Even the subject matter is repetitive

IMG_1778.JPG

I have spent a good bit of time thinking about how it is that I paint the same shapes, the same forms, the same compositions over and over and over and over and over again.  (See previous post, which I had frankly forgotten about before I went to post this tonight.)  I don’t do it on purpose - it’s not as though I sit down and plan 20 paintings with the same composition - but the shapes keep finding me.  

Repetition is a theme in my life - I practically wear a uniform (jeans, white or black t-shirt, red shoes), I have eaten the same breakfast every morning for years (2 eggs over a bed of spinach - occasionally I throw in arugula for a thrill), I sit in the same spot at the table, I could go on.  Parameters work for me.  I’m not easily bored, and knowing how certain things will be frees up space in my brain for my curiosity about everything else.  When it comes to painting, then, I guess it’s no surprise that I paint a repetitive story.  I’ve come to understand that addressing a composition over and over again helps me to make sense of things, it helps me to understand what I’m painting and what I’m thinking, it helps me to see. I think of it like tumbling rocks - the way the ocean smooths the stones as they go round and round through the surf.

IMG_1777.JPG

 

My friend Christine pointed out the repetitive compositions during a studio visit this summer.  It’s not that I didn’t know this before she said it, but hearing her say it helped me to see it with fresh eyes.  It used to bother me a little - was it boring? - but I have come to appreciate and embrace the repetition, and to recognize that this is the way I understand the world.  This is the way I tell the story.

Reoccurring Shapes

polka1a.jpg

I've been painting these circles lately, over and over.  And I was all set to type that this shape started appearing in my work last summer, when I realized that is entirely not true.

IMG_1228.JPG

The shape goes way back.  

underpainting1small.jpg

Way way way back...

This form began to appear in my work years and years ago, and it has been reoccurring ever since.  How is it possible that it has taken me so long to see?

Abstracted orb, peony, ranunculus, the beach stones, the little nubbins on the milk glass vase in my studio.

IMG_8397.JPG

I've been finding myself making lots of notes in the studio lately - visual notes, scribbled notes, typed notes - and this blog seemed like a good place to collect some of them.  It's nice to be able to see what I'm thinking about outside of my little flash drive, and I've long since moved past the lack of ongoing continuity in this space, the gaps in posting, the cringe-worthy older posts that I can hardly stand to look at and never do.  What goes around comes around, you know?

 

 

Day 15/100 Days of Inviting Wonder

Day 15/100

Stop and smell the flowers, Part 2.

I went to the post office this morning, to renew my passport, right after I finished renewing my driver’s license at the MVA.  It’s 10am and it seems like I’m due a medal, or a nap.

There is the sweetest little post office down the hill from my house, with the friendliest people and the shortest wait times – it’s straight out of another era.  I had a package to mail, and my passport to renew, and as I stood at the counter chatting with Larke, I was aware of the loveliest scent floating about.  Aware, and yet not aware at all, until I had been standing there for what must have been fifteen minutes and I finally noticed the jar of daffodils at the far end of the counter!  Of course I stopped to smell them!  I stuffed my face right into the blossoms and took a deep inhale (or three), and suggested that everyone else in the post office do the same.  And as I made my way back to my car – Package mailed!  Passport sent off for renewal! – I thought about how we are, so many of us, sleepwalking through this life.

Here I am, two weeks into 100 days of inviting wonder, and extolling the virtues of stopping to smell the flowers, and it took me a full fifteen minutes of standing at the post office counter next to a jar of daffodils before I noticed them!  Imagine how many people will walk in and out of that post office today and not notice the flowers at all!?

If I have learned anything about wonder in these first two weeks, it is that wonder is elusive – and it’s not.  The truth is that wonder seems elusive because it’s intangible, but wonder is all around us all the time – even at the post office.  It is our job, if we care about finding it, about experiencing it, to create the circumstances that allow ourselves to perceive wonder – and that, it turns out, is what I’m doing here, these 100 days.  Creating an opening; cultivating a mindset; developing a way of being in the world that enables me to experience wonder when it presents itself.  Which it does, all of the time, whether or not I am awake to see it.  I’m waking to wonder, not inviting it – wonder is already right here.

Day 9/100 Days of Inviting Wonder

Day 9/100

Make a playlist.  

Curate a collection of artists and songs that surprise and delight.  Include unexpected combinations; choose something you've never heard before alongside an old favorite; include a deep track from a favorite album.  Instrumentals and acapellas.  Rock music and musical theater.  Throw in something that makes you laugh, and something that makes you sing along at the top of your lungs.  Play it loud and play it often, and then make another.

I ought to do this once a month, but I nearly never do.  

Here's mine from today, if you're interested.

Day 7/100 Days of Inviting Wonder

Day 7/100 #100daysofinvitingwonder

Wonder: A feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar.

Wonder: A surprising event or situation.

Wonder: A feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.

Wonder: Desire or be curious to know something.

Wonder: Feel admiration and amazement; marvel.

Wonder: A cause of astonishment or admiration. 

Wonder: The quality of exciting amazed admiration. 

Wonder: Rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one's experience. 

My wonder is all of this and more.  My wonder, the wonder that i'm inviting these 100 days, is noun and verb, known and unknown, an idea and a state of being, a way of looking at the world, a mindset, a lightbulb, a moment, a habit and a happy accident. 

How do you cultivate a way of being that is both tangible and entirely not?  

Day 4/100 Days of Inviting Wonder

Prayer.

Oof, that's a strange and uncomfortable word to write in this context.  Prayer is not something I talk much about here - or anywhere - or think about often, if I'm being honest with you, and myself.  

Do I consider myself to be part of an organized religion?  Yes.  Do I actively practice that religion?  Yes.  Do I attend a house of worship?  Yes.  Do I say prayers there?  Yes.  Do I believe in a higher power in the universe?  Yes.  Do I believe there is a man with a white beard sitting in the clouds pulling strings?  No.  Can I articulate more about what I do believe?  In a lifetime, maybe, but not in two paragraphs.

Prayer is a funny thing; part-appreciation part-supplication, and in my case, spoken primarily in a language that is not native to me.  By the dictionary definition, to pray is to ask something of a higher power, or to express appreciation to a higher power, and yet I don't come to prayer with either of those things in mind.  Maybe it's because of the ways that I do and don't think about that higher power, but for me prayer is as much about tradition and continuity as it is about request and appreciation.  

Today is my father's yahrzeit, the day that marks the anniversary of his death three days before the start of the Passover holiday, eighteen years ago.  This morning, as is my custom, I went to the Synagogue to honor my father's memory by saying Kaddish, the memorial prayer.  The Kaddish is the very last prayer in the morning service, so before speaking the words of the Kaddish I said a whole host of other words of prayer, some of thanks and others of request, and if I'm being honest I spoke most of those words out of habit and with a strong sense of connection to the generations who have said those words before me, but without a lot of attention to the act of request or thanks to a higher power.  

And yet.

It occurred to me, as I sat there in that chapel this morning, that to pray is to open a channel.  None of us knows where that channel goes, or how - and I'm not sure it matters why we do what we do, but for me I know it matters that I try.  It is the act of prayer that matters to me, and I was reminded of that this morning as I remembered my father, and thought about how prayer is an act of inviting wonder.

Inviting wonder.

#THE100DAYPROJECT begins tomorrow.

(image by Elle Luna)

Last year’s project was transformative for me.  I’m generally a pretty good starter and not such a strong finisher – I never made it through the 365 photo project, for example (though, in my own defense, I did do 6 years of Habit, and I am in year 2 of my gratitude practice) – and I was afraid to begin.  I was afraid to say I was doing the project because I didn’t feel confident I would finish.  But I did!  I started and I finished, and it was strong if I don't say so myself.  I learned about myself along the way, I pushed myself along the way, I let myself off the hook sometimes along the way – all in all, a metaphor for life.

The project I did last year was a combination of painting and words – part process, part product – and just the right mix of the things I needed at the time. Last year, I used the hashtags #100daysofIbelieve#100daysofprocess, and #100daysofpaint– each day’s post had a short (or long, depending on the day) paragraph about my outlook on life, and each day’s post had some kind of rough painting, a sketchbook entry or a detail of a painting in process. 

