Are you an over-thinker like me? Do you stay awake rehashing conversations or other experiences that didn’t go as planned? Do you have a hard time letting go of “mistakes” made?
One of the things I’ve done in my sabbatical is take classes — art classes, specifically. There are so many benefits to taking classes.
Benefit 1: Being a student again reminds me of the student experience and bring it closer into focus as I return to the classroom.
Benefit 2: Sitting under various teachers exposes me to so many more teaching strategies, approaches, and postures.
Benefit 3 (which may be #1 in reality): learning new things!!!
I took a class on color mixing from Julie Jeanseau, who taught a lot of great lessons but one that has been sticking with me is that sometimes a painting has taught us all it can teach us and instead of trying to “fix” it or make it perfect, we need to take what we’ve learned and apply it to the next painting. Move forward.
Not only did this give me permission to move on from a piece, but also to think about applying this concept to other areas of my life — coaching, teaching, interpreting, and peopling 🙂
It has given me permission to not feel guilty and spiral in overthinking after any “mistake” but to consider, “what am I taking from this to apply to future similar experiences?” and move forward.
In recent weeks, I’ve taken the following lessons forward:
– Keep working in known areas until you are comfortable navigating to novel areas
– Ask more questions, there are other outlets for your musings
– Can I make this even more simple??
Questions to Deepen Our Practice
– What am I taking away from this experience?
– What is important about doing this differently in the future?
Courageous Art is a monthly gathering of reflective souls who are unfolding in real time.
We engage in reflective art around a theme. Typically, as the facilitator of the experience, I identify a theme ahead of time and communicate it to the registrants via email confirming their registration and providing information about how to join.
Last month, the theme didn’t come to me as it normally does …I was stuck and sensed a need to invite the group into the theme identification process. The only thing that had come to my mind was something about “transition.”
We started the session with our normal introductions & sharing what mediums we had brought for our creative reflective process. Then I tasked us with a freewrite in response to “what is on your mind tonight, what do you need? ” OR “when I consider transition, I think…..” We freewrote for about 2 mins and then reported out.
It seemed everyone had some sort of transition in mind. Given that it was the end of the year typical transitions were discussed in terms of one year ending and another beginning. But also there were themes around job transitions, role transitions, and self-discovery types of transitions.
I won’t go through a play by play of all that we did that night, but I do want to share some of the profound takeaways that I had from the evening. One of the things I love about doing these sessions online versus in person is that I get to play along and benefit on a different level than I have in the past as a facilitator. (A perk from the restrictions of COVID).
There is a liminal space between where we’ve been and where we are going – some folks talked about it as a hallway, or visualized it as a foyer or lobby area before entering the next room. This space is important and not to be rushed through – there is work to be done in the “in between” – some of that work is rest, some release, some baby steps forward, some taking stock of what you have in that liminal space and what you want to continue carrying.
There is a through-line that connects the before, not yet, and now – that through-line is you. You are with you, your experiences, your feelings, your filters, and your beliefs all travel with you as your journey continues unfolding. For me, on that night, the through-line was a wave which represents “this too shall pass” – the good and the bad will pass, it will not always be this way. It brought me back to a tattoo I got on my 40th birthday with the same wave and sentiment.
The before, not yet, and now are fluid spaces, not rigidly traveled through never to be touched again, but rather they are places that exist in you, your inner landscape and serve to bolster you along the journey. Bringing you comfort, rest, lessons, and courage for what is ahead.
As I reflect on that night now, more than a month later, I am grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to slow my mind and really take stock of my current stop on the journey. Grateful for the community of other reflective souls who unpack and share their journeys allowing us all to learn and grow from one another. And grateful to be seen by others, seen in their stories, and seen in my stories – recognizing the common reflection of humanity.
One of the places I find most inspiring is checking out Donna Downey’s artwork and process videos. I bought her Abstract Florals online course awhile back and worked through some of these pieces with the concepts and principles from it.
I’m challenged by depth and shading…..I don’t get the “make your darks darker and your lights lighter” intuitively, I don’t see where it needs to happen. But I LOVE how these turned out. The character and personality of each one.
Most of them are also what I call redeemed canvases. Layered on top of deep texture underneath. This helps avoid the flatness that can happen when creating a singular image.
These pieces are far from perfect and yet that is what brings them character. It is what is intriguing about them. Again, art really does parallel life – it is our imperfections that give us character and make us intriguing. So, then why are we always trying to hide our imperfections rather than celebrating them? What if we were to embrace rather than try to fix….??
Oooh…there’s that word “fix” again – why am I constantly wanting to fix things -others, myself, etc? What if it doesn’t need to be fixed?!?
