Mystery

cat1a

It was strange to see this cat girl emerge.  She was painted just before the time that women were donning knitted pink cat hats.  They were called “pussyhats” and worn in the 2017 Women’s March on Washington DC.

A little recent history lesson from Google:

A pussyhat is a pink, crafted hat, created in large numbers by thousands of participants involved with the United States 2017 Women’s March. They are the result of the Pussyhat Project, a nationwide effort initiated by Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, a screenwriter and architect located in Los Angeles, to create pink hats to be worn at the march for visual impact.[1]

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As an artist, have you noticed this…not only does your art respond to the political and socio-economic climate, but sometimes it is almost predictive.  Artists, poets, writers, creative beings have a heightened sensitivity.  It’s no surprise that they can tune into something before it hits the press.  And express it through their art.

Obviously, my girl’s hat isn’t pink–but the concept of woman merging with cat, with her wild nature–and yes, she has magic–are reminders to myself.  A woman is an enigma to the male of our species.  Rather than men fearing and trying to dominate what they don’t understand, why not honor her?  Why not seek her out for wise counsel?  Why not be curious to know her more deeply?  Why not recognize that she has gifts to share (that he does not possess) and lend value to them?

That men are making most of the rules, guiding the politics of our lives, belies the fact that women comprise over 50% of the population in America!  2019 census shows 168.08 million women versus 161.48 million men!  When are women going to realize that they have more power for change than they are exercising?

There are so many things in place in our society (and world) that we know are morally wrong and socially unjust.  Women know this deeply…if they could gather their courage and unify their voices, change for the good would occur.

What is something you, as a woman alive today, are called to take a stand on?  How are you going to align yourself with what you know to be true and correct?  Is there an action you know that you need to take?  One step at a time…dare to take the first one.

 

 

 

The Ugly Stage

When painting a portrait…you soon arrive at THE UGLY STAGE!  That is when your mettle as an artist is tested.  You don’t see how you can possibly convert this ugly piece into a thing of beauty.  This is the time–you’ve been working on this for awhile already–when you want to walk away and abandon the piece.  It’s hard to imagine something
“pretty” coming out of this.

That said, experience has taught you that this is only a stage.  Stay with it.  Don’t give up too soon.  So you go forward in conversation with the piece to see what’s next. Then, what follows that?  You step back and then forward and bring this being forth to become who she is determined to be.

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Sometimes, often or always, there is a message in a painting.  The artist may have a clue  before she begins painting.  Then again,  it could emerge during her process with a piece.  Blending words with art is often an intriguing way of stating the message.  The word that sits in the lower right corner of the piece is “STORY.”  Like each one of us, the subject of this painting has a story to tell.  While we may not have a sense of her exact story, we get the idea that she has a depth of experience.  Those eyes convey something.  The mouth, neither smiling nor smirking, shows determination.  There is character in her chin…and so on.

If she were the heroine of your short story, who would she be?  That’s the thing about art, each person views a piece and then their imagination begins to conjecture a story.  We do that when we meet someone new also.  “Who are you?”  “Where are you from?”  “What brought you here?”  Then our judgments and old information come in and create a story before we even really know who we’ve actually met.  Interesting that we do this.  Make up stories all of the time.

Dream It Better

dreamitbetter4

How do you care for our earth?  As an individual, I steward a small piece of earth.  I’m grateful for this little plot of land with its variety of fruit trees planted by someone else, perhaps over fifty years ago.  They probably had no thought of me.  But they gave me a gift all these years later.

We are facing a time of global crisis.  The way that we’ve been “using” the earth isn’t sustainable.  The Native Americans believe that we have a responsibility to consider seven generations to come.  They and some others realize that the earth is on loan to us now and to be conserved for future generations.  But most of the world hasn’t held this as a value.  We’ve taken from the earth’s resources and not given in return.  We’ve used and abused our earth, our oceans, our air quality.  Now we see disruption across the planet and we wonder how can that be?  As if it came out of nowhere.  As if scientists hadn’t been warning us.

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This painting is inspired by the animals that live along the Rio Grande River, the fourth longest river in the USA.  Beside a large portion of this river, there is a “wall” being built to define a boundary between the US and Mexico.  This particular area, along the Rio Grande bordering the state of Texas, is considered to be one of those invaluable riparian habitats.  Jaguarundi, Pronghorn, Ocelot, Javelina, Mountain Lion, Fox, Birds, Beetles and Butterflies are some of the animals and insects that inhabit this area.  The “wall” would disrupt the natural navigation patterns of these animals and insects. Some of these species, like the Ocelot, are already endangered. The Rio Grande River itself is in grave danger.

