Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thrown By The Wild Horse of Painting

11"x14" oil & cold wax  "As The Light Falls"
The instructions are "never judge your meditation session".  It's just a sit and good for you that you put your bum on the cushion.  Hmm, couldn't the same be said for doing your creative work, whatever that is.  No, sitting on your journal or canvas does not count. But how do we know what's good or bad anyway?  You know the Taoist story of the villager with a horse? One day his horse runs off.  The villagers tell him how bad this is.  Hmm, says the farmer.  A while later his horse returns leading a wild horse home. And the other villagers tell him how good this is. Hmmm, again from the farmer of few words. His son breaks his leg after being thrown by the wild horse.  The villagers are all over this one. And so on.  You're getting the gist, right?  Read the full story here.

Why then is it so second nature for me to have this very visceral sense that a painting session is good or bad? Human nature?  Habit?  Yes to both, but I think it's about trust.  It seems to me that you need to trust that what is happening is okay, whatever it is.  It's here, it's in your lap, then just say okay.  That's the recipe for non suffering. That's it.  You have no idea where your work is going, how it will turn out but you trust that what you did today is enough  It's not that I'm getting all new agey, woo woo or fatalistic on you.  It's just logic.  Think about it.  How could it be any other way?  That would be arguing with what is...  and you know where that gets you.  It's not like we lie there like the studio door mat, all limp and lifeless and covered with paint (though I have been known to do this).  We can adjust our course tomorrow.  We can learn from what transpired.  That is never negated by accepting what is. But what just happened is over, done, case closed, unless you want to get all quantum on me but that's a whole other subject.

Another thing I've known in my head but not in my paint brush is that you need to get the mind, the judging, evaluating one out of the way when you work. Sometimes I wish someone would just tell me how and put me out of my misery.  But it's not supposed to happen like that.  You have to figure it out for yourself or else it doesn't have any meat on the bones, just a dry stick to chew on.  And that's not very tasty or sustaining.
12"x12" cold wax & oil "A Day In The City"
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche talks about painting until the mind let's go and then you have a painting.  I did this quite by accident the other day when I painted the pieces above.  I had spent some studio time mucking about and I mean mucking.  I was feeling so discouraged that I got out the black paint and covered this piece which was originally light green and turquoise.  You will see small children do this with art work and for them it is exploration.  For me it was more like a tantrum, an "I'm done here." And then some stuff started to happen on the canvas that felt pretty exciting. There was some recognition of something new and authentic looking back at me. I left the studio feeling like I'd had an aha moment.  It was  an accidental experience of letting go.  It was more like giving up, there was nothing left to gain or loose.

On a foot note I felt pretty inspired to get back to the studio to explore.   But after a bit I noticed old mind sniffing and slinking around trying to recreate the same experience (more good, please, easy, nice, thank-you).  And you know how that turns out.  But  there is a little trust there now where only wanting used to live.  And its resting on the fact that everything is fine as it is and anything can happen at any time.