Painting as a Personal Process Facilitator

I received one of those dreaded phone calls.  My ex-husband had a stroke!  It wasn’t looking good.  A surge of helplessness arose in me.  And fear.  I live a distance from where he lives.  I needed to do something while waiting for news.  This painting is by no means a work of art.  However, this is what I was prompted to paint.  I call it “Prayer.”

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When I first began painting in 2014, it was all about following my intuition.  As I added marks to the canvas, I noticed images.  I defined some of those images.  My expertise at drawing, combining colors and making a painting cohesive didn’t exist.  However, intuitive painting was a good way for me to begin this artistic journey.

I quickly discovered, that like poetry and journal writing, painting facilitated my personal process.  In this particular instance, painting helped me to handle the big emotions and the feelings of helplessness.  (It has been a long road for my ex-husband, but he did recover from the stroke.)

Contemplation:
Have you noticed how your creative practice facilitates your personal life process?  Can you think of specific instances where you turned to your creative practice to support you in some way?

Appreciate your art-making.

Grieve Deeply, Laugh Loudly

pic2We’ve heard this, right?  In order to feel the joy, you have to feel the sorrow.  If you shut off one part of yourself, you are shutting off being fully alive.  How you relate to your emotional life is going to affect your writing and creativity.

Poetry has been the greatest facilitator of the big emotions for me.  Journal writing and painting are close seconds.  I’ve learned that as I’m able to be present with an emotion, I then pass through that territory.  I come out the other side intact and a bit more integrated.

To be an effective writer, finding a way to say “I feel sad” without explicitly stating “I feel sad,” comes with practice.

Below is an excerpt from a piece I wrote in 2011.  My parents had died six months apart following several years of their decline and concurrent family disruption.

“I stopped at Burger Express.  It seemed like a burger was called for.  Single patty with cheese, no special sauce, no onions.  Yes to catsup.  Yes to small fries.  No book to read.  Waiting for my order.  Staring out at the falling snowflakes.  Staring out at nothing.  Squinting and staring at signs across the street.  Staring.  The wait person calls my number.  I take the red tray and head towards a little tucked-away table.  A man sitting at the counter asks “Are you going to share half of that with me?”  I recognize an acquaintance’s warm voice.  I stop to say hello and tell him that my Mom died last week.  I am telling everyone it seems.  Now, the cook, cashier and waitperson at Burger Express know too.  He is sorry.  His Dad died a year ago.  His Mom, 84, lives an hour south of here.  Everything is so tentative.  He gives me a big hug in his bear arms.  “If there is anything I can do, let me know.” He adds “Seriously.”  I thank him.  How I’d like to be held in strong arms for half a day.  I think that would really help.  It gets old, this wrapping my own arms around myself all the time.”

In this short excerpt, do you get a sense of my grief?  Did writing about this help me?  In some odd way, yes.  I wasn’t in denial of these feelings and I found refuge through writing these words.

WRITING PROMPT:
How do you write about the feeling of sadness?  Typically, this type of writing is only for you.  Do you allow yourself to fully express your sadness in writing, poetry or painting or any other creative outlet?

 

 

Engaging the Fantasy

Date Night2Worlds emerge through our art-making.  Though they aren’t necessarily the agreed upon reality, they exist somewhere–perhaps–outside of the conscious in the unconscious, your personal or the greater unconscious.

What an interesting territory to explore and bring into form through writing and art.

For me, it is most accessible through painting.  I tap into it when I allow something to show and reveal itself to me.  I engage the conversation and follow the lead I receive through inquiry–“what is showing itself to me?”

It is the territory of the imaginal realm…

As defined by Mary Harrell, Ph.D.,

“As a first definition of the imaginal realm, I’ll borrow from Iranologist and scholar Henry Corbin (1997) who said that the imaginal realm is a subtle world, which exists in a field between matter and mind.”

And I like this one from Wikipedia:

“Coleridge distinguished imagination, which expresses realities of an imaginal realm transcending any personal existence, and ‘fancy’, or fantasy, which expresses the creativity of the artistic soul. For him, ‘imagination is the condition for cognitive participation in a sacramental universe’.”

Finally, this one by C. S. Lewis:

C.S. Lewis considered that “reason is the organ of truth, but imagination is the organ of meaning.

Creative Prompt:
Where have you gone lately, in your imagination?  Through your writing or through your art-making?  What’s your favored vehicle for visiting the imaginal realm?

The Dreamers

dandelion

 

WRITING PROMPT:
Through your writing and art, how do you address controversy?
How do you risk writing or making an artistic statement
about something that has both an emotional and political edge
for you and for many?