I call this painting “DREAM IT BETTER.”

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We are touched by things that we hear or see.  We know that some things, as the disruption of a riparian habitat, are wrong.  We feel bad about it.  It may even arouse our passion!  Instead of stopping  at feeling bad or sad, consider, “What is an action step that I can take to make a difference?”  One step would be to do some research.  To find some legitimate organizations that are opposing such destruction.  Get informed.  Then see how what you learn can be shared with others.  Take the leap from helpless observer to active participant.  One small step towards change.

Look Up!

Living in the mountains, I have an opportunity to see the stars at night.  This is an advantage over living in a big, artificially lit city.  When I lived in San Francisco, beside the ocean and not the inner city, I could occasionally see the stars at night…when it wasn’t foggy.

Looking up at the night sky, I get a sense of both my smallness and my connection to something greater.

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Ever since I learned Nikol Wilman’s technique of painting a sky, I adapted it to create the background for a few of my paintings.

Drawing and painting a face looking upwards proved to be very challenging.  Yet it was what I envisioned and I forged on to make it happen.

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How often do you look up?  While walking in nature, I’m frequently looking down in order to see where I’m stepping especially if the terrain is rocky or has tree roots.  On such walks I find that it’s important to stop and take time to look out and to look up.  Expanding my field of vision in this way, I get out of my small mind thinking.  It’s certainly not all about me!

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I love this creation story as told by Wilfred Buck.  We have such a connection to and longing for the stars.  This story is not so far-fetched.  Our lives here are more mystery than certainty.

 

Wilfred is from Lake Winnipeg in rural Manitoba, Canada.  His tribe affiliation is Cree, also known as Ininew, one of Canada’s largest First Nations groups. He is an amazing storyteller.  If you have six minutes to listen, I think you’re going to appreciate this lovely creation Story.  Try closing your eyes as you listen and imagine.

“We come from the stars,” Buck says.

She Has No Name

IntuitivePainting1When I began painting faces, I found it very challenging.  What I painted didn’t resemble the image I had in mind at all!  How my mind and hand translated a photo portrait onto a canvas was juvenile art.  Features–especially matching the eyes–were they the same size, at least close to the same size?  The same shape?  How much space between them? How far down on the face should they be?  Where is the nose in relation to the eyes? And the mouth?  Did I mention mixing a realistic skin tone?  And then, there is value contrast!  Yikes…the map of the face is an art that isn’t easy to master.

Several years of practice has improved my facility to draw a face with some degree of realism.  And, I can see that I need years more of practice before I feel accomplished in this area.  If ever.

And, so, I allow the whimsy that has been part of my artist’s signature.

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I do like the background in this painting.  The soft colors and images that sort of arise from the mist.  I also think about painting over the whole thing and discovering something else.  Remembering that it’s all part of the learning process, I have compassion for my newly formed artist self.  Compassion versus criticism.  Practice versus procrastination.  

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Remember the old adage “Patience is a virtue.”  It really is.  Making art–it can’t be rushed.  It can be…but the depth of what an artist gets from the creative process won’t be reached unless she is patient enough to be fully present with the work in process and with herself (himself).  Any work of art is always an inquiry.  With that, an answer won’t be forced but rather surfaces.

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These days, things are very serious.  I feel it in my body.  It’s easy to forget my body.  To relegate it to last place even though I have more time to tend it.  Yesterday, I came upon this little video by Elizabeth Gilbert.  What I love about it is that there are no words…

And now for something completely different,

LET’S DANCE!

https://www.facebook.com/GilbertLiz/videos/235717154471860/

 

Abstracting

cairnfinal

This painting evolved from a fun process developed by artist, Basia Zielinska.  It involved a large canvas or sheet of watercolor paper.  Acrylic paint in colors that play well together.  Spraying water and dripping paint.  Line work.  Layering and allowing to dry between some of the layers to avoid making mud.   And then, I wanted the image of cairns.  It seems that I typically want to bring an image into an abstraction.  I’ve always been attracted to cairns, so cairns it was.

