Changing Colors

In her memoir, An Unfinished Woman:  A Memoir, Lilian Hellman writes:

“I do regret that I have spent too much of my life trying to find what I called ‘truth,’ trying to find what I called ‘sense.’  I never knew what I meant by truth, never made the sense I hoped for.  All I mean is that I left too much of me unfinished because, I wasted too much time.”

I haven’t read her memoir…I’ve held onto this quote of hers for years.  Perhaps I clipped this from an article I read because I wondered if it was true for me.  Have I quested after the truth long and hard and what do I have to show for it?  Have I fruitlessly tried to make some sense of nonsense to no avail?

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Changing Colors
© by Christine O’Brien

The Goddess is the mistress of these cycles.
“I’ve found a sense of my place in the world,” I say.
as we share a pot of milky oolong tea on the deck of the boat.
The early evening sky is bathed in sunset hues.

“Sharing your gifts is the path to enlightenment,” you say.

We sail our boat in the protected bay.
“If you want, coast when the wind is right,” I offer.

Red and gold tint the sky.
“There is no black and white pendulum of truth,” you say.
“Crystal clarity is rare.”

Our wisest thoughts dissipate into the blue serenity of water
and the dove peace of this day.

The yet to be lived is our uncertain map.

“People’s dreams are where the nectar is,” you say dreamily.

Colors change regardless.

scenery`

Being in the Creative Stew

Sometimes, I make a request into the ethers, “Which direction do I pursue in my life/career?” or “What is the next step with this short story I’m writing?”  or “Where do I go now with this painting in process?”

The next uncomfortable position is to find myself in the creative stew!  For awhile, I simmer there without understanding what is going on.  Feelings of uncertainty, doubt, discomfort arise and I probe these feelings.  “What?  What?”  I forget that I asked the question(s) or invoked help and that I’m on the edge of unknowing, the precipice of what’s next.

I have been known to call this the “fertile void”.  Though there is nothing apparent on the horizon, I have invoked the powers that be to show me a direction, how to proceed.  Inwardly, I churn.  I feel discomfort.  An inner edginess.  And resistance too.  All these things and feelings bubbling in the cauldron of “where do I go from here?”  Sometimes, the harder you push, the more elusive the answer.

When a writer, poet, artist is creating something…there are bound to be times when they are stuck and can’t see the next step.  They’ve been deep in process, things seemed to be flowing and then…nothing.  Flat out, nothing.  Whether at the desk or canvas, they are inwardly working something out.  When I remember that this is what is going on, there is some relief.  “Ah, yes, I’m in that disconcerting void place.  It looks like there is no forward movement.  How long is it going to last?  Is there something that I need to do to get unstuck!!??

At these times, I’ve found, the best thing to do is to walk away for awhile, literally and figuratively.  The impasse is in place.  Do something to take your mind off of it.  Dance, do the laundry, get out in nature, do something you are good at.  Anything that isn’t related to the dilemma.

Simultaneously, it’s a time of deep listening and seeing.  Sometimes, answers come to us indirectly, through metaphor.  Other times, someone says something like “You are really good at painting portraits.”  or “I appreciate your sensitivity.  It comes through in your poetry.”  During this time of uncertainty, it pays to be alert to clues as to what the next step is.  Sometimes, a direction presents  in a dream.  You might wake up one morning and know exactly what to do next.

Regardless, this gestation period is part of the creative process, not separate from it.  We ride it out.  We trust.  The flow returns.

threefaces.1

 

Collage

There is a technique to collage and yet, is there?

I collage on a 6″ by 6″ wood birch panel.  I choose from papers that I have on hand.  I had painted mini mandalas on these papers previously.  I cut or tear and paste, randomly arranging scraps of paper on the panel.  The plan is to collage a purple elephant that I painted a few years ago on this background.  The purple elephant is then to be the featured piece around which I build and complete this little work of art.

Against this backdrop of semi-circle suns and cresting mountains, I see a face.  A face that resembles a Maori woman or is she Swahili?  Or neither.  Anyway, that’s what occurs to me.  I bring her forth; the intuitive artist’s task is to follow where one is lead.  At first, she’s only a face floating at the top of the tiny piece, asserting herself.  Looking further, I see it is an entire person–there’s her neck and she’s wearing a dress of varied fabrics.  Earlier, I had done some silver leafing.  Using teal paint, I push the entire figure forward.

I stand back to see what else presents itself.  Is there anything more that wants to be seen and expressed?  I see that half of the elephant is another figure with a wildly striped tiger face wearing a purple garment.  This figure is standing and facing the first woman.  Now I have a decision to make.  Do I scrap my prized elephant and bring the second figure forward?  According to what I’ve experienced in the creative process, it appears that I do have to scrap the elephant to move this piece along.  Bye bye to the purple elephant–another time, another art piece perhaps.

Art can teach the artist about impermanence.  Non-attachment.  That my own desires and designs are secondary to an unfolding and evolving plan.

Ultimately, I forced my own desire and design and decided to keep the elephant.  It’s all been part of my process and this mixed media piece’s evolution.

cropped-collage1.jpg

Alone (from an earlier journal writing)

I almost turned the car around and drove home although I had booked a cottage for the night.  I didn’t come to Ashland to feel into the loneliness.  I wanted a day of escape.  Now, I had a sudden longing for home and the usual distractions that occupy me.

There is a lot going on in my life right now.  People close to me are gravely sick.  I give, sometimes over-give, or just carry the weight of things.  I’m taking too many online classes.  I need real people who are in good health to counterbalance the rest.  Virtual people don’t help with loneliness.

Earlier in the day, I had lunch at a favorite cafe–alone.  I went to see a movie–alone.  I walked out of the movie theater after fifteen minutes of watching the actors go through torment.  Why watch other people’s drama on a big screen?  Even if the acting is good, who needs it?  I went out to dinner–alone.  And now, I’m in a newly renovated cottage, again, alone.

I hadn’t unpacked the car yet.  A pang of loneliness surfaced and I got in the car to drive home.  As I was driving down the alley, four stately deer blocked my path.  They are accustomed to people.  They stood there for a few minutes.  I waited–the spotlight on them.  They were unfazed by the car or me.  They neither leapt nor ran.  They either stood stationary or they mosied.  I groped for the camera and got one hazy photo of the youngest deer, though not a good one.  It was at that point that I committed to staying for the night.

This room smells like fresh paint.  There is no television.  It’s weird to be in a large room without my “stuff” floating around me in familiar disarray.  The cottage has a sweet creature comfort–a jacuzzi tub, bath salts and a candle–why not?

I got my luggage from the car and unpacked.  I lit the candle, set it beside the tub, said a prayer, took a bath.  I practiced the familiar rituals of quieting myself.  Tomorrow is another day.  For now, it’s my time.  Self-nurture can soothe the feeling of loneliness and get one through a difficult moment.

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In our culture, there are a lot of lonely people.  We certainly aren’t alone in our loneliness.

 

deer4a

Upcycling

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.

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RiverGoddess.2020

This was an abstract painting of a river before I upcycled it to paint The River Goddess.

 

Lost at Sea

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 wrote:

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.”

 

lostatsea

Unintentional Creativity

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.

Tchaikovsky.2019