This painting is called "Buddha Cries A Leaf". And even with the tear it doesn't feel sad to me. This Buddha feels connected to and concerned for the world, for the forests and trees, for the natural world. The tear drop leaf is a tear of compassion and concern.
I'm thinking about the creative process tonight. I'm going to throw a quote out to welcome you, like a little red carpet. Here let me unroll it: "And often the process of creation is unenjoyable, tormenting, and frustrating, just as a prayer may open to the difficult and confusing struggles of life." -Shaun McNiff "Trust The Process."
I have been watching this phenomenon of the creative process as a source of torment and frustration over the last two weeks. I have been looking over my own shoulder which makes me sound like a strange 2 headed zen monster. In getting some paintings ready for submission to the Art Gallery's summer show, here's what I've learned. For me painting is a long windy process. I don't usually know where I'm going and there are often detours and dead end roads along the way. I need lots of time and space to navigate all the unknown curves. And so it goes that a reservation at a nice hotel that needs to be claimed by 4 pm, doesn't really work for me. I knew that before I started but thought I would just take the trip and everything would work out fine. Ha! My studio became a dojo where instead of quietly and meditatively taking up the paint brush I engaged in a few rounds of wrestling. Killer Kowalski put on his best blue leotard and stopped by for a round or two. Most of the time I had myself all twisted up in a figure four leg lock and was pulling my own hair. Killer thought this was pretty funny stuff!
When I go to paint, usually I am just going to paint, if that makes any sense to you. On a good day I explore the materials, muck about and hours can pass. I am happily engaged and sometimes something pleasing emerges. But because I "needed" to produce something by a specific date for a specific audience I made myself all crazy. What would the curator like? And of course, it must be really good, after all this is the big, public gallery here in town. So by now I am really twisted up like a psychotic pretzel. But I know better right. So I try not to do this which some how gets me deeper into the doodoo. I am struggling with what I should do, what I shouldn't do. Those thoughts which I know are unhelpful are hiding there in the back of my mind, slinking around in the dark. I can hear the little paw prints on the hardwood floors. So it's me, some paint, some canvas and Mara. There she is stirring the pot. She is in her element.
I can see what I do and yet I spend days wrestling, feeling defeated and getting nowhere. Maybe I should give this up. Maybe I'm not really supposed to be doing this. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Mara stirs a little doubt into the yellow paint. Then she smears a little attachment across the canvas. A big messy dark spot of desire. I wash it all off, sit down in my chair and close my eyes. After a while I start again. I ask the painting to tell me what it needs. I try to listen. Have faith, I say to myself like a little mantra. And so some days I take a few steps forward and a few steps back. I am not really pleased or smitten with anything that emerges but I try not to tell the paintings they are ugly.
And so I see how all this simply reflects age old habits of how I operate in the world. I look at myself (like my paintings) through the eyes of some imagined curator and always find myself (like the paintings) not quite good enough. So I get all crazy and try and make myself (and my paintings) measure up to some imagined standards. I see how counter productive it is as I work in the studio. I see how this little room strewn with brushes and paper is really just a mirror of the bigger rooms that I live in. I see where the work is to be done.
And so instead of giving up or getting mad or depressed, or winging something out the window, everyday I get up and start all over again. I make the effort to relax and just be. I try to forget that I am working toward an end. I make it my aim to focus on the process. Some days I am more successful than others and some days I find myself lying in a knot on the floor. But it is the willingness to reorient and to learn that is important: the ability to add a line or two to a paint smear and make it beautiful, to rework what seems unworkable. I am "Going, going, going beyond, always becoming Buddha" - from "The Scripture of Great Wisdom."