Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The River Flow

I just received news that Tim, in his 40s, has approximately one month to live. He has been moved to a sunny, warm, garden enclosed, home-like environment. Full-time nursing care is available. Tim is fully involved with flow right now, a torrent of flow.

"Map in Green, Blue, and Orange" (July 23rd post) is dedicated to all that is Tim.

"Self Portrait as American Bittern, Hiding"

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Enlightening Shadows

"Map in Blue, Green, and Orange"

Thinking about how we drift in and out of awareness with others around us, life events, landscapes, even ourselves. 

In the lower left there is an area of fine blue lines on green background. While I drew these I recalled the sailers in the Patrick O'Brian books who fell overboard and often couldn't swim. 

The dog shape on the right feels familiar (as dogs are) but also references sloth-ness, the opposite of bright bouncy devoted dog-ness... contradictions within oneself.

The eyes-wide-open owl and the eagle-like owl, children's books and good/evil, predator/prey.

How does one bridge the gap between the sweetness of life and the cruelty. The whole spectrum exists and therefore is worthy of note. Literature explores in all directions. 

Those sailors Patrick O'Brian referenced, I wonder how many overcame their fear of the water and learned how to swim while in the doldrums.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reoccurring Theme Shifts over Time

Points of view are constantly shifting as we grow and experience change. What we do with the new information is directly related to how honest we are with ourselves. 

"Quick Fix" character. 2010.
Good for short term solutions.

Family working together to find
usable solutions. 2011.
Chances are being taken,
but there is a possibility
of long term strength
if you have faith.

Ms. Fix-it, from "Risk Takers" 2013.
She will try to fix anything worthwhile,
no matter how messy the project, even as she
knows she might get hurt in the process.
(Full drawing can be seen in June 5 post.)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Harnessing Emotions to Explore the More Difficult Themes

"Bravery by the River Flow"

I find it difficult to point blank produce art about extremely serious topics. One way to get into a topic is to do visual research, searching for photographs that stimulate a response, edify. A second way is more abstract: when one is in an extreme mood, one can harness the feeling to redirect the concentration away from personal topics and into a more universal, though intense, theme. 

Above is a painting just created yesterday using the second method. It has difficult content, but is a relatively safe image to view.

Painting with the red, feeling the intensity of the symbolism of blood or molten lava, honoring the heroes and heroines that have faced blood or disaster in all walks of life, reminded me of a series of tiny gouache paintings I had created years ago, using the first method I mention above, photographic research.

Back in that era I was discovering the horror of the brutality of mankind, and to process this information I began a series on genocide, inspired by documentary photography from politically distressed countries, places I had never traveled up to that point. A few years after producing the series I visited the general location of one of the brutalities I had depicted in paint. I was dumfounded that such an innocently natural terrain (so similar to my own childhood environment) could house the human atrocities I had beheld in the photographs. 

When one makes art about horrible events one wonders about issues of integrity. I really wasn't sure how anyone besides me would view these images. I knew I was honoring the individuals I painted, but I didn't know if this came across to the audience. At a small art showing a friend of a friend bought my most horrifying painting. It depicted a raped young Guatemalan woman, clothed and deceased, her arms crossed over her chest. Her hands had been severed and lay, palm up, at a small distance from the sides of her shoulders. The woman's face was peaceful. This painting was an accurate, though simplified, portrait of a real event in a documentary photograph.

I was so surprised that this piece of art should sell. I didn't ask why at the time. About a year later my friend took me to visit the new owner of the painting. The little painting had been beautifully framed, double matted in a manner that led the eye directly to the image. The painting was hung in direct eyesight, on the kitchen wall. Near all those knives. 

Why?!? I looked sharply at the new owner, who was watching me. She smiled sadly and explained. She was half Guatemalan. Her grandmother had died in a very similar fashion. My little painting was there to help her honor and never forget.

