My Wash is a Mountain…
Mt. Wash- ington means something entirely different in my house. A towering colossal of pants and shirts that seem a mile high stares down at me from the peaks of panties. I can feel a deep sigh materialize from the very pit of laziness as I begin to shovel a load of clothes into a reluctant washing machine. It is the never ending cycle of life and wash……….
What On EARTH does This Have to do with Art?
If there is only one lesson I learned from doing the wash it’s persistence. Seriously stop laughing…….with 2 remarkably dirty kids and husband the wash has life cycle all on its own. Making sure that everyone has the correct shirt, socks, and shorts on the precise day can be a full time job. There is an unusual amount of dedication that one needs in order to make this possible. Persistence is continuing firmly or obstinately in the course of action in spite of difficulties and opposition. If this doesn’t describe wash….well I don’t know what does than. But I digress, standing in front of my easel I erase over and over and over again until I draw correctly. Sitting at the piano I go through each note, line by line, tying together each measure until it sounds like music. Or I write lines and words, scratching and erasing paragraphs until it flows naturally.
3 different forms of expression all manifested through the same pattern of persistence. It was a concept that I believed was a God given talent. Much like last week’s post, I’ve learned that it is less about feelings and more about decisions. Will I push myself harder and further today than I did yesterday? Will I decide to erase that line on that paper that doesn’t look right or will I leave it and shrug my shoulders? Will I practice that song one more time or walk away? Will I knock on that door or shrink away from opportunity? Do I put myself out there exposed to the harshness of criticism and judgments one more time? Or is the definition of insanity, repeating the same actions expecting different results too similar to the definition of persistence?
That’s a question everyone asks themselves at some point in their lives but I take my advice from the strangest places sometimes. I revisited a clip of Robin Williams when he did stand up comedy. Taken in 1977, 3 years before I was born, I remember watching this as a kid and absorbing his message deeply. Grateful now that all of the adult humor soared way past my young head, his spark of madness is what imprinted itself in my psyche for years. “You’ve got to be crazy because what is reality? You’ve got to be crazy because madness is the only way to stay alive” – Robin Williams. It is definitely madness. It is certifiably crazy. It is “full tilt bozo” to hope. It is madness to believe things will change or be different. Is it madness or persistence to hope that the actions you take every single day will result in the outcome you want? But if you don’t have that spark of madness what do you have? “Nothing “- Robin Williams says. If there is no hope, than no actions will be made to make the outcome any different thus fulfilling its own prophecy.
So when I get up in the morning I have the same question I ask myself every day………have you decided to commit yourself to believe and hope that things will be different and work towards that belief? Though it is madness, though it is crazy, my answer is always a resounding and whispered yes.
What Are You Mad For?
Wash, art, music, relationships, jobs, politics, wishes and dreams…….I hope that you all stay mad!
It’s the kind of fall day that brings a certain weight to your body. The sun shines high warming my face while a cool breeze gently reminds me of what is coming in a few short months. I close my eyes to the blue sky and I sink into complete relaxation. Crickets chip in the background giving off that white noise that lulls me into sleep. I should be painting, drawing, writing………..take your pick to the should bes. But as you can see I am not. Now, I realize that there is a time during the week where I truly believe that a person should listen to their bodies and give into these impulses to do nothing but I’m finding the more I do the harder it is to get started again.
What Do Feelings Have To Do With It Anyways?
As everyone, I am sure, has the same thoughts that bombard them through out the day. I’m too tired. It’s too rainy. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. It’s nice out. I just don’t want to. I can literally go through a thousand of these little invading thoughts in nanoseconds that stop me from what I want to do by convincing me that it’s not what I “really”want to be doing. With kittens, pianos, and dishes I can keep very busy avoiding what it is I should be doing. Finally I’ve reached a point where the struggle is too much and inspiration is not strong enough to carry me through these short term blocks of creativity. I have found that motivation is a conscious decision where as inspiration comes and goes like fleeting sunlight in a New York November sky!
