Friday, October 6, 2017

Letting Fiji In

It's Saturday and I'm in Fiji.This year has been an amazing, adventurous year, but none of my trips were as anticipated as this one. I've actually had much resistance to coming (for a homebody like me to travel is always a "thing"), but this was especially hot and heavy resistance. I'm here teaching but also going on a meditation retreat after the workshop. So, although there is much to happily look forward to, there were endless details and what felt like a arduous slog of a trip.

But arduous is only arduous in the anticipation. In the moment it is just the moment, neither good or bad or hard or easy.

So three flights lots and lots of hours of waiting and a 90 minute cab ride has finally landed me at my first destination...Daku Resort. I was very warmly welcomed and nurtured. Wilma took care of me. Made sure I had water, food and peace and quiet to rest. If I'd been left to my own devices, I don't think I would have taken very good care of myself.

I slept. this surprised me, even though I hadn't really slept since Tuesday night. I had a light breakfast, kept my promise to myself to fill a sketchbook page and met Candace who was instructing a two hour meditation and yoga class. I went. She opened me to Fiji. My body and my heart is ready now.

So, I'll meet my class tonight at dinner and I hope I can pay this forward. I hope that we can fill the next week with the sun, the wind and maybe even the stars of Fiji. I hope our paints and pastels can be filled will the exuberance, warmth and passion that this place so exudes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Two Minds

I was driving to the store yesterday and got completely lost in thought on the way there, but somehow found myself parked in the parking lot in one piece; no dents and I don't think I hit anyone! Clearly, some other part of our brain kicks in while we are driving and takes over the primary functions of moving through space at a fast rate and navigating other vehicles on the road. All the while I can be thinking about what paint to buy and what my mom was talking about the day before, what calls I have to make tomorrow, etc., etc. I'm not saying this is a particularly good thing or optimal driving function. I don't think it is at all! But it points to the complexity of our brains and how we can be functioning on a variety of levels at once.

Painting is like that. Many of my students are trying to integrate new information with old information. They are also trying to find a flow and a rhythm to their work that is not in the realm of the analytical mind but something more intuitive. I'm not sure that this analogy of driving is the perfect one, but it does point to the different types of processes going on.

Some action doesn't appear to emanate from the mind at all. It appears as a spontaneous arising of action entirely independent from thought that you can watch from a witnessing perspective. There is a great part of painting that is of this sort.

How to pay attention to the intuitive part of painting and also to the stuff we learn?  Stuff like the concept of aerial perspective and how it influences the landscape. And by the way how do we do this as older learners? One of my students was talking about this and pointed out to me that much of what I know as a painter, I've been working with since I was very young. What if you are coming to it as an older adult? Is it harder? In response, I've been doing a bit of research on  brain plasticity and art. Here is a link to just one article:

Start doing the work, and the brain responds, allowing one to build and retain not just technical knowledge, but also the imaginative capacity needed to utilize it fully. 


How much of this goes back to the question of "are artists born or made". Of course, I'm a firm believer in the latter. I like to think that everyone can and probably should, if there is such a thing as "should", make art. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Home Sweet Home

With sunny weather and a relatively free day, I took to the streets of Milwaukie, Oregon for an afternoon of Plein Air painting. I've been wanting to try some urban street scenes that are subjects that one might overlook or find not so beautiful. I roamed the Sunday Market and some sides streets of our little downtown and ended up at the end of a street near our post office. I found some shade and a cool view of the railroad trestle, a parked van and some interesting cast shadows.

I'm working pretty small here, so it was challenging finding the right balance of large masses vs the detail that I found interesting. Even though I really tried to keep it small, I think the truck is a little to large.  I'm working on my brushwork; I think I need some bigger strokes in the final piece but I really enjoyed the process and pretty please with the end result. There was a lot to take in!

