Archives for posts with tag: in the studio

I’m sipping my coffee and thinking about life as art. Authenticity, creativity, beauty… transcendence of pain, finding voice for those things in life for which we lack language or words… isn’t a life well-lived, itself, an artistic endeavor? Life, lived, as an art form, itself… means… what? Another day in the studio. Today, a lot of questions, consideration of the day behind me, work already started, unfinished – like life.

Who is the artist? A question for answering, individually, subjectively, personally. There is only one answer, for any one artist, really; gnothi seauton. The journey to the answer, is the life as art.

A woman told me, once, some long time ago in another life altogether, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body – I’m not an artist. I don’t do anything creative.” I took that at face value, at the time, and it fit my understanding of the world, then. I later saw her in her home. Her home struck me as a piece of fairly wonderful artistry, and the lack of paint staining her jeans, or dust under her nails, or bits and pieces of creative moments needing to be cleaned up didn’t detract from that impression at all. Her home was lovely, orderly, cared-for – each piece of memorabilia, each ornament, carefully selected, an impression exquisitely crafted – how is this not also art? Wherever she moved, she appeared to be quite carefully placed to communicate a mood, a moment, or an idea of beauty. The point I’m trying to make is that, as an artist, it isn’t really for me to define “what is art?” – only to define who I am, as an artist, myself. Those choices are not made of words – they are conveyed by my actions. By my art.

Words over coffee. It was a good day in the studio yesterday. Playing with paint – and chaos. I choose my materials with care.

A pair, 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/glow and UV. “Chaos Theory”

I did several pieces as pairs yesterday, specifically indulging my fascination with chaos theory. I started with two canvases, the same palette of colors for each, the same measured amounts of those pigments, placed similarly on each canvas, the canvases placed side by side, and worked as a single larger piece, to the same playlist. Mood, movement, brush strokes, technique – all as much the same as I can easily make them.  In every instance, of course, two different canvases still result. Not just different-as-in-separate-and-individual, but also just… different, as in – not the same. It was a fun day in the studio, playing with science, chemistry, and philosophy.

I spent the day in a meditation made of movement, color, and music, contemplating differences and similarities, considering the way I’ve carved up my life into “separate canvases”; the life of the artist, alongside the life of the analyst. The lover, alongside the angry woman. The professional, alongside the free spirit. The citizen, alongside the protester. I spent the day thinking about life as art, and contemplating this vast broad canvas of experiences as a single unified whole. I spent the day free of any constraints aside from those I have assigned myself. I answered a few questions – I asked a lot more.

I spent time in the garden, too. Another living metaphor.

I gardened later. I grilled a lovely summer evening repast. I meditated as evening came, and watched the dwindling twilight become night. It was the sort of day I could single out from among many and say “this is some of my best work”, as an artist.

Happily enough, it’s already time to begin again. The day stretches ahead of me, a blank canvas. You, too. What will you do with it?

I sat down with a state employee yesterday, a requirement as I go through the various processes involved with shifting gears from ‘gainfully employed’ to ‘not so much’ for the time being. It was inevitable, and as indicated, required. It was a pleasant enough experience, like a jingle or a pop song, purposeful and fairly cheery… with one wrong note. Discussing skills and experience, she dismissed both my painting and my writing as ‘hobbies’ and told me in a frank and practical tone that those “don’t count” and I “should stay focused on real work skills” when seeking employment. I laughed and playfully pointed out what a buzz kill that must be for graphic artists, and technical writers… she looked at me oddly and said she didn’t understand what I meant. Oh my. Say it with me, People, “art is real work, so is writing, so is acting, so is philosophy – yes, people can (and should) be paid to think, and paid to create.

Can we please just make one change in the way we view productivity? Can we please recognize the inherent value of creative works? 🙂 Hell, the most important work I have done as a human being has been artistic work; not a damned thing I’ve ever done for corporate America has been worthy of further consideration once the moment has passed. (This is likely quite true for most ‘gainfully employed’ human beings – most of the effort for which we are compensated lacks meaning, it is simply revenue generating for that employer, and therefore valued sufficiently for [required] compensation – and based on the brouhaha over increasing the minimum wage, they grudge workers even that.)

