Saturday, March 23, 2013

Painting In The Life Lab

8"x8" The Ocean Has Stories To Tell (available on etsy)
I have been painting away without that much to show for it.  And that has become okay for me.  Big lesson for the art materialist!!  It seems we like to have something to show for our time. Our cultural and educations system encourage this, don't you think?  It seems I have relieved a lot of internal pressure by moving from a place of feeling frustrated about this lack of output (where I spent a lot of last year) to being okay with just being with the process.  And it seems I had to go through that frustration to get there.  As my old Zen teacher would say, "it's not on our timelines.  We do our work and then let go."  And that allows things to shift on their own.

My painting sessions work  best when I settle myself first with some meditation or sitting before I jump in.  If I am too quick to pick up the brush I end up mucking about.  Painting is so akin to spiritual practice.  I mean it's the same in life. If I jump into something without the ground of awareness firmly gathered around me, I tend to muck about and potentially get in trouble in one way or another.  The good thing about trouble or mucking is that once you recover your awareness it's always instructive!

The other thing I've noticed as I  spend a lot of time in the studio is that I have "go to" things that I do on a canvas.  How much like the rest of life is this??  Habit. I have painting habits that have evolved and they don't always serve me well.  It can be like the definition of insanity "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."  So sometimes I find it's good to change up the surface I work on or the colours I favour, or the time of day I work. This movie about Gerhard Richter is really interesting if you work in abstraction.  Even he gets mucking about and finds himself painting over and over things that don't quite seem right. It's a great watch.  He says things like, "sometimes I like a painting for a day or two" and "I know when something is done, it just feels right."

8"x8" cold wax on canvas "The Forest Has Wings"
I've been listening to a lot of Tom Campbell lately. He's a Nasa physicist with some very interesting ideas about consciousness and reality. He says we're all evolving toward love which is the highest form of being.  Kind of interesting for a scientist, don't you think? He says things like our human existence is a kind of learning lab and that we are always evolving (or dying), that there is no static state.  This idea is pretty akin to the Buddhist idea of impermanence.  There is also a great talk by scientist, Rupert Sheldrake here (Sheldrakes talk is the second one on this link) where he expresses some pretty interesting ideas about the nature of consciousness.  It seems these ideas have caught my interest as an explanation to how things work out there in the world and beyond. It offers a new relationship to the world around us. The world of the paranormal and the normal are actually not separate.  For these guys the world of the paranormal is not crazy and unexplainable.  They make perfect sense of it. It all fits together, just as we imagined it should; and has some interesting implications for what we do and how we do it.

As always life is deeply spiritual experience for me.  I listened to a great talk via "The Awakening Joy" course by Zen Hospice leader, Frank Ostaseski.  It reminded me how easily and habitually I steel myself against what I don't like with "resistance".  How subtle resistance can be.  Often I find that in trying to fix or heal some health issue I am subtlely resisting it. I just want it to go away!  Non resistance doesn't preclude trying to work with problems, it just means we also need to be with them.  Sometimes the solution is contained in the problem itself, well maybe always??  And how can we find it if we are so busy pushing it away (says she as she talks to herself) He pointed out the simple maxim of"what we resist, persists."

Oh and in case you are inclined, like so many of us, to say unkind things to yourself, you might enjoy watching Kristin Neff's TED talk on self compassion.  That's all I know for today! Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Trust & Asking

If you haven't seen this TED talk by Amanda Palmer, you absolutely must. Okay, you don't have to but I swear, your missing something if you don't.  Especially if you're an artist because she plays with the concept of how an artist makes a living. By happenstance and personal awareness Amanda fell into a relationship of "trust" and "asking" with her audience.  She found that the people who loved her music were willing to support her in a monetary way, especially when her record label cut her for selling the small sum of 25,000 records.  So now she gives away her music and asks people to support her, 2 separate acts, instead of the one that we usually associate with making a living in the arts: you buy something and pay for it.  She's raised a million bucks this way!  Awesome, yes?

But that got me thinking about visual art and if somehow her brilliant paradigm could translate into offering visual art to audiences in the same way?  So I'm tossing this question out into the stratosphere.  Is there a way this might work for visual art?  What are your thoughts on the subject?  Really, I want to know.  Because I love this idea.

First my little mind goes, well there's the material and the shipping.  But you know Amanda Palmer had to invest a huge wack of money to record her music, and then there's the hours of creation that went into it. It's a big leap, believing in yourself and trusting that others will also believe in you enough that you can continue to do your creative work.

I love the idea of doing something that goes against how our consumer culture is structured.  I love the idea of trusting people.  I love the idea of connection with our audience, whatever the medium.  I love the idea of feeling that people support each other.  Is that fairy tale stuff, people?  Am I related to Peter Pan or some other ethereal character with wings?? Or perhaps that's Polyanna leaning over my left shoulder?

Journey 6"x6" on etsy

There is  a lovely young man who does some heavier work for us around our property and when we first met him we asked what do you charge.  He said, well you pay what you think it's worth.  And you know, we probably always pay more than the going hourly rate.  And we think fondly of him, we think of him as generous and trustworthy.  We know that we are supporting him and his family and it makes us feel good at the end of the day when we hand over a little pile of bills!  We never imagine that he isn't working hard enough or that he's adding in a little time here and there, or that we aren't getting our money's worth.  It's weird, but then so is the way our minds work.  There is something about this "trust" that makes us all feel good and empowered.

oil, cold wax on paper, 8"x10" on etsy
So my mind is turning these things over, sifting through the ideas, following the threads of each loosely woven thought.  There is something about these ideas that carry the scent of the new economy on the breeze. The potential for change, for growth and evolution make me feel excited and hopeful. There is a spiritual aspect to this way of exchanging creative life for monetary support; one that embodies faith, trust and connection.  Am I crazy?  Is this possible?  And if so how do we express it?  Where do we pick up the thread?

I am working on it and if I wake up with any fully hatched brilliance I will let you know.  Last night I woke up from a dream where I'd been bitten by a small copper coloured reptile.  But that's another story.  I'll save it for next time.