Monday, October 24, 2016

"Just When You Think" available for purchase at

Whatever it is that we are endeavoring to do, we can never really finish, we can never ultimately attain finality, perfection, and closure. So for me this sense of overwhelm can easily take over and stop me from acting at all. I’m stymied by my own mortality and humanity and the certain knowledge of it. All those photos and scenes yet to paint…Some will not get painted or even attempted.

I’m scared of not being good enough, so sometimes my choice is to do nothing. No, I will never paint the perfect painting, so it’s best to get over my self and paint the ugly ones, the mediocre ones and maybe, however infrequently, the transcendent ones, lest I spend time meditating on my self and my shortfalls. We are short of perfection, but we can step up from our lack of faith and we can move, we can paint.

Today was the first day I really painted after my fall last week. It was the most recent roadblock in a year of traffic jams. I received an email today from a lovely person who said that she hoped that if there were anything positive to come to me from this, it would appear quickly and not keep me waiting! It has and it has all year. I have a charmed life…I’m an artist and I get to paint. I have health and people who watch out for me. Nothing is bad here. It takes time to recognize things for what they are. Sometimes I’m not as quick as I should be to see straight.

"Only Two Things" available for purchase at
Today my shoulder and really my whole body got fatigued pretty quickly, but I’m not in any pain. Probably a sign that my body is healing and I need to pay attention to this. No six-hour days at the easel for a while and I think I’ll stick to small pastels for a bit. A large oil painting, probably isn’t the thing to do!

On a completely different note, I have to say that these two pieces were done on Pastelmatte. It just might be my new favorite paper. I love, love, love they way the marks hold onto the paper or maybe it’s the paper holding onto the marks. There is something soft and yet very tactile about the way the marks go down. You can’t do too much finger blending on this paper which is a good thing. You can’t be tempted there. You have to let the marks be. Incredible!

To watch the video of "Just When You Think" go to

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Smashing Finale

What a finale to Portland Open Studios! Sunday afternoon as I was taking a quick lunch break from the action, I slipped on a slick patch on my hardwood floors, braced my arm and dislocated my shoulder. I have to say that the pain was worse than tearing my ACL a few years back. Fortunately, my phone was just a few feet from me and low to the ground. I now know the real meaning of "I've fallen and I can't get up"! Had my phone been further away or up on the kitchen counter, I might be still laying there by my front door!

But that's now how it went down. I called a good friend who lives just about three minutes away. Luckily he was home and came straight away. Those few minutes seemed like and eternity and so did the 10 additional minutes before the paramedics came. As soon as he arrived he knew I couldn't be safely moved so 911 was the call.

The paramedics took my blood pressure and pulse; faint pulse and very low pressure which meant no pain meds until those where stabilized. More minutes passing. The door was open and I was starting to shiver. Finally I could feel the warmth and relief of the pain medication washing over me, enough to partially of sit up with their help. Onto the gurney and into the waiting ambulance. Warm blankets, more pain relief.

All the preparation and effort to put on Open Studios, getting the studio bright and shiny, sending out emails, putting out signage, the packing and organizing for a workshop...all forgotten in an instant. My trip to Arizona to teach, not forgotten but certainly not the priority. So so, sorry!!

Ok, I've had a bit of adversity lately and just when things seem to be handled, a monkey wrench gets thrown your way. This is obviously something to pay attention to. Life, isn't something to ultimately get a "handle on". It isn't something that can be resolved or made right, or good or found some ultimate solution to. It is only a process to be given over to.

 As I was sitting in the emergency ward waiting to have the doctor reduce the shoulder, I felt a kind of bliss, a kind of ok acceptance. Yeah, yeah, I also had some pretty powerful drugs on board, but this was different. It was surrender into the understanding that in any and every moment, we are ok, we can be already happy. We can be happiness, understand that "being" is that.
Amazing what a little morphine will do!

