Without a Net Card Deck production has been merry but slow at times. Here are some of the steps in the process: Paintings Card Back First Try New Numbers Right This Time Card Directions Box I always forget that creative babies can’t be birthed into the world without boring things like: Choosing a printing company […]
Tag / Consciousness
I paint and write go about many of the tasks of daily life with a conscious creative spirit. Since I’ve not had the luxury of a trust fund or wealthy spouse, I’ve come to accept that I’m required to sell myself and my work if I want to make a living from my artistic endeavors. This part I do not love. I would like to run from it.
This is not to say that I don’t like receiving money for my work. It’s the part between finishing a painting or book and seeing it into the homes of collectors that makes me cringe.
I don’t run into many artists who love the selling part of their career, so I know I’m not alone. I’ve had a thousand conversations with artist friends about the awful drudgery of figuring out how to sell our work. But we also concede that it is necessary, and the most dogged of us make a go of it the best we can.
Having to work at getting noticed feels like I’m forcing myself to come off like a big shot when I don’t care about being a big shot. My moose represents this idea, with his headshot pose, his business suit, and his fancy surroundings. I chose St. Basil’s Cathedral in Russia because