How do you stand not being the best?

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!

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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.”

 

 

What if…

What if I’d been born a woman in a time and place where women weren’t allowed to read and write–illiterate.  It wasn’t that long ago, especially in the context of the whole of human literacy, that women were “granted the right” to get an education.  If you are interested, you can google the timeline of women’s education across the globe.  That it be debatable whether or not a woman should be allowed to get an education is mind-boggling for those of us who, in many ways, take education for women for granted.

I wonder if parts of myself would be permanently closed off, untapped because I couldn’t make this scratching on paper with a pen?  When I look back and recall how, at 27-years old, I started to write to save my life, I honestly couldn’t have had a better means to express what was going on inside of me and outside of me.  Or so it seemed.  Self-expression takes many forms.  I know that I’d have found another way.  However, writing has been so accessible, cathartic and freeing.  It has worked well for me in addition to other creative ventures.

Here’s another way to look at women and the advent of the alphabet.  According to author, Leonard Shlain in his book, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, the alphabet has usurped women’s innate powers.  It has thrust women from an intuitive universe of imagery and symbolism into the masculine logic thereby making these feminine attributes less accessible, diminished and even superstitious.   Within myself, I can feel a deep desire and an inner-directed course towards reclaiming and re-valuing these women’s ways of knowing.  I make art and write poetry to foster the intuitive side of me.

In China, women developed their own secret language, NuShu, to communicate with one another across the miles.  Daughters sold off into marriage were taken distances away from their mothers and sisters.  They were strangers in their new village and sometimes not welcomed.  Many of them would never see their families of origin again.  They wrote their secret language on the folds of fans that were delivered to and from their families.

“The script [NuShu] was often used in embroidery, calligraphy and handicrafts created by women.  It is found written on paper (including letters, written poetry and on objects such as fans) and embroidered on fabric (including on quilts, aprons, scarves, handkerchiefs). Objects were often buried with women or were burned.”
by Jone Johnson Lewis
from NuShu, a Woman-Only Language of China

Stamping out women’s illiteracy across the globe isn’t complete.  Belinda Jack’s well-researched essay, The Right to Read:  Belinda Jack on the History of Women’s Literacy, concludes:

“For many women readers today it’s easy to think that the history of women’s reading as a distinct story has come to an end. But in some parts of the world women continue to risk their lives reading material which those in authority have forbidden.”

I’m grateful that I can read and write.  That said, the re-valuing of a woman’s deeper intuitive ways of being, seeing and knowing is likely the antidote to a world that is steeped in a masculine logic gone awry.

What do you think?

 

 

The Suffragettes

Women’s right to vote in England and the USA was hard fought and “won” in the early 1900’s.  My mother was born in 1920, the year women won the vote in the USA.  The way that my mother lived her life, you would never have guessed that she was a “free woman”.

VOTE

As a young adult woman, my life was busy with family, husband, pets, house, job, volunteer time and the unexpected.  One such overwhelming day, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get around to voting.  My teenage daughter reminded me of the suffragettes and their long, arduous battle for women’s right to vote.  That was it.  I voted and never again considered if I had the time to exercise this right which is also a privilege.

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I’ve been a “voiceless” woman and witnessed many others.  It was through journal writing that I expressed my inner private world.  And even there, I felt wrong for having thoughts that were considered “outside the box” of a woman’s entitlement.  The first time that I ventured out to read my poetry in public, I heard my own voice echoed by other women in this writer’s circle.  In our shared words, we reflected the restrictions and the timidity we felt in being a woman with a voice. Our true expression felt counter to either our familial, religious or societal upbringing. Writing poetry or prose that reflected our true thoughts and feelings was scary.  Sharing it publicly felt risky.  Yes, even living in America.

Writing Prompt:
For your journal:
As a woman, have you felt restricted or curtailed in your self-expression? Has this changed for you?  If so, how?

As a man, are there women in your life who seem to feel inhibited when it comes to self-expression (through writing or otherwise)?  Have you been an encouraging force in their lives?

 

 

Creativity Breeds…CREATIVITY

I have been writing since I was age 27… quite awhile.  In 2014, I grew tired of words. Words engage inner patterns and I found myself going in circles with my thinking and writing.  I abandoned words…for a few years.

In the place of words, I found intuitive painting.  For the first time in my life, I wielded a paintbrush as a tool for self-expression.  I was a total beginner!  I engaged in a wordless conversation with each new painting.  Playing with color, shapes, imagery and symbols, opened inner doorways that words alone had not.  I discovered that I had the courage to allow a painting to unfold and become what it wanted to become.  I also discovered that the creative process is the creative process regardless of the way it expresses.  While I came up against obstacles or blocks as with writing, I made marks on the canvas that moved me through them…and I found the flow.

In these few years of not writing, I realized that I missed words.  I enjoy creative writing and considered how I could marry words and images, poetry and paint. I realized, experientially, that one creative expression enhances the other.  Often you think of yourself as this or that…writer or painter or crafter. When, in fact, you have access to any creative opening out there at any time. You only have to choose it and then, as with writing, show up and practice it. Today, I plot and write a blog and I make other art. I knit or craft or cook a gourmet meal.  It’s summer here–I walk in the forests and beside the lakes and take photos.

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You broaden your creative repertoire, not necessarily to become a famous artist or writer.  You do this because it expands you (it feeds your hungry, vast and expressive psyche) and your writing.  It really is about giving yourself a playground to explore all sorts of other media of self-expression. These days, there are many online art classes…many wonderful teachers. The art journal, mixing words and images, is an interesting and fun way to engage with both words and imagery.

Walking this morning, I encountered a woman I hadn’t met before in this small community. A conversation ensued & suddenly she stopped and beheld a field of flowers. She said “I love the way the light and shadow are enhancing the colors.  Isn’t that beautiful!” My response was “It is beautiful. Are you a photographer?”  It turns out that she is a photographer.

When you draw (or paint or use color or sculpt or take photos), you notice things in a deeper way.    This way of noticing makes you privy to nuances of color, light, shade, line, form, texture, etc….these are translated into descriptive elements for the writer or poet. This can only improve your writing.

WRITING PROMPT:
What other creative activities inspire, expand and enhance your writing? Gardening, cooking, sewing, crafting, knitting, pottery, playing a musical instrument, woodworking, jewelry-making, doodling?

In your WRITING journal, draw something.  Sit down in front of an object of your choice and draw it.  Use a graphite pencil and draw the lines–no judgment.  Don’t erase.  If it’s not quite right, play with it until it feels complete to you.  Then write about your process of drawing…your feelings, comfort or discomfort, the lines and shapes, the object itself, whatever you discover as you draw.

strawberries.drawing

WRITING TIP:
Drawing develops your focusing ability as it challenges you to render what you see. Drawing helps you to really see something and notice things that you might otherwise overlook.

*The first online art class I took, BRAVE INTUITIVE PAINTING, was taught by Flora Bowley.