“A cairn is a man-made pile of stones. The word cairn comes from the Scottish Gaelic: càrn. Cairns have been and are used for a broad variety of purposes, from prehistoric times to the present. In modern times, cairns are often erected as landmarks, a use they have had since ancient times.” (Wikipedia)

We occasionally see cairns while hiking in the mountains here where I live.  They signify that you are on the right track or if there is a fork in the road, they mark the correct trail to follow.  Basically, they are trail markers guiding you in cases where navigation becomes difficult and the trail may easily be lost.

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Wouldn’t it be cool if we had cairns along our life path as signposts to the best way to proceed when faced with a life choice?  In a sense, we do.  But we don’t always listen to our intuition, do we?  What is that strange human capacity, like the Vasilisa Doll story as told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her book,  Women Who Run With the Wolves“Go left, go right, don’t go that way, do go this way”.  Why are we so suspicious or doubtful when it comes to our own intuition?  Do we associate it with the occult or witchcraft or is it so demeaned in a rational patriarchal system that we don’t trust it?

I remember a film with Brendan Fraser, Still Breathing, where he created cairns.  It’s also very much about following one’s deep intuition and guidance.  It’s a quirky and  captivating film.  It’s one that I’ve seen several times.

Who Are You?

A journal page is meant for exploration.  Yes, you can explore the existential questions in your journal.  It is a place to explore techniques as well as for self-discovery.
I wonder, at times, about the influence of place on person.
Having grown up a few blocks from the ocean in San Francisco,
how did that form me?  I lived there, beside the sea, for forty-nine years before moving to the mountains.  Who was I then “living beside the ocean?”

besidetheocean1

Moving to the
mountains, what in me has been influenced and changed by this place?

This journal page was inspired by a class taught by Ivy Newport, Sacred Landscapes.

The consideration of the placement of a horizon line is an interesting aspect of a painting.  A decision is made where to place the figure in relation to that line.  Dividing the page into three sections, the horizon line is in the top third on this page.

The figure is placed in the forefront of the study…she could have been standing, reclining.  I chose sitting.

Figure drawing is a whole other form of artistic expression.  I took one other class in sketching figures.  We also practiced drawing figures in relation to one another and intimated body language between the two figures.  In drawing and painting, there are lifetimes of worlds to be explored.

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Perhaps a larger and more expanded question is “Who am I during this pivotal time in history?”  or “Who am I in the light of a global pandemic?”  It is astonishing, really, to have such a cataclysmic, unifying event across the planet.  It’s hard to put the proverbial head in the sand at such a time.  It feels to me like we are being called to take a stand on behalf of our earth and the unsustainable ways that we’ve been living up to now.  What are your thoughts?

 

Female Buddha

buddha
Splashes of acrylic inks on a 140# weight watercolor sheet of paper.  Purposeful play to see how the ink flows when sprayed with water.  What images emerge from this play?

She emerged.  A feminine buddha angel in prayer.  She stayed like this, filed away in a pile of other such paintings for a few years.  Then, one day, the time had come.  I chose her from the pile and gave her a face.  I added a complementary background color.  Studying the color wheel, learning how to use and apply it to a work in progress is yet another learning experience.  Primary colors, then secondary colors, finally tertiary colors.  Complementary colors, analogous, monochromatic, triads, tetrads, etc.  Then, there are hues, values, tints, tones and shades.  I had no idea!  So much to learn.

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Facial expression is another practiced technique.  Sometimes, the angle of the eyebrows can create an expression of alarm, surprise or worry.  The intensity of the eyes, the poise of the mouth–there are many other tools that help to give expression to a face .  I don’t know enough about this to claim expertise.  I would say that the feeling behind this piece fits with the energy of the painting.  A contemplative face showing some concern.  Before the facial features were emphasized, there was a solemnity and sense of deep quiet.

Then, you could read this differently than I do.

 

 

Everyone Needs an Ally

angel

This painting was prompted by a class in Paint Your Heart and Soul. Not initially knowing what a painting wants to express, I allow the images to show their presence.
I added the wolf and turned the figure into an angel.

What was new to me in this class was learning how to paint a lacy dress.  I couldn’t imagine how an artist could imply lace fabric.  I’m not 100% pleased and I appreciated acquiring a new art tool.  Another painting challenge for the artist is PAINTING HANDS!  I remember the painstaking effort to paint this one arm and hand.  I was pretty pleased at the time and by no means have I come close to mastering hands.  Sometimes an artist, not wanting to take the time and effort it requires to paint a hand let’s it disappear off the page, in a pocket, or hidden behind a skirt or another shielding object–a bouquet of flowers, a table or anything that fits with the painting.

