Friday, September 19, 2008

Backatcha

This week my painting got away from me again. I painted the first two days of the week, then contractors came in again and it was out the window. See, when I work I have to get into this peaceful space bubble and lose the distractions of the "real" world. Not so easy to do when someone is banging around.

Plus, I have this built in personality clause that says if someone is in your house you are the hostess/host and must make it a pleasant experience for them. Workers, friends, family, people who drop in off the street, doesn't matter. My home is like a part of me (well, my husband and I) and when you enter our world I want it to be a place of welcoming. Can't help it, it's there, like the impulse to kick when the doctor hits your knee reflex. So, I'm hopping around, making tea, making pleasant conversation, making sure they have everything they need. Not painting.

What I did do was knit. There's a million other things I should have done, empty boxes, do paper work, but I was dealing with my stress so I knit. Plus I have this deadline for class this morning and I wanted very much to meet it. (To that end I will knit seven more cm if I can this morning.) In doing so, I did realize that the knitting served it's purpose. It is helping my beginnings of arthritis and the cut nerve in my left hand is feeling a bit better, though I'm told I will always feel it. (I consider it my mindfulness bell and that rationale somehow makes it ok.)

Knitting got me back in a place I wanted to be again in my head, like leaving breadcrumbs in the forest, only they didn't get eaten by the birds. See, I don't deal well with moving, let alone jacking myself up on caffeine to get through all the necessary (?) renovations. Kinda waaaaay allergic to caffeine so that was a bad plan. (That's why the hand is a bell, reminding me not to have more caffeine...ever.)

So, now that I have come, more or less, back, finding myself home again, I need to reflect on the breadcrumbs. Do I eat them and say the cake is finished, back to work? Well, as it helps my hands and as it gives me great pleasure and keeps me mindful, no. But I have decided it will now have to take a back seat to the task at hand, that is doing my work (painting, drawing) full time all the time. I will pick up the knitting only at night to unwind that ball of yarn which is my thoughts. It's good to be back, good to see the blue sky in between the clouds as they break up. And if I need it I can always pick up the sticks, knit, purl, knit purl, knit, purl...breathe.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Love, Love, Love

I knew it. At least I knew it and then I forgot and now I know it again in a new way. If you want to do good art there is only one thing that matters, well one main thing, you have to do it with love. See, I grew up in California in the late sixties so I got a good dose of all that love hippie culture and man did it stick! I wore a groovy Love pin to school one day, purple and pink in big loopy letters. I sat in the big red leather reading chair while kids taunted me for believing in love. I was undaunted. Yes, I believed. I became a leader of a Circle K group and was asked in a leaders conference what my one word for leadership would be if I could sum it up, love. This was met with skepticism also. Still undaunted. I got into so much trouble believing this sometimes that it got me into some sticky situations I won't go into here.

But here's the thing. I still believe. I believe in giving it to others and in giving it to everything you do. I also believe now in something I had forgotten, or at least pushed back from time to time, in giving it to myself. Mom always said "you can't love others till you love yourself". Well, that's not altogether true, but it is true that you can't be your best to others if you don't treat yourself with love. I know that for a fact, folks.

But this isn't what I wanted to talk about. What I wanted to say is that if you are doing art, writing, creating, painting, forget about the money, forget that anybody is going to see it or judge it, go to that center place and ask yourself. What do I love? What do I want to paint that I love, that brings me joy, that I want to stare at for hours, curl up in, wind myself around? Can't guarantee that it will sell you some art, can't even say others will like it, but you will. And as an added bonus, if you put love into it, care for it, raise it up, it might even be a thing of beauty, one that perhaps comes close to that nectar of the gods you are looking for. But still, even if it's not, it might be the next one, or the next, and in the meantime you are in a place of bliss that will feed and nourish you to keep reaching for that chalice. Love is all you need, yup, I still believe in that, goofy, hippie, whatever. I am undaunted.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mindfulness

Long time, no write. Mostly because I'm feeling badly about not giving you more pictures, but also because I've been working through stuff and still trying to get this apartment in working order. The good news: I'm back to painting, and yes I'll eventually get to a picture here and there. Also knitting. Knitting is teaching me about painting and my learning style and just in general how to "be".

