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Without a Net

Daring Starts From Within

Another Without a Net Workshop

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Kindle creativity, innovative thinking, and courageous introspection in this one-day Creativity and Self-Awareness workshop with instructor Dori DeCamillis. Held Saturday April 29, 9:00 am to 3 pm at Red Dot Gallery, students will learn to break through artist blocks and self-criticism while savoring the joy of being creative. This day of awakening your curiosity, stretching your imagination, and welcoming self-honesty will enliven any area of your life that needs a spark. For more information click here.

Like the Ocean Be

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Oil on Board           16″ x 20″         2013

I was walking on a sidewalk at night and saw a cute skunk up ahead. It moved around a little, but did not get off the sidewalk. My common sense kicked in instinctively, and I stopped in my tracks. I marveled at how this cuddly, furry little creature commanded such respect. Even top predators know what a force the skunk is, and avoid it if they have any sense. Skunks know how to set boundaries. It occurred to me that I too was making space for myself and setting boundaries at that time, because I was on a silent retreat at a monastery.

I go to a monastery twice a year to partake in a self-imposed time of silence—usually a few days. There are monasteries of different religions, and most are gorgeous, out-of-the-way places where generations of practicing monastics have been praying, meditating and living for over a century. I most frequently go to the Benedictine Sisters Retreat at Sacred Heart Monastery in Alabama, but I’ve been to Magnolia Grove in Mississippi, a Buddhist monastery under the auspices of the Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, to Yogaville, Virginia, an ashram started by Swami Satchidananda, and Thomas Merton’s Gesthemane, a Trappist Monk Abbey in Kentucky. When I’m home I get asked by curious friends, “What do you do there?” The answer is, “Nothing.”

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Without a Net Workshop

Thy Self, Thy Foe

Dori DeCamillis announces her first ever Without a Net workshop to be held at Red Dot Gallery in Birmingham, AL, Saturday, February 25.

This exciting workshop will offer participants creative exercises in various artistic media that explore personal mind states and perspectives in a judgment-free setting. With humor and self-acceptance as touchstones, participants will explore their own mind states, both light and shadowy, to engender courage, promote spiritual connection, and acknowledge the universality of human frailty. The practices will fuel creative thinking while helping to develop resilience and equanimity. The group setting enhances a collective, unifying experience that facilitates individual growth and builds trust.

Exercises will include explorations in visual arts, written word, sound, photography, story telling, and other mediums. More information here.

The Painted Banquet Bids My Heart

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When giving a talk about my paintings, a member of the audience saw this piece and said, “ You’re not fat. How does this mind state pertain to you?” Before I could speak up, another person called out, “It’s about over-indulgence in general,” making me wish I had a co-explainer with me at all times.

While immoderation comes in many forms, I focus here on eating because it is one of my go-to pacifiers. I did another painting that portrayed food, as in cupcakes, but it referred to the concept of temptation. The hippo here has already succumbed to temptation. And has kept going.

In this painting there is a big round animal in the middle of a pile of food. This is one of the most literal paintings I’ve done, so there’s not much explanation needed. I wanted the overpowering pile to engulf the figure, so the food does not realistically recede into the background around the hippo. The perspective is skewed so that the food is as big and front-stage at the top as it is on the bottom. Looming, I wanted it to be.

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My Muse

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When I have lapses in my blog posts, it’s because I’m not in control of when writing inspiration hits me. With painting I can sit down at any time with no prompt and get going. I’ve never had a moment of artist block or blank canvas syndrome in thirty some years of being a visual artist. With writing it’s like I have a muse who is either in the building or has taken the day off. It took me six years to write each of my books, not because I was slow or lazy, but because I would go for months at a time without my muse. I’ve become used to it, but it doesn’t lend itself to the acceptable regularity of a blog. I do sit down habitually to see what comes to me, but over the past few months my muse is nowhere in sight. I’ve come to trust that she knows best when and what will flow, so for now let’s be patient and look forward to her return.

Sweet Love Remembered

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For Thy Sweet Love Remembered, 2015

The ermine is my dad’s favorite animal. For those who don’t know what an ermine is (which seems to be a lot of people) it is a short-tailed weasel. In the Colorado mountains where I grew up, we called them weasels in summer (when they were brown) and when the season changed everything to white (including the weasels fur) we called them ermine. Even when ermine are snowy white they keep their black-tipped tail, a protective mechanism meant to throw off predators. The owls and eagles will chase the tail instead of the ermine’s body. Nature lesson complete.

Ermine are elusive critters any time of year, and we’d be excited to catch a glimpse of one. My stoic, undemonstrative dad would break out with a frenzy of exhilaration when any of us saw one. If it’s possible for someone to get a twinkle in one’s eye, my dad got one when a weasel was even mentioned.

I knew this painting would be about Dad, but I wasn’t sure of what concept or inner state it would speak of. Just before I started it, my husband, Scott had an ermine encounter while fishing in Colorado, and he took photos that I used for the panting.

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Who Wrote This?

Some time after writing or painting a work, I can look at my piece with more objectivity and freshness, almost as if someone else made the work.  Whether I like the work or not is not nearly as interesting as what it feels like to hear/see myself as an outsider might. Even more curious is the idea that I am seeing the work not as just any outsider, but with my own personal way of seeing art. I’m usually surprised that the writing reads more coherently than I expected, or that the painting has some subtle weirdness that I’m kind of proud of. Once in a while I’ll think, “Damn, that’s good,” and other times, “What crazy inner editor let this pass inspection?”

Eudora Welty wrote the following words about her experience with this phenomenon, revealing how vulnerable even the very accomplished artist feels when sharing her vision and seeing her own creations as if for the first time.

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Thy Self Away

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I’d drawn the nude many times in classes and studio settings, but I’d never painted one. I’d certainly never created a finished piece of one. So this painting was a challenge on several levels. I wanted to portray the idea of exposure.

The process of making my Without a Net series requires exposure, and sharing it with others pushes it farther. In going forward with my artwork (and a few other things) I partly want to show myself and at the same time I want to hide. I chose the peacock to portray half of this idea because it popped into my head as a most showy of animals. And to represent the side of me that feels exposed, I could think of no outfit better than the birthday suit, and some feeble attempts to cover up the most private parts.

The act of painting the piece was, as I said, a challenge simply because for the first time I would be presenting a finished painting of a nude. I had plenty of reasons to be level-headed about it. My former training had given me a clinical outlook on rendering anything. My state of adulthood and its accompanied experience has given me at least the average amount of maturity in regards to showing the human figure. My years as an art historian have given me a thorough acquaintance with the nude represented in a thousand different ways. None of it stopped my childlike embarrassment about painting a naked lady for all the world to see! And boy, how that feeling was appropriate for the mind state I was depicting.

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