When we are mindful we are all visitors to this woman's kitchen, facing the facts of our own brutality. Or, if we can't go there, at least most of us can see enough "other" to honor the heroism of the stoic souls who are able to wade through very disturbed waters, whether they are fighting for their own causes or for the causes of a larger population. Policemen, highway patrolmen, military, doctors, medics, spiritual guides, even our grandparents battling distressing times. I am constantly amazed by the bravery I see in this world... thus the painting, above.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Painting Yellow, Scanning Yellow, Healing Gold

"Cocooned in Healing Light"

Above is the painting I mentioned working on yesterday. I have quite a few friends bundled up like this right now, dealing with tough issues such as cancer and mental illness. They are of all ages, from 25 to 80. We all could use a good hug from time to time from our friends. During these health reality checks that crash in and surprise us with the hardness of life these hugs (physical or spiritual) can be life savers.

If you know someone who is sick and needs a healing bubble of golden light, feel free to take this image off the web and send it to them. Also, if you want an original tiny painting to send to an ill friend, a painting similar to this perhaps, feel free to email me. I create new ones for free, asking only for the price of packing and shipping to get it to you.

So, here's a surge of golden light to spiritually strengthen the fights for health of Franny, Tanya, Tim, and Doc., all fighting cancer situations.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Golden Work as a Distraction

Someone asked me to do something difficult (not work oriented) for them. Kind of like a go-between action. I did my best, knowing I was probably stepping on toes in the process. Afterwords I had to sit with myself, wondering why I do these help/hurt actions for the benefit/non-benefit of others. It would definitely be easier on me to just turn my head and say, "You're on your own."

What does this have to do with art? Nothing really. But it sure did feel good to receive a new request for help from a different friend.  This person is asking me to paint a little image to cheer up someone important to her who is going through chemotherapy. Now that kind of help doesn't hurt anyone at all! And while I'm painting it I can forget about that other sticky business... concentrating instead on what it feels like to be healing inside a cocoon of healthy, friendly vibes. The illness may be painful, but, ahhh, that warm golden glow of loving friendship trumps all.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Yelps Heard in the Paint

"Lessons by the River Glow"

Not sure if this gouache is finished.
Thinking about who's who here...
Mother, child, heavy slurper, heavy headdress wearer, ear twister, twisted ear bearer, knotted soul, patient soul, timid toe dipper...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On the Other hand...

Maybe one is all that one paints.
Surely one becomes the box when one is acting like a box.
Why not likewise become the box when one paints the box?

(This pondering comes from a boxish corner of a boxish room in a boxish house that is boxed in by fences.)

Is Our Art What We Know?

"Kindness by the River Flow"
Pardon the color ~ the original is slightly more orange in feel. 
Painted about a month ago.
It's a favorite image so
I wasn't going to put it up now, but it helps illustrate
the discussion going on in my head, see below...

A visitor once said, "You paint what you know." A relative once said, "You are too emotional. You paint too emotionally. Stop the emotions."

I have spent the last two years exploring books, art, and life, wondering how those two observations meet. I assume there is an element of truth in both statements.

How can a great wordsmith write about an intense feeling without having felt it before? There are subtle physical details that might be found in medical journals, but to write with resonance it seems logical that the author would have had some personal experience. This translates into visual art as well.

In the above drawing/painting there is an old person, humped over. So far I haven't lived with a humped back, but I've lived with a woman with a humped back. Does this mean that I know what it feels like to have a humped back? Not exactly, but I can use my imagination to get closer to the truth than I could before she moved in.

This gets to the observation above about emotions in the artist and in the art. Zooey Deschanel states that her songs are not about her life, but are rather about emotions that she finds interesting: the lovelorn. She says happy content love is less interesting as a creative topic. She does not want to link her personal life with her professional life. Time will tell whether she is being honest with us and with herself.

Meanwhile I am wondering about which themes in songs are the most successful overall. Is Zooey singing to her audience? Is she singing to her own muse? Is she out of control emotionally? 

This leads one to pondering which themes in visual art are the most successful. Whoa! This makes one travel to different genres and cultures and towns and countries. There are endless answers to this question. Sitting here, back at home, I have Zooey's phrased "happy content love." I have had this most of my adult life. And yet it is a pleasure for me to create pictures that occasionally have intense emotional darkness. In fact, I find it downright boring to create pictures of just an ocean and a hill and pretty flowers. I have nothing against flowers. They inspire me constantly. But for artists of my type, there is not enough meat to them.

