Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Chicken of Thought, The Egg of Feeling

Road Through The Mountains 24"x24"
Yesterday when I was working on this piece pictured above I noticed a tightening in my body, a sense of nervousness. "What's this?" I thought? And then it struck me that this was my body responding to subtle background thought "I'm  afraid of making a mistake." The sensation and thought  were sewed tightly together, in the same way you might wonder what comes first, the chicken or the egg.

This time instead of being captured by this familiar lurker,  I caught him red handed and had a little laugh, which made him slink away. "Now what am I afraid of, this is my painting. That's a crazy thought. How could I make a mistake? And if I don't like the next mark, I can paint over it or wipe it off." But I can't tell you how many times I've been captured and thrown in the trunk by this thought.  And sometimes when we look we'll see a seminal thought like this one, that has run like a long thread across the days of our lives, tying us up in little knots along the way. On how many occasions have I frozen for fear of making a mistake of some sort?  See how therapeutic painting can be!

I am getting more comfortable in my exploration of abstraction. Maybe it's partly because I'm finding materials that seem to lend themselves more to what I want to translate onto the page or .... maybe I've just worn down the part of me that cares so much by painting some pretty awful stuff!

I made my own cold wax using an organic orange cleaner called Orange a-Peel. I cut up chunks of beeswax and dropped them into a jar of orange stuff the same way you would make regular cold wax. It melts into this luscious creamy goo. I must warn you this mixture is stinky, in an orange solvent sort of way but more tolerable to me than the chemical or turp based solvent ones. I bought some white oil paint that is water soluble and odourless (doesn't necessarily mean it's non toxic though)  to go with the earth pigments I ordered. I am also using ash from the wood stove and some powdered milk paint.  So I am the studio witch of the north, mixing up strange things to rub and brush onto my canvas. Haven't resorted to eye of newt yet (it's not vegetarian).

Route 42

I have discovered I like things that look like rock and old cement floors, these natural and neutral palettes with organic and intricate patterns and textures. Go figure, but there you have it.  I started looking around for what really interested me as a basis for my abstraction and that was it. I have no idea where I'm going but I feel some sense of going somewhere, if that makes any sense. For a long time it was just pure frustration, but that landscape of ennui seems to have faded in the rearview mirror (at least for now). I went to a great artist's talk last night by Jason Pollen and he said the difference between art and craft is that with a craft you know where you are going (I'm building this bird house, I'm making this quilt) but with art the final destination is unknown. And you know how that makes us feel a lot of time. We like to tie all those loose ends up and feel in control. Yes I know where I'm going, it's that little town about 100 miles away and I have a hotel reservation there tonight. Standing on the edge of the unknown is one of those valuable principles of the Dharma.

And I am lucky I still have most of my hair (this has nothing to do with orange solvent or ash from the fire). I just finished building a Wordpress website and was reminded what a low tolerance level I have for frustration.  Ah, more good Dharma practice. Be civil and kind to that online support guy who is giving you advice that requires a Martian translator and tells you to read the instructions again, more carefully, this time because it's all there.  But in the end I have a place to house a good sampling of my images. And it feels good to have wrestled with wordpress and won. Go have a peek here if you feel inclined.

That's about it at this end of the world. It feels like it's getting ready to rain for 40 days and 40 nights. And this has nothing to do with the American election, I'm pretty sure. What are you wrestling with these days, or smiling at?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Practice of the Open Road

Fall makes me think of travel, of road trips. It would seem more seasonal to  think of apples and soup and warm sweaters? But such is the deep groove of habit, carved like a grinning pumpkin face into the soft flesh of memory. We have traveled often in the fall, before the winter rains set in and the inward tug of winter gathers us in front of the fire.  So it was the tantalizing call of warm breezes and restless feet that urged us to pack a little bag, fill the car with gas and head off; Pema dispensing Dharma talks on "The Way of the Bodhisattva"from the CD player, interrupted occasionally by a little shakuhachi flute or some David Whyte poetry as we covered the miles. The windows brimmed with wild ocean in Oregon and parched hills in California.  We stopped to walk beaches and explore towns, sampling local kombucha and freshly roasted coffee.  Fine weather followed us all the way.

We took on the practice of the open road, just going where it seemed good to go, chatting with who seemed to appear, marvelling at the variety of sentient beings and beautiful vistas that fill this amazing planet.  In this post I will impersonate one of those little gnomes that poses in various locations. 

Here I am at Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast. The wind has blown my gnome hat off! 

More Cannon Beach sans gnomes

open road, gnomes busy navigating and driving

large footed gnomes have wandered off into the fog

Many gnomes cross The Golden Gate every day, but quiet on Sunday mornings as gnomes sleep in

Coffee is serious business at "The Republic" in the Mission District of SF. You must have a mac book pro to have coffee here (even if you're a gnome). I warn you they will check at the door. You can wear your kilt, your dog can bark inside, but you must have a mbp. I don't make the rules, I'm just sharing them with you!

Gnomes advice for San Francisco: Check your brakes, wear sensible shoes with lots of traction (yes, they can have pointy gnome toes, maybe soccer shoes?) and carry a shopping bag, it's the law in California as of Oct 1st (in Texas, I think you have to carry a gun) Speaking of guns, I did see guns for sale in the Fred Meyer store (with camo and pink on them) and boxes of ammo on the shelf, quite creepy in a voyeuristic kind of way to a Canuck gnome.

Gnomes are allowed out after dark, but must be careful not to roll down hill, after long day of walking across the city.

Lovely Buddha in the Japanese Garden. Gnomes (and escorts) are allowed in for free from 9 am-10 am!

Gnomes checking for trolls under bridge

Great find, Diego Rivera fresco at old mission, now an art school. Gnomes can buy water here before descending into North Beach where pizza is the food of choice.

Gnomes report that Jack Kerouc & Allan Ginsberg are probably hiding in the basement. Gnome rule: must purchase at least one book of poetry before leaving the book store.

Musicians put on impromptu concert to honour gnome passing by