Saturday, September 3, 2016


My Mom gets worried when I post something personal on my blog. Don't worry, Mom! I post business on Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest, I keep up my website with lessons and paintings. For the most part, I keep to business, but I do view my blog as a place to share the journey of painting and how life impacts that or how painting impacts my life. That's a chicken before the egg thing for sure!

Without sharing the gritty details, I have gone through just about the hardest thing I can really imagine over the past few weeks. Of course that means something different for each of us in a way. Let's just say, it was REALLY bad. Now, I'm not trying to garner sympathy or to be the victim emotionally. What I want to talk about is how I'm getting through it. What do you do when the shit really hits the fan? Do you fold and collapse into your own little separate space or do you turn from that to something better, greater, stronger?

I've chosen the latter, as to chose otherwise doesn't seem too wise. I was thinking about the book by Eric Maisel and his list about what working means. Included on this list is "work through the catastrophic times." You know that they are coming to you but somehow you believe that they will be someplace far off in the future. Well, the future is NOW. And the truth is there is only this NOW to live in.

So, I paint, I read, I try to be quiet when:
"all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you"....

I'm reaching out to those I trust most without being dependent or reactive. Just quiet. And I know that things change.

Just painting. It has always been a source of strength and solace for me.  I could get all wrapped up in drama and my own reactivity, but I've chosen something I hope that is bigger and better than that. Having practiced working at painting
as a discipline over the years has shown it's worth and wisdom! Knowing that all the painters over all of art history have done the same gives me comfort and strength. Having a place to go deep into the mystery of life that I know is way beyond myself is powerful. When I stand at my easel and paint, it's bigger than I am. So excuse the personal tone of this post but maybe sharing this will also be a source of strength for you when your "Now" comes along.

Thank you Eric Maisel and Rudyard Kipling!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Is It Enough?

It's Monday...and I took it upon myself to start the week off by sleeping in for once. Then slowly but deliberately got myself going for the day. I have lots of deadlines, real and imagined ones that I think in my head I should be attending to today; my website, mini-lessons that I'm behind on, new DVD series, promotions and last but certainly not least, painting.

But as I was having my tea, then mediating I began to realize how my attention is going in various directions. What is the meaning of all of that? Why? Does it ever end, our striving and seeking to finally get it all together. If I could just get this one project completed, I'd be settled or happy or whatever! Life isn't about that really. There is no ultimately satisfying act or completion or any "thing" after which we can say "now I'm done". At least not until death!

So, when I get up and feel some sort of pressure to get it all "done", I have to examine that and observe it more carefully and see that for what it is. It's just not true. So, as I get the little bits "done" and move through my day, any kind of satisfaction is in being settled with being unsettled. It's OK. It's OK to feel unsettled. Feel it.

I spent some time in my new backyard which is graced with a lovely little lilac tree/bush in the center. Now, when I moved in this sort of oddly placed and funny little tree was just a curiosity. I had no idea what it was. I considered removing it because it was smack in the middle of the yard. But, I put some Christmas lights on it and began to enjoy it's unusual charm. I called it my Edward Scissorhands tree. I had a wonderful landscape designer come and consult with me on the yard and she told me it was a lilac. Still, I was not that enthralled. I thought maybe it was some lesser kind of variety with small flowers. I don't know why I thought that, (more thinking, thinking). Of course this little tree has revealed itself to me. As a child, the smell of lilacs was thick in the spring air and has since been a source of comfort and joy. My funny little tree will stay exactly where it is. It's OK, it's more than OK.

Getting things done, persisting even when conditions seem very good, even when conditions seem very bad....or not getting anything at all done.

Here are a couple of blogs that you might find interesting. .
Britte is a yoga teacher and just a higher being. Addicted to Veggies is a great blog that has raw and vegetarian recipes. Now I'm not preaching, just saying that these two ladies have helped me to "feel" better in my life.

I realize this post may not seem to have much to do about painting, but it actually does have everything to do about painting if you are a painter or want to be a painter, need to be a painter.

Happy Painting,
Love Marla