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!