|painting by Jeane Myers|
It's amazing how things fit together if you let them. I recently spent a weekend on retreat with Rick Hanson and then slipped below the 49th parallel to spend some time in the studio of Jeane Myers from Art It. The retreat and the studio time melted deliciously into a unified whole, where painting and dharma practice had the sweet, tantalizing flavour of a favoured treat. The days in Jeane's light filled studio were punctuated with conversations that plunged immediately into the deep end of the pool. "It's not really about the individual piece, it's more about the process and how it connects to the rest of the way we live our life." I'm paraphrasing Jeane here. Yes, yes, I have seen how painting is the condensed milk version of what I spill out in the world.
She asked questions that I stumbled and sputtered over, like "why do you paint?" This is not casual, filling the space question. Jeane, a former theatre director is gathering; gathering information so she might help you find that button you dropped on the sidewalk and have been searching for, forever.
|Jeane Myers Studio|
If you stop by here once in a while you have heard me whine about frustration with my process, how I feel I don't know what I'm doing and that I am never happy with what I paint. (that's the Coles notes on my whinging as the Brits call it). And there are great similarities in the way I go about my life, hoping for the quick, tidy fix and on to the next thing. "Distress tolerance" Hanson calls it and it's a muscle I'm working on.
|Another studio view|
I have followed Jeane's blog for some time now and I LOVE her work. On many occasions I have been stopped in my gumboots as she obliterates a painting that I would have called a keeper. This fearlessness and dedication to growth and process hooked me. I see in her a person that is willing to stand on the edge, who rejects security in favour of growth. In a way, the how she does it, is almost more important than what she does, for me. But it's what she does that stops the eye and makes it settle down for a closer look.
We are such interesting creatures, us humans. What I told Jeane I was on the hunt for was "form" in my work. I felt that abstract composition was a big hairy mystery to me, well actually I left out the hairy part. By hour 2 of our time together a little light started flashing on the internal dashboard. I didn't really come to learn about form and composition. I came to learn how to have a conversation with my painting. And isn't that life? Often what we think we need is not really it. We just need a wise guide to push aside the tangled branches and show us where the trail really is.
|small work I did in Jeane's studio|
I needed to be able to learn from my work. And doesn't that translate into every place in life? If someone can give us the tools, we can fish forever, instead of constantly coming back like a little bird, hoping someone will feed us. Jeane displayed a razor sharp knack of cutting through the tangle and getting to the real issue. And while I had read about this "conversing with your work" I just never really got it. I had puzzled over John Daidoo Loori's descriptions of standing in front of his work and waiting for something to shift. For me shift never happened, maybe without the f, but that's another story.
Somehow by the end of the first day, somewhere inside me I understood what "having a conversation" meant. By having me constantly turn my work around, it somehow released my busybody, thinking mind. That simple process freed a deeper, inner eye. Suddenly I felt more comfortable, more connected to the work. My goodness that canvas and I were chattering away at each other. I teased that I was channeling Jeane. But in truth there is something communicated energetically by someone who knows what they are doing and has trust and confidence in the process.
|Jeane's work waiting to go to the Simon Mace Gallery|
In one of her posts Jeane talked about finding the "arbitrary" parts of a painting, the parts that don't work, the parts that detract and weaken the real meat (tofu for you vegetarians) of the piece. When she wrote about this in her blog, it seemed like she was speaking in tongues. What? Arbitrary? I couldn't imagine identifying the arbitrary. And yet as we worked and looked and talked, slowly I could see it. I am still on training wheels with this one, but I have some sense of "the arbitrary". Before it truly sounded like a foreign language.
It was 2 days packed with so much learning, more than I could ever imagine. Sometimes it felt like things were being communicated by osmosis. As a teacher, Jeane displayed a complete lack of ego and generosity of spirit. "Here, what do you think is arbitrary in my painting? How would you do it if it was in your style?" She was so interested in figuring out the puzzle of what I needed. My hunt was her challenge. You can travel a long way to find a Dharma teacher with that same curiosity and attention to the task.
|More of Jeane's painted goodness|
One of the things that impressed me the most about Jeane was her understanding of how to learn from her process and the actual piece in front of her. I loved drinking in her positive attitude (no that would be guzzling). At one point she said something like, "you have your pros and your cons. What is really interesting and where all the excitement is, is in the "cons". That's where the work and growth is." As someone who has spent a lot of time feeling frustrated by the challenge this was like being teleported to another planet. Sometimes we have to look through someone else's eyes to be able to really see.
And while my retreat with Rick Hanson was great, I can't even begin to communicate what 2 days in Jeane's studio were like. I wish for you all, whatever your art, a mentor, an art spirit that is just the right fit for you, to encourage you and to fish out of you all that is good and amazing. It's in there. Some people excel at helping you dip into the pond of what's hiding in your heart. If they're like Jeane they actually thrive on the challenge.