Again and again, I am struck by how reluctant we seem to be to pay artists. It’s a little weird, isn’t it? We pay the barista who makes our coffee, the cashier who rings up our groceries, the mechanic who services our vehicle, the firefighters who stand by ready to fight fires (and who get paid even when nothing is on fire), we pay CEO types who may do literally nothing besides attending meetings and answering emails (and we pay them very well), hell – we even pay athletes to play games they’d likely pay for free, to secure the reliable playing of the game at a venue large enough for paying crowds to attend. What’s with expecting artists – any kind of artists – to work for free? (By the way, working for ‘exposure’ is the identical same thing as working for free!) How is painting not work? How is writing not work? How is acting not work? I mean, seriously folks… if you allow the average CEO, or executive manager, or pro athlete to identify their compensated activities as ‘work’, then how is a painter not working? How is a novelist not working? How is a poet not working? Seriously? Don’t be dicks. It may not be easy to place a painter in a paid position as a painter – but for fuck’s sake is it necessary to denigrate that meaningful work, by saying it isn’t ‘real work’? I’ll admit to being more than a little irked that the government will subsidize farmers, but not artists. It’s easy to see that filling the stomach of the nation is important… Is it so difficult to see that feeding our hearts, minds, and souls is important, too? Would we perhaps be better human beings if we more easily recognized artistic endeavors as valued work? I think it is worth thinking about. (End rant. 🙂 )

work

Not yet ready for ‘real work’, there is real work to be done to finish moving into my studio. 🙂

It is a lovely morning. I plan to spend the day [working] in the studio, aside from one pause for an interview call. The practical requirements of life must still be met, and I hope to find a position from which I can invest more time in artistic endeavors. I feel unhurried and well-prepared. My traveling partner shared a great quote with me yesterday that fuels and encourages me. “Chance favors the prepared mind.” (Louis Pasteur) I take additional steps to be that ‘prepared mind’ as I live my life and study life’s curriculum, extending my studies into new areas that have the potential to enhance my existing (monetarily valued) skills; I have enrolled in some coursework in analysis and economics. (I continue to be a big fan of continuing education, and it has served me well over the years.)

Today is a good day to be spent on practical matters and taking care of this fragile vessel. Today is a good day to invest in infrastructure (through educating myself, tidying up my studio, maintaining an organized living space, and practicing the practices that build emotional resilience and self-sufficiency). Yes, there are verbs involved. 🙂

I like the comfortable safety of solitude. I know being alone is a different experience for each of us; for me solitude feels safe, calm, and vastly soulfully nourishing. The few times my anxiety has found me when I was solitary, it has been likely to be driven by fearfulness of others in my periphery, undetected, or uninvited, or imminent. In my worst freak outs, the best thing that can be done in the moment is provide me with solitude and stillness; for years I did not understand how easy it could be to calm me. I have the weekend to be solitary. I need this time very much right now; grieving is hard on the one grieving, and harder still, perhaps, on those near who are not themselves grieving, but cannot stem the flow of tears. I prefer to grieve in solitude, although… I like hugs a lot, when I’m crying…so…there’s that. Human beings are social creatures. I am, myself, even fairly ‘extroverted’…but I do love solitude, and crave substantially more of it than many people seem to…and rarely have enough.