Getting back to "you paint what you know," I think perhaps I do know. I also include what I know as having come through books, movies, and observations of others, not just through my own personal experience. And speaking about the second statement, the emotional side of any artist: that intensity of feeling is uncomfortable at times, and can get us in trouble, but to stop the emotions is to wipe out the creative spark. There would no longer be art... just empty paintings of happy times. Totally unsatisfying. 

It is not about stopping emotions... It is instead about guiding sensibilities as best possible. Which is what we all do, really, when we are feeling in the flow of things.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Laughing Out Loud

"Golden Glow on the River Flow"

The art in the first post of this blog was created about four years ago. This "Golden Glow" is what I am creating these days. In between then and now some very tough life events occurred and a lot of letting go (dying) had to happen.

After June's reunion of childhood friends I received the gift of photographs of the people present at the get-together. The photographer, Jim, whom I had never met before, did an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the event, while not glossing over the soul. We are all human beings and living for 50 years makes a few dents in our bodies. Two years ago I wouldn't have gone to that reunion, couldn't have gone, physically or emotionally. But this year I did and the photos of me showed that while I wasn't the brilliant (ha!) person I was 4 years ago, I wasn't decrepit either and indeed was a laughing and responsive person once again. Thank God For That!

I have attempted to keep subjective pathos out of my blog, and out of my art, but an honest artist can't help sneaking a bit of this type of painful emotion in every now and then. Since I've always explored themes around the darker sides of human sensations (I'm forever trying to shine light on this area) I don't think my personal experience was too apparent to the outside. It did show up in my not blogging much during a few months in 2011when I stopped creating colored work for a while. Some artists get more productive when horrendous emotions take over. I stop creativity because I don't feel objective enough.

When I'm not creating I spend my hours, days, months, (hell, sometimes years,) reading books of all sorts that will teach me something I can bring back into my art when I resume creating again. These last two years or so I've enjoyed a lot of laughing and chuckling with a few talented humor writers. I've also stared out my window during the year when I was practically bed-ridden and found figures of nude women in the winter sycamore branches overhead to keep me company. I've fallen in love with all of the old souls who walk by my window day after day, bent-over in semi-grimaces of determination, still trucking on. 

We may be on separate boats but we are all on the same river. We all see the same rock formations. We all have the choice: monster or muse? As a thinker and a creator of images I choose to shine the light on those monsters and add color... and because monsters are usually just unknown or unloved shapes in the dark, the light transforms them into interesting surprises. (Look again at "Golden Glow" above. What does the guy see in that Bryce-like rock formation. It sure made me laugh when I found it!)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fortifying Memories?

The sketch above was created two years ago, and references adult major loss, but lately I've been thinking about how inside every adult there must be buckets of little kid memories affecting the way he/she swims through present day trials and tribulations. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

More Memory Art

"Mathematics and Memory"

It appears that I am now making a few pieces of art that refer specifically to people and places in my memories, inspired by the recent childhood reunion in Big Sur. I am not sure who will pop up until the popping happens, so it's all news to me.

I recognize the man on the right as David Lindsley, the "bad boy" 6th-grader who constantly got sent out of class for mouthing off to the teacher. My best memory of him was when I was in 4th grade and thought he was the bravest kid in the world, thus the rock solid column metaphor. He will long survive all of our memories even though his earthly self burned bright and out long ago.

That little girl in red might be me but might just as easily not, as I wasn't thinking me-ness when I drew her. Maybe she's "every girl in Big Sur who spent a lot of time watching others". The figure on the left I recognize as being either Carol Hartman or Amy Bommersbach. They are a year younger than me but had a far easier time than I up at the multiplication blackboard.

I also see Hurricane Point (or maybe it's a hill on the Hill Ranch?) The lower water/sand location might be Pheiffer State Beach. The dancers are clearly the free spirit of many a Big Sur soul. Those fisherman? They could be real or just metaphor.

