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.

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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?

What are you feeling?

Things are scrambled.  There is disorientation.  My brother in San Francisco doesn’t drive.  He relies on buses.  The buses are running but it’s always a risk.  Who else is going to be on the bus?  What are their personal habits of cleanliness and responsibility towards others?  He can’t get to his usual places to shop for the food he usually eats.  He is eating more canned food.  His health is suffering.  He isn’t getting the exercise he normally gets.  He lives alone, is a social being and feels cut off from his connections.  His lifestyle has been severely curtailed.  He lives minimally with a small carbon footprint.  Even with that, this is rough.

After a recent conversation with him, I felt sad.  I told him that he needed to eat healthy.  That much he could do for himself.  The stores where he usually shops are over-crowded making him less likely to shop there.  I told him he could have fresh produce delivered.  Regardless, he is down-hearted by everything that is going on right now.  Living in San Francisco, he feels the impact more than I do where I live.  Less freedom of motion.  His is one story among many…one good reason for kindness towards one another.

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This face came about from what I was feeling in the moment.  The words that I wrote  were:

There is so much that is going on that is challenging for many at this time.  I wouldn’t know where to begin.  An ongoing sadness and simultaneously, an awareness of the extreme beauty that surrounds us.  Concern for self and family and community, the world–the earth.  Humans haven’t lived softly on this planet.  Why have we distanced from the earth who sustains us?  There are so many questions hovering in the air.  I like to think that where there’s a question, nearby is an answer.  We have to pay attention–become conscious of the feedback that we are receiving from the earth and her other creatures.  We aren’t alone in this.  Why do we forget?

Then, yesterday, sitting in my tiny garden in the backyard, leaning into the uncertainty, a little hummingbird settled nearby, framed in a wire rectangle of the fenced enclosure.  It visited for an indeterminate time and we studied one another.  The rarity of such an experience always feels like an honoring.

This painting is a reminder to not run away from your feelings.  As they arise, do acknowledge them, embrace them, sit with them, be patient with yourself through them.  It is in this state of acceptance and bringing comfort to them that they are recognized and eased.  Have you noticed that?

In the midst of uncertainty, some things feel right with the world.  We look for those things.

Take good care.

Forget Perfection

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
― Salvador Dali

 

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This face is hiding amidst my journal pages–a practice piece.  She looks worried…or sad…her eyes a bit glossy.  Has she been crying?  This is not a perfectly drawn or crafted portrait.  With that, she conveys something, doesn’t she?

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Several years ago, one of my younger sisters held her wedding in Lake Tahoe.  As many of the eight siblings as could get there, gathered with the newlyweds to celebrate.  When she and her new husband were leaving the celebratory party we had staged, as they were getting into the elevator, her new husband made a comment about my sister not being perfect.  His comment came across as derogatory.  I looked at him and I said, “She’s the perfect Robin (her name).”  Isn’t that what any one of us can aspire to be…the perfect you or me?  Or him or her?

How does one even establish a standard for PERFECTION?  It seems that we need to measure it against something that’s been confirmed–(the highest score) or someone else (a society’s idea of beauty)?  So to describe perfection, we make a comparison.  In science, that might work.  But in a world of variety, diversity, melange–in the sheer array of humans on the planet, how can one even begin to establish a standard of perfection?  If we consider that perfection is overrated or invalid, what can we strive for?

Ah, to be you and me, each in his/her own wholeness, what greater thing to design for yourself!

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When making art, there is the artist, the substrate, the paint, the brush and what begs to be expressed through the artist.  Art is one avenue to express the emotions that want to run away with you.  And there are so many deeply felt emotions during these days of pandemic.  An artist is able to transmute a deeply felt emotion into a creative action through making art.  The chemical response in your body as you make art is felt.  Try it, don’t take my word for it!  And please do forget perfection.

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
― Leonard Cohen

She Stewards the Earth

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Do you upcycle your art?  Valuing her face, her direct look, her expression, I wanted to utilize her in a new painting.  This then became a mixed media piece.  I collaged her face, painted her dress with an earthy color and added symbols.  I did some texturing on the canvas prior to drawing and painting the buffalo.  I also used some “resist” to have the underpainting show through.

All of this to symbolize White Buffalo Calf Woman.

There are many tellings of this story.  Here is one.  (It’s one-and-a-half minutes long.)

I titled this piece “She Stewards the Earth,”
because I believe that women have a deep
connection to the earth.  That in some ways,
we are more deeply aligned with the earth
than men.  That perhaps we are an avenue of
communication between humankind and the earth.
I feel that our bodies are sensors to the disharmony
that the earth is experiencing due to our misuse.

What do you think?

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.

