Monday, August 31, 2009

two very beautiful women.

As a morning inspiration, I looked up two of my favorite female  artists. Anyone who reads my blog knows I am a huge fan of Bjork, so obviously she is one. The other is Sister Marie Keyrouz, a Lebanese nun who has the most stunning voice I have heard for what she sings. Both links are interesting... the one of Bjork is probably my favorite song by her... I tear up and the hairs on my arms stand straight whenever the strings kick in. I wish I could paint the way this song sounds. The other link is simply a gorgeous piece of music. Paired with the beautiful sunshine this morning,  both are little wishes for the day I offer up to anyone reading. 

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ink and Madeleine

 It is a day or running pigments, haphazard lazy brush strokes doing what they want, running into each other, blending completely. Think of it when you drive today, especially if you are near the mountain. Today is a living print, a monochromatic painting that finds a way to be colorful. And think of it with this song

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Reactions? Reactions.

I don't know about some of you all out there, but between the rough economy, getting older, and having my heart pulled in different directions at different times of my life, I have to ask: "Is there a way to sift through this chaos in any way and not let it all affect me SO much??"

Obviously, there are always a TON of things out of our control. After all, we shouldn't even pretend to be playing God. That would just be silly.

BUT.... Is there a freakin way to get through this stuff in one piece? Seriously... sometimes I think everyone and everything around me have more say than I do on how I feel. It's exhausting to say the least.

A lot of my posts are about sitting in the moment, being with it, listening to it, and letting go. AH! The letting go part is what I, personally, have a really f#*king hard time with.  There is a lot of power in letting go. And yet, all of our surroundings say the opposite. We are NOT a culture of stepping back, preserving, then letting go... we are one of tearing it down, fixing it all, eating it all, hoarding what's left, giving it all away, stealing it all back. 

To make it simple, WE REACT.

Reaction. I've been thinking of this word on and off all summer. I'm pretty confused about it. Sometimes it's good to react... it's a beautiful thing! We react to art, love, pain, illness, death. It is natural. But then, there is a flip side to this reaction.  Sometimes we react SO quickly, we forget to sit with the feeling. We fill the space (I think I wrote about this already).  We react and react and react some more. Bloody hell it's SO damn tiring! 
So, what gives??? Do those Zen masters detach? Or is it like a wind that flows over them and passes. 

I've passed plenty of wind in my life, but not of that sort....

HA! Ok, sorry! 

I'm obviously in a weird mood, and nowhere near the thoughtfulness that needs to be present in dealing with this question. 
Personally, I like the laughing buddha most of all. What if that's the reaction you get, when it's all said and done, and the feeling has come in, been with  you, and moved on? What if you laugh your bloody eyes out??? What if you all of a sudden see what fools we all are, and you just....

 laugh till you piss yourself.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

P. S.....

Speaking of multi-figure compositions, is there anyone alive today who can compose like Degas? Not to seep myself in history, but seriously, Degas is a badass composer. So modern and surprising. It's a good challenge for up -and -coming painters out there.

Inspiration, Take Two.

I found this FABULOUS Alma Tadema start on the Art Renewal website.... it gives a great clue as to how he worked. I LOVE this sketch... It's a gorgeous multi-figure composition. 

Personally, I have been working with solitary figures exclusively, unless in a portrait commission. But I have always wanted to work with several figures at once... one of the hardest tasks in painting, I think. 

Very inspiring.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Changing of the Guard.

I started teaching at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga (UTC) today.  
I have to say, being in an academic setting is not natural to me. The many  years of waking up at whatever time I want and strolling into my studio, staying until ungodly hours of the evening... well, just don't seem to fit with being a teacher AT A UNIVERSITY. Sounds more like a  first year student, if you ask me. Plus, I look younger than most of the people in the class.

And I giggle more. 

HOWEVER, isn't it when you are slightly uncomfortable that you learn the most??? 
I have a strange feeling that I am going to learn more than my students.
I am teaching figure painting to 3rd and 4th year painting majors. Even the thought makes me sweat a bit. Luckily, I had ten smiling, patient faces awaiting me today.

I'm REALLY excited. 

Being on campus, I realized today how bad I need to be doing this. It's pretty easy to get caught up in your own head, day in, day out, in a studio full of fumes (roll of eyes again).  Walking around the university you can feel the general dedication to learning .