 

Origin

owl4An online dictionary definition of the word origin:  “the point or place where something begins, arises, or is derived.”

Isn’t that a word that we investigate over the course of our lives?  One of those words that invite the existential questions that humans, from serfs to philosophers, ponder throughout time.

The unanswerable…yet, we go there in our thoughts, perhaps more so in times of grief and loss.

Origin, the word itself, looks pretty.  Like I could design a painting around it.  That which emerges from the emptiness, the black hole, the no-thing, the fertile void from which everything has risen.

Writing Prompt:
Get quiet.  Sit comfortably.  Soften your gaze or close your eyes.  Imagine…nothing.  The void.  The emptiness.  The deep quiet.  The solitary feeling that connects you to everything.  How long can you comfortably sit with this?  Notice.  What thoughts arise and can you allow them to dissolve into the nothing?  What passing thought stops you and prompts you to pick up your pen and write?  Then, write for as long as you must.

Ah, Origin.

Greek Play–Antigone

In re-visiting an art form from the past, it is best experienced with curiosity and an open mind.  And, the ability to imagine time, place, character, the cultural and political climate also helps.

Another first for me (long ago, in High School) was being asked to direct (and narrate) a scene from the Greek Play, Antigone.  Greek translations alone can be stumbling blocks to a proud performance.  And to enter the mindset of the author, Sophocles, as he wrote about such universal and profound themes as freedom of choice and fate, dishonor and civil disobedience, a woman’s place in society, allegiance, state versus religion, power, etc.  His reality was for me, an extremely shy fourteen-year-old girl,  like entering a far-flung fantasy world.  Although, we could say that some things haven’t really changed that much.

I was both the director and narrator (a narrator figures prominently in Greek plays).  My cast of actors (fourteen year old girls!) and I took our assignment very seriously.  We rehearsed often and contrived our toga costumes and headpieces.  On the day of the performance, I came down with contagious conjunctivitis (otherwise known as pink eye).  I stood before the assembly of students and teachers draped in a dyed and styled bedsheet to resemble an authentic Greek toga, a leaf crown and wearing over-large white-rimmed sunglasses as I narrated a scene from Antigone.

The play was a great success.  The actresses captured the spirit of what we felt Sophocles wanted to convey.  We also shared an experience of another world, an escape from our own reality into timelessness and the connection that words can weave to much more than we were personally privy to.

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Writing Prompt:
Stepping outside the box of what you typically write about, avail yourself of an opportunity to see a Greek Tragedy or Comedy performed.  Does this stretch your own writing in some way?
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I found this five minute clip on Greek Plays fascinating.  Consider from where modern theater has evolved.

A Woman’s Best Friend?

bestfriend

One day a few weeks ago,  I had a plan to paint a forest fairy.  What showed up on the canvas was the eye and snout of a dog!  I don’t paint dogs typically.  I was going to force it into a forest fairy!

Then I went out in the world and had three encounters of the strangest kind.

The first:
What do you do for recreation on a rainy day?  A friend and I went to the local museum to see two exhibits:  1) Mount Shasta: Mystery and Magic–Elevating the Human Spirit and 2) Tattooed and Tenacious: Inked Women In California’s History.  By the way, I highly recommend both exhibits.
As we stepped out into the parking lot, walking towards our vehicles, a young girl ran up to us.  Her message was urgent.
“Would you mind if our dog said hello to you?  He really wants to say hello.  It would make him so happy.”
Who could refuse?

The second:
Later on, the same rainy day, an acquaintance–one who seldom frequents the local cafe– stopped in to get a hot chocolate.
He explained, “I was taking my dog for a walk and it started raining.  He doesn’t like walking in the rain.”
I asked “What kind of dog?”
He answered “Everything. Would you like to meet him?”
Who could refuse?

I took both of these instances as a sign that I was to paint this dog.  I came home and started to bring him forward.  Then I got this text from my daughter.

The third:
“Just saw Isle of Dogs, Of course I liked it.”
I hadn’t heard of Isle of Dogs.  (I’ve seen it since and thought it was a work of artistic genius.)

As if I needed more confirmation.  I texted my daughter an image of the work in process.
She said:  “She/he is so cute.  Looks like a lil wolf dog and looks like a dog from the movie.”

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All of this to say, when the universe sends synchronicities, listen and follow them.  Paint the dog!

Creative Prompt:
Be alert to those messages, especially the ones that come in bunches.  Follow the intuitive hit, the creative impulse, the prompts that present themselves over the course of your day.