Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December 21, 2008

Today is the Winter Solstice. The longest night of the year; when ancient peoples waited for the sun in trepidation - fearful that it would never rise again. Although the sun never failed to rise, the long wait for daylight generated doubt. Human ability to trust is very fragile.

I muse this evening on the similarities of the above experience with being an artist. Art making is a satisfying blend of memorized principles and thoughtful, deliberate application. If I learn why a focal point works, and how asymmetrical balance is achieved, then I can apply what I've learned. If I work with intention, there is always some experimentation and guessing involved, but I trust the principles to guide me. And they usually do.

How many times have I commiserated with an artist friend who's hit a low point - sure that inspiration or direction would never return? The long, dark night when we don't trust the sun will ever rise on our creativity again is painful, terrible. We stop working. We get mad or resentful. Sometimes we even give up.

But consider that trust is in itself an intentional choice. A choice we make in our lives as artists.  When my artistic well is dry, and my creative night is long, I have two choices. I can fret and disengage, or I can show up. Showing up means I go to the studio anyway. Maybe I'll dye cloth. Maybe I'll clean up. But either way, I'm going. I want to be present when inspiration returns. And I choose to believe it will return. I trust that the creative energy fueling me is still in there, even when it is at a low ebb. And as with all cyclical things, if I keep showing up, I do find my creative way again. 

And since I am more than just an artist, the winter solstice also speaks of the symbolic dark night currently being experienced around the globe. Even a cockeyed optimist would be pensive, were she to contemplate the state of world affairs. But remember, trust is in itself an intentional choice. I still have two choices. I can fret and disengage, or I can show up. Showing up means I keep doing what I believe is important. I treat others as I want to be treated. I choose to respond to rudeness with kindness. Not always, but as often as I can. I refuse to criticize presidential appointees who haven't even started their jobs. I want to give them a chance. I eagerly anticipate programs that put people to work cleaning and fixing and thinking. I want to be present as we continue the gradual humankind shift to balance - socially, politically and environmentally. Because as with all cyclical things, if we keep showing up, we'll find our creative way again.

Mine is a fragile trust, but one strengthened by choosing intentionally. I support my intention by attending a small, contemplative service on Sunday mornings. This morning there was no room in the inn, oops, I mean the sanctuary, because a pageant was scheduled for 11:00 am. We gathered in the more intimate parlor, which was perfect for our rather informal group. After our shared singing, and the reading of a scripture passage, we settled into silent meditation. 

There was the bang of a door in the outer hallway. Cheerfully loud voices greeted each other in the vestibule. Oh no! How dare they interrupt our quiet contemplations? I felt my pulse quicken. 

But you know, meditation is easy when no one is around. Much harder when real life inserts itself into the equation. Being present means being present - no matter what.

So the voices in the hall? Just a little reminder that Life is coursing uninvited, all around me. What are my options? Fret and disengage, or show up. On this long day leading into the longest night of the year, I choose trust. And sometimes a leap of faith.


Jackie said...

Like the trash truck that unfailingly dumps cans and bottles from the bar across the alley during yoga class, it sometimes takes a breath or two to realize that it's all right, that every one is blessed. Choosing is intentional. I choose to trust and to love and to show up. Thank you for a thoughtful homily. Merry Christmas to you.

Fay's Fun said...

Thank You Jane --- I love your philosophy -- ??'cos it validates me as a choice "optimist".......?? The Photo is very spiritual for me --- Thank you - several of yours have been for me -- I will think around that .......
Happy Christmas and may 2009 be all you make it to be.. :-]]]]]]]]]]]]]

Eileen said...

What wonderfully inspiring words, Jane! As a fellow artist I am very familiar with that long night of doubt. Yuletide has always held a special place in my heart because of its message of hope and new beginnings. Thanks for reminding me that trust and presence are an essential part of finding a new creative beginning.

ElizH said...

Thank you so much for your words. Just what I needed. Happy Christmas.

Deb G said...

Just wanted to say how much I appreciate what you've written in this post.

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November 20, 2008

November 20, 2008

November 20, 2008

How does color set a mood? The soft gray and white of the carpet, the cat Marshall, and the sunlit window contribute to to the sense of calm repose. What does blue mean to you or me? We all have symbolic associations for colors; some based on personal experience and some instilled culturally. 

The cobalt blue of the vase provides a point and counterpoint to the composition, in addition to providing elements that balance.
Keeping the cat in the lower third of the composition weights the image and is another visual door into the picture world.

November 19, 2008

November 19, 2008

November 19, 2008

This picture tells several stories. It references the human desire to order the world around us - the lettering on the wall establishes the alley as a No Parking zone, and the broken glass-  jutting out at the top - is another message of fear and frailty. Whoever lives behind this wall wants to be left alone.

But there is beauty in the contrast of the rough brick surface and the smooth translucency of the broken glass bottles. A contrast of textures makes for an interesting composition. And the abstract nature of the printed letters against the structure of the bricks would be worth emulating in another sort of composition.

There is as much beauty in decay as there is in a bouquet of fresh flowers. And aren't decay and fresh growth just two different spots on the same continuum?

November 18, 2008

November 18, 2008

November 18, 2008

The Hydrangeas offer a lesson in the effective use of color. The pale blue and lavender are roughly the same value, so they balance each other beautifully. I am challenged to mimic that combination of analogous colors on silk Habotai!

This photograph would be considered beautiful even without the red-orange and yellow flowers at the bottom. But the addition of the complements to the blue and purple creates a focal point and generates some nice contrast because of the complementary pairing. And imagine how different this composition would be, were the red-orange and yellow at the top instead of at the bottom. The current placement adds important visual weight.

November 17, 2008

November 17, 2008

November 16, 2008

November 16, 2008
Being and Non-being

Substance and Light

November 16, 2008

We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside 
that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the space inside
that holds whatever we want.

We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.

Tao te Ching; Verse 11
Stephen Mitchell translation