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. 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 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...