"To be alive is the biggest fear humans have. Death is not the biggest fear we have: our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive ---the risk to be alive and express what we really are. Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of humans." DON MIGUEL RUIZ
Once you reach a certain, ahem, age (shhhhhhhhh - no need for numbers!) thoughts of mortality are more prevalent. Along with the preparing of wills and other documents which we'd much rather postpone until they are really necessary, by which time it will be too late. While watching my thoughts (don't you do that? It's like stalking your own mind...) I recently noticed way too many were about being old, passing away, fleeting time. So I wondered if I might be having a little anxiety or fear about death. Until I read the quote above in Ruiz' The Four Agreements and had a little epiphany. AHA! I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of being REALLY alive and being EXACTLY who I am. Wow. Now there is a little something to sit in awe about.
I mean, really. How many of us are out there living a bold, fearless, carpe diem kind of life? How many of us spend an inordinate amount of time worried about what others think about how we [insert word here: dress, act, believe, eat, look, drink, decorate, write, drive, walk, think] and less than no time at all about what we'd really, REALLY like?
Maybe, my dear, cherished reader, you already seize the day in a brazen, Pippi Longstocking kind of way. If so, would you comment below with some much needed HOW TO for the rest of us? Though my intern is back at university now, Wonder Mike has volunteered to step in and send a little something sweet to the commenter whose comment is most commendable. Ready? Go!.
And I've been thinking about stubbornness quite a bit this week, as Wonder Mike becomes more comfortable in his new shangrala and begins to display his tiny but mighty personality. Which includes an abhorrence of walks. Twice a day, he and I each dig our heels in on opposite ends of the leash and take 45 minutes to go half a mile. He likes to sit and look around. I like to walk fast. I realized after a week of this that he probably doesn't know how wonderful walks really are (who knows if he was ever even on a leash before) and so I've begun wearing away his reluctance with pockets full of treats, the most interesting destinations and a willingness to stop and greet every single passerby and yes, even sit beside him on the sidewalk now and again. Just this morning, he sat by the garage door where his leash hangs, waiting to go. I wonder if he knows deep renewal and a doggy pedicure are coming his way?
This daily looking at Tamayo (and by looking, I also mean sketching and exploring with paint) really reduces, narrows, hones - my eyes begin to see the simplest of shapes in a compositional setting. For those of you with a formal art education, perhaps this realization seems rudimentary. For me it is a revelation.
Nepo, in The One Life We're Given, mentions the practice of tracking whale sightings in ship logs from the 1800's. "And all processes of art are essentially ship logs, in which we track the appearance of what matters, and it surprises us with its majestic breach in to the ordinary moments of our day." These studies are my ship logs. A little aha, a majestic breach. I will keep looking.
I've spent a lot of my life trying to finish lists. Crossing things off gives me satisfaction. It gives me the illusion I am ever closer to the time when I can relax and really enjoy life. As if it must be done in that order. Yet these lists (and worries I touch with my thoughts each day) are the very thieves which must be quieted. The things which prevent flow.
One very good way to quiet thieves is to spend a few minutes immersed in the wisdom of someone else's words. Here's a link to a TED Talk by David Whyte (provided by the same thief-quieting spirit lady who gifted me a copy of the new book by Mark Nepo) which is sure to help push your lists to the side for a few minutes today. https://www.ted.com/talks/david_whyte_a_lyrical_bridge_between_past_present_and_future.
For those who enjoy the process pics, below is the sequence preceding the final piece, including Tamayo's original.
Readers!! You might have noticed a name change on this website. JenWalls.com is now officially JenJovan.com! But never fear -the old domain name will redirect you here, so you will never miss a blog post or an update. New name but the same malarkey and shenanigans!
When humbled into the open, often against our will, our bones can rattle like wind chimes, making beautiful and haunting music, though it aches to do so. - MARK NEPO
The emptying half of life makes my bones rattle. But it also leaves me softened, lighter, clattering in the breeze and tumbling in the tide, content to land where the wind and waves take me. It delights me to see the paint manifest these stories in ways words cannot.
And this is exactly where the pause becomes important (in life and in art). Once I added the additional layer of watercolor glazing, I stepped away from this for a day. By pausing for 24 hours, I was able to see (with help from the Grand Master himself) this piece was done - even though there were more steps in the process. If I had continued to paint and fiddle and try to clarify the piece, it would have become less ambiguous, less impactful and probably a chicken - can you see the chicken next to the keyboard in the first steps photo?
Despite the intensity of this piece, it is only watercolor over the random marks (oil pastel, charcoal, colored pencil, regular pencil). Not a drop of acrylic or gesso, which would have been next in the process. Yet it packs a wallop, and has a lot to say without saying exactly anything at all. Which is perhaps the point of abstraction.
In life, a pause before speaking, acting or reacting allows the brain and heart to have a little meeting and maybe sort out what matters most. As I contemplate the variety of tattoos available in the world, I wonder if perhaps a pause button would be an effective symbol to get inked onto some very visible part of my body (like maybe my forehead?) so I won't forget how important it is to WAIT JUST A GOSH DARN MINUTE before slapping on more paint or speaking my thoughts out loud? Let's stop a moment and think about that.
You'd think a girl would need a long rest after workshop week, but Kurth's sketchbooks prompted me to begin a daily sketch practice - small studies in squares to locate shapes, color combinations and compositions which become muscle memory in the brain. I'm beginning with a study of Rufino Tamayo's works. First the characters and shapes, then the colors.
Kurth reminded us of how important it is to constantly, consistently study the works of other artists. My inner nerd would be in school forever if she could, so this gives me a reason to pull out the art books and create my own study program. I hope I am a nice teacher. Maybe I should bring myself an apple?
Jen Jovan and her imaJENation