Now, whatever your views are about our educational system (I could write a novel), I still believe there are people teaching and learning because they love it.  There are older students,  young teachers, awkward adjuncts (ahem!), young students in groups, jocks, nerds,academics,  anti-socials, ditzes, and all sorts of people there. And I can't help but think that a rather large percentage of them are there because they love something. Think about it... students pay WAY too much, and teachers get paid WAY too little....
And yet, classes are full. 
Something's gotta give.  
On a more personal level, I feel like there is a changing of the guard going on in my life right now. I have left a big building full of painters, some of them pretty comfortable in their routine (I mean that in the best of ways). They have been my uncles, watching out for my safe crossing into Chattanooga. Now,  I've been thrown out on the street, only to find myself in St. Elmo around a bunch of rock climbers, in a studio with all light directions except the one I am comfortable with, and teaching in a setting that is, well, like I said, slightly new  to me. 

Hmm. I've also have to wonder if this is not the way the last month of my 28th year SHOULD go. After all, they say your body regenerates itself every seven years (yup... you are a WHOLE new person every seven years). Considering that I am in my 4th round, maybe it is applicable that everything I have known should be tossed out like marbles and redirected. (yes... some of my marbles WERE lost).  

29. What will it be like? When I turned 28, I had more than one person tell me, "Oh, Honey, I'm soo sorry... 28 is pure hell". And It kinda has been. 
Let's see... heartache galore, first physical signs of wrinkles, realizing that I'm starting to be of the age that, in the south, is referred to as "old spinster" due to lack of a ring on my finger, finding that I am NOT who I thought I was, finding that many people are NOT who I thought they were, and the general concept of leaving what I have learned in school for my own ways.

Oh, WAIT..... those are all GOOD things.

Phew. For a second I was overwhelmed.

I TOTALLY plan on being a new person as of September 2nd, B T dubs. 

So.... 29. Any suggestions???  I like asking people what they were doing at my age (if they are younger, I ask them what they would LIKE to be doing... then I steal their idea:) Any last ideas for 28? I've got less than two weeks. 

There are a lot of birthdays in September, by the way. Apparently doing it around New Years is popular....

I wouldn't know about that, though.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mental Facilities, Frosty Heaven, and the Jitters.

It's 6:11 pm, wednesday afternoon, on August 12th, 2009. 

I'm taking a break from moving (yes.. still!). I have a cold frosty in hand, and am savoring the living s*t out of it. Why does this taste SO good??? Like as if I have never had vanilla ice cream before. It's so hot outside, and my fingers ache from all the lifting and pulling of heavy frames in and out of my car. I feel sunburned, but I'm not. A thin layer of scum is becoming the norm on my skin lately (and I wonder why I'm still single...).  

But seriously, this is the best Frosty I have ever had. It has even managed to lower my body temperature to something a little more normal. Perhaps I am having a Ranier Maria Rilke moment... he used to write poems about objects that were more than they appeared. He wrote an entire poem about a cane once. The imagery was of a man with some sort of spinal disease walking on a bridge. He would walk and go into convulsions. All the kids would stare at him and he was very lonely. Then, mid-poem, he realizes he can use a cane(or was it an umbrella?) to support his spine while he walks and make it straight. All of a sudden, something quite normal becomes the most important thing to that man... it provides acceptance and normalcy to him.
Quite beautiful, really. 
So, back to the Frosty. "Hail to the Wendy's Gods", one might say. But really... this object, delicious-soothing-vanilla-goodness-thing, is saving me from insanity right now. It's a bit of a contradiction, when you think about it. I have to have been sweating, working, going through the trenches of moving hell just to taste this gorgeous thing. If I was just driving around in my air conditioned car, this Frosty would be, well, let's be frank folks, pretty mediocre. 

So is that the trick? Work and wait and hold on, and you can taste the sweetness of life? Hard times make small things seem important? 

Ode to ye cane, ode to ye Frosty. 

You always hear about those war stories when people would savor a piece of meat or candy, or something they were not allowed to have. It was gold to them, because there was nothing. Everything had been taken away. 

I'm not going to jump on the anti-consumerism train. We all know it, we all do it, we all live with it, and we all somewhat hate it. 

But today I'm going to try a little experiment. What if you don't give yourself that thing you want right away? What if you work for it, if you hold back a little? Will it taste better later? 
Who knows. Rilke seems to be better at this stuff than me. 
I 'm still reading the book I mentioned in the last post.  The chapter last night was about not causing harm. It wasn't really in reference to others. It was more to yourself. When that void hits... you know, when you DON'T give yourself what you want right away, what do you do? Do you fill it? Do you run? Most of us do. We HATE being uneasy, restless, and groundless. It is an insecure place. But this woman claims to ease into it. Realize how you react when you are uncomfortable... do you get itchy and can't sit still? Do you drink? Do you eat? Do you blare the music? Do you call someone for company? 
Really watch what you do. I had this feeling last night, of wanting something and not being able to have it. I got panicky, made up some dumb excuse to drive around town (by the way... this little driving adventure made me listen to Rachmaninov during a hard storm. I got lost, only to end up at Moccasin Bend Facility for Mental Health......uh,  yeah. ) , called my mom, cried, surfed the internet, and took a bath. And then, after all of that, I watched myself. Wow. I'm a jittery, nervy, twitchy person. Take away the thing that I want, and I get all scratchy and anxious. Hmm. So I sat with it. I didn't get mad at myself. I just watched. Even just watching it shot me out of it. What a trip! (mental health facilities included).
I guess there are two parts to this blog: refrain from giving yourself exactly what you want, when you want it, and see how you react. Then see how sweet it feels when what you want comes more naturally. 

But what the hell do I know. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


"The meeting of two eternities... the past and the future... is precisely the present moment' -Henry David Thoreau.

Buddhists (from what I am told) believe that you can find eternal happiness while slicing an onion. This is a properly symbolic action, as far as I'm concerned. A totally useless act, for the most part. But being present to it, even if you are tearing up and can't even see the onion any more, does that bring you closer to reality? To happiness?
I have been reading a book on and off for a year. It is written by a female American Buddhist monk. She talks a lot about the teaching of now. That this moment is the only real tool that can teach us anything. Even if the moment is pain, it is a guiding star to learn from.

It's hard to believe that sometimes.

Like when I'm walking across the street, arms full of heavy boxes, and all the guys on their Harleys won't let me cross over to my car because they are trying to get a good parking spot for the free booze-fest/live concert going on next door. That moment doesn't feel terribly teaching. It is the counter opposite to what I think of with quiet meditation and Buddhism... gardens and monks and birds and stillness and the oh-so intoxicating idea that meditiation and silence can make you happy.

Nope. Fat guys on Harleys just don't fit. And me getting more and more raged at their disrespect is all too separate from that garden and the birds and meditation. I don't think the Dalai Lama would have images of kicking those guys off their bikes and making them beg for mercy while I pile moving boxes on their sweet little....

But that's my problem, I think. We have monkey minds... we swing from thought to thought, let whatever emotion take over and affect everything.  Soon those Harley guys were Hitler, and I was a little innocent maiden being taken advantage of. But the reality is, I was on a street, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and there were people on a friday night excited to see a free concert and forgetting a small amount of politeness.

Tunnel vision is a real bummer, and we've all got it. 

I think art can be a good reminder of what is really going on now. How many times have you played  a song that reminds you of exactly where you are at that moment? Weird. One of my favorite things is to haphazardly play a song that goes so well with my situation; it's as if the singer is me talking to myself.

I had that last night with Thom Yorke's song "Black Swan". Besides the lyrics, the moment was so fitted. I was looking out the large window of my new studio. The sun was going down behind Lookout Mountain. Telephone wires were silhouetted against the sapphire sky. There is a brick building in front of me that is storage for a medical cream factory. The door is earth red, and the sides are pealed and crumbling, showing gray concrete.  The number 23 is above and to the right of the door, also made of brick. Street lights are lit, but no one is walking under them. I can't stop staring at the 23. So this is where I am, huh? 

23. That's exactly where I was. 

And this song played and it was perfect. Like as if you are watching your own life from aside, not totally in it. Like coming up for a breath above water, and seeing the horizon. And then you tread the water for a while.  You just tread, and you can't fake it.