This series is an exploration of trust and vulnerability – in the abstract. I posted on instagram the following:
This definition of trust shared by Brene Brown in her book “Braving the Wilderness says “Charles Feltman had the “most beautiful definition of trust,” which was “Trust is choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else.”⠀
“Feltman says that distrust is what I’ve shared with you that is important to me is not safe with you,” ⠀
I have been thinking a lot about this concept of trust and what it is that I value that I am (or not) willing to make vulnerable to the actions of someone else – is it my sense of self & worthiness, is it my career, is it my kids, is it my money, is it my privacy…..?? ⠀
This imagery – shapes, colors – came to me while I was attending a professional training. The idea of trust and vulnerability is critical in my line of work – the work of connecting people to one another and educating future generations. Are we willing to hold our values, beliefs, and things that are important to us with open hands? Am I willing to approach other’s values, beliefs, and things they hold important gently and with respect? Or do I put up walls around things I value – not allowing any outside influence? Do I force my way through to impose upon other’s valued items?
How can I seek to be gentle in this world – gentle to myself and to others? Does it look like asking more than answering? What about observing more than interjecting? What about solitude more than noise?
What is your relationship to trust and vulnerability? Gentleness?
Bodies….. we need them to function. They carry us around, faithfully – and sometimes not so faithfully. They are objects of contempt. Objects of affection. Women’s bodies create life in miraculous ways. And yet are never enough. They are judged unworthy.
This series is a challenge for me to embrace what is and celebrate that which is. These each have names like – compassionate, weary, defeated, BELOVED, sabbath, contemplative, beauty, complicated, and fearless.
I’m interested in reconciling…in some recent work I’m doing around grief and trying to learn how to grieve well, I have come across the elements of grieving loss – it requires forgiveness – of self, of other – and then reconciliation…. Reconciliation can look lots of different ways – no contact, limited contact, connection, or full, restored relationship.
I wonder what reconciliation can look like…. does it look like sitting in discomfort? Does it look like breathing? Deeper. Does it look like trial and error? Does it look like changed expectations or removing expectations? Does it look like celebration?
Life is weird…..and art is a parallel. So many layers get packed on our lives year after year. So many colors and interactions added to the canvas.
And like a tree we have unseen and seen parts – roots like the depths of our souls, branches like our external achievements and titles, leaves of color and shape that reflect our varied relationships with friends and family.
The splatter-y leaves of relationship are so fun, free, and unpredictable. But also sometimes land in places that we don’t anticipate or didn’t want. But we roll with it – learn, grow, and adjust. Lose leaves. Grow new ones. Year after year. I love the undpredictability in art, but I struggle to control in real life – so much to learn from my art.
Do you embrace the unpredictability or attempt to control?
After publishing about “why I’m selling my artwork,” it was exciting to post items and sell a few. Then realized I don’t think I can keep up with selling piece by piece as I create them. I need to be able to focus on creating and experimenting.
I saw an instagram post from an artist who was talking about finishing up pieces for an upcoming “art release.” That got me thinking about that model and I think that is what will work for me…or at least is worthy experimenting.
So, I will continue working on pieces and sharing them with you all in progress and when complete, but will have an art release date when all the pieces will go up for sale.
The first art release date will be: June 1, 2018, 12 noon PST
I actually have a commission to create another pair of hands on a large canvas. I have also received a LOT of positive feedback about the woman in the hands piece from last week.
I have been playing around with curly-haired girls being held safely and securing in the palm of God’s hands. This next one (time-lapse of creation process below), I’ve entitled “Embrace.”
This is not the commissioned piece but is getting me closer to it. I also like the progression the curly-haired girl took from the music page, to standing out in the painting, to being embedded in messiness and chaos, but also embraced fully.
What are you practicing right now? Where is it leading you? What are you preparing for?
…also known as negative space in art and music…is the space around objects/shapes, colors.
This basic, but often overlooked, principle of design gives the eye a “place to rest,” increasing the appeal of a composition through subtle means (from Wikipedia)
My artwork tends toward colorful and full in general. There tends to be NO original white space and all white left is paint or gesso. I was reminded of the need for white space – a place for the eye to rest – when scrolling through facebook and seeing one person’s recent practice in this area.
So, in my studio time, I explored leaving some white space. I only started 2 backgrounds and it is going to take a bit of restraint to maintain the negative (white) space throughout the process to the final product.
Life parallels: the idea that more is better is not working for me right now, I need space to breathe and rest. Wanting more bang for my buck is also not working, I want space and lightness not thickness and heaviness.
Where are the rest areas in your life? Do yo have room to breathe? Do you need to do some editing?