Now I am a sucker for good words, so when she described intuition and subconscious thinking as "under the bonnet of our awareness" I was hooked. But there are more than high falutin' science terms and well-turned phrases in the article. Van Mulukom describes how overthinking can be detrimental to our decision making processes. Now this is just EXACTLY what happens during the creative process, when we stumble into the mindset of trying to control and plan every brushstroke and somehow lose the soul of a painting.
But neither does she recommend we give up our old friend analysis. Intuitive decision making is great as long as it isn't complicated by cognitive biases like stereotyping or putting our heads in the sand in denial. The link lists a bunch of bias types I wasn't really aware of. Maybe awareness is part of the fix for that?
Though it may be just my own clustering illusion bias, I take comfort in today's chapter in Mark Nepo's The One Life We're Given in which he writes "...we are drawn to what we need to learn. Nor is it by accident that authors and artists are drawn to subject matter they need in order to grow." As I pursue a trust-fall approach with paint, it is nice to think these nuggets of information were dropped along the path just for me. Or is that a candy-covered cottage in the clearing ahead? Awwww Hansel, let's just have a few more sweets, shall we?
The Night Priestess
But when something is stuck in my head, I generally give it a good investigation. This song, born in the 1960's, during a time when it was very hard to be black in America, still rings true today.
I go to the movie and I go downtown
Somebody keep tellin' me don't hang around
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will
There has been a rash articles in the news recently about people calling the police just because people are black in a situation. People telling them "don't hang around." Could this song really have been written over fifty years ago? My heart hurts.
But like Sam Cooke's hopeful lyric, there are little glimmers of real connection and understanding in the world as well. In a recent episode of Queer Eye , the fear of being black in America was handled in a way that could foster real conversations. It included a heart-opening dialogue between a gay black man and a policeman he was helping, in which they were each able to express honest emotions about the state of things. After listening (and they made that point, a lot of people talk but don't listen to each other), connections were made and understanding fostered that could, if replicated and multiplied, build bridges of healing and tolerance.
Maybe it is naive of me to find hope in a world that seems in so many ways unchanged over half a century. But as the song unfolds in my head, I can't help but be lifted up by Cooke's voice and words.
There have been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will
The artists channeled their inner Rothko, using the Subway Series as a jumping off point and this painting as a sample.
I think every participant was utterly exhausted by the end of the day. But each one (and I mean EVERY ONE) of them created something emotive, powerful and breathtaking. Hearts were left in the paint. Happy hearts, sad hearts, wistful hearts, strong hearts. And fear of abstracted figures was left in the dust, helpless. No fear there!
One thing was clear by the end of figurative abstract day - if you throw enough challenges at the creative spirit, it will rise up, get out of the critical mind and just create without limits. Sometimes we can silence the inner critic by launching volleys of new things at it. You might need pajamas, a dark room and a bottle of wine afterward, but by golly you will have created something magical. Now where are my slippers?
And if you need more fowl humor today, here's the trailer for "Chicken Run", one of my favorite feathered movies by the creators of Wallace and Gromit, my ultra favorite animated series. BaGAWK!
or two from Quinn's own story. And this is where the real treasure lies in this painting.
Quinn was abandoned - literally - by his family at the age of 15. He came home and they were gone. Everything. Just an empty apartment. Yet he went on with his life, education, employment and art. And he doesn't bemoan his childhood. He is grateful for where his own story took him. That makes me re-examine a few things about my own troubled upbringing and see them as huge gifts. Whoa. That was unexpected. Hmmmmmm.
But here is where it gets really good, all you artists who are struggling to find your "voice" in the art world. So he is making his art, right? Gets offered a chance to show a few. Needs one more for the show and is really out of time. So he just lets loose and does whatever. And KABLAM! There is is. One piece, not like the others. And someone notices. The story pretty much writes itself after this. A Cinderfella story.
What this means for people who create: get out of your own head, your routine, your predictability and just LET LOOSE! Do it! Don't think about it. See what happens. I double-dog-dare you.
Maybe you need a little motivation to try this, so here is a sweet repeat of one of my favorite inspirations. Put a bird on it! And you can, too!
Congratulations to Carolyn L., the winner in Monday's childhood talents commentary drawing! A little birdie is coming your way.
