Paint Whimsy

When a painting asserts itself, there is no fighting with it.  Let it come forward.  As far-fetched or unrealistic, other-worldly or alien as it might be…let it come forward.  Are those antennas on top of her head?  Sobeit then.  She gets to have antennas.  The subconscious gets to have her field day.  The artist obeys.

That’s what I’m feeling when I look at this painting today.  I can’t remember my exact state of being when she presented herself.  Or what was going on in my life at the time.  Her expression captivates me today.  I think it’s because she has both whimsy and looks as if what she sees is hopeful.

The caption could read “Humankind, despite their ignorance, greed and selfish ways, is going to be saved…from themselves”  Perhaps because they have enough redeeming qualities or something greater has had compassion for them.

artasprocess.2018

Then again, she could be a fairy roaming through the meadows.  What does she spy?  Some new delight!

Whoever she is, whatever part of my subconscious she arose from, I’m sure there is more.  Yours too!  What’s hiding in there?  In you?

The thing about whimsical art is that in creating it, there is freedom for the artist.  She/he doesn’t have to measure up to any other standards of fine art.  The artist gets to be surprised as a painting evolves.  She is open to whoever shows up on the canvas.  And whatever direction it wants to go.  She experiments–for that is what play is.  It is serious business, this type of play.

So don’t delay, get down to the business of play!  What might you discover?

She Who Knows

SheWhoKnows.

There is the tale that is told so well by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her world-renowned book,  Women Who Run with the Wolves.  When I first encountered this book, I was in an independent bookstore, The East West Bookshop, down the Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I opened the book randomly and read a passage that was relevant to an experience that I recently had.  The hardbound book wasn’t in my budget.  I replaced it on the display table and walked away.  Then, after browsing for awhile, I was drawn back to the book.  Again, I randomly opened it and voila, another passage that claimed me.  I bought the book.  Every weekend, I’d read a chapter and integrate what I was discovering.  This book felt like a woman’s bible to me.  The mythology and tales that were woven in with a Jungian interpretation touched me deeply.  These tales, passed down from generation to generation, transported me into my own psyche in a way that had never happened before.

La Que Sabe, She Who Knows, was one of those stories.  The story goes…

“In the Southwest the archetype of the old woman can also be apprehended as old La Que Sabe, The One Who Knows. I first came to understand La Que Sabe when I lived in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in New Mexico, under the heart of Lobo Peak. An old witch from Ranchos told me that La Que Sabe knew everything about women, that La Que Sabe had created women from a wrinkle on the sole of her divine foot: This is why women are knowing creatures; they are made, in essence, of the skin of the sole, which feels everything. This idea that the skin of the foot is sentient had the ring of a truth, for an acculturated Kiché tribeswoman once told me that she’d worn her first pair of shoes when she was twenty years old and was still not used to walking con los ojos vendados, with blindfolds on her feet.”
(excerpt from Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

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When I created this mixed media painting, I had no idea who or what was going to emerge.  But then, she did.  This painting is not about perfection of features…it became about expression of a deep feeling…the woman who has searched inside and encountered her own depths in search of her place in the world.  She does not feign timidity.  Pretense doesn’t work for her.  She decorates herself.  She is radiant and is comfortable with being in her own power.  She is not apologetic for being this powerful.

She has lived her life and learned from it.  She is present with you and deep seeing into human foibles and their underlying strengths.  She understands that wisdom is there for each one of us.  And, she holds patient compassion for herself and others as we sense into our own deep knowing.

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/

 

Lobo, The King of Currumpaw

Waking up, becoming conscious, can be slow and painful.  And, at times, we are given a gift that changes our perspective for the better for ever.  So it was with Ernest Thompson Seton.  In the late 1890’s, Seton set out to trap Lobo.  This wolf was the nemesis of the cattle ranchers.  They enlisted the services of Seton to trap the wolf and rid them of this cattle predator.  One point that I thought was interesting was that the earlier frontiersman virtually exterminated the buffalo which was the wolves natural prey on the open plains.  With the loss of that resource, the next best thing was the cattle, who were tamed and didn’t put up a fight.

Lobo presented many challenges to Seton and showed great savvy in steering clear of poisoned bait, traps and Seton’s other devices.  Finally, Seton got a clue on how to entrap this infamous wolf.  Lobo, the alpha male in his pack. was “in love.”  The male wolf rarely leaves the female’s side for this period of time.  That is exactly how Seton trapped him after months of failure.