For instance, lately I've been working on the back of a sweater and have "ripped" it out about, oh, ten times for various errors. So that means I started it over and over again. Now, I could get frustrated and give it all up (and don't think that didn't occur to me) but instead I'm trying to learn from it. See, knitting is a process of mindfulness and meditation for me. That's the whole reason I got into it, well that and getting out of the house once in a while to see people or else I will lose the ability to speak. (Dealing in images does that to me, just totally shuts off the verbal language of my brain.)

So, what has all this ripping done? Well, it told me that I was not being mindful, focusing, paying attention, whatever you want to call it. So, finally I sat down and spoke the word for the thing I was doing (knit, purl, knit, purl, knit, purl...) to remind me to focus. The world dropped away and I was enclosed in this bubble. Just like meditation, thoughts came up and I let them but I kept my focus on the knit, purl, knit and they passed right on through. Fast forward to painting today, all those voices that interrupt me came on (like "can I really do this?" or wondering if I have the talent to get it right, which is pretty much the same thing) but I could let that come, recognize it and let it pass through as I got to the important stuff, the task at hand.

The painting process in itself if a meditation. It makes me stop and look, and look again, and see what is before me. As an added benefit, it slows down time. I experienced this the other day too. I decided that when walking my dog Leon, instead of rushing pell mell, I would slow down taking in one breath for one step and exhaling with the next. Yeah, it took a really long time to get down the street, but in the meantime, I saw, really saw everything around me, the leaves on the trees, the wonderful contrast of shadow and light in the early morning, the rings of water around the ducks and I really felt at peace. Knit, purl, knit, purl, knit, purl, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. It's all good.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Food of the Gods

"My studio is a temple, I see it that way, I always have and I know a lot of artists who would agree with me there's something about a studio that is a sacred space and no non-artist would understand that but it is my religion. Art is my religion and the studio is the temple where I practice that and it's where I feel most comfortable and where I'm most myself, it's where I express the passion that I have for art making..." Michael James
http://www.unl.edu/mjames_quilts/

Picked up the above quote somewhere because it rang so true with what I have been doing the last 6 months. Constructing my temple. Since I'm going to be working from home, correction, am working from home, it is that much more important to me that this space that surrounds me echo the sentiments that I want to represent in my drawing and painting and art in general. Still not quite there yet...books need to be put away, curtains shortened, pictures hung, but I did nonetheless begin a painting, at least the drawing of it. Already I know this was the right decision, bringing my workspace home, where my heart and center is, even if there lies a bit of chaos to organize.

Spent this last week force feeding myself studies on perspective. It's a kind of math thing so my Brain is rejecting it, but I am insisting, so it is going to bend to my will. I keep trying to convince it, "This is fun! We can move things in space!" My Brain just sits there with it's arms crossed and brows lowered and says, "It's math." "Yes," I reply, "but look at what we can do with it! We can bend and shape reality!" Sullenly, "It's math," is all I get from my Brain. So this week I forced open the door and threw in a few items. A few were thrown back out, but I think I got it to swallow a few bits. Math or no, Brain will have to take this medicine. Anyway, we all know that a bitter pill is bitter because it is good for you, right? Right.

Off we go then, into the temple to study the knowledge of the gods and hope that fruit will be born of such sustenance.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Long Unwinding Road

AT LAST!!! One more coat of varnish on the base boards, some small wall painting touch ups, bit of paperwork catch up tomorrow and I'll be ready to get back to work next week! Yipee! I have to admit I'm having some anxiety after all this time away from the canvas. Picture me verrry, verry small, and BIG, HUGE, GIGANTIC WHITE CANVAS looming in front. That's how I've been feeling. So silly, I know. And all that anxiety pushes away what I know I know. So, I'm going back to the basics to remind myself that I do know what I'm doing and can prove it! LOL So, what are those basics? Well...negative space, that's really important. I want to think more about the Notan, the Japanese concept of positive and negative space. And of course can't forget those design elements, to which the former is included. Selective Focus, got that, going to work with the big shapes first and then refine. Look a the whole and not get caught up in details that aren't important till the end. Keep it simple, relax, have fun, get into the process. And most of all work, work, work. It is the only way to learn and get over the fear of making mistakes. Whew, I feel better already.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Black and White and Red All Over

Several times recently the issue of mental health and art has come up in discussions with friends. Robert Genn has written a recent artist's letter regarding the over-emphasis on happiness. And I've been on my own path of discovery as well in this realm. There does seem to be an incredible emphasis these days on being happy, and being "normal". But what is happiness? What is normal? For everyone these interpretations are different. Nature and nurture have a role to play in how we see the world.

