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.


  1. Well, that's an interesting idea...being with ones health issue...I'm going to go think about that one.
    Thank you for all the rich links.
    Ethereal is the word that comes to mind as I look at your recent works. I see them as a portal.

  2. Let me know what you think after you have a chance to contemplate that one! Yes enjoy the links. Ethereal, yes I think that's what I'm aiming for!

  3. I have noticed that when I wake in the morning I am open to whatever the day has to offer.... but gradually minute by minute, hour by hour, resistance builds .... and I catch myself, sometimes even before my second cup of coffee and wonder ... now how did I get to this when the morning started so sweetly?

    While working on my latest totem (slowly over a few months) I've been contemplating "the colour of stillness". Your first painting in particular makes me think of stillness.... which happens to be my word for 2013.

  4. So interesting, Robyn. I am re-reading "The War of Art" and it's all about resistance. I remember a yoga teacher once talking candidly saying, "I resist just about everything except lying on my couch with a latte". I guess it's what we do with that feeling of resistance that really matters.

    Stillness, what a wonderful word to observe and contemplate for the year. There is a Bon (Buddhist) teacher and he talks about silence, stillness and spaciousness as the three pills we need to take each day.

    1. silence, stillness and spaciousness .... yes! These words sit well together.

  5. as always, a fully packed post - so many ideas to ponder - thank you for dishing your ideas and thoughts, it's always rich xox

  6. Oh yes, "we do our work and then let go" not so easy over here...the letting go part. I wouldn't be doing anything else but I can say I do struggle with that wisdom!
    I'm enjoying the lecture with Tom Campbell...I have to start and stop as my brain only holds so much but again thank you for posting this YouTube.
    Love the rich shadows in this piece! The color is magnificent!
    Stillness is also my word for the I'm off to the couch with a cup of tea and maybe I can take big gulps of silence, stillness and spaciousness!

  7. I'm with you on that one Mary Ann, but a good aspiration, this letting go thing! Not always so easy.

    Yes Tom Campbell can make your brain hurt, but it's so fascinating! Rupert Sheldrake is pretty good too.

    Having a little stillness myself after a long day of painting.

  8. Lots of good stuff to ponder and videos to view, which I'm looking forward to. Love The Ocean Has Stories To Tell!

    1. thanks, David! Enjoy this beautiful long weekend.

  9. I just listened to the TED talk on self compassion. What a powerful way to treat ourselves, in the studio and in life. Thanks Carole.