And so the inner world has become a miasma of reflecting, ruminating, regretting, celebrating and feeling - oh so much feeling. All the way to the ends of my fingertips and edges of my eyeballs.
Nepo's words give purpose here. They point to the BIG REVEAL that we all face when confronted with the loss of others - the inevitable ends of our own lives. I was fighting the stream until a few days ago, when the overwhelm of exhaustion and feelings had me fed up with my own stew of sadness. And I surrendered.
We have no control over this stream - who it takes, who it leaves behind. But we can "steer in the stream", accepting, seeing more easily where we can live. That's where the relief is. Where the lives of those loved and lost become even more meaningful - they point us where we can live. And so I gently steer myself to the tender and wondrous parts of the stream. I think Heidi and Dana would approve.
About the art: another piece on that lusciously leathery gesso'd craft paper. Layers and layers of softly blended paint, added with brushes, sprayed, scraped away, then added again. Embracing the random textures, lines and splatters that result. Following her gaze to clearly seeing.
We've become those people. The ones who wander with pockets filled with peanuts, chucking and clucking and calling the crows. And now, often, the crows call us. Or swoop silently over our shoulders to land in a tree limb ahead, waiting for the morning offerings. There is great joy in this, for us. Making contact, forming recognition, learning each other's ways.
It has become a lovely pause in a tumultuous world. Our eyes and ears are atuned to the crows, leaving little space for news and chaos. I think of it fondly as crow meditation. :)
About the art: this piece is painted on one of my new favorite substrates - craft paper. Once gesso'd, this paper takes a beating and forms delicious textured wrinkles and warps, creating an overall leathery texture and heft on a thin plane.
Beginning with black gesso'd paper taped to a board, drawing the bird with white charcoal and then adding water and paint to form a value sketch. Continuing to add the requisite 80 million layers of acrylic paint, this time choosing a very dark, limited palette. Using the sprayer bottle, squeegee and rubber wedge to force the paper to wrinkle and warp, enjoying the way subsequent light layers cling to the high points in the texture and leave the valleys dark. Resisting the urge to overly define all but eye and feet.
There's a lot going on in the world right now.
It makes me tired to think about it. But think about it I must, we all must, because war and disease and the economy and the people making decisions on our behalf effect us. The key, I believe, is not overthinking about it.
I'm a big overthinker. It comes with being introverted, highly sensitive and a survivor of a measure of trauma. There are worlds of thinking in my head that are ever expanding during times of strife. So Whyte's words, the reminder to "give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong", places that brain of mine back in the present moment - this peanut butter sandwich on my desk, the sound of the crow outside, the in and out breath.
Anything (or anyone) that does not bring us alive, dear reader, is too small for us.
About the art: beginning with a wood panel thickly gesso'd in black. Using colored charcoal and blocking in shapes based on an inspiration photo from a sunset on the rocky Oregon shoreline. Grabbing the gist of the scene with layers of fiery oranges and then building rocks and pools and edges with a palette knife laden with acrylic paint. Liberal use of spray bottle, squeegee, rubber wedge and chopsticks (for carving into the paint). Dollops of colored pencil. Thin washes of paint mixed with matte medium for the sky. Resisting the desire to overly define. Allowing paint to move.
This piece. moves, me...I hope it moves you, too. xo
Nepo's poem goes on:
In the very center, under
it all, what we have that no one can take
away and all that we’ve lost face each other.
It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured
by a holiness that exists inside everything.
I am so sad and everything is beautiful.
When all that I've lost (in nearly six decades, in my case) meets all that I have (which is more than I ever imagined), I catch my breath. There is a holiness, an unmistakable sacredness, to this. Wonder and grief, in a beautiful duet, leaving me smiling and brimming with tears.
Here are some of the recent gems in the realm of overwhelming beauty:
About the art: beginning with a panel covered in black gesso, mixing a limited palette of colors and applying them with rubber wedge, paper towel, chopstick and brush. Allowing the paint to move and dictate its direction, resisting the desire to drop more color than a small piece can handle. Finishing with colored pencil applied with a very loose, non-writing grip to keep the marks organic.