I've been reading about Highly Sensitive People because for the most part I fit in this category, but in examining it I realize I also fit into my own category. Each one of us sees the world from our own perspective. In a way, we are all speaking our own language and trying to understand each other at the same time. Not always an easy task. No wonder that we have so many issues with cultures clashing these days. First there is the language, the culture and then there's the individual. I'm thankful that we are not all the same. That our different perspectives challenge us to understand others.

Art can help us in this realm. It can give us ways to define our vision and also share that vision with others. Without the ups and downs of life where would art be today? Where the vibrancy? Where the life? Nope, I'm not ungrateful for the experiences I've had, especially the the tough times. Those experiences molded me into who I am and give me what I need to see and create with the intensity I feel.

Happiness and normalcy are overrated. We don't live in a generic world and I hope we don't manage to make it so. Accept the differences in yourself and others. Learn from them. Try to understand them though you don't need to incorporate them. The colors of the world are my palette. It just ain't all black and white. Get the picture?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dog Days

Good Morning. Wow, we've had record sunny and warm days here in The Netherlands. And it's only May! Every day I start out by doing my yoga and then taking the dog for a walk along the canal. As a matter of fact, I end it that way too, walking along the canal. It is my Guermantes Way. It is always so soothing, watching the water flow, Leon runs along side. I take a book to read to pass the time waiting till he's ready to come out of the gate that surrounds the canal. Soothing...

Yesterday though, that calm meditative state was broken by the following:

Calmly I strolled along the canal as Leon ran, sniffed, ran, sniffed, the sun shining still in early evening, sparkling off the water, green all around and flowers in full bloom. Down the canal I see the most beautiful white swan. His wings are outstretched and he is majestic. I reflect that this is an aggressive pose and think, "What is disturbing him?"

Then, I focus on Leon again, no longer running, sniffing, but in the hunting walk of a typical English Springer, head low down, back straight, tail stiffened, taking careful steps, right on the edge of the canal, stretching his neck to get closer to the swan who is in unreachable in the the middle, and then...splash! He's in the water! The swan is gigantic now and hissing and Leon, unperturbed, is swimming toward him. Luckily, the swan decides it's not a good idea to stick around and begins to swim away. No problem, Leon swims after. By this time, I'm at the edge of the canal, having skirted dog doo and yelling for him to come back. He's not listening, he's after quarry. In fact he thinks I'm cheering him on.

I scramble back up to the fence and out the gate and hightail it to where he is because 1) He's heading for the bridge and I'm unsure where and how this canal ends and 2) He can not get out with the high walls around the canal. Quickly, I'm calculating how I can catch him and resigning myself to a swim if necessary.

Ahhh...at last, just before the bridge he resigns himself that it is a lost cause and he is an old man after all. He's just a little bit ahead of me and tries scaling the wall. This is when he realizes that he's not in a good spot. I run on ahead and call him, kneeling down and when he swims over, I grab his harness and pull him out. Saved! At this moment I have a wet dog and am sitting in grass that is well used by many doggies (you get the picture), but who cares? I have my doggie again and he's safe. Whew! Life is never boring with Leon.

I'm going to go see right now if I can try and reconstruct these images in my sketchbook. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Breathing Lessons

I've taken to writing out my schedule the nite before. I'm finding that this really relaxes me. Knowing what's ahead and alloting time for it releases me from having to think about all I have to get done. Not that it doesn't leave time for procrastination, that still gets in the mix, and I am open to the schedule changing during the day as things arrange themselves, but it does make me feel like things can get done. And gives me more time in the day! Sometimes I'm ahead of schedule, which is cool. The main thing is it's teaching me that I can only get so much done in a day and I don't have to feel bad for not getting my whole mental list done. Sticking to the drawing in the morning and it's really great. Already feeling a sense of relief, that there's no pressure in the drawing, that if I don't get any work done in the day because of the whole move scenario, at least I've drawn. It keeps my brain alive. I feel like someone is momentarily whispering "Wake up Sleeping Beauty" and I discover the world around me in a new and connected way.

