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Without a Net

Daring Starts From Within

First Class

 

Thy Self Thy Foe

This past Friday I held my first Creativity Class at Red Dot Gallery. It was well-attended by a fun and insightful group, inspiring me to share some of the things we covered and what I took from our interactions.

Highlights of this week’s class

We used the Without a Net Deck to practice analyzing images and sharing our personal take on particular cards. As usual, I was surprised and delighted by the various readings, all different than I’d intended when painting the images. One purpose of the exercise was to observe the change in our mindsets as our focus shifted from out-in-the-world mode to introspective. Analyzing a work of art is an excellent way to make that shift quickly.

I mentioned that Yale medical students are required to go to the local art museums to improve their observational skills by looking at paintings. I’ll be posting about that wonderful subject later. The practice of “reading” a painting will be a regular part of my creativity class, as it helps the viewer develop intuitive skills and stretch their imagination, and generally builds skills at looking closer instead of jumping to immediate conclusions about what is seen. As Yale Medicine Magazine puts it, their art workshops for med students are “valuable in developing essential skills that doctors need, like critical thinking and observational and communication skills, as well as bias awareness and empathy.”

The various readings of the Without a Net cards were touching and informative. It seemed that everyone saw their own tendencies in the images, each revealing the kind of hopes, fears, and questions that open one up to more insight and guidance. I know for myself that when I admit or share something of this nature, I tend to see new realizations in the days after. I related to the readings of each person in the room: about insecurities, mysteries, triumphs, bad habits, and daily life struggles.

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Creativity Class at Red Dot

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To make sure your 2019 gets off to an inspiring start (and keeps momentum) I’m happy to say I’m now offering a regular Without a Net class, much In the spirit of my Without a Net Workshops.  Expand your creative voice and access a deeper connection with yourself and others in this weekly drop-in class. This hour and a half class will awaken curiosity, stretch the imagination, and make self-honesty a lot easier. Each week will offer a different creative project. Click here for a complete description.

Details

Cost:  $15 drop-in (covers supplies) or $130 for 10 classes

When:  Fridays, 10:00 – 11:30 Next class is January 11. (For future classes, check website to make sure class is being held.)

Where:  Red Dot Gallery

Who:  Adults 19 and over

Supplies: All supplies are provided

In the spirit of Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic,” Without a Net Creativity and Awareness Class will offer participants creative exercises in various artistic media that explore personal mind states and perspectives in a judgment-free setting.

Weekly exercises will include explorations in visual arts, written word, sound or music, drama, story telling, photography, and other mediums. We will also use the Without a Net Card Deck for games in self-study. No experience, talent, or skill necessary. This is not a crafts project class.

Home From Hambidge

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I spent a two week residency in the breathtaking mountains of north Georgia, writing, painting, hiking, playing guitar, and interacting with other writers and visual artists. This was my first residency. In my long career of making and selling and teaching art, I’d never indulged in this most luxurious of retreats. I will be feeling its effects for a long time.

(The photo above is my studio table.) See my other blog for more images from hikes and such.

A residency is applied for and awarded. I was humbled to be among the other talented artists who enjoyed this time at Hambidge Residency for Arts and Sciences. There were nine artists total, and each of us had our own house and studio, all tucked away in the woods with enough distance from each other to have total privacy. Four evenings a week we’d gather for dinner, where a chef had prepared us a meal. After dinner we would talk about art and writing and sometimes animal horror stories.

I got an enormous amount of painting done. Not that output was my goal. I would have been satisfied with any amount of work, as long as I felt like I was following my creative impulses. But as it happened, I felt compelled to spend up to 12 hours a day at the easel, absolutely ecstatic to have weeks to paint without distraction. I finished a first coat on ten paintings.

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Hambidge Residency

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I leave Tuesday for an artist residency at Hambidge Creative Residency Program in North Georgia. A residency is applied for and awarded. For two weeks I will write and paint without distraction due to lack of internet or cell service. I’ll write about my paintings/cards and work on my new body of paintings (to be revealed after my trip.)

I will have my own house and studio, and will join up in the evenings for supper with the 9 other residents from different artistic disciplines. I’ve heard from other artists that the place looks like paradise. I’ll be sure and take lots of photos.

The following information is copied from their website:

The Center was created in 1934 by Mary Hambidge, who established the artist enclave and sustainable farm in memory of her artist partner, Jay Hambidge (1867–1924). After a brief career as a performer on vaudeville stages (Mary was a world-class whistler who appeared with her pet mockingbird Jimmy), she discovered weaving and eventually found her home among Appalachian weavers in the North Georgia mountains.

In the early days of Hambidge, she employed local women to create exceptional weavings that would one day be featured in many exhibits including the Smithsonian and MOMA. Later she broadened the scope of the Center by inviting artists for extended stays. After her death in 1973, the Center evolved into a formal and competitive residency program open to creative individuals from all walks of life.

Hambidge encourages applications from creative minds representing the widest possible range of perspectives and demographics. Visual artists, writers, poets, scientists, ceramicists, musicians, choreographers, chefs and beyond.

Nestled on 600 pristine acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia, the Hambidge Center is a natural sanctuary for reflection and creativity. The property includes 7 miles of hiking trails among an incredible biodiversity of meadows, streams, waterfalls, native plants and wildflowers, and a cove forest. Its salamander population includes rare species that survive in only few parts of the world.

In the Shadows

Stained glass shadows

An article titled, “Me and My Shadow” by teacher and writer Sally Kempton brought to mind how my Without a Net project is an option to spiritual bypassing.

