It’s a worthy trend. Here’s the definition according to Wikipedia:
“Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality and environmental value.”
What a brilliant idea! We don’t have to go out and buy something new all the time…we can UPCYCLE. I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to what it means to be a consumer. Born into a consumer culture, I rarely stand back to see myself in action. Presently, I am looking at how I can return something for all that I get or receive. At least, I can review what I presently have and consider how I could upcycle.
A fellow artist had painted a beautiful painting of a meditating Buddha. It could not be improved upon in my mind. It showed mastery. When she told me that she was going to paint over it, I was stunned. Was it because she couldn’t afford to go out and buy another canvas? Because it didn’t meet her expectations? Was she that unattached to her creation?
These days, I have a lot of paintings at various degrees of completion. I find myself choosing an old painting and making it new. I preserve what I like of the original piece and what fits with what it wants to become. Sometimes, I gesso over the entire canvas and begin anew. I no longer find this sacrilegious.
I’ve done this with furniture for years…painting and decorating an old chair, for instance or an entire set of bedroom furniture. I have many very creative friends who upcycle clothing, stitching a ruffle on a skirt or mixing and matching the sleeves or adding a colorful placket on a sweater to create new apparel. Another friend gathers old wool sweaters, felts them and makes dog sweaters or cat toys.
This was an abstract painting of a river before I upcycled it to paint The River Goddess.
When I painted this piece in my journal, I was feeling adrift. So much was out of my hands in regards to the well-being of those I love.
I cannot pretend anything–neither false affection nor that I am practicing a devotion except for this writing and this painting.
Rain today, rain tomorrow. They’ve colored the sky gray. The optimism of our generation is deflated. We wanted to hold up banners of “BRAVA!” But we are too wise to think that things could be different, better. We are humans, only humans. Only that…is that true? or only an excuse? We are each the chosen one. The nadis–weave them all together–then, there’s a wholeness. In our disconnect, we are adrift in our own limited consciousness. Out at sea, each in his/her own skincraft. Aren’t we always looking for a friendly shore upon which to land. A welcome home sign, a cry of recognition–
“Yay, you’re here.”
In a way, I think of Intentional Creativity as a more logical (or masculine) approach to directing your creativity. The artist affects the process by choosing an intention. The intention propels the creative expression in a mindful way “to support growth and healing.” In other words, the artist “creates around their intention.”
Of equal value is unintentional creativity which I consider a “feminine” or intuitive approach to initiating making art. Making random marks on a fresh canvas, dripping or swiping colors over the canvas, paint doodling, intuitively choosing colors, layering, etc. could seem to be “going nowhere.” However, what I’ve found is that this is an opportunity for the deeper psyche to express itself. As I get to a certain stage in this free play process, I might begin to see shapes, images rising to the surface of my awareness. Some of them I bring forth, others retreat into the background. Some I paint or collage over, others I refine.
This is my preference for now. That said, I notice that once I paint the “I don’t know where this is going random marks,” I get to the place of crafting a painting. Then my marks become more intentional as I bring a piece into its final form. I can’t say that I have chosen a specific intention for the painting even at this point. I’m allowing the piece to show and tell me what wants to be revealed.
Truly, both styles of painting overlap and weave through any process. However, when I try to “force” my painting to go a certain way, I find that I can be blocked. Any piece has a sort of self-determination.
I painted the piece below to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. For me, painting this felt like a wild ride that intensified as I went. Painting is an energetic process. There is the possibility of transformation both of the canvas and one’s own emotional state.
I live in the mountains of northern California. In early 2018, my sister, Kathy, moved one hour south of me at at a lower elevation. Prior to moving, Kathy had fought cancer for several years. She followed her own instincts in treating it. In January, 2018, she opted for chemotherapy.
Following is an excerpt from my journal at this time.
Angels meet and greet. Glances exchanged, hearts engaged, hands touch–sisters–when the end is near, the truth becomes clearer. I couldn’t drive her to her first chemo appointment. It was yesterday. It was rescheduled from last week. Last week, I had a good excuse–a big snowstorm. My sister, lymphedema in her right arm–swollen beyond recognition. A warrioress with literal wounds. A bandage is swathed under her arm and across her chest. This wound that hasn’t healed–the bandages need to be changed daily.
My word today is truth. Her word is courage.
I told her that I couldn’t drive her because I couldn’t sit there beside her in the hospital as she underwent this intravenous process. I wouldn’t have been the best support. She thanked me for telling her my truth. If we can’t be straight with one another now, when?
She got her hair cut short. She asked me to knit her a hat, which I began working on immediately. I painted her a picture of a woman surrounded by butterflies. I think that she’s going to make it. We need optimism. Truth is, I don’t know very much. The mystery is here, is in us, is around us, is us. Nature helps. I send her daily photos of the nature where I live to calm and center her. To support her with beauty.
