Sunday, September 18, 2016

Why I am developing my artistic style

ok, so not one of my recent "strong women" portraits.
but this post should give some reasons as to why you don't
get to see them.
Lately, I’ve been working in the Ever After class which, while on the subject of fairytales, is a big step for me. It’s the step beyond “learn this technique” or “follow an artist’s footsteps” to uncovering my own style, and create paintings of my own.

I am loving this — learning what I like and don’t like, struggling to create expressive faces, and coming up with ideas that feel true to me.

I have learned that I like to paint strong women. Women who not only survive, but thrive. And weirdly, the eyes have decided to get larger lately. Maybe because I am seeing more.

But then the question hit me: Why do I want to develop my own style? What is wrong with following along with lessons? What am I going to do this style of mine?

First, I want to tell my own stories. Whether they reflect what is happening to me, or whether they are imagined, creating a portrait is a visual way of sharing that story. Even if they don’t look the smallest bit like me.

Art has always been just for me. Not for anyone else to see, although I do share with some trusted people. It’s to bring me joy and happiness and getting stuff out of my system. It sounds selfish but this is just for me.

I want to do more of it, but there are other demands on my time that I can’t give up. Such as the day job and walking the dog. I’ve trimmed back my television watching and blog reading, for example. I also can’t remember the last time I vacuumed the house.

But — you say — you can give up your job and work for yourself by making a creative business!

That is not for me. This is what I have learned from my last creative business endeavor (which was being published in romance): the moment it is work, the magic and joy goes away. (I also didn’t make a living from it.)

That is a very simple answer. It is more complex than that. Yes, I hated marketing myself and my work. Yes, I had some fear of “exposure” issues that needed work (and have been mostly healed, but the scars remain). And, yes, writing itself was no longer fun. And yes, reinventing myself for the third time just to get another book contract started to feel tedious and where was myself in all of this? Why was I doing this to myself?

Art is a safe space for me to dream, explore, play AND express myself.

I will not buy into the “if it’s good it must be commodified” thinking. That this must be productive work in the sense that it must make money in order to be of value, to be worth my time. I don’t buy that (pun intended). 

Making a product means finding an audience, who wants what you want— or, as I’ve heard it bemoaned among professional artists— going down the rabbit hole of making something that will sell that is not them. That is not me. Even ye olde painters and composers had patrons whose tunes they had to dance to. 

So, selfish it may be. But right now, my art is for me. My style will develop so I can visually tell my stories, and my art journals may all end up in the dust-heap when I die. But then, so will I. I’m not creating to make a legacy either.

I am creating for joy, for happiness, for self-expression, for empowerment. With uncovering my own style, that creating will be with my own voice, not my teacher’s.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

God's love stories ....

Here are some interesting stories and thoughts found on the internets this past month. Aiming for stories of love and thanksgiving...

Have a wonderful weekend...

Monday, August 29, 2016

Grounding with Some Zest

In April, I finished reading "Grounded: Finding God in the World -- A Spiritual Revolution", by Diana Butler Bass. There were many things that were great about the book, and it was a good beginning (it inspired me to write a poem) but by the end it felt like a whole other book could now be written.

This is because I had some reader-baggage / preferences that came up as I read the book, and rather that writing to the author and complaining, I wondered what about the book discomfited me.

Each chapter starts with a theology of grace, even abundance (in the non-prosperity gospel sense of the word!), rejoicing in these gifts that we have been given on "this earth, our island home" (a quote from a Book of Common Prayer Eucharist service) but halfway through a number of the chapters it switched to a scarcity-based theology: good soil and clean, fresh water is disappearing, air pollution, etc. 

It is all true. Good soil is disappearing, air pollution is making a comeback and that needs to be acknowledged. But to be grounded, we need to come from a place of love and gratitude; scarcity and fear aren't the answer. That's the mindset we have now and it makes us grasp ever more tightly.

It turns out I didn't need to write Diana Butler Bass about it. She's on it. In an interview, she said: “Yes, you’re right, this book is ‘urgent,’ but it is beautiful and useful as well,” Diana says. “We’re not at our best when we feel threatened. I want people to know that, if we pay attention to those things, I think that’s where spiritual peace and wellbeing on a global scale will emerge.” (from Read the Spirit) On Facebook, she hinted that her next book that she is working could be called “radical incarnation re-enchantment”, so yes, I will be getting Diana’s next book!

We need to fall in love with our island home instead of treating it like an inexhaustible resource. We and the earth need to flourish together.

Teilhard de Chardin writes of a "zest for life", a passion or a drive to live fully. I read about this in an essay entitled "The Zest for Life: A Contemporary Exploration of a Generative Theme in Teilhard's Work" by Ursula King in "From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe" edited by Sr. Ilia Delio. The essay itself had some issues (not sure if it was Teilhard or King's point of view about humanity's right to use resources), but coming on the heels of reading "Grounded", it was a "Yes. This." moment for me. 
"(The zest for life) relates to an awakening to the fullness of life with all its joys and paints, its growth, diminishments, and sufferings. ... within oneself, in others, and in one's environment. Growing into the fullness of life ... now requires a strong ecological awareness, and a new ecological Earth-consciousness and responsibility. ... Another idea associated with the zest for life is the idea of flourishing, especially the flourishing of people and planet. Flourishing means to thrive and proser. It refers to a dynamic drive rooted in a continuing source of energy which nurtures people's attitudes, motivation, and action." - Ursula King, pgs 190-91 [emphasis mine].
Yes, we need that zest! We need to flourish!

