Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BOOM

Yesterday was one of those days that just kicks your ass. Most of every part of yesterday was hard. I have no idea why. I woke up in a bad mood at 5 a.m, forced myself to my studio, only to totally freak out at a huge painting I am working on. After a few hours of wrestling with it, I went home for lunch and decided the only thing to be done was to take a nap.
After more sleeping than I would like to admit to, I drug myself back to my studio and began a somewhat trippy painting session that involved bizarre lighting and too much Peter Gabriel. By the end of a few hours, I thought I had pulled myself out of the rut. With a better attitude, I left for dinner, only to come back and wipe out my painting once again before midnight.
Like I said, yesterday was rough.

So why do I write this? No, I don't believe the blogisphere is a place for self pity. I'm writing about it because yesterday was a very unifying day. Not only was I miserable and unable to get to my "zen" place, but I was even kind of mad at the thought of trying to be zen-like. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and close the lights. Enough of this nonsense about finding the moment and breathing in kindness to myself and the world. I wanted mac and cheese, a bad romantic comedy, and to forget the word PAINTING entirely.

So there.

I got home last night, in tears, thinking the world would end because I couldn't paint, couldn't express, didn't even know WHAT I was trying to paint. "Who the hell am I to teach people to paint", I said to myself. I am a liar and a fake, and it will all come tumbling down on me.

So I was in a pretty fear-based space, if you can't tell already.
I woke up again this morning, pissed at yesterday, not taking note of the sunrise, the dew on the grass, the smell of the coffee. All I could sit with for the first hour of today was how much I suck at all of this.

I don't know if this sounds familiar to any of you. I imagine it does, but about different things.

See, when I take a student on, I ask them to have a few things. I ask them to work on a vision book. This is a binder or desktop folder with images of everything that inspires them. I also ask them to write down what they want their work to be about, and what their fears are. I got this idea from one of my students, Meg, who is a life coach. It's sort of a joke that I teach her, since she is usually the one leading me. Either way, she taught me something very very useful.

We all go through something like a butterfly cycle. The first part of the circle is a catalytic event. Something happens in you ( or outside of you) to make you move. You want to create, you want to write, you want to act, you want to leave. The next part is the big dreaming, when you plan and scheme. This is the exciting part, and it is the part that is the "this is what I am about" . You want to be about creativity, about truth, about love, about uprighted-ness. Then comes the next part..FEAR.... "What if I can't do this?" "Who am I kidding, I can't do this at my age.." "I will be found out" "People will turn their back on me" and so on. Then, after a chunk of time, you can't stay here. By the law of survival, you begin to try. You make the big movement involved. Maybe you go back to school. Maybe you take a yoga class. Maybe you get a studio. Whatever it is, this phase is the spot where you take big actions. Then, you move on to baby steps. You plug away at what you want. You work every single day towards it. You are the busy worker.

And then BOOM! Some event happens, and you go through the entire cycle again, but for some different reason.

So I guess I was in the fear "I can't do this" stage yesterday. And luckily, by sheer nature and grace, today I am in the next phase. Sometimes you go through this cycle ten times in one day. Sometimes it can take years.
You can see why a vision book would help. When you are in fear mode, you have something to go to that is your rock. Who are you? What are you about? What qualities do you want more of in your life? What good things do you give? What would you like people to say about you (and your work) when you die? What do you pride yourself in? Maybe you have something about your beliefs here.
It's funny. I think teaching has been given to me in this time in my life so that I can be taught. I watch students of all ages go through this cycle about everything from using paint instead of charcoal to entering artwork in a show. I walk with them, never saying I know where they are or even how to get out of it. I just watch and walk next to them. And somehow, they always survive.
So why, in times like yesterday, is it so hard to remember that I go through the same thing? I think, and I definitely don't know, but because suffering and fear are the things that unify us as humans. We all feel pain. All of us have had a moment when we didn't know if we could make it through. That is the moment that binds us. That is what connects me with a homeless person, with a millionaire, with a foreigner. It's the "Oh shit" moment. To think we are the only ones having a moment like that is to completely deny our fellow humans. Separate, in my opinion, is tragic. It is also trying to move through a natural cycle that we are all involved in. We hate pain. We hate discomfort. And yet, we have all got it. It is what makes us very un-different from our neighbors.
So I thought about that this morning. Who am I kidding to be the only person who thinks they can't paint? I get paid 4 times a week by people who think the same thing. I'm no different, and for this I am very thankful. Baby steps are the course of action for me today. No big paintings, no big, dramatic, life-as-we-know-it will end sort of tactics. Today is baby steps. Clean my studio to get ready to move. Finish some small commissions. Write my blog. Call my parents. You know, small stuff. I'm sure next week I will have some big episode again.