This weekend my partners are away at a festival. I find myself smiling and wishing them well; I hope it is amazing. Work changed my plans and I am staying home. At this point in the week, I am not regretting the change. Festival attendance hardly seems appropriate to grieving – at least not for me. This week the world lost a young woman with all the potential in the world, and an entire future ahead of her. She was just 13. My cousin’s daughter. Yesterday, an Army buddy moved on to something beyond his mortal existence, at 60-something, having completed his mission in some sense, I suppose. I am not ashamed to grieve these losses. I still go to work. This is my way; in the midst of grief I grab onto what is practical and routine, and hold on to it. I tidy the house after work very attentively and mindfully, cherishing the sensations of touch, the subtle feel of space I am in, the motions of cleaning, straightening, moving from task to task. I commute, enjoying the sensations as summer shifts gears to fall, and people-watching with a curious and open heart. I work. Task after task, I follow each small routine of work and life with greater than usual care, walking a sort of emotional balance beam. As I do, I consider life and death, and grief, and honor the departed in my own way, silently eulogizing them, honoring the memories of shared experiences, questioning, reflecting, and celebrating what they brought to my experience. I am very aware of my mortality and the brevity of life when I grieve. This is my way. There are highs and lows, of course. It’s a process. There are tears. These are emotional experiences. It’s difficult, but feels fairly natural to me, the sense of loss, the hurting, the contemplation…and the pain diminishes over time. I am satisfied with the way I grieve. I suppose, now that I’m over 50, that’s going to come in handy.

Here it is the Friday ahead of a solitary weekend. Here in this still moment I am content and serene. This ‘now’ is just fine, thank you. I will be, too. It’s a choice, and there are verbs involved.

Grieving is a very human experience.  Detail of "Emotion and Reason" 18" x 24" acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow, photographed in dim light. 2012

Grieving is a very human experience.
Detail of “Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow, photographed in dim light. 2012

I personally find feeling ‘inspired’ to be a strange state that is neither cause nor effect in any clear and specific way. Sometimes I am inspired by something…which seems an effect, obviously, but I’m not always certain what inspired me. Other times, although I feel inspired I don’t act on it, and it causes nothing, existing merely as a state of being, or sensation. I’m often deeply inspired. I write. I paint. I take photographs. I craft small sculptures. I organize objects in space in a visually pleasing (to me) way. I build and craft things. I am a creative being. I consider myself an artist, and a writer. I write and take pictures pretty nearly every day that I am awake… painting is different. I am often moved to paint, but I only follow through when I have the physical space to work in comfortably, the time to set up and tear down and clean up afterward (having no permanent studio space), and exist in the context of an emotional experience that feels consistent with the inspiration driving my desire to paint; it’s that last one that makes or breaks whether I paint. That last one is as non-negotiable as breathing, and is less a choice of will than a limitation in ability.

Inspiration takes so many forms... flowers...

Inspiration takes so many forms… flowers…

---landscapes...

…landscapes…

...a quality of light...

…a quality of light…

...a metaphor...

…a metaphor…

...an emotion.

…an emotion.

This weekend I am painting. I’m excited about it, and my consciousness is saturated with inspiration – paintings and ideas that have been lurking in the shadows waiting their turn, queue up with exciting new ideas that arose in the hours since it became a certainty that I’d have the time and space to paint in solitude. At least for now, solitude is the only assurance of having that elusive emotional context within which I paint.

I’ve got inspiration…images…canvas…paint…time…space… and no idea of what will have come of it, when I shake off the drop cloths, fold them up, put away the paint and brushes, and acknowledge that the weekend has ended.  I know I am excited, now. I enjoy the feeling of anticipation, and the internal pressure of increasing inspiration, ideas on ideas, and the fun of making quick notes – not wanting to let a moment of further inspiration ‘get away’.

This will be my first serious exploration of mindfulness, perspective, and sufficiency in my work as a painter. I don’t know what it means to make that observation, and I don’t know what it will mean for my art. I haven’t done much painting living in this particular location, a mere handful of paintings over almost 3 years, and my last productive opportunity to paint was before I got to where I am, now, as a person. I am approaching the weekend with a beginner’s mind, and wide-eyed wonder. What will come of this? I guess I’ll know on Sunday. 🙂

There's always time for a moment of wonder.

There’s always time for a moment of wonder.

Today is a good day to try something new. Today is a good day to be eager, to be delighted, and to share the moment. Today is a good day for art, a good day for journeys, and a good day to love. Today is a good day to change the world.