"Flock Together" - watercolor and gesso on paper, 15" x 22". Ready to frame. Available here and at Artfinder.
Happy Monday, dear reader! We are having a deluge here in south Florida, as the rainy season commences and the greenery overtakes everything. Our mango and avocado trees are heavy with fruit hanging nearly to the ground, like some oddly edible Christmas trees. But rainy days are also quite conducive to painting, mending, organizing and thinking. My brain feels heavy with ideas.
A deep dive back in to Mark Nepo's The One Life We're Given and a chapter on talent. I couldn't imagine what spin Nepo might have on this topic, but he had me oooooohing and aaaaahhhhhing from the first page. When you were quite young, sweetest of readers, was your talent seeing the moon? Picking the best color from the crayon box? Knowing which jelly was best? Finding cloud animals? Or maybe knowing when grown-ups were angry, or when your sister needed a hug? Nepo had me teary again when he wrote "We're so focused on our talents of doing that we often ignore our talents of being." That's right, your talent and mine begins with just being.
We knew this as youngsters - we felt glorious and gifted merely by existing! Until the world told us we had to be more. Nepo assures us "our quest for purpose begins with knowing our natural gifts. Then our life's work becomes the inevitable journey of becoming what we already are."
I'd love to know what your childhood talents were...there is treasure to be had in those memories! Leave a comment below. One lucky commenter's name will be drawn at random and will receive a sweet treasure in the mail from me. Thank you for being!
10,000 Circles Meditation
Reprint the photo in black and white and make a value sketch over top of the photo with some parchment paper. The result with be a nicely abstracted version of your photo, which you can use as a blueprint for your painting.
I may not have noticed before are suddenly jumping out. When the details are blurred, the composition becomes clear.
But enough of all this seriousness! Maybe you need a little doodle meditation to start your day? What's cuter than 30 cute faces?
"Simon came to life in stages, slowly, unfurling like one of those slow-motion videos of buds opening in the spring." The opening line of chapter five finds one tenacious donkey pretty much returning from the dead. The author, Jon Katz, rescued and cared for Simon despite the overwhelming odds against recovery. And despite the horrors of his condition and the herculean amount of effort needed to keep him alive from day to day. I know a few superheroes like that in the world, including the folks who rescued Pongo.
You've heard these types of stories before, dear reader, so I won't stand on the soapbox of animal rescue today. But how about human rescue? In this book, Katz proposes we find the same amount of compassion for the folks who put these animals into distress as we do for the animals themselves. WHAT? Wait! You might be wondering what the heck Katz is thinking here. And I was, too. Until he wrote about all of the organizations, people, programs and energy available for animals who need rescuing. And then compared that with the national organization for humans who need rescuing. Oh. Right. There isn't one. We see a lost dog on the street and we bring him home, give him shelter and look for his family. If we can't find them, odds are we take him in or find someone else who will. But when we see a lost or homeless person...well, it isn't the same response, is it? I know, it isn't that simple. But maybe it could be. If we felt the same amount of compassion for people.
I haven't finished the book yet, but already I know it will be one I keep in my collection. And not just because it is about a donkey. This gem of a book reminds us of something we all have in common in America - both the left and the right - we agree that animals should not be abused or neglected. So maybe, just maybe, if we start with something we all agree on, we can take baby steps forward until we find common ground about people, too. Just saying.
Now if you've got a lazy afternoon and want to enjoy some nostalgia, here is the Muppet version of the Musicians of Bremen. :)
There's nothing quite like a visit to the dentist, a spike in the tire, a deal falling apart and a migraine setting in to bring on a good old fashioned cry. But I decided instead to start being grateful, right in the middle of a near meltdown. I am grateful for novocaine. I am grateful for tire repair shops and a husband who doesn't mind rescuing me now and then. I am grateful for the ability to spin many plates. I am grateful for ice packs when my head hurts. You get the idea. Maybe you already do this? My instincts are to do the opposite. But this time, THIS TIME I made myself list things I was thankful for.
By the end of the day, that train had turned around and the snowballs and near tears became one lovely thing after another. Well I'll be darned. And now I am grateful for the ability to be grateful. And for this outrageously quirky video, which tickles my fancy. Who knew there were recorder players with music videos?