my stack of heart-shape stones
get a dusting
news of a local parish priest
listed for sexual abuse
mixing paint and poetry at 4:00 AM my happy heart
like a rock in a river splitting its stream water interrupted returns to its flow
One month ago, I wrote about depression. Now, I am writing about success–the pendulum forever swings. The real breakthrough here is not the award itself, however sweet, but the interruption–like the rock in the river, that changes our flow forever however momentarily and seemingly insignificant, in the big watercourse of life. I can now fully appreciate and gratefully wear the mantle of heroine in my own story and forgive and tender the goat when she stumbles.
heroine or goat always rocks in the river’s flow
January is coming to a close and with it my mindful writing posts for 2019. I have not focused too much writing about my visual art mainly because I feel (the operative word here) that I’m in a slump sorts. It is the black vortex that all artists face, sometimes after a particularly productive period and sometimes not. It is the most difficult aspect (for me) to deal with: an uninspired, I don’t know what I want to paint, unchallenging and utterly bored/boring bump in the road. During these drought-like periods, painting often feels like a chore and production does not stop altogether, however the output or finished piece is not exciting to the artist. Pablo Picasso famously stated:
And so we do work and plow through these lulls which can last for weeks/months and sometimes for years. Every artist in every genre who is truly a creator, explorer and seeking to grow her/his artistry must work their way through the dull-as-a-dishwasher cycles to breakthroughs. For a fledgling artist this can feel like a first crushing heartbreak and that feeling of “oh no–not again” for the veteran creator. It’s not something you ever imagine could happen when you first fall in love with your vision/passion, and you never want, expect or prepare to end. But end it does bringing with the angst–necessary change for greater creative growth and a deeper more nuanced love. Inspiration is another archetype that walks along side us often at her own quirky pace. She must also find you hungry and willing to surrender to her fire.
The painting below seems to have evolved on its own. I don’t know where it came from, but I’m guessing my fiery muse had something to do with it.
until my brush sneaks past me
lost in the paint
Today I was introduced to a charming used book store appropriately named the Old Book Shop. A fellow artist drove me to its location down a backroad past the lumber store near railroad tracks and housed in a nondescript square brick building. Upon entry, you are greeted by the scent of musty books lining tall wooden shelves along narrow aisles and wooden filing cabinets filled with postcards and sheet music dating back to the late 1800s. Welcome to old school bookstore heaven run by a couple of energetic and friendly seniors. Everything is neatly categorized, and there are framed and signed photos of by-gone B-list celebrities, scenes out of World War II and rural America. What an amazing find. Time passes without notice as tasty morsels of old newsprint and magazines tempt a slow perusal. I picked up a periodical called The Pansy dated June, 1892 and published monthly in Boston, MA… Inside were short stories/articles, woodcut prints and “special announcements” like this one:
It is said that Cardinal Manning left two messages into a phonograph, to be listened to by his friends after he was dead. He is the first one who is known to have used the wonderful invention for such a purpose; it no doubt it will be often so used in the future.
I also picked up a few music sheets including:
By Irving Berlin
As a professional gardener/farmer, I was also interested in the Farm Stock Journal, August 23, 1906 published in Rochester, NY for “ONE DOLLAR A YEAR.” Articles of interest: POTATO BUTTONS; CORNS AND TENDER FEET and THE BAT’S SIXTH SENSE. Another fun read is UNDER SUMMER SKIES with a seemingly unrelated bunch of information, however surely making full sense at that time.
The artwork is lovely in all the periodicals. This was a fun find in an unlikely local neighborhood. I will return, and if I can ever bring myself to take these poetic pieces of history apart–they will be collaged into new artwork.
“Paint the truth beneath the facts. ” This sage piece of painterly advice was excitedly brought to the attention of a small group of artists sharing studio space by our inspiring mentor and ringleader. Yes” came the enthusiastic response from all of us followed by blank stares at first. After a little discussion, the concept was clarified in other words: “paint the feeling instead of just replicating the scenery.”
Okay, but how to do that when painting an abstract idea to begin with? Can a feeling be abstracted or paired down anymore to its essence? Do we need to call in Carl Jung? What the heck is this all about anyway–I just want to paint please.
There are certain tools or elements to work with including line, shape, color, value, form, texture, and space which can be manipulated along with design principles of balance, proximity, alignment, repetition, contrast and movement. Throw in some rhythm and harmony and you’ve got it right? Wishful thinking.
Nuance and finesse can be the deciding factors. Anyone can manipulate line or shape and color, but it is the eye and hand of the artist who shows us what is hidden or unbidden inside each of us, whether that is through the cords of a bluesy song, sensual movement of dance, poetic license or strokes of paint on paper. It is the work of the artist who fights, really hard, to interpret that feeling onto a surface. Sometimes defined as a process or a journey–it is the task of the artist to touch and interpret feeling in order to truly “paint the truth beneath the facts” and turn personal vision into a sweeping sensation for all to share in the movement.
