Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Painting The Buddha

This Buddha is part of a large piece (30x40") which has 3 Buddhas in it and is probably the largest piece I've done.  The piece starts with squares of colour and pattern, an abstract painting really, and then the outline of three Buddhas rest on the background.  It took a long time to complete with lots of staring at it and reworking and leaving it rest for periods of time.  At one point the colour was completely different and the Buddhas were simple coloured silhouettes.  It was in fact a totally different painting.  But it wasn't quite right.  It was flat and tentative.  In the end I am happy with the piece.  It is alway a feeling rather than any sense of logic that dictates what it is good to do next and when a piece is actually done.   My work in the studio teaches me a lot about how to live the rest of my life.  I learn about patience and perseverance and riding out difficult emotions. 

It's a bit of a puzzle sometimes in deciding what to do with a piece, like the experiment of life.  I often know something doesn't work but can't quite figure out then and there how to make it work.  It can feel frustrating, accompanied by the sense that maybe this time I might just have to chuck it in the end.  But somehow, if I pay attention and keep going  it always seems to come out the other end.  I like some end results better than others, but mostly  things are reworked until I have that sense of completion and a sense that they are as they should be.  It makes for a long process sometimes.  There are days when I am on a roll and things go well and there are days when nothing seems to work, things get glued on upside down and all the paint needs to be wiped off and reworked the following day!  I have learned to just be with the days that don't work, for the most part.  There are days when things move so slowly that my feet seem stuck in molasses.  I have learned that I am mostly slow and meticulous and my process is long and windy for the most part.  

Today it was dark and rainy and I wasn't feeling very motivated.  There was an unidentified darkness hanging around.  I didn't like the look of what I was working on and really didn't want to get started.  But I finally did anyway.  I suspended judgement and just worked, quietly and attentively.  And surprisingly by the end of the painting day I was pleased with what had emerged.  It was so interesting to watch the resistance.  Lunch took a long time, then I looked at a magazine.  I knew I was working in an "uninspired" sort of space but still I persevered and as the Dharma would have it, this feeling, this state passed and I felt the strength and energy of not giving in to my old friends "sloth and torpor"  

There is so much Dharma in anything we do, in the process, how we work, how we approach our work, how we use our minds, and the emotions that rise and fall, like tiny gusts of wind or huge tropical storms of angst and pain.  Just energy passing through really.  But there we are liking the energy that feels "good" and labeling as "undesirable" the darker energy.  In the end if we can suspend judgement it is all just energy.  From my painting I learn to just stick with it and not judge.  I get to see how I never really know where I'm going or how things will turn out.  It is not necessarily dependent on my state of mind or feelings at the beginning of the task.  I may start out feeling a little low and have a great studio day and vice versa.  It reminds me that my job is just to do what has to be done,  and not trouble myself with the rest, with thinking about or anticipating the results.

I am reminded of my friends comment, that as she looks for a job and a place to live, she moves between hope and fear, back and forth.  But it doesn't really matter.  If we can manage to stay detached from these states and not believe the little stories that swirl in our hearts and minds then it is all okay.  If we can remember not to prefer hope over fear, we are truly enlightened.  That is our work really.  And as my teacher would say, it is all good.

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