I've also started something new, knitting! Ok, like you have time, you say...but, you know what? It's really relaxing, well after I let myself relax and realize I don't have to get it perfect and I'm learning. Do you know what? If you make a mistake, you can fudge it! Like that. Though sometimes you have to rip it all out, but that's ok, because it's not about the product, it's about the process. It's a nice way to socialize and pick up a meditative habit. What's more meditative than making the same movement over and over in a focused way. It's not drawing and it's not painting, but I think in some way it is going to help all that. So, big huge thanks to Pauline at http://www.woool.nl/ She has tons of patience and is just, well, nice. If you're in the Hague and need a break from all the stress, try it out.

Yoga today also, was WONDERFUL. It is in the 20s (celcius) and I did it on the roof terrace in the sun. A little difficult to drag myself off to putting Ikea furniture together again, but I'm in the right mindset now. Even got a bit of chanting meditation in.

THIS, is who I want to be...a peaceful, creative person. NOT, the person who worries about the future without living today. Every morning, on my walk with Leon, I say this to myself, "There is no future, there is no past, there is only this moment." And yes, Pauline, it reminds me to do what you reminded me is so essential, "Breathe."

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ongoing Commitments

Ok, The List. So far, I blew the commitment to draw today. Thought I would draw this afternoon instead but was busy. So...I have to stick to that commitment of the morning ritual so I might miss it other days. Still have this evening but I prefer the natural light.

So let's see, what else, well, this one I will list will have to start when I have some more space here in the house/studio and things are a bit more settled, no more than two weeks from now (and that is FINAL!):

4) I commit to working, painting or drawing (and this includes finishing the batik I started a year ago), five solid hours a day. I'll do more if I can, but I have to juggle all the rest of my responsabilites in there, so I'm trying to be realistic.

5) I commit to studying about art at least one hour a week. (Reading books on technique, picking up tips here on the web.)

Here's one that will have to take place in the Fall or Winter:

6) I commit to learning to speak, read and understand Dutch. (I didn't put in writing 'cause I already don't write in French much and that language is more important to me. Here, I can get away with writing in English.) So, this will mean taking classes again. Blech! But I've had enough of being on the outside and we're apparently making this our home for the foreseeable future.

That might just be it, folks. Seems like an achievable list. There's lots more I would like to achieve, but I think I'll make a separate list for that. I'll also be analyzing my past year's work and where I want to go from here with some goals to achieve. Getting my house in order in more ways than one.

And yes, I'm still doing the Ikea assembly line thing.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Stuff and Sense

As my doggie so patiently awaits his walk, I'm taking a few minutes to check in here. This move has really taken a toll on every aspect of my creative life, including writing here! Currently, I'm the Ikea assembly queen. We got a bunch of furniture to put all our STUFF away at last. Tomorrow I'm gonna get more so I can put away more STUFF. What do I need all the STUFF for anyway? Beats me, but in the meantime I have it so it's gotta go somewhere.

It occurs to me that, since I was painting a radiator and walls on my birthday, I completely missed my yearly ritual of new birth year Resolutions. I'm going to change the word here though and call it Commitments. So here and now, and in the next few days, I'm going to begin a list of my new Commitments, not necessarily in order of importance...

1) I commit to myself. That is, I commit to not letting my self, my most vital needs for self survival, be put aside regardless of the circumstances I find myself in.

2) I commit to doing yoga, even if it is only five Sun Salutations, every morning.

3) I commit to drawing, either in my Moleskin or on some other paper, every morning for a minimum of 20 minutes a day.

Ok, Leon is waiting, but patience is wearing thin, so I will start with those three and add, though I want to keep this simple and achievable.

Getting back on the path...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Back Atcha

Hi Folks...
It's been a while and a wild ride doing the whole move and renovation of our new home/studio. Yes, I'm moving it all back here, paints, brushes, pencils and all. The north light in the kitchen and living room will be perfect for painting (if we ever move the boxes...) and I now have a small room all to myself for drawing with a drawing table. It's improving all the time, more shelving going in the closet, projects for a few shelves for paintings and a bulletin board so I can tack up my drawings. Such a relief to have that space and to begin to draw again after three and a half arduous months. Never planned it that way, but that is how long in took.

So, what have I learned from this experience? Well, first of all, that a painter of canvases, especially realism and fine art should not be the one painting walls, unless that is your vision, of course. It took me probably double the time of a regular painter because I got so caught up in the perfection of it and the texture etc. Yes, I found out it can be simpler, but by then it was too late, three rooms too late. By the time I began painting the woodwork I had had it.

