Monday, March 9, 2015

What's Your Relationship With Your Work?

Tracking 8"x 8" cold wax on panel
On my last post someone made the comment that they were interested in their relationship with their work.  Hmmm, I had never really thought about it. My relationship with my work? Did we need therapy or counseling, my work and I? Hmmm, I frequently think about my relationships with the people around me. I try to listen, I attempt compassion and understanding. I remind myself that I am not the centre of the universe.  I know, I know, that surprises you too, right?  But my paintings, that I spend so many hours with, do I ever think about these canvases and panels covered in paint in this relational kind of way??  Even this was telling, to relegate my work to the lot of "inanimate objects".  Do my paintings have a soul, do they have feelings and needs? It was a bit shocking to see my own insensitivity, up close and personal (well, I mean again :)  And perhaps you are a better painter and are tssking at me as you read, sucking air between your teeth and shaking your head.  I apologize for disturbing you in this way, really I do. I hope I have not caused any small capillaries to implode or your toe nails to fall off.

Crossing The Earth At Dusk 16"x20" 
And yet in this modern world of ours we frequently divide the world in this way, the animate, the inanimate, sentient beings and other, TV dinners and real food.  It is a type of unawareness I think. People who live(d) closer to the natural world perhaps are more aware of how the world is filled with energy and spirit that do not identify as sentient beings. Everything is alive in it's own way, don't you think?

In slight horror, I began to investigate my relationship with my work. It was a humbling experience to see that I am not a good listener.  In fact I am quite deaf to what my paintings might be saying to me most of the time.  If you were my painting, you wouldn't give me the time of day. I realized I am bossy, often beginning work without any enquiry as to what might be needed, to what the painting might want, suggest, be asking for.  You'd probably give me a smack upside the head if we worked in the same office.

I certainly am not at all good company for my work.  I rarely just hang out with it, sit and appreciate. I think I don't really know how to be a good companion to my work.  I watched a documentary a while back on Leonardo da Vinci and when he was painting The Last Supper he would visit the painting for days on end and just look at it, never lifting a brush. Now that's companionship, that's listening.

The Trees Are Calling Your Name 12"x12"
This whole relationship can of worms has prompted me to work in different ways, though I must say listening comes hard.  I see how the mind wants to get started when it  has just the tiniest idea, how it thinks it knows so much when it has considered so little. I have realized this promotes what I refer to as "mucking".  I have noticed that when I consciously generate feelings of warmth and appreciation for the parts of the work I like (instead of complaining about what I don't like) that the state generated is more conducive to good work.  It's all about process, right?

I notice a feeling of tenderness toward these little entities, these brave, new, embryos of paintings.  I can remember my Zen teacher used to say in relation to our practice and all the goofy things we do, "the eternal can wait forever, how long can you wait?"  I get the same feeling about the paintings.  They are in no hurry.  They humour, they tolerate and they wait.  They wait for me to learn, they wait for me to see, they wait for me to listen.  They are the best teachers.  Unlike me, they are never bossy or frustrated. They never demand or criticize.  I think sometimes they smile and wink and call gently from the corner.  And then they always look so pleased when I happen to get it right.  Who could ask for more in a relationship really?