|Forest Buddha 14"x18"|
It is raining again. I am always amazed at how much the human mood is tied to the weather. Go into town on a sunny day and everyone is all smiles and chat. Today there is a dark calm, an even light that the white sky casts over the landscape. Every shade of Spring green is available to the eye. There is a calm, contemplative feel to the day. Still my little self calls out for sunshine. The energy inspired by bright sun waits somewhere out of sight. The hum of the heater reminds me of how cool the air is outside. A sagging pine branch just outside the window dangles in the breeze. Even the hummingbirds zing about with less ferocity.
I have spent the last few days getting ready for the summer art show here on Salt Spring. I count myself in with the slackers and stragglers who will submit their inventories at the very last minute of the call, today at 3pm. I have my excuses. We all do. And reason tells me they are true. My heart tells me they are not important.
I have been painting in a new way so not really producing much finished work; lots of thrashing about and the occasional piece that escapes the gesso wand of thick white goo, marking it for repaint. I am frustrated when I produce a painting I like and then go for days before another hits the mark. Yesterday I joined the "Painting Rescue Society" in the effort to safe a few old pieces. I implore you not to join their ranks if they come knocking at your door, with their tatty little membership forms. This I learned is pretty much a waste of time but it took me a good part of yesterday to realize my efforts to rework old pieces were not panning out. I learned that the brew mixed up by hope and delusion is rather bitter and best poured down the sink.
In the end I always stand back and ask if I would be happy with my name on a piece. It is about some internal integrity that gets stronger the more I work. It's like the dharma, isn't it: the clearer we get, the less we feel okay settling for the lazy, "good enough" effort? We get to know the tricksters that haunt our craniums. There is so much to learn standing in front of a canvas. I might have said standing in front of a "blank" canvas, but in this case the learning comes from standing in front of an old canvas.
Painting, I was going to say, is like practice but actually it would be more accurate to say it is practice. I have learned a lot by my thrashing about this last 6 months, by venturing out into new paint ground. I work with a new eye, new faith in the process and a sense of "it's all okay". That's been a big lesson for me, to work for days, months and have little to show for it. It's sobering and honest making. You get to see what you're all about. In looking at what I accept as presentable work this weekend, I can see that there has been some movement, there has been something going on underground.
I also learned that I don't work well under pressure, actually I know that, but the weekend was a sturdy reminder. As much as I told myself I would not go into the studio with grim determination to "produce", the old habit became my shadow. It hovered and lurked, sucking all the fun from a painting afternoon. I learned that the process for me is a mysterious one, sometime a painting emerges and sometimes there are just paint rags on the floor and a whole mess of dirty brushes. I learned that I have become better at leaving the failures behind when I leave the studio, not to come into the kitchen filled with the glumness of an empty hand.
And so that was my weekend, one new painting and lots of inner etchings.
I will end with this quote I found on tumblr that speaks eloquently to where I am now:
"It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings."