Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Artistic Pursuits

So, I have this thing. This thing many consider to be a gift. For years I've carried it at arm's length. A beautifully packaged present I have been afraid to claim or become too attached to, I struggle to own the title of artist. I have acted courageously in response from time to time, but just as frequently, my attitude has been of (ashamed) apathy.

Beautiful things stir me; I know I'm not the only one. There's something about a purple carrot cut into a round revealing a radiating white center, something about sunlight filtering through a curtain, something about little details of life that stir and capture me and send me longing for more. I want something bigger, something even more breath-taking. And so I go to canvas. I go to textured water-thirsty paper. I set my fingers to lettered computer keys.

I make these inadequate attempts to say something that expresses what my soul thinks it's trying to say, what it longs to voice. Oh, it's a wondrous thing when clarity comes. But, most of the time, it takes a hard persistent journey to reach that clarity, and there is the ever-wondering if it will show its peaceful face.

Here's one example of clarity that came. I was honored to be commissioned to paint a piece for a mere acquaintance. She was looking for a wedding present for her husband and out of their love for art and the collage of their own experiences together thus far, this idea came together.

The bride and I got together for coffee and she shared the subject that initially inspired this idea. It is a tree she and her groom have continued to come back to during significant moments in their relationship, so from that, we talked about other activities and ideas they mutually value. There are many details in this painting, so I will just choose a few main things to expand upon. First of all, while I loved the look of the tree and recognized the great value of its sentimentality, I had also immediately recognized this couples' desire for a rich, grounded base together. Thus, the roots became significant. In order to keep the tree a main component, I repeated it from another perspective as well. Secondly, the shape moving upward and across the canvas is that of a kayak, a popular activity for the two of them and a symbol of a new and hopeful journey. Lastly, the words "Love, Trust, Adventure" written across the top are words the bride had engraved inside her groom's ring as a surprise.


I finished this painting in July, and my easel has been mostly unoccupied since. I have two large paintings that need some reworking and polishing this coming year. I hope to make 2011 a year in which safe, arms-length-away living just isn't possible, especially in the arts. Especially in who I'm meant to be as an artist hungering after the Master Artist.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Great Fit of Wasted Energy


I entered into this fall season dragging my feet. In a sense, I willfully filled the soles of my shoes with lead and resisted the change with a great fit of wasted energy.

Even with all my struggling, the sun's face shied away. I lost my early morning running routine, late evening opportunities for dinner outside in a sun dress, and the satisfaction of a chilled glass of white wine. It had been a peaceful, enjoyable summer, and I did not want to let it go.

I am ashamed to admit that it took me until November to recognize my full resistance. It took this long to release my grudges against 7 a.m. darkness and limited access to fresh flowers. It took being startled by the season's own unique beauty to realize the blindness I had been living in.




In my longing, I had ignored the transitions and gifts of September and October, and all of a sudden, November was here. It came with a strong, striking posture and commanded attention through explosions of color. Even though half the trees had unburdened themselves of brittle leaves by the time my eyes chose to see, there were still mosaics of yellow, brown, pink, and orange across the sidewalks my feet cross daily, and some of the most brilliantly yellow and red trees are holding on. (My favorite scene is bright coral pink leaves reaching up toward a grey sky. I could live in this color combination.)



The season had to change, and just as fall is threatening to call itself winter, I am opening up my palms and willingly receiving. I don't run as much as I did during the summer, but I walk to and from work everyday, and those half hour segments of time in which I simply cannot hurry along slow me down and force me to reflect, think, articulate, and observe.

I'm finding winter ales to an excellent replacement for those glasses of white wine. I don't get as many evening dinners with my roommates, but our household gatherings are all the more precious when they spontaneously come about.

Little by little, I am seeing why I don't want to be anywhere but in this season right now. Some moments, the contentment is pure enough to nestle in -- the enjoyment of one day helping me look forward to tomorrow without wishing myself there too quickly.

So, winter, I anticipate your mittens and mulled wine and snowy pine branches. These are going to be lovely when they arrive, but I'll count and file away each mental and photographic image of autumn until the day to say goodbye comes. I intend to make it swifter, more gratitude-filled, and less selfish than the last transition. Until then, who's up for pumpkin pie?