The wild Pacific is surging through the studio, and a cosmic octopus dropped by.
This piece was a commission request from one of the most sparkly humans I know. So when she asked "would you?" I immediately said "yes!" Personal altars are just that - personal. They speak to your insides while sitting on the outside, gathering your special talismans and holding your hopes and wishes in a sacred place. And if you are a very colorful, very sparkly human, your altar needs a candy-coated cosmic octopus.
I'm going to want one of these for myself!
About the art: beginning with a solid wood, two-tiered altar, the areas to be personalized were taped off and coated with black gesso. A colored pencil sketch followed, along with the requisite 80 million layers of color in both acrylic paint and Uni Posca Paint Pens. Finished with a coat of cold wax to protect paint and wood.
In case you're looking for a little stony inspiration, here are a few of the colorful cast of rocky characters we met at the beach. :)
There are walls between us and them. Idealogical walls, religious walls, political walls, walls of opinion, perception, assumption - so many walls. It makes me weary, these walls. When I read Nepo's words in this passage, my eyes welled up and my heart sighed. Never stop loving everything. Whoa. Love without intent. Love without preference. Again, whoa. Erasing walls. Yes, please and thank you.
Here's some unending love from me to you, dear reader. You show up here, in this little haven of art and musings, walls down and heart open. I adore you. Thank you for being here.
About the art: beginning with a layer of black gesso and adding a rough pencil sketch over the top. Building the layers of color and paint, mixing background paint with white gesso to keep it chalky and matte. Layers of gold leaf interspersed, pulled forward and then pushed back. Water sprayer and rubber wedge used, but not too much. Finishing with colored pencil lines and scribbles, adding that final layer of texture.
Liberties were taken with this painting - it's in my own style, with my own interpretation of strength and resilience scraped and layered and scratched into it. It is every one of us who has faced a lion even when terrified - even when we couldn't see our own courage. I look at this piece and feel doubly resolved to live from my own core as I find my way in the world. I hope she inspires you as well, dear reader. She is you and me.
About the art: beginning with a canvas covered in black gesso, creating a rough sketch with white charcoal. Slowly adding in layers, following the paint where it meanders away from the inspiration photo to let texture and nuance form where it might not have been before. Liberal use of a sprayer bottle and rubber wedge. Scratching into wet paint with colored pencils to add texture and movement. Resisting the urge to overly define. Stepping away when her gaze told me the lion was in the room.
There was a companion piece to this one - a large canvas which went through a million iterations, receiving on its surface the aches and pains and worries and fears of the week in layer upon layer of color. Which is now covered in black gesso. Mama said there'd be days likes these. I am grateful for its willingness to accept all that angst and store it safely within its frame.
I think what's important is that we keep doing. Create, sing, dance, play, move, clean, read - whatever you do, keep doing it. Let the doing of it revitalize you amidst it all. Wherever you are in this week of tumult, I wish you a pile of play dough and a companion or two to make weird creatures with.
About the art: beginning with a black gesso'd wood panel and a reference photo of a dinosaur skeleton, then a rough colored pencil sketch over top. Adding washes of warm tones and then beginning to define the bones with increasingly lighter tones. Allowing the dark to show through and create shadows and depth. Resisting the urge to overly define - keeping the washes light and ghostly.
The older I become, the more those big questions rattle around in my noggin, and sometimes spill into the paint.
The wild thing about these questions is that likely none of them will be answered in my lifetime. In this world of fast-paced technological growth, invention and speed, answers to the big stuff still remain (pardon the pun) light-years away. And so we can seek knowledge without answers, practice the ability to question and query and conjecture and ponder and sit with the wondrousness of it all.
Which is something I do while painting.
If you want to stuff your noggin with some fascinating knowledge, check out Kurzgesagt -in a nutshell on YouTube. Because I don't want to be the only one contemplating what happens if the moon falls into the earth. :)
About the art: beginning with two panels and some black gesso, creating shapes with a rubber wedge. Adding in colors to the shapes, following the thread wherever it meanders and then discovering a forest of sorts emerging in a celestial world. This piece is finished with a layer of cold wax.
Jen Jovan and her imaJENation