This angel has an ally.  He is an ethereal wolf…part of the night, yet real to her as she is real to him.

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In 2018, I encountered a gray wolf as I was driving down the mountain from Bunny Flat.  I had visited a new friend who was camping there.  We spent a sweet time together getting to know each other.  The vista was smudged by smoke from surrounding fires.  At this higher elevation, the air was breathable.  At one point she offered to lead me through a qigong set.  I agreed.  For the next twenty minutes, we moved our bodies in harmony with the nature around us.  A magical time.

I left her well before the sun set.  As I was rounding a curve in the road, I spied a large animal not very far ahead.  He seemed to be in no great hurry.  I slowed the car.  As happens, my brain tried to comprehend what this creature was.  Bear, no.  Dog, no.  What’s that in his mouth?  Finally, as I drew closer, my mind settled on a gray wolf with another rather large animal in his mouth!  He slipped down the side of a slight slope.  I pulled my car into the space beside the road.  I got out of the car, no fear only wonder.  I watched as he slowly meandered off into the shrubbery and trees.

The sense of wonder I felt stayed with me for a long time.  A visitation from a rare animal has meaning for me.  In the Native American Tradition, wolf is a teacher.  From Jamie Sams book, Medicine Cards:  “Wolf is the pathfinder, the forerunner of new ideas who returns to the clan to teach and share medicine.”

When I returned home, I googled the Gray Wolf.  I remembered reading that the Gray Wolf had crossed the border into northern California a couple of years before.  They were being tracked and protected by a team of rangers.  Their exact whereabouts were kept a secret so as to avoid hunters.  Then the team lost track of the sly wolves.   How fortunate I was to see one of these amazing beings that memorable day.

The Walkaway

In the face of Covid 19, the United Nations Secretary-General, in one of his speeches,  declared that war is obsolete!  In these times of the pandemic, war seems to be a non-sequitur.  A virus is now “the enemy”.  Can we stop the nonsense and focus on what’s at hand, like the virus, global warming, overpopulation…and start addressing the real issues of a planet at risk?  Aren’t people experiencing enough trauma without having to contend with war?  We know which people are the first to be attacked during warfare–women and children.  Time for a serious time out!

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This painting and poem were first published on this blog in November of 2017.  This painting originated from a poem I wrote several years before.   He is walking away preparing to board a naval ship, shipping out to Vietnam.  Is he going to return?  If he does return, how is war going to change him…hence the refrain “Did anyone ever come back from Vietnam, I wondered.”

When I was eighteen years old, a girlfriend and I volunteered at the USO club on Market Street in San Francisco.  This was in 1967-1968, during the Vietnam War.  One night a week, we showed up to dance with the sailors and soldiers.  To sit and talk or play games like chess or checkers.  It was an intense time as these young men were either preparing to ship out overseas or had just returned from a stint overseas.  The poem tells the story of one young man who took a liking to me.

The poem:

Circulation
by Christine O’Brien

Don’t dance with just one boy,
make the rounds–
circulate.
Play chess and checkers
card games
no dating them outside of here.

The USO–
we’re here to
provide a home
away from home.
You are the girl next door
…a reputation to uphold
no loose behavior.

His name was Mickey
–from Mississippi.
He wanted a girl
more than anything.
He was being sent off to Vietnam.

Did anyone ever come back from
Vietnam
I wondered?

He claimed me;
threatened all the other soldiers
to stay away.
But I’m supposed to circulate,
I said.
He picked me up after work,
treated me to a soda,
rode home with me on the bus,
met my family,
even loaned my dad a book.
He was scheduled to ship out
in two weeks.

Did anyone ever come back from
Vietnam
I wondered?

His friend drove him to my house.
We kissed in the back seat of the car.
Hard kisses
from him who wanted
to know a kiss
before lips grew cold.
My lips were uncertain
but compliant.
Suddenly I pulled away,
fearful
withdrew into my house
tossing him a good night.

Did anyone ever come back from
Vietnam
I wondered?

He had been so cool
on the dance floor
smooth, sexy dancer.
In his dress blues
bell bottoms
swishing the slippery floor.
I could never attract
a guy like that
I thought.

He wanted to marry me NOW!
The urgency of youth
the uncertainty of undeclared war
leading one to declare love.
I cried all the way home on the bus.
He comforted me
not knowing that I was trying to
break up with him.
He threatened suicide
wasn’t going to Vietnam
suicide enough?

I wondered,
did anyone ever come back
from Vietnam?

the walkaway.