Secondly, never, never let your art go if you are an artist. Take time out, even if it is only an hour each day, to do it. Why? Well, you might think it is because of loss of technique, but after a few days I'm not feeling too lost, no, it is more of a loss of soul, or starvation of the soul. Those of you who are dedicated artists out there, and you know who you are, know that art is not a choice, it is a possesion, a driving desire and to deny that is like denying your stomach food when you are hungry. First, there are the pangs of hunger, then a feeling of aggression and after a while, your teeth grow longer. Then a feeling of desperation sets in, and finally a loss of hope. I definitely reached the last and finally had to find my way back and quick.

The good news is that I learned more, am learning more, about my self in the process, what I need to survive, what I need to let go of, and I think this will make me a better artist in the long run. At least that's the theory. Will I manage to fix all my flaws? Probably not, but then those are some of the things that make me do the art I do. If I felt completely sane I might be satisfied to let others do art and just enjoy it, but it is my flesh, blood and bones, so personal
flaws and all I will keep making it. Keep posted for pictures in the near future.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cosmetics

Last day before the packing and move to our new home. I spent ten hours yesterday painting the walls, and two days of painting the ceiling before that, of the living room. Next are three smaller, thankfully, rooms to be painted and wallpaper to be taken down, also sanding and varnishing the living room floor. After this I'll look forward to collapsing and hopefully my right hand will survive to go back to do more painting and drawing! I have so much respect for those who do this kind of work for a living. It can be very Zen though, rolling the paint roller back and forth for hours. Wax on, wax off...and I wax on when I should be getting ready. Just to let you, my imaginary audience, know I will be internetless for three weeks. Sounds like a good excuse to find a nice internet cafe, have a warm drink and get away from all the physical labor...but it's Off to the races! for now. Toodles, Kim

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

That Lovin' Feeling

Not being one for New Year's Resolutions, I didn't make a list. I do all that stuff on my birthday, yearly review, assessment of goals met and new ones to achieve etc., so I'm gonna put that off till February. That didn't stop me from waking up this morning and feeling I needed, nonetheless, to start the New Year on the right note. Hold your breath and don't laugh, but that note is LOVE. No, I didn't join a commune or find a new (or old) god or anything like that. Though, I will confess to being a child of the late 60's born and partially raised (having been dragged kicking and screaming to the Midwest at the tender age of 10) in California.

I've always believed in love, the whole concept of acting in love. I was thrilled when one day, around six years old, my sister let me borrow her LOVE pin. It was a huge circle with those letters emblazoned in psychedelic purple and hot pink. I sat in my favorite big red leather reading chair while all the kids laughed at me and I was undaunted. I believed! That didn't stop me from being a hell raiser, but the concept was planted. Later, in college, I was a leader of a Circle K group, a student service group, and went to a conference on leadership. All the leaders were asked to step out of the room and come up with their concept for leadership summed up in one word. You guessed it, I picked LOVE. Each one of us had to re-enter the room and the audience reacted to our proposal in a predetermined way, unbeknownst to us. The audience was told to react in a certain way, no matter what the word, to show (I guess) how audience participation affects a situation or something...mine booed and hissed, oh and threw paper balls. Nonetheless, and again undaunted, I plowed on with my speech and in the end they were forced to admit their ploy.

So anyway, back to the resolution. The idea anyway, is that I will act more loving...to family, friend (furry and otherwise) and also to myself. This doesn't mean I'm going to get up every morning, make breakfast and eggs and wear a pinafore. I'm not talking Stepford Wives. Just, instead of waking up and complaining how I feel, I'll look for something more positive. I'll try and make the morning stress free so my husband can get off to work without my list of worries on his mind. I'll try and keep up with old friends and pay attention to how I react to new ones, friends and strangers. I'll not beat myself up for putting on a half kilo or not becoming Rembrandt overnight. I'll take time for what matters and try not to sweat the small stuff or invent big stuff.

It won't be easy. I'll need a reminder of some sort regularly. I read somewhere that some have a bell rung every so often to remind them to be mindful. Hmmm...maybe a talisman of some sort...I'll think on that. Anyway, that's the gist. Love is all ya' need.