I’ve always been mystified by the people who believe in the put-on-a-happy-face philosophy of life. Sayings like “the past is the past—move on” or “snap out of it” or “cheer up” have never been helpful for the navigation of problems. In fact, they could be considered a little cruel. They ask that you quit being yourself in the moment and act like someone else thinks you should. People who say these things are really saying, “I’m nervous about your hard feelings, so I’m going to demand that you stop making me uncomfortable.” These people are actually uneasy about their dark side and unskilled at expressing it.

Spiritual bypassing has become more common as a term for skipping over our ugly parts with the use of meditation, prayer, or positive thinking. The result is a lack of engagement with our whole self, and an inevitable rebound of ugliness when the concealed issues resurface. In simple words, if we don’t deal with our crap, it will come back to bite us.

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Pick a Card

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Until the Without a Net cards are published, I’m sharing findings gathered from using them in various ways. Check out the new CARD page with details on how to use the cards.

One of my favorite uses for the cards is to draw a card every morning and interpret its meaning in the context of how I see it on that day, in the mood in which I find myself, in the circumstances of the present. Each reading surprises me with how different its meaning can be from my original intention when I painted it and wrote about it. Insights about a card can change throughout the day, sometimes dramatically.

One of most common and helpful ways the cards influence my day happens when I read something about myself that I’m not happy with. I place the card where it can remind me of the trait, and watch how it plays out in my mind and affects my decisions and actions. I don’t try to change anything; I just observe. By the end of the day of paying attention (with the card as a great reminder) I find I’m more earnestly familiar with the trait and have seen it with more engagement and absorption. I also feel like I’ve made progress in awareness of the subject, usually by finding how surprisingly often it comes up.

The less hidden my shadow side is, the less it has the power to run amok, unchallenged. When I observe it, I step out of the blind spot that keeps me disempowered. After witnessing the affects the thoughts and feelings have on me, I write or talk about the realizations or questions that come up. My goal is not to “figure it out” or devise a plan of action. I’m simply being aware, sharing it, and then making an offering of it, waiting with patience in hopes that grace will transform it.

It doesn’t always go smoothly. I can have days when a card points me to hard realizations. But still, the hand-held reminder to continue being aware (and nothing else, necessarily) is breaking me out of the habit of reaching for an escape when I don’t like how I feel or think. (Some of the cards are about escapes, so those are good to witness, too.) Getting better at facing instead of running is crucial to gaining emotional maturity.

There are many other uses for WAN cards, and I’m looking forward to sharing those with you soon.

 

What the Cards Are Not

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I’ve had people ask me whether the Without a Net Card Deck is a deck of playing cards or a tarot deck. The answer is neither. I’ll explain the differences.

Compared to a regular deck of playing cards, WAN cards are larger and contain no numbers, suits, kings, jacks, and the like. WAN cards are simply a collection of 55 images of my paintings on one side, and a uniform back side. In their present incarnation they are numbered, to be referenced for meaning on the blog, which is still in the works. One may play games with the WAN deck, but not the usual playing card games.

WAN cards resemble tarot cards in size only (and the fact that they both contain images.) At 4 x 6 inches size, the WAN deck resembles some versions of tarot decks. If you’re unfamiliar with tarot decks, here’s a little explanation with information gathered from Wikipedia:

The tarot deck (with different names, depending on the country) started as a pack of playing cards in the mid 15thcentury. Like regular playing cards, the tarot deck has numbered cards in suits, face cards (like kings and queens,) and a version of the Joker card. Instead of spades, clubs, diamonds and hearts, the suits are named pentacles, swords, cups, and wands. Decks come in different forms but a standard deck has 78 cards. The deck is still used for games today.

The most well-known use for the tarot deck is divination. Its first known use for cartomancy was in around 1750, and has gained in popularity and acceptance for such uses in recent years. Some people have a reader interpret the meaning of the cards, and others use them personally for spiritual growth and guidance.

The uses for the WAN cards are being explored. Stay tuned! I will be reporting soon about the many fun and intriguing applications for them.

 

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Without a Net Cards

Over 10 years I’ve created 55 paintings in the Without a Net series, and last month I finally had the images made into a deck of cards. It was a marvelous and overwhelming moment to hold all that work in my hands for the first time. I had ideas for the deck, but the intentions weren’t well articulated or developed. After having several prototype decks printed, my enthusiastic focus group and I are now experimenting with uses for the cards. As I come closer to offering the cards to the public, I’ll share our progress and insights.

The Guest House

Ermine

Becoming more familiar with and even welcoming our shadow side is not a new concept. Rum’s poem from 800 years ago illuminates the idea beautifully.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

Looking on Thee in The Living

Bunting

16″ x 20″    Oil on Board     2015

I’ve always looked up to dead people. As a lifelong fan of history I’ve felt small and insignificant compared to the pantheon of superstars from all walks of life, whose names and stories are remembered through the ages. I’ve counted as my heroes the ones who made the biggest impact on humanity and our planet. There was a bit of torment in my fanhood. I painted this piece when I kept coming up against the unpleasant reminder that, as enormous as these giants of yesteryear were, they are now gone, and I, little old infinitesimal me, am still here. I have the very human longing to make my mark, express myself, offer my voice, and venture forth into making things happen. But I let a meddlesome comparison—me vs. the greatest minds and hearts that ever lived—make me feel like a peon. Its effect left me expecting less of myself, and daunted by the daring task of getting out in the arena.

I chose to paint my historical friends as colorless plaster busts, a certified gesture commending their monumental contributions, but implying that they bought the farm long ago. To represent myself, I wanted a small animal, but a brightly colored one to contrast the blanched figures that dominate the piece. I attended a bird banding a few years ago, where we caught migrating birds for tagging. Holding a Painted Bunting is like tending a little rainbow. They are indescribably bright, and, like most songbirds, light and delicate. I love it when an animal with which I’ve had a close encounter becomes appropriate for my work. The wallpaper is old fashioned, another nod to history.

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