AND THAT'S OK.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Circles


I went to see the new movie "Inception" the other night. Actually, I saw it twice this past weekend. I don't know how many of you, dear readers, have seen this movie yet. As much as I hate writing a movie review, there are a few points about this film that need discussion.
One of the most interesting parts about it is the blurred line between reality and dreams. As many of you know, I am a big fan of getting my head all wound up in thoughts about what is really going on. This film was totally appealing to my "c'mon give me something to scramble my brains with " characteristic. I won't go into detail, since I don't want to ruin anything for those of you who have not seen it. It was just a fascinating way of diving into what triggers memories and dreams (things we cannot control) and how much those things play out in our "awake" life.

Ok, I just realized this is not the first time I am starting my blog with a movie opinion.... hmm. Perhaps I spend too much time in the theater.

I also wanted to write on the idea of understanding. Not understanding in a big, Buddha, Universal sort of way. Understanding in your daily life and with the people whom are closest.

?

I guess what I am trying to get at is that for many people, change (there's that word again) means leaving some of the people they love. I don't mean physically, per say, although sometimes this is part of it. But for many of us, we are a certain way for a long period of our life, maybe our childhood, maybe most of our adulthood, and then OOPS! You drastically change something about yourself, and some of the people around you are left scratching their heads. They may even disapprove, and tell you all about it. Or they may be secretive about it. And sometimes, whatever change you went through might be so big, you actually keep it a secret from the people you know won't come down the road with you.
I think most of us have had instances of this in our life. Relationally, spiritually, professionally, heck, even dietary. And somewhere in there you had to drop a couple people. Erase the line that holds you back, sort of thing. And when I say drop, I mean nothing more than no longer being vulnerable with the people who do not approve/don't understand your change. It doesn't mean erasing their name from your phone (although I have done this too...) or banishing them to your mind's underworld. It only means protecting yourself, and not with any kind of armor. For that instance, you choose to love and protect YOU over someone else. Sometimes the protection is actually in trying to explain, sometimes it is simply not mentioning the change again. It all depends, I think.

What is so absolutely beautiful in realizing that you can't take all of your buddies and family with you on the road is that there is a lot of freedom. Agree to disagree, and move on. It also makes you more empathetic towards all of the people in the world who feel misunderstood.

So I ask you two questions, on this beautiful morning, to any of you dear readers. The first is to ask yourself if there is anyone out there who really misunderstands you or something about you. Hopefully (or not) you are bobbing your head at a screen. Next ask yourself if this REALLY REALLY Bugs you. If it does, ask yourself if you had some sort of expectation of this person. More than likely, there is a yes here too. And more than likely, your expectation of this person to react a certain way to a change in your life is actually quite impossible for them, for now. You can't give what you don't possess. THEY can't give what they don't possess , yet.

Now second question. Is there someone in your life who you just don't understand why they have changed? Maybe they were SO great before, but now they are a little annoying and stuck on themself? Maybe you admired them completely, but now there is a big, gaping gap in their character? Or maybe they are spiritually or morally not as upright as you thought? You are probably, if you are being honest, bobbing your head again at your screen. I know I am. Ask yourself if you have really understood what this person is going through. Maybe it is change, maybe it is pulling the layers off, maybe it is what was there all along. Whatever it may be, your idea of them has changed, and you're not so hot about it.
See how the two are related? See how if you take that knot in your stomach that comes with somebody TOTALLY misreading you and apply it to your empathy of someone else, it can make you almost cry at the thought that you might be doing the same thing to someone.

Empathy is the damnedest thing.

The Dalai Lama once said that empathy is, at the core, true love. Once you have felt injustice put against yourself, you feel it for all other human beings who must endure it. A full circle, if you think about it.

Speaking of circles, and also to lighten things up a little, I think I am getting a tattoo of a circle for my 30th birthday. I'm going to try to ask this very wonderful Chinese calligraphist (who is 85 years old, and a total badass, may I say) to paint me, in one swoop, an ink circle with one of her brushes. Circles keep popping up in my life. Or I guess you could say they have probably been there all the time, and I am starting to see them. I believe suffering to be a circle. I believe creativity to be a circle. I believe empathy and love to be a circle. I believe family to be a circle.