The thing is that once he killed Lobo’s mate, it was easy to trap a broken-hearted wolf who was grieving.  The traps that Lobo had been so clever at avoiding, now three of them shut on his legs.  When faced with the trapped wolf, Seton felt a surge of perhaps respect or compassion.  He brought the wolf home and tried to save him.  Lobo quickly died of a broken heart over the loss of his mate and the loss of his freedom.

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Seton never hunted wolves again and in fact went on to become a player in the conservation movement of the time and a co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America.  He was a noted author and naturalist.  In the book that he wrote documenting his experience with Lobo, Wild Animals I have Known, (1898), Seton made himself the villain and Lobo the hero!  And so it was…this wolf was the key character in changing the course of Seton’s life and in awakening the public to the necessity of preserving rather than exterminating species..  Lobo assisted Seton in expanding his consciousness to recognize that wolves were beings with lives, emotions and even an intelligence that is hard for humans to comprehend.

 

Unfinished Business

When my friend, Carolyn, died in 2003, it was for me a generous (on her part) initiation into grief and loss.

In the final months of her life, Carolyn pondered the questions:  “What have I contributed?”  and “Did I do what I came here to do?”

My reply at the time was something like “Look at the people you’ve gathered around you.  Look at how they love you.  Isn’t that an amazing achievement?”

We tend to measure our success by the standards of a world that has defined success in terms of “how many toys you have when you die” and how much money you’ve accrued.

One’s life story is not so neat as a Hollywood ending or a well-scripted novel.  It’s a messy business with threads left dangling, unresolved issues, an apartment, room or house full of incomplete projects, and furniture, laundry, unreplied-to-letters, dishes in the sink, dreaded clutter.  There’s the ending that comes too soon before things are properly resolved or healed, put in order or even accepted.

In the small picture, everyone is not a hero.  And probably, it’s an unfair standard of measurement–heroic or not heroic.  One doesn’t often or always come out looking “good,” their life having been resolved by their dying.  Do you think that the works in progress that we are continue beyond this lifetime?  We can’t, though we might want to, make heroes of all of our dead.  They are the ancestors, but not necessarily of heroic stature.  I’ve been to  funerals where superstitiously or sentimentally or desirously, relatives and others search their memories to say something kind, albeit false regarding the dear departed.  Although tainted by loss, grief and fear these words don’t ring true.  Truth is a partial tale told under these sad circumstances.

When my mother-in-law died in 2007, for me there was a confusion of feelings.  I wondered why my feelings were so congested, constricted, why I couldn’t cry as forcefully as I thought that I should.  Was it because I was ignoring a large part of my experience with her?  So much had gone unspoken between us…she rivalled me for her son’s affection.  Finally, after our divorce, he was all hers.

What’s up to me is my part in the story.  A backwards look, a retrospective from the vantage point of a completion of sorts that occurs when someone dies.  And yes, let’s add a dose of compassion for this human condition.

The Stone’s Story

I do not for a second believe it when someone says to me: “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”  Or, “I didn’t get that gene.”

Like anything that one values, your own brand of creativity needs attention.  If you show up and pay attention, inspiration is everywhere and the point where you and inspiration intersect is a creative opportunity.  Creativity isn’t about perfection or making a painting or drawing like someone else.  It’s about tapping into your own unique expression.  And it takes DARING.  Especially in the beginning.  Below is an invitation to you to dare to be creative in a way that is unique to you.  Yes, you get to foster your own creativity!  Have fun.

In her book, Freeing the Creative Spirit, artist/author Adriana Diaz, offers a guided meditation, drawing and writing exercise with a stone or river rock that you select
as your object and subject.  She calls it “The Counsel of Stone.”  Have you ever journeyed with a stone?  Have you considered the stories it holds, the messages it conveys?  I have.  You are invited to follow suit, if you choose.

Stone Consciousness
© by Christine O’Brien

I know loneliness
a stone separated
from it’s streambed
My particular glamour
is less appealing here
Or, residing here for nine years,
have I become part of the wallpaper
unseen, too familiar
Like this displaced stone
am I commonplace
or too old
This stone a misshapen buddha
solitary bodhisattva
witness to its own cleaving
remembering the whole
What dissension shattered humankind
into this separation
Lonely and separate as this scarred stone
praised for its cool detachment
who cares to hear
the untold encrypted story

A star has fallen
to the bottom of the sea
fossilized
while a starfish rises into
the darkening sky
alternating realities
God is in us
is all right with the world
Has the stone learned compassion
Is that the panacea for such loneliness

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Go ahead and find your  stone and seek its counsel.  Study it from every side, notice its angles and curves, any markings, hold it in your palm, draw it, meditate with it, write about what is revealed to you in a poem or prose.  Just do it!

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