I’m so ready for fall. It snowed on us at a beautiful wedding and we were just thankful for green trees and wet streets and warm coffees and fires. I love this time of the year.
It's all about balance, lately.
How to balance weighty expectations with the fleeting desires of the heart? How to balance that which seems to pull in opposition, as solid as the dug-in, earthy toes of great trees and as light as their cotton seeds borne upwards on the shoulders of the pressure systems surrounding. We are all storms and the roots that drink from them. How do we slate our thirst?
The trees have the necessary knowledge to manage their growth and their resources. Deep rings of wet wood show seasons ripe with dripping opportunity, ready to be absorbed and transformed into flesh. Drier years; (for there will always be dry years,) there are rough round remembrances of thin energy and budgeted time. Just another lap around the sun. Just another skin strung up to the canopies. But there is always the green. The little buds in spring that push forth from brown bark and stretch their little fingers towards the skies. Little curls of leaf open like mouths to drink from the air around them and they shake, slightly, under the weight of cold morning dew. A deep freeze reminds that water embodies more than life itself but also time, and we thaw in relief at the touch of the dawn sun. A slow stretch, upwards, and a big gulp of fresh mountain air. (Will I have to describe the smell of fresh air to my children someday, when we are sneaking sniffs of bottled atmosphere from tin cans in the midst of murky cities?)
I miss the forest, clearly.
No better time than today to dive into what fuels you. Fire consumes; and you must supply the sustenance to your fire. Do you feel burnt out? Go deeper. Find something to (ful)fill you. But tickets to a show. Go to the botanic gardens. Take a drive. Eat some cake. Listen to music you loved ten years ago. Poke the sore spot in your mind until you figure out why it isn’t healing. Sit with the exhaustion. Go to the bookstore. Remind yourself that this too is a part of the process.
(I'm posting this from last night. Spoiler alert, I'm in a much better mood today than I was then. I hope you all have a great day!)
One of the most memorable critiques I've ever received was one concerning my studio practice; it came from a man I deeply respect and whose influence I am continuously grateful for (especially when that influence pops up so unexpectedly, like this). Having observed my studio rituals for years, and understanding exactly where I need to get myself mentally before I begin to work, he told me that I had to learn how to paint when I am upset. He knew that part of my creative process was to first mentally arrive at my "happy place", and that getting to that state of mind propagated my focus and productivity. He also knew that there would be days like today, when I can't pay attention because I'm feeling everything, when I'm distracted by negative energies, when I'm preoccupied by anxiety over things I can't change. (Damn you, full moon, ripping me open again! **shakes fist in the air**) I have tried to learn how to do this with equally occurring successes and failures. . . but the truth is that I'm not very good at being a "tortured artist". I'd much rather paint happy. But I'm sure many of you fellow creatives can attest that sometimes angst manifests itself as a thoroughly muddied mess- but more often it produces master works of art, and without some connection to that level of emotion, the majority of artistic endeavors would be banal displays, void of any humanity. Either way. . . on a day like today, where it's hard to get in there at all, and I can only focus a little at a time, I'll take any successes in the studio.
I've been working on a painting that was originally intended to be an autumn piece. I'm impatient for my damn pumpkin spice and jacket weather to get here, for sure . . . but after seeing this little man yesterday, I haven't been able to get the image out of my head. It wasn't an intentional perspective whatsoever; I didn't have the photo open while I worked, I didn't color match the palette, and I wasn't trying to make a political piece or statement. I was just SO preoccupied with him today. With all of it. As always, the painting isn't dry or done, so it will change from here. I just wanted to highlight how easily influenced autonomous abstraction can be and why I usually have a ritual to clear my mind before I paint. It all goes in there.
Here's a list of charities that provide aid to Syrian Humanitarian Relief. Proceeds from the sale of this painting will go to one of them.
I've also been floored by photos of floating caskets in the flood waters of Louisiana- another image I can't get out of my head. I'm happy to hear that people down there are helping each other out so much, but it's a terrible shame that the media wants nothing to do with it. Seems like good press isn't even good press these days.
Sorry to get all doom and gloom on ya, kids, but that's just where my head was at today. I assure you all is well, please do not worry. It's just the cycle of things. <3 Tomorrow will be a bright day indeed!
It's easy these days to become disassociated from the world around us, and those who live in it. We are diving deeper than ever into an augmented reality where others exist merely as an amalgam of posts and photos, and our physical senses and expressions are filtered through a series of swipes and keyboard presses. Try to fight it, when you can. (She says from behind her keyboard . . . trust me, the irony is not lost.)
Here's some artillery:
-Go outside. Pokemon counts, but don't forget to look around you.
-Leave your environment better than it was when you entered it. Small things count.
-Try to hold each other up. The night is long and full of terrors; be a light source.
-Actively combat self-consciousness. Be silly, be loud, make eye contact, sing along with the windows down, say hello. Because everyone is staring at their phones anyway.
-If something's not okay, either say something, or do what you need to to make it okay. You don't get to complain if nothing's being done.
-Fix something that's broken.
-Kiss your dog right on his/her perfect dog face.
-Be nice. It's not hard. And it will make your life easier as well.
EDIT: Here are some additions from the comments:
-Complete some Random Acts of Kindness. They are real and I'll tell you it's the best way to brighten up your day if it's a sour one. Not by receiving a RAC, but by giving one. Damn if that doesn't just make you feel awesome.
-Two is one and one is none. Be prepared.
- Learn first names...Your server wears a name tag for a reason. I can guarantee it makes them happy when you say thank you "Insert name".
Let me know what else you do to stay rooted, friends!
And because I'm already up on my soapbox, I'll add that hydration, sunscreen, seat belts, protective gear, proper first aid, and a bit of an attitude should be used liberally.
What does this have to do with art? Everything.
I make art because I want the world to be a better place. I want there to be more beautiful things for everyone to look at. I want there to be more topics of discussion to bring people together, and art delivers that. Art is for humans, and as such it is infused with human emotion, human opinion, human perception; from both the artist's and the audience's perspective. Art is a soul-made product whether it is tangible or not. So I invite you to interact with art: Go find a mural in your neighborhood and stop in front of it for once instead of walking past it. Think about who made it. Try to feel out their soul. Communicate with them in the same way that they were communicating with you when they were working there. When they made that thing, they stood exactly where you are standing. They looked at that wall from exactly as far away as you are looking at it now. They cocked their head to the side in contemplation, just as you may be doing right at this moment. Think about them. I can guarantee that they were thinking of you.
Here's a lovely music video that showcases the impact of taking a moment to feel out the perspectives of others. The artist is one of my favorite musicians, Imogen Heap. The song is written from the perspective of a river who absorbs all of the emotions from the people who stop to look out across it's surface as they process their own lives, and responds with it's own emotions in turn. Be the river. Be the artist. Be the piano. Be everything.