Motivation Over Inspiration
Inspiration is too fleeting, like a flirtation rather than a relationship, that is often one sided and leaves a person disappointed. It is intense but fizzles out quickly like a firecracker rather than the warm emblems in your fireplace. It often takes an eternity for it to arrive and I’m left to wait with nothing getting done. Instead, I’ve committed myself to rely and remind myself of my personal motivation behind art making. So, when the feeling of avoidance arises, I quickly take my pencil or apple pencil and get to work scribbling and doodling! Creativity is a flow that depends on me cracking open.
As Nike Says…..Just Do It
I’m taking their advice. No more arguing. No more self deprecation, no more criticism, no more excuses. Of course I’m referring to art making. Exercising will need more motivation than slogans and shoes! But my passion has always been the visual arts rather than physical fitness. However, I believe there is an incredible truth to what they say. Letting go of all the emotional baggage that weights me down releases me to the flow of creativity that is my life blood. My Herculean effort could be no more than a ball point pen on lined notebook paper but it’s enough to start that flame again. Once ignited, watch how the ideas bubble up! Apples become things of beauty, cats are graceful mysteries, light is heaven on earth and the trees dance to music they can only hear. The ordinary become miracles and the act of art making is so much more than making pretty pictures but becomes an act of devotion and prayer. Motivation is depth rather than surfaces.
What Is Your Motivation?
Whatever place you find yourself in….this is always a good question to ask yourself when you feel stuck or defeated.
Loneliness, I’ve read, is the source of growing mental and physical health problems across America. It is felt from the very young to the very old. As jobs hold more of our time than in the past we have less time to spend with those we care about the most. Coupled with social media,we are even more isolated than before. The aging population are greatly affected by this growing concern and resources are slim to accommodate the inflated need for companionship.
Once we have isolated ourselves from the rest of the world we begin to believe that we cannot relate to nor believe others can relate to, ourselves. Interactions can become difficult and awkward. The cycle of thoughts stemming from our awkward interactions validates our belief that we are, indeed, unworthy of companionship. Competitiveness and comparisons crowd our thoughts, and feelings of inadequacy reinforces that feeling of unworthiness. It is a difficult pattern to break.
This pattern can be broken though, through many different forms. Music, dance, journaling, meditation, prayer, spirituality are some that come to mind but the form that appeals to me most is the process of creation, namely of art. Not just because of the benefits proven time and time again by researchers, but because I have seen and experience this power before. I can list the researchers and the articles and the specific benefits that creativity can bring all day long but I am a personal creature by nature and I draw (no bun intended) on those personal experiences as proof. The many people who have come to my classes I have remained friends with to this day.
The creation of art brings people together by sharing the experience of creativity . Ideas, techniques, and frustrations as well as joys and success are all shared around the table. Jokes, laughter, concerns about topics that are much deeper than just how to apply paint on canvas come up. I’ve seen tears shed in laughter and in pain across the easels. I’ve seen children that never met before instantly become friends through their simple interest in painting unicorns and mermaids. Under the roof that is art, strangers from different backgrounds find their community. Art kills, for a time if not forever, this illusion of separation of the other. Art kills the illusion of us and them.
I know that the mass majority of us are not Rembrandt’s, including myself but why should that stop us from enjoying the elements that make up art? Do you ever stop yourself, dazzled by the intensity of a color or how the light dances across a face? Do you get lost in someone’s eyes, or become transfixed on a sunset. Before art can be made, beauty has to be appreciated and most of us have that innate ability. I urge you to find yourself a beginners class, a sip and paint, a drink and draw, and all the other clever titles that they might have to capture your attention, and take your brush boldly to a canvas among the many others who are seeking friendship to paint badly but without care for everyone can find comfort and much needed humor that lightens the soul. I promise you it is not like any other experience and most people walk away a little more connected. After all who could argue with all these smiling faces?