The essay is rather academic (and repetitive, hence the ellipses) so let's unpack it a little. The zest for life is a drive to live fully. It's perhaps easier to think of the opposite to zest: boredom or ennui. Having zest is about living life fully, both the good and the bad, and it means living sustainably. Flourishing, if you will. The abundance is in having enough to live. It's not about the materialistic "must haves, must dos" that the media and commercials tell us we must possess.

If we live fully, with our basic needs met, we can bring that fullness of life to others. An incredibly moving example of this is an article in the New York Times in July, about Canadian families taking in and "adopting" Syrian refugees. Which I will now let you go off and read. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Finding sanctuary

I have gone silent a bit lately because well ... I have dogs once more. Two adorable, smarter-than-me, could-do-with-some-training (and they're getting it), wee dogs that have been taking up a lot of my attention lately as we settle in together. They're shelter dogs, were turned in as strays, and had terrible matted coats so they have some serious separation anxiety issues but we're working on them.

Earlier in the year, I finished reading "Grounded", by Diana Butler Bass. The opening introduction inspired me to write a poem about the two Mt. Calvarys. (Mt. Calvary is a monastery retreat house in Santa Barbara.) The one on the hill top before it was destroyed by fire and its current location. I thought I'd share the poem.

On a mountaintop
My heart broke open,
filled with God's warmth

In a city sanctuary:
Conversations with bees,
Rubbing wood prayer beads
As storm blue clouds loomed,
bad exhausts and loud music
Whittled away into quiet frog song.

I'll share more thoughts about "Grounded" in a later post.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

God's Love Stories ... listening and loving

My superpower is to get out of a crowd quickly. I'm not a small person, so I do indeed treat this as a particular gift.

While I do have, in some measure, kindness and empathy, it is seasons like the one we're currently in where I wish I had it to the extent that it is a superpower: Empathy Girl. (See, I already have a name for it, and I am longing to do a portrait of her too.)

The articles I've found are about coming together as human beings to love and care for one another.

First, though, I highly recommend this Meditation When the World is Falling Apart by Christianne Squires at Still Forming. It is a beautiful thing.

And for some light-hearted, Pokemon-Go related fun, have you seen this video by Deena Blizzard called Chardonnay Go?  (also a Facebook video)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Happy Pride

Happy Pride!

I’ve never been to a Pride Parade before, let alone walked in one. 

It’s the crowds, you see, and the heat, as I told a friend.

But after the tragedy at Pulse in Florida, I felt a pull toward showing my support for the LGBTQI community, but by that time entries into the parade had closed.

No worries, our new deacon at Good Sam got a small handful of us organized and we walked with St. Paul’s Cathedral, along with about four other churches on Saturday.

Three church ladies walk in a parade...

As we waited our turn to go, we cheered wildly for the various police departments and law enforcement that passed us by. Because, Dallas. I have no idea how San Diego measures up against the reformed police department in Dallas, but in that moment, it didn’t matter.

I looked up at the streamers carried by the St. Bart’s youth, that usually represent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in church. And here they were in the world.

Yes, I thought. The Holy Spirit is here.

Or rather, it was a reminder that the Holy Spirit was present, because the Holy Spirit/God is everywhere.

For me, walking in the parade wasn’t about showing how my church is a safe space for LGBTQI, although it is.

For me, it was an expression of love. 

What I didn’t expect was to be loved back.


There were hugs and high fives. Eyes met and grins were exchanged.

“Happy Pride!” the watchers yelled. “Happy Pride!” I yelled back, waving until my arm was sore and then some.

The parade was over before I knew it even though it felt like we waited forever to get started (we, did, about an hour, I think.)

I can’t wait to celebrate again next year with people who revel in being free to be who they are and to love who they love. Which at the Pride Parade, seems to be just about everybody.

I also want to be a mermaid next year with blue hair and shiny cotton candy pink scales. But I might settle for digging out my fluorescent pink socks.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Update to Where Bloggers Create

I have an update to my overhaul of my art space and it is also an opportunity to link to this year's Where Bloggers Create, hosted by Karen Valentine at My Desert Cottage.

Where Bloggers Create

I found that I needed somewhere to put a palette/paint mixing place, and as the goal was not to use the icon writing space for anything but icon writing, I brought a piece of furniture that had been banished from the space for a few years, put some plastic wrap on it to protect the top and I'm currently using palette paper for the mixing. When I run out of that, I'll look into get some glass or perspex or something for the top.

Here is that part of the space before:

and after (apologies for the lighting, it was twilight when I took the photo):

It's a pine bedside table that I painted and used for storage for a while.

So if you haven't seen my overhaul that I did in June, you can see that at this link.

And for previous instantiations of my craft room now art studio, you can go to this page to see all those links.

I'm off to enjoy looking at all the creative rooms in this year's link party!