Perspectives, Presence, People

I don’t write to convince a reader of my perceptions or thoughts.  I write to express what I see through the story lens of my life as I experience it.  Sometimes, I choose to share what I’m discovering.

I read books and watch films for entertainment and/or to expand my worldview.  It is fascinating to be educated to other ways of being and seeing.

When you follow the old adage “walk a mile in my shoes,” there is an opportunity for something to open up inside of you.

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I have a friend who periodically travels to awaken the heightened awareness that is necessary when one travels.  When she visits somewhere new, she experiences a greater aliveness as she navigates the unfamiliar.   Travel, in one sense, awakens her vitality.

The sameness of one’s environment can lead to a sort of lethargy?  It’s all so familiar.  It seems less likely that I can foster a feeling of novelty of experience in my daily routine than I could if I were traveling?  I recognize within myself the need to really cultivate presence in my daily encounters in order to be a witness to the daily miraculous .  Life is not humdrum.  We are, each one of us, walking, talking wonders.  Yet, because we are familiar, even predictable, I can assume the humdrum in my encounters.  For instance…

Typically, my long-time gardener and friend gives me his litany of complaints about his work.  I then respond in the usual way, commiserating.  I have an expectation that he is going to come and complain and I’ll listen and nod my head and hear him out.  In a certain sense, I’m not present with him in the moment.  I link his complaints together with all the other times he’s come to tend my yard.  I put up a certain sort of inner defense.  Today, as he is out there doing the yard work, I wonder about how I can be more present with him.  Can I choose to really see and hear him, his frustrations and his gratitudes, as if I were meeting him for the first time…that old Buddhist Beginner’s Mind.  Besides, having had recent losses, I do know too well that everything and everyone passes.  Nothing and no one lasts forever.  That realization alone can help bring presence to whatever the day brings.  Today, I’d like to be a bit more present with my friend.  To be a witness to his experience.  To see him anew.  To hear him anew.

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When I am given presence, I recognize it.  And I’m appreciative.

 

The Versatility of Poetry

This is one reason I love poetry.  It can hold any subject.  Poetry is both amorphous and  it can claim a form.  It’s a perfect container for a variety of human expression.

the fog weaves through city streets
in and out of the avenues
twining round golden gate bridge towers
dampening moods and refreshing spirits
what season is it, I ask
summer you say, summer in San Francisco
coaxing one to build a fire on the hearth and cuddle
fog deceiving one into false seasons
Is it love I feel for you or
simply lust
long shrouded desire
and you the sun that penetrated my dark nights
stripping me of my clothes, my inhibitions,
tricking my hormones into believing I was unseasonal
everlasting
and so sexy

© by Christine O’Brien

In this short verse excerpted from a poem I wrote entitled Weather Report, notice how a story is told using place and mood.

Were you drawn into the story via the setting?

Each and every poem has a point of entry.  As does any story.  The writer and/or poet gets to decide what that entry point is.

Writer’s Prompt:
Experiment with using a place as the point of entry to your own poem as you write about an emotion you are feeling.

Follow the flow of your writing.

 

The Fear & Dread of Poetry

I didn’t fall in love with poetry in high school.  Recently, I found “A Second Book of Poetry” from that period of my life.  The cover has doodles, appointments and names scribbled on it.  I must have had a teacher who encouraged us to write in our poetry books. Inside, I’ve taken notes and scrawled an ongoing commentary on many of the pages.

My formal education lapsed after high school as my father required that I get a job immediately to help support my younger siblings.  With an early marriage, life’s course was redirected once again.  In my thirties, I returned to college studying English and Creative Writing.  When we began the module on poetry, the instructor emphasized that within poetry you have total freedom; something inside of me sighed in deep relief. Never before in my life had I been told I had “total freedom”!  That was the moment that inner walls crumbled and I discovered a medium in which I could express my true self. POETRY!

I couldn’t have imagined how much my soul craved this expression!  I ran with it.  Every feeling and wayward thought found a home in free verse.  I didn’t bother with rhyming or other poetic forms in those days.  I wrote short or rambling, unpunctuated lines, upper or lower case letters, whatever flowed through me and demanded a voice.  Prior to this, journal writing had worked its own cathartic magic.  With poetry, feeling-imbued thoughts were given free rein and I was off and running…daily.  I remember times when I slipped from the bed to the floor with my pen and poetry journal in hand, writing poem after poem.  It was as if a long-muzzled creature had suddenly been freed and given voice–there was this and that and this and then that!

Writing Prompt:
Have you experienced a fear and dread of poetry? Did you have a coming of age where you finally began to appreciate poetry? Have you found and released your inner poet? Write about your poetic roots or initiation into poetry.

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Remember, you have total freedom in poetry.