimes long enough for it to be delivered successfully.”

Annie Rogers, from one of my favorite books, A Shining Affliction

10 years ago, my friend Christy gave me a Koi travel watercolor set. I felt intimidated by watercolors, and I didn’t consider myself an artist.

I didn’t use the gift for a long time.

9 years, actually.

But good friends have a way of knowing what we need before we do, and recently I’ve fallen in love with her gift.

The paints dry quickly in my small square sketchbook. I draw the lines with a Pilot rolling ball pen.

The three items together–paints, pens, and a sketchbook–make a great gift for a friend.

Even if that friend is as dense I am.

Even if that friend is yourself.

Thank you, Christy.

Rock Cairns 1

Paint as Play

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Couple

The Couple

24 x 24″

When I started painting, I was on a mission to recover my capacity for intuition and play. I was a serious child, probably the result of a heavy home life, and I never felt comfortable playing. I grew anxious watching TV, and I didn’t care for dolls, chewing off their rubber fingers when I’d bitten my own nails down to the nubs. I carted home library books too big and too adult for me, and I read all I could about slavery, the Holocaust, the Titanic. These stories captured my imagination because they were real.

Although I started painting to experience play, joy, and intuitive discovery, over time I’ve become more serious about it. For awhile this was fine, but eventually art felt too much like work, like a “should,” like an obligation. I wasn’t painting for me anymore, and it felt heavy.

This summer, I’ve been exploring painting as a source of play again.  I still feel some seriousness in the play, but that’s fine. What’s returned is an ease and humor, and a desire to let the paint lead me as much or more as I lead it.

In a talk on the writing process, Ray Bradbury scolds aspiring writers about writer’s block. He claims that writing is fun, joyful. He asks his audience not to buy into the suffering artist theme. Forget suffering, he argues, “I want you to envy me my joy.”  Bradbury says if you get a creative block, maybe you’ve just lost the thread of play. Maybe you need to pay attention, listen, and go in a different direction. Go where the joy leads you, he urges. Or, as Joseph Campbell famously put it, “Follow your bliss.”

As I reconnect with the source of joy and spontaneous creativity in my painting practice, images come more easily. I overhear my inner critic staging her usual protest, “Oh, that’s too simple, this should be harder. You should be suffering more.”

But I’m not listening; I’m playing.

Doing What Works

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Doing What Works

 “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.”

Mary Oliver, “When Death Comes,” New and Selected Poems

I realized again why I don’t like sketching or painting live on scene. When I’m amidst beauty, I can’t draw or paint it. I feel totally overwhelmed, any skill I have rendered useless. I admire other artists who can work on-scene, but that capacity did not come standard on my operating equipment.

I tried yesterday, sitting on a smooth rock in the middle of the rushing Pigeon River. A man was fly fishing upstream, and children were swimming and squealing in the far distance. Late afternoon light was filtering through the trees, dappling the clear water and river-bottom stones. I attempted to sketch, but I couldn’t communicate even the smallest bit of that beauty to the page.  So I put away my journal and just sat, and watched, and eventually walked a ways.

When I got back to the cabin, though, I wanted to sketch. Then, making art felt as natural as emptying my pockets of acorns, seeds, and river rocks. Self-permission to discover and do what works for me is the best kind of freedom.

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