Thursday, July 1, 2010

Oceans of Movement


Hello, everyone!

I'm writing on two very different, but very much on my mind topics today. First.... Oceans. I saw the film "Oceans" the other night, and it made me cry like a little girl for some reason. It's been a long time since something naturally and purely visual has brought me to tears. Funny enough, this is a documentary film on the oceans of the world and their inhabitants. Nothing made up, no huge story line. But the cinematography is AMAZING. It was shot by two french filmmakers who really know what they are doing. There is a scene of a sea slug that is called the Spanish Dancer that has colors in it I could never even try to paint as far as beauty is concerned. It is playing at the dollar movie here in town, and is truly a gorgeous film.

Ok, the other topic. Last night was the Pulse's (a free magazine in town) State of the Arts party. Basically, it was a reason to have an opening with music, food and art (oh, and booze) in the name of a publication.
Last night was also the first time I showed some of my new work, a series I call MIEKKO.
These drawings are a huge step for me. They are not much to start, and I hope to start a few oil paintings soon, but they are a big process.
I also realized yesterday that many people will not understand where I am coming from, and that is ok.
But I thought I would give a little bit of a voice to why I am doing these movement drawings.
First.... drawings are easier to get your ideas out, and cheaper. I have a tendency to want to go BIG! and CRAZY! But when you are really changing something, especially within yourself, baby steps are a bit of a better, longer-lasting idea.

Why movement? This past year I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I like. As older posts suggest, I like a huge variety of art. I spent a good portion of this past year in artistic hibernation, spending time taking a good hard look at what I do and why. To be really blunt, I looked at many of my portraits, and although I adore each one of them and find many of them beautiful, they are very different from what I think about all day long and how I see the world. I am a firm believer (and this has not changed one bit) that ART mimics part of the truth of life. I'm not going to get gushy here. I'm not saying that it explains it or even makes sense of it. It mimics it, and this is how each human being learns. We mimic when we are babies. We are ingrained with this sense of trying to be and live in something we don't know.
I guess as a portrait artist, I only find PARTS of truth. You paint a face, and a few weeks later, it is already different. How many times have I come back to one of my paintings in someone's house a few years later, and the subject has changed immensely. And that's ok. It is a wonderful process to be a part of.
So I guess I have spent the past year thinking about changes. How EVERYTHING changes. How the second you hold on to something, it is already different.

I read somewhere that human suffering is caused from our want to hold on.

Think about it. We hold on to old pains and continue to hold onto resentment, which makes us miserable on a daily basis. We hold on to past good times, and we are sad that they are gone. We hold on to old loves and don't want them to grow into something different.
And I started to think about this in my work. How the sheer act of trying to catch a personality on canvas, was in way, going against what naturally is happening all the time... change. People are not who you think they are, they are not one way.

My friend Meg told me that "and" is so much of a better word than "or".

My friend Hank once asked me what the most moving pieces of art I had ever seen were. I answered, very easily, the captive slaves by Michelangelo in Florence, Italy. These massive chunks of rock show different slaves, either being sucked back into the rock, or trying forcefully to be free of it. I saw a lot of my own humanity in those. Always trying to express something so inexpressible that is a definite truth. Never free of it, never totally consumed by it.
My other answer to him was actually a work of art I have not seen in real life. The photos of Rothko's Chapel in Houston really did me in. One of my dreams is to see this place. There is something about this place of prayer and how he interpreted sacred space without telling you what to feel that I truly admire.
So this is a bit where I am coming from, I guess. I plan on changing a lot anyway. But movement, the thing that sometimes makes people in our life almost unrecognizable, is a place I feel very close to and very in awe by. For one moment, you see something, and then it changes. Just as you recognize what's going on, it changes on you. And I love this part of life, even if it scares the living %$@t out of me. It's the grey zone, the free-fall zone, the figure -turned- abstract spot. The echo or memory of something that no longer exists. I believe very much in the beauty that hides right there.... in the place that doesn't need to be put in a box.
Maybe I will fall flat on my face... who knows. For now these are my babies.
We will see where it takes me! I was thrilled by the reception of my work last night. I think it surprised a lot of people, and I am thankful for this. Thank you all for reading my babble!

Michelangelo's Captive Slave:


Rothko's Chapel: