A quality of The Art of Being struck me with force yesterday; there is no ‘blank canvas’ once we get started, not generally. We only get the one blank canvas, and ever after must add, correct, adjust, change, modify, paint over, or enjoy the work in progress, as is it is. I’m not complaining; it’s the biggest canvas ever, and when we get started it seems as if there is no likelihood of filling it with our vision – it’s that huge. When we start, we lack vision, we lack composition, we lack technique – but we also lack doubt, and we are not self-conscious about The Art of Being; we begin the thing fully engaged and present…and doodling, metaphorically. I mean…few of us are, as children, what we will become as adults.

"Broken" 14" x 18" acrylic and mixed media with glow.

“Broken” 14″ x 18″ acrylic and mixed media with glow. 2012

Yesterday, a bad bit of earlier work beneath some lovely very new work on the canvas of my experience produced a predictable enough moment of misunderstanding. I’ve spent enough time wading through the wreckage that it feels fairly normal…I forgot that it is ‘wreckage’, and shards of chaos and damage. Violence and ancient pain have left their mark on me, and although most days it’s just a smudge on the corner of my canvas, yesterday it was as if India ink had been spilled, blotting out a bit of the good work of later years, seeping through from underneath.  For just a moment, it felt as if perhaps the whole piece was ruined – it can so easily look that way if I forget that my metaphorical canvas never dries, and is never completed.

"You Always Have My Heart" 8" x 10" acrylic on canvas with glow.

“You Always Have My Heart” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas with glow. 2014

The challenge, and the life lesson, are once again about attachment. Attachment to outcomes, to emotions, to people, to moments – however lovely, moments are still quite fleeting, ephemeral, and in a sense quite unrepeatably unique. Life is always ‘live’. People persist in being quite human. The shadows cast by past violence are but shadows, however ‘real’ they feel in some later moment. Then there’s this; because so much of my experience is ‘made up’ content built of my assumptions, my thoughts, and my memories, filtered through my values, prejudices, and perspective, I am very much at risk of becoming attached to something that doesn’t really exist, isn’t what I perceive it to be, or isn’t shared in the way I may want it to be. The Art of Being is art because the limitless power to create even who I am has no rule book, no instruction manual, no single scalable process with a reliable error-correction cycle, no universally shared measurable quality that all agree is ideal…I choose who I am, I choose my words, I live my life…but it isn’t ‘paint by numbers’, and some days it obviously lacks technique, or skill…some days the art doesn’t move me, some days it isn’t pretty.

Unfinished canvas...what will it become when the moment arrives?

Unfinished canvas…what will it become when the moment arrives?

Take a moment to consider how little technical mastery, great design, composition, fame, or expertise actually matter when we see something that delights us aesthetically. I have been as captivated by a child’s unskilled painting as by a masterpiece; the engineering and craftsmanship are not the defining qualities of ‘art’, although some art certainly shows amazing engineering and craftsmanship.  I am finding this true of life as art, too. What moves us isn’t always easy to understand. Certainly, what moves us isn’t always understood by others.

"Kuwait; Oil Fires" 26" x 48" oil on silk.

“Kuwait; Oil Fires” 26″ x 48″ oil on silk. 1992

The Art of Being as an approach to learning life’s lessons, living beautifully and mindfully, and being the woman I most want to be is a powerful act of self-compassion, and self-nurturing; as a metaphor it allows me to take a step back, and view life from another perspective, as an artist at work on something wonderful might be inclined to do, reconsidering something on the canvas, and taking time to touch it up, or understand it differently.

"Communion" 24" x 36" acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details 2010

“Communion” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details 2010

Today is a good day for a metaphor. Today is a good day for life as art, and to study The Art of Being. Today is a good day to feel pleasure in spite of heart ache, and to love the canvas in front of me enough to keep working on it – and to do my best work, mindfully, and with love.

"The Stillness Within" 8" x 10" acrylic on canvas with glow.

“The Stillness Within” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas with glow. 2014