Sunday, January 24, 2010

His Head is in the Clouds

Clouds. They capture our imagination. These wide expanse of shapes and colors are ever changing and evolving. They travel with us through life and sometimes they lift us up and take us along. When was the last time you got lost in the clouds? If you haven't seen Kelly DeLay's Clouds365 project I highly recommend a visit to his site.  

I became aware of his project through Facebook and went to his website today after seeing his blog post. I was amazed to find a vast catalog of stunning cloud photography. And walking through his site you feel his passion and commitment everywhere. If you have time read his inspiring "about" page where he shares not just what he is doing but why,  

"After years of neglecting my creative drive in favor of business and management, making this commitment to art is a welcome chance to turn back to something I love."

Sound familiar? He is certainly reaching for the yellowfish line!  

Here are the links but watch out, you may get lost in the clouds. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lesson Four: Read, Read, Read

Out there on the worlds shelves are lines and lines of poetry and over time a few of those lines have lept into your life, onto your shelves and into your heart. They spoke to you at a time in your life when you needed to listen, to better understand what you were feeling but didn't know how,,,and then found a path through poetry.

And found a path through poetry.

I am diving back into my passion for poetry, started as a young child, and I'm reminded that the work for writing is in the reading. And I have stacks and stacks of books in front of me to get to. And I fear as much as I yearn to go through the transformation.

For those interested in putting their toe in the pools of poetry waters, here's a taste of David Whyte, one of my favorites. Links to a great interview with David as well as to his website are at the bottom of this post. Write on!

The House of Belonging by David Whyte

I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
like any other.

the veil had gone
from my darkened heart
I thought

it must have been the quiet
that filled my room,

it must have been
the first
easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.

I thought
this is the good day
you could
meet your love,

this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day
you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light.

the tawny
close grained cedar
burning round
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

The is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

Interview with David Whyte
David's Website

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lesson Three: All Art Takes Patience

I am in my second week of oil painting classes taught by J.J. Graham at the Hollingsworth Gallery. I have never painted with oils so I am enjoying instruction on the basic techniques of layering, creating a history with the piece and putting life into the work. I hope to work my way up to the more advanced levels over the next few months but at the moment find I am an impatient student. And I know J.J. is a good instructor and motivator because I don't fully realize what I’m learning until a few hours or a few days go by. 

But I am so happy to be back in the studio. It pulls me back to what I always liked best - the simple act of being an artist when squeezing the paint or the mixing and folding of colors with my palette knife and the general physicalness of the act itself. 

However, I've been spending far too much time standing before my canvas in a state of panic instead of a state of calm. Hesitant instead of confident. Do I have enough paint on the brush or should I use more? Do I use several sized brushes at a time or clean one over and over again? Do I apply more medium when the paint gets dry or do I dab it in the terp? These are all things experienced oil painters take for granted and while I know it simply takes time and patience it has been difficult being a student, being a beginner, feeling the frustration.

With distance comes insight. Be it walking a few feet away from your work and looking at if from a different vantage point or just giving it time to digest so you can review it with a more calm and focused mind. 

I'm now able to see I've been ignoring the most important artist tool in the My instincts. My patient self. My imaginative self. The one that loves to be a student, loves the act of the doing, loves being lost in the creative zone that used to happen when I paint with watercolors. I guess because that is where I felt most confident and I am allowing my lack of knowledge of the medium inhibit my artist self. But that's what learning is all about Charlie Brown. And you're never too old or too skilled to be humbled by it.

So when I go to my next class and work on building a few more layers to its history I will remember to take a few really deep breaths before I begin and, with two brushes in my left hand and one in my right, I will trust my instincts more than the photograph and paint from within using the most crucial artist tool of all, me. 

I look forward to where this will lead me and understand the only way to gain the experience is in the very doing. Until then I hope you too can learn to apply the paint in your life with more patience, to stop the obsessing and most of all to trust in yourself. You know you can. Java!

P.S. Here’s a nice tid-bit from Robert Genn's Newsletter: Sunny Side Up (link at bottom).