Truth is, some days I think that she’s doing better than me. Truth is, love is a strange animal–she is always showing up at odd times, giving us opportunities.
Like that night I sat on a log beside my driveway, stargazing. It was so peaceful, I shut my eyes. A visiting cat sat beside me. Out of the shrubbery beside me, a rustle. Opening my eyes, I see a creature emerging. I can’t name it immediately. And then,
Skunk. A few feet apart, we stare at one another. Neither of us felt threatened. I watched him waddle away. Truth is, it felt like love. Does recognition equal love?
Truth as an expression of love. I love you enough to tell you the truth. Is there something that stands in the way of truth? At least, I can try telling it to myself. When my parents were in their declining years and the family was in chaos, I began a poem with this line:
“Truth lies in a shallow grave
while perspectives hang out everywhere…”
2020 feels auspicious. In the mountains, we are expecting snow and rain, that wintry mix. I am appreciating winter for a good winter promises an abundant spring. These days, I am also grateful for the inward time that winter proffers. Did I use that word correctly?
A little poem, a couplet, that I came across in one of my journals:
A bed of earth below which lays
a startle of forceful green relays
the message that beneath tamped earth
there is the promise of rebirth.
I’ve been painting again. I wasn’t painting for awhile. I’ve been grieving three intimate losses in a ten month period. You might know that grief is it’s own country. When you go there, everyday life takes on a different sheen.
Anyway, this painting began with a large sheet of watercolor paper (18″ x 24″). I wrote down my feelings about grief. Then, surprisingly, emerging from this came my version of “Puss n’ Boots.” See below.
Blessings to everyone as we go forth.
…is an entry point, a place you might not usually notice…for a moment, it is visible. And then it seems to dissolve into the ethers, defined as “the essence of the universe.” You enter rather spontaneously or you might miss it entirely. A lost opportunity. Hesitation, over-consideration, distractions camouflage the opening. If you enter, you are in new territory. You can be certain of disorientation. Remember Alice in Wonderland and the rabbit hole?
I remember a time when I was hiking at Southgate Meadows on Mount Shasta. It was my birthday. A friend had tied a scarf, a birthday gift from her, around my curls and I had set out alone. After hiking a couple of hours, I came across a bubbling spring. The sound of it was like a herald. A man, also hiking, stopped and told me that this spot was a portal. He said that if I sat and listened for awhile, I might be able to hear the quality of musical notes that the water running over the rocks was creating. That a certain combination of sounds produced an opening, a portal. He wandered on. I sat and listened. There was definitely a music of sorts. However, I can’t say that I found the entry point.
In writing or painting, the writer or painter looks for a portal…an entry point to the story that wants to unfold or the painting that wants to evolve. I think that there might be two portals–one for the writer to begin writing and then one for the reader to be drawn into the story. One for the artist to enter the painting and one for the viewer to bear witness. Each entrance requires a surrender…which is the consent to be changed by something external to us.
Have you discovered such portals in your life, in your creative pursuit?
Comparison is a tender spot for many an artist. Last week, at an art exhibit where I had a piece on display, I heard myself repeatedly minimizing my painting. I had already walked around the exhibit and seen the work of masterful artists, some of whom had been painting for their entire lives. Inwardly, I went into “I’ve only been painting for five years. I’ve learned what I’ve learned from online classes, my own practice and experience. I never went to art school.” In other words, I diminished my art and myself.
When someone complimented me or said they liked the painting, I said “You’re being kind.” I heard myself nearly apologizing for my piece! Where on earth did all of this self-denigration come from? Thinking about it in retrospect, it feels painful.
Yesterday, when a friend said I should send an online portfolio of my art to a larger venue, like San Francisco or the bay area at least, I nearly laughed. “You must be kidding!” I said. But she wasn’t. She had seen several groupings of my art and said that she recognized my unique style. “You have a style,” she said. “Why not try?” she queried.
So here it is, in my face once again–the artist produces a product. It matters less about the “expertise” of the painting as to what the process was for me. What is the journey I took to bring this painting into fruition? Did I take the journey with acquiesce or protest? Did I allow myself to be guided by the question what next? Did I push through the “ugly” stages and arrive at a better place? Did I say what I wanted to say? Did I fall in love with my piece, finally? I DO NOT HAVE TO MAKE EXCUSES FOR ANY OF THIS!
Being an artist, like being a human, isn’t about comparison. It is about SELF-EXPRESSION, your personal process and if you so choose, sharing your gifts with others.
In the Desiderata, the author reminds us “always there will be greater and lesser persons [artists] than yourself.”
Finally, he says, “Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”