Monday, September 3, 2012

An Artist Self-Imposed Retreat

"In solitude the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself."
Laurence Stern

We each have times in our lives when our hearts are filled, and when our hearts are broken. Losing a parent is such a time for many and for me losing my mother after many years of rehab, hospitals, surgeries, more rehab, strokes, selling the house, filling out 25 page Medicaid forms, meetings with lawyers, learning about council on aging services, the nursing home life and, finally, hospice...I have come to realize that I have been holding my breath throughout these days, months, even years. And now, now that my mother is finally at peace I think she would say it is time for me to exhale.

And seeing that I have not had the ability to paint since May, I decided to retreat for an entire month in Wellfleet on Cape Cod. I have rented the home of the artist James Lechay (pronounced La-Shay, 1907 - 2001), a home he had built for his retirement and that includes a wonderful, separate from the house, art studio.

There is no cable tv here just a wonderful, open floor plan surrounded by walls of windows (it is a classic mid-century modern home built by Hayden Walling in 1959), includes a working fireplace and wifi. I bring with me more than a dozen blank canvases, my favorite painting music and a few good books to read.  

While living the creative life I have learned that often all you need to remember is to "just breath" teaching yourself how to slow down, to pay attention to and appreciate what you have you start to see the world through the lens of thankfulness as your senses become overwhelmed in the simplicity of living on this wonderous planet. And this is when your best work seems almost effortless. Like being in "the zone." My artist friend, Richard Schreiner, who also passed this summer, left a message behind...he said, always remember to "take a tai chi breath." This simple action is described in classic tai chi literature as "opening and closing." 

This sounds like the perfect time and the ideal way to get back to it with the inspirations of the works of Richard Schreiner, Jim Lechay and my mother surrounding me.  May you find peace and continued energy to brush on...and that you remember to just...breath. 

Untitled, James Lechay, 74 x 38"

Pink Lady, Richard Schreiner, 78 x 44"

 title unknown, E. Gloria Coffman (my mom), 24 x 18"