Here in the dark days of winter are a few words that might just keep your sunny side up: 

Have a decent ego; cultivate self-esteem and individualism.
Keep an open mind; there's more than one way to do things.
Focus on your processes; that's where the joy comes in.
Be kind; it never hurts to give to others, even praise.
Be innocent; have a childlike--not childish--approach.
Be thankful, even for the smallest of blessings.
Be a perpetual student--be curious and seeking.
Filter your priorities--and don't suffer fools.
Be creative; it's the highest form of life.
Honour and respect time; it's the main gift.
Be optimistic; the opposite holds no charms.
Develop good habits--they will develop you.
Be thrifty--waste not, want not.
Work to please yourself.
Be hard to please. 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Second Lesson of the Year: Stop Procrastinating

If you want to stay in the creative yellowfish zone or at the very least just stay in a calm and rational state of mind...don't shop at Walmart. It's a sensory battle zone, the most unhealthy location for creativity and has a vacuum over it just waiting to suck out every ounce of your spirit. And it builds. There's no place to park. Okay, I love to walk no problem I'll park in the outer bands. There's not enough cart room in the aisles. Okay, I'll be the one that smiles and gets out of the way. There's never an employee when you need one. Okay, where did that computer kiosk go that helps you locate stuff? And then it gets even the very best of us. Your entire being screams to get out and meets the deer in the headlights at the check out line. You pan across the row of twenty-five check out aisles and see that fifteen are open and every one of them has eight people waiting with overflowing carts. You know you should just leave your cart and run but life says you gotta get this stuff shipped out today so suck it up, take responsibility for your actions and get in line. 

[Hold on. The sun is rising as I am writing this and I need to take a few minutes to soak it in. Deep breath in....and out. Ahhh.]

Ok. So what did I learn and how can I help myself and others avoid having days like this? Don't ever shop at Walmart again you say? Well maybe. But the true lesson here is to stop procrastinating. I could have done this weeks ago. And online with free shipping!

But this waiting until the last minute isn't a new thing for me. Just ask my parents. Birthday presents and anniversary gifts have usually arrived wrapped in red, white and blue = dropped inside a FedEx package. And at work I was the one that stayed late and worked all weekend to finish the presentation/project. And now that I'm able to connect the dots I wonder, why is it so much easier for us to go the extra mile for someone else's needs versus our own? 

Well, here's what it will take to turn this around: 1) get better organized, 2) set small daily passion-feeding goals and 3) help stop the insanity. You in? 

P.S. Take a look at this book, Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod. You can see it, as well as his very cool cartoons here   I love his tips and advice on how to be more creative - in art, business or whatever. Enjoy!

P.S.S. A note from Hugh about the cartoon at the top of this article: A Crazy Deranged Fool [CDF for short] is, like me, somebody who has the temerity to aspire to work in a way that produces both joy, meaning and contribution for both them and others, while also paying the bills. It’s about creativity, it’s about finding meaning, but it’s also about living in the real world. That’s the reality I want to live in.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

First Lesson of the New Year: Listen to Your Instincts

It was inevitable. I had to go out into the crisp, fifteen degree and windy day to get a package over to the post office before noon. The car was warming up outside while I was organizing which items I needed to bring - the grocery list, the package, my cell phone, etc. and out I went. I was just about to back out of the driveway when I remembered there was something I needed to return at Lowe's and impatiently went back inside. While there I also remembered to grab my glasses and my gloves and as I was just at the door when a thought went in and out of my brain, "maybe I should bring the camera, just in case?"

After a twenty minute wait at the post office I came out to my car and noticed the sky brightening with a hint of warmth in the clouds and as I headed out I decided to take the back more scenic route across town to the mall. And I heard the voice again, "You should go home first and get your camera, I bet the farmland over on that side of the river will look extraordinary today." But I convinced myself that the extra time and hassle it would be to head home and back again was not worth it. Besides, percentages were not in my favor.

Then I was there. Driving alongside the nearly frozen river. The way the side of the hills were  standing there was unlike any other day. They were filled with rich deep browns in the deepest folds balanced by white strands of snow along her shoulders. There was at once a large field of yellow ochre corn stalks shirring against the breezes followed by a flat blanket of freshly fallen snow and ending with a small grove of tall trees, their branches like fluid tentacles as if blown there by angels with india ink. I was drawn to pull over. And I kept going. 

Yesterday I watched the PBS documentary on Ansel Adams. There was a recurring theme to comments made about his work from those that knew him best. They said even though Ansel took numerous good pictures his really great pictures were from moments he captured quite unintentionally, unplanned and with a statement that combined the luck of being in the right place at the right time with the skill that came with the many years of practice and hard work. I think I now get what this means.

So having met with my first yellowfish moment of the year, my heightened awareness as to the photographic quality of the day while doing other seemingly necessary things, I learned that I still need to remember to trust my instincts, listen to and follow my intuition and for Pete's sake always, always remember to bring my camera.

P.S. I found this great demonstration on how to paint winter trees in watercolor. Here's the link. Enjoy! watercolor demonstration - winter trees