My objective with the words was to push myself to write, to consider my own perspective, to begin to articulate my outlook and to dip my toe into sharing it with the world.  My objective with the paintings was to keep myself painting, to force myself to share what I painted whether I liked it or not, to push myself outside of my comfort zone.

I feel unbelievably proud of the work I did in #THE100DAYPROJECT last year (you can see all of the posts together here, if you’re interested) and, frankly, a I'm little bit nervous about trying it again.  What if I don’t build any momentum this time around?  What if I don’t finish?  What if I don’t enjoy what I decide to do?  What if I have nothing to say?  Nothing to paint?  Change my mind?  Want to give up?  Well, I’m silencing those voices and doing it anyway.  I’m carrying on with my effort to be brave, I'm pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, and I'm making myself do the next right thing. 

I am doing #THE100DAYPROJECT again this year, yes I am.

. . . . . . . .

I’ve been feeling out of sorts and rather glum since the start of January, not at all like myself, and finding it hard to see my own inner light; this project – and Spring! – come at just the right moment for me once again this year.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll be doing #100daysofinvitingwonder along with #100daysofpaintonpaper.  My intent for each of these 100 days, is to invite wonder into my life and into the world, and to share that with others.  I’ve started a list of wonder-full possibilities, and I would love to know if you have suggestions - because 100 days is a lot of days!  I’ll be doing things like hula-hooping in the yard and painting with my left hand, walking barefoot, leaving encouraging notes in public places, and trying new foods.  If you have other ideas, would you please send me a message?  I will be grateful for your input.

Alongside these wonder-actions, I will be making a series of small draw-paintings.  Unlike last year’s project, this time I will be setting parameters around the size and scope of my work, and letting the wonder be my guide.  I've decided on 8x10 as the size, because that's been working well for me lately - not too big and not too small - and it's possible that I'm going to draw-paint them all with my left hand - we'll see, time will tell.

. . . . . . . .

I plan to write about the experience here on my blog as the weeks go by, and I will be posting daily on Instagram.  I invite you to follow along if you’re interested.

100 days.  Here we go!

figuring.

I sat on the floor for a long time today, sheets of paper spread out before me, some large and some larger, jars of water, a few paints and a brush or two.  Barefoot.  Painting a little, sitting mostly.

Considering.

I made a big mess and I listened to Alicia Keys “HERE,” and I took notes: 

·      It doesn’t have to look like anything

·      There is no instruction book

·      Soften into the resistance

·      Dissonance

·      Find a new language

·      “What if love was holy and hate obscene?” ~Alicia Keys

·      Maybe I’m doing it right

·      Maybe I’m doing it wrong

·      Does it matter if I’m doing it right or if I’m doing it wrong?

And then I made a list of things I love in my work:

·      Bright colors

·      Carving into paint

·      Flowers

·      Horizons

·      Imaginary flowers

·      Vessels

·      Partial vessels

·      Spreading paint with a palette knife and making little clouds in the trailing paint

·      Color matching, color mixing, color surprising

·      Flower forms - O U V

·      Suggestions of stems

·      Drippys

·      Scribbling – back of the brush, pencils, charcoal, chalk pastels, oil pastels

·      Incorporating words

Yesterday, at the art supply store, when I went to pick up a few more yards of the primed canvas I’ve been painting on un-stretched, I fell in love with some giant Sennellier oil sticks in a whole rainbow and then some of colors.

I was drawn to their size, and their wild colorfulness.  I treated myself to two – they’re not cheap! – and I’m paying attention.  What are the oil sticks telling me? 

Sitting there on the floor, it became clear to me that the daily bravery paintings weren’t serving me.  Not the bravery part, I am craving that now, but from trying to fit myself into a box that isn’t the right size.

Maybe the paintings were too small?  Maybe my own parameters weren’t clear enough to me?  Maybe I wasn’t clear enough to me.  Do the paintings stand alone?  Are they parts of a whole?  Are they working things out?  Or part of a process?  So many questions, and I’m listening for the answers.

(Incidentally, five of the six have sold and are off to their new homes.  The fourth sits on my work table, reminding me of the power of the project.  I'm not letting it go.)