June—a favorite month to be outdoors—to breathe the nascent summer scents, to listen to birdsong and bellowing frogs and wear the warm cloth of the summer sun on bare skin. Evenings too, are especially sensual and sweet with fireflies (or lightning bugs), soft breezes, rustling leaves and rain or stars pulsing a sticky sky. It’s a perfect time to sit and write, read poetry and indulge longings of the creative sort. With that in mind, I let go a free flow of hand through brush and words come what may.
This June, I also watched and was engrossed in National Geographic’s program Genius: Picasso and was very inspired by his relentless pursuit of his artistry and his sad pursuit of women/muses often to the detriment of their lives. There is much debate these days about whether or not one can/should separate the art from the artist. Picasso was narcissistic, egotistical and highly competitive, traits I most often find offensive. However, watching the brilliant performance of the actors on a small screen, his story in hindsight and empathizing with Picasso’s process and pain as an artist, I was engrossed and inspired by his vision despite these flaws. Also with his circle of creative compatriots—Matisse, Gertrude Stein, Braque and others. I will read Francoise Gilot’s book Life With Picasso to get her take on their life together as his lover and contemporary artist. From the blurb: “Francoise Gilot paints a compelling portrait of her turbulent life with the temperamental genius that was Picasso.” Oh, and he was a poet too.
So this warm but comfortable night, I share these thoughts, words and paintings:
A few pencil strokes between the o
tumbleweed a rusling breeze
nomads of the night sky
the unturned stone’s lost syllables
in the holy of the artist rides the shotgun
Lunch discussions at the studio have been lively lately amongst my group of women-artist-friends. We come together regularly and irregularly, each with her own brand of self-expression as well as an enormous overlapping of support, encouragement and enthusiasm for each other’s visions.
The opportunity has come up recently for us to enter our work (individually) into a local show that is to represent a cross section or survey of women artists in our area. It is to be displayed at a respected gallery in town. Along with the opportunity comes the angst of “Is my work good enough?” Taken one step further it morphs into “Am I good enough/Am I worthy?” Rest assured at this point, the artists involved are all dedicated, passionate and hard-working. Several have won prestigious national awards and accolades. And yet the angst, or internal emotional strife, is a rampant virus that can cripple even the best and strongest of us. Eva Hesse, a ground-breaking sculptor and pioneering artist in the 1960s questioned her work, her vision and her right to create. Her close friend wrote her in a now-famous (with spicy trenchant language not included here): “Stop (thinking) and Just Do”—Sol LeWitt. Today we admire and celebrate her courage, leadership and movement of art onto a different and higher plane.
The most difficult part of artistry/self-expression is dealing with a brutal self-critic. The rest is simply about observation, patience and practice. What is so wonderful about working in a community, classroom, workshop or with a group of artists-peers is that when you have discussions like this—the realization sets in that we are not alone with Self-Doubt and Fear of Failure. And when we see that our peers are surely worthy of brilliance and respect, we therefore begin to understand and feel that we too are worthy. Self-Doubt and Fear of Failure are merely tools for objective observation, learning, growth and elevating our craft. It may just well be that angst is as important and misunderstood a process as creation itself.
said the rose to the thorn, thank you
© ag ~ 2018
February 28th — last day of the shortest month. Always an analomy — the ending a little too soon. What to write? Why write? Who reads this stuff anyway?
I do. The more I write — the more I flow. Making the commitment and taking up self-imposed challenges helps. And this is the first year that I am able to juggle my poetic and visual art output in tandem. Yay! Before this, it was one or the other. Also before this, I was not as seriously tuned into the work involved in growing my artistry. I have made a serious commitment to explore, express and enjoy the artist’s journey — the whole journey including the failures as well as the successes. After all is said and done, it is the failures that lead to real growth and riches.
With that in mind, I am including here in my last formal #NaHaiWriMo post for 2017, some of my failed haiku. Failed for one reason or another of no great consequence — mostly that they did not take me where I needed to go at the time. I hope to continue my poetry writing posts, however probably somewhat more randomly after this. I do believe that sustained poetry writing infuses my visual art, and my visual art helps poet my words. The painting here is also a work in progress started on top of a failed canvas and may or may not make it into the canons of my saved artwork. To be continued.
clouds on my way to the moon the sea’s lullaby
the jazz solo
just a little off
high wind and hail last night in and out of strange dreams
now we paint our nails
Let me enjoy this moment.
It’s just past daybreak Sunday early September.
In fact, it’s a late Labor Day weekend this year and
with the flux and flummish of school traffic starting,
beach trips ending and a flourish of block-party
bbqs – things are still all mixed up. The soft whirring
of crickets and bird choirs are the morning’s only
sounds and conversation. No leaves rustling, no heat,
no full sun yet – after a summer of only sun and barely
an occasional shower during the night.
I am propped up in bed (oh how deliciously derelict
for me – it’s almost 7 AM!) with only a trip to the
farmer’s market planned, a day at my easel and a new
composition notebook to write in with new graphite pencils.
The dog is still snuggled in her bed, still unaware
that her belly is empty and her bladder full. I was
going to check the weather on the internet but decided
“What for?” this moment?
A sketch, really a study an artist tacks up on
her wall or in her journal to show and allow that
the wonder of infinite possibility and creative play
really begins and lies in her own hand holding
a brush a pencil a pen a poem a stillness, a moment
and much much more.