The Rewards of Sharing

"Dual Duty," 16" x 20," mixed media on deep wood panel
“Dual Duty,” 16″ x 20,” mixed media on deep wood panel

Sometimes I forget to share. I stay in the studio painting and don’t enter shows, teach classes, or volunteer to talk to groups. It becomes a bad habit.

Yesterday, because my husband promised, I gave a short artist’s talk to a group of seniors like myself. It was meant to inspire them to share their own life stories and changes in their lives, but I think it inspired me more.

I only talked and answered questions for about 30 minutes and took three of my recent paintings. The talk was mostly about my love of art, how it had been part of my life since my twenties, and more important in the last 10 as a full-time artist. But I also talked about process and how I painted these three pieces in particular.

As I was driving home one of things I noticed was that as I talked I got more excited about my work. Talking about my art seemed to stimulate me. It was as if talking about these paintings in a new series not only gave me more confidence but also clarified what I was doing and nudged me forward. I wanted to go directly to the studio.

I think sharing is important no matter what you do with your time. You would be surprised that so many people are interested. “Show and Tell” is not just for kindergartners.

 

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Over and Over

Changing just one thing can make a difference.

Over and Over, 18" x 24", Mixed media on paper
“Over and Over,” 18″ x 24″, mixed media on paper

You know how a tune gets locked in your head, an “ear worm” they call it. I am particularly susceptible to any kind of “worm” whether a tune or a behavior. I seem to get locked into action or inaction.

I have been trying to discover how we free ourselves from repeating behavior that we know isn’t good for us, whether it is obsessing over a problem or just painting in the same way we always have. One suggestion was to change just one thing. In my yoga class the instructor often says something similar. She suggests moving the right arm out as you lift the left leg or putting the arms in front rather than behind in “child’s pose.”

I normally paint on deep wood cradles with a highly textured substrate. So I decided to paint on paper. It appears to me this one change has made me focus more on markings, which may well be a good thing.

Oh, I guess I did change two things. Instead of my classical or new age music, I listened to a bit of country. Go figure.

Perhaps you might try changing just one thing in your art or your life—or two?

Remaining Grounded

groundedweb
“Grounded,” 20″ x 6″ square (4-sided), mixed media on wood

This painting was inspired by what remained of a fallen tree—just a stump. Part of the wood had rotted and what remained was jagged and sticking out in all directions—but still it held tight. It remained grounded.

As our world sometimes seems to spiral out of control, I remind myself to breathe deeply, to try and love everyone and the natural world, to respect others even when I disagree, and to nurture the next generation no matter whose child they are for they are our hope.

“Though darkness gathers, praise our crazy fallen world; it’s all we have, and it’s never enough.” From Praise Song by Barbara Crooker,

 

 


 

Purple Deceiver

Where paintings take us

purpledeceiverside
“Purple Deceiver,” 16″ x 20″ x 3″, mixed media on deep wood panel, https://www.artsicle.com/artist/art/purple-deceiver/details

On an early morning hike just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, my husband and I noticed a purple mushroom. Several photographs later, I thought I might paint a simple abstract landscape, but alas, paintings take us “where they want to go” sometimes. And this one took me many places.

Before I started anything, I really wanted to identify the mushroom. I was so excited when I found the name purple deceiver, but a few minutes later a less amusing name appeared: purple cort or cortinarius iodes. So I stopped there because I really wanted it to be a purple deceiver and to take on the complexity that denotes a con artist. After all, this little beauty had definitely misled me. And being here in the middle of a political season that will not be discussed, but can certainly be defined as full of “deceivers,” I decided that no matter what, this painting was “Purple Deceiver.”

Nothing about it is particularly clear. Everything is suggestive.

When Words are Boundaries

settingboundariesiiweb
“Setting Boundaries II,” 11″ x 14″, mixed media on canvas paper,  https://www.artfinder.com/product/setting-boundaries-ii-3ee0/

For someone who spent a lot years working with words, I find that many,many times what I tried to say was not what was heard. Then every once in a while, I stop and say nothing, and my silence is taken as acquiesce as if I don’t care. When considering the vitriol of our current elections, I can’t help but wonder if the Saxon derivation of much of our language has somehow imparted a measure of staccato belligerence into our speech.

Words are certainly powerful. They can divide us or bring us closer together. They can draw a line in the sand that can’t be crossed—at least not without anger and resentment. Of course our world would be less civilized without some verbal and physical boundaries, but the question is whether those boundaries can be crossed to pull us together as communities. Clearly we can’t do this without the appropriate words. Learning how to communicate what you mean and what you feel is not something that happens when we reach some magic age. We must continue to learn, change, and occasionally question the wisdom of our boundaries.

Setting Boundaries

settingboundariesweb
“Setting Boundaries I,” 12″ x 12″ x 3″, mixed media on deep wood panel

Who doesn’t love a beautiful stonewall or a wrought iron fence? It makes everything seem contained, more civilized, safer. But do boundaries always keep us safe, or does they simply separate us?

Robert Frost in his poem “Mending Wall” questions this notion with his neighbor as they do a spring mend on a stonewall, each on his own side. The narrator considers this repairing an “out-door game,” since there is no livestock to contain. But his neighbor seems serious about the boundaries and quotes the proverb: “fences make good neighbors.”

As houses get closer and the noise louder, I too want to set boundaries—to live within a walled garden. I get up early not to hear the sounds of construction. But will a wall, garden or not, make me more tolerant? Will I sleep better at night with a 6-foot privacy fence? Possibly. Or perhaps it is more about what a fence symbolizes, because boundaries can be so many different things.

If boundaries alienate us from each other, can we name the boundaries? Are they simply differences in looks or opinions so that we draw lines of exclusion to feel more comfortable? Are they differences in values or religion? Or are they what we imagine of our “neighbors”? Frost says, “my apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines.”

So I ask myself and you, does setting boundaries benefit us or keep us from crossing lines that might make a difference?

What Painting and Listening Teaches

I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods, and the time I’ve spent lately has included more listening. That means I’ve heard the difference in the sounds of water—depending on whether it is a small stream, a river, or a waterfall.

The connection between timpani or kettledrums came when viewing a PBS film on crafts that talked about how different drumsticks change the sound of the drum. Some sticks are made with harder tip, others have more, and softer felt. This last trip to the woods I’ve tried to notice why the sound of the water might be different. Is it the force of the water, the height of the waterfall, the number and type of rocks below the water, or even how those rocks or logs lay in the stream or river?

So the start of the 4-sided painting has become the first in a series about the sound of water. I love what painting and listening teaches me. Even a small waterfall can rumble.