Her soul is blue
Though you’d never know it
She keeps it hidden in her secret place
Away from those who are undeserving.
She may paint it black or red with rage
For awhile and at times
It may appear yellow or green.
You may want it pink or purple
But souls don’t care want we want.
I saw it though, when she first was born
She opened her eyes and her soul is blue.
Blue like the autumns sky
Blue like my mothers eyes
Blue like a robins egg
Blue as the trees shadow in the snow.
Lines scribbled acrossed pages, brush strokes slapped on a canvas, your first hints of color arranged and laid out like a mosaic, trying something here and there but wiping it away and putting it somewhere else again. The constant measuring and re measuring and the drawing and redrawing that begins to mimic a dance. There are many starts, over and over and over again.
With 2018 just around the corner I cannot ignore the beginning of a brand new year. Beginnings, however, are messy, clumsy and often wrong. Many days I stomp off in frustration promising never to return again but only after I add one more thing or fix just one line. After awhile I have learned that beginnings are messy and wrong but the first line or brushstroke is not made in stone (unless you’re sculpture but in any case I’m sure there must be away to fix that!) and that I enjoyed the rough possibility that we call a sketch. For in that mass of messy scramble of lines some form begins to emerge. Out of the abstract, values take shape, out of chaos, order is born. From possibilities to certainty.
There is much comfort in knowing that perfection is not necessary in the beginnings. There is comfort in knowing that perfection is not necessary at all to make something meaningful or beautiful. And it is because of these stages that I am convinced that the Law of Entrophy cannot be the final answer for how often does out lives resemble this process. Thankfully, laws of physics apply only to heat and energy and not to art or the complexities of human’s emotional lives! I have observed, though, my real life beginnings mimic my artistic beginnings. Messy, uncertain, chaotic, often wrong but not written in stone. Art has taught me to trust those messy starts and believe in the form that emerges and that the light will eventually break through. I have learned that with each new beginning and new start, my experiences will help me make the right decision and guide me with my initial marks.
In the couldron hidden deep inside my soul, an idea is churning. It is definitely a new beginning. It will definitely be messy, it will definitely be chaotic and I will definitely make mistakes but I will trust in the creative process for chaos is only creativity finding its way to truth.
“First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.” Neapolitan Hill
“Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.”
― Tony Schwartz
Time is the best example of what I mean by a Paradoxical World. It is a paradox of meaning and meaninglessness. The universe dark and wide gives no meaning to time when galaxies are born in eons. Our own existence is rooted in thousands of years and our own earth in the billions. When time is in abundance it is meaningless. And yet much of our lives are dictated by this very meaningless object that scientists are unsure of its existence. So much of our limited lives revolve around time which inadvertently brings meaning and urgency to those moments we find significant and yet they flutter away like breath. It is indeed a paradox to have something so important like time be so very unimportant.
Human Frailty is the human response when we are confronted by paradoxes. I’ve placed a 3 dimensional figure in a 2 dimensional space where background emerges into the foreground and even encroaching upon the figure like truth encroaches on us. When faced with impossibilities of prardoxes, whether it is time, science, politics, or art, we have a tendency to shut down. We become inflexible, thus emitting all of our strength in denying what is in front of us, eventually collapsing under the truth of what we are trying to escape. Indeed our very lives are paradoxes at times.
But it is not my wish to leave this artwork on a negative note. I do not see this as a hopeless endeavor but as an opportunity to grow. It’s a continuous circle that loops for our benefit. As we circle downwards we will yet again loop upwards.
“The Universe is very, very big.
It also loves a paradox. For example, it has some extremely strict rules.
Rule number one: Nothing lasts forever.
Not you or your family or your house or your planet or the sun. It is an absolute rule. Therefore when someone says that their love will never die, it means that their love is not real, for everything that is real dies.
Rule number two: Everything lasts forever.”
― Craig Ferguson, Between the Bridge and the River