When I started this painting the first thing I saw in the sub-paint was the back of the boy/man's head you see in the center of the painting. He is clearly a main figure but I can't say exactly who he is. I notice that he is almost disappearing, and isn't as concrete as David. He's also both young and old. Metaphor for transitional memories? People who are but aren't but still are?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Always a Student

"The Student (By the River Flow)"

Speaking of friendliness with water, per my post earlier today, here is the painting that emerged the day after my reunion. Clearly water is a powerful force, but friendly as well.

This is probably a portrait of Heidi Hopkins, although I have no idea of what she was like as a child, she being older than me and of a different social group. She is watchful and thoughtful now, so she must have been likewise then.

The owl inspiration may have come from Heidi, or from Dirk and his wife, who talked of the owls living in the woods surrounding their home. Or maybe they are just from me, because I have been putting a lot of owls in my drawing/paintings lately.

By the way, here's a good read about colorful pioneer-in-combo-with-cultured life on top of those glorious golden hills of Big Sur, back when approximately 250 people lived within a distance of 90 miles from San Simeon to Carmel Highlands... the 1950s and 1960s.

(Update: The painting now lives at the top of the Big Sur mountain described in the book, overlooking the sea far below.)

Meeting with the Past; Affects on Present Art

Went to a reunion of my 1st grade school mates, some of whom I hadn't seen in decades. Memories where being thrown around all over the place, some involving me.

I finally got to reveal to three girls (sisters) older than me that when I did a sleep over at their house (I was 3 or 4) I woke up having fallen out of bed and was terrified that they'd woken up before me to see me hanging off the side, a worm in a sheet chrysalis, hanging sideways with my sleeping head lolling about. I imagined horrible teasing coming my way.  Luckily no one else had woken up, and I somehow wiggled out of the tight sheeting, fell onto the floor and crawled back into bed without disturbing anyone. It was a relief to finally tell this story, to see all three sister laugh... and to hear no tormenting teasing. (That I had carried around this worry about teasing for this long is a hoot!)

No, I don't remember a lot of what others remember, but in a way I do. At the state park swimming pool something exciting happened in the shallow area where the water went up to my chest, when I was about 5. It involved a boy, but I can't say what happened or who it was, but I have always had a fondness for that spot in the pool. Jeff R. told me this weekend that he had held my hand in the pool on one day back then, just before their family moved away from the area. (Anyway, he thought it was me because my older sister says it wasn't her.) He was 7 years old. Today, after two days of searching my memories, I think maybe I remember this as happening. Why else would I be so fond of that spot in the pool, he being a good energy person even now, years later. The spiritual essence of a person sticks throughout life, no matter what age they are. This I saw verified so clearly in the mannerisms of the adults that I met who I remember only as children. They were so much themselves the same, just older and more experienced in life.

Another of my memories involves playing guns with a blond boy down at the end of our poppy field. I still do remember who this was. I was so excited by this experience that my little 5-year old brain went home afterward and named a tiny 3-inch skinny blond boy doll I had after this kid, Christopher. It was my greatest tiny kid grief that I eventually lost that doll a few months later. During this recent reunion the real Christopher, now man of many moons, told me I was the first girl he ever kissed, a 5-minute love affair for a 5 or 6-year-old boy. I laugh inside, because I don't remember the kiss but I remember the guns, and I also remember having multiple 5-minute crushes on that particular kid all the way up through my junior year of high school.

So, what has any of this to do with art? Just the simplicity of experience that appears when I create imaginatively. When I paint/draw chrysalises I create them with a sense of knowing (those sheets holding me tight). When I draw water I have a warmth and a comfort that might come from that early holding of my hand. (Because many other times I have almost drowned, and I still love water.) And in a way little boy Christopher can be seen in much of my art about children. I met him again when I met Skyler, the boy I drew flying kite boxes from a fallen redwood tree (1/30/13 post).

Thanks Mary Jane, Jeff, and Kip for the life-long content, and Heidi and Janet for the reunion experience. There are many more stories than these that could be told, including finding old friends who have turned into artists and craftspersons themselves, and hum with the excitement of creative lives. What a fertile garden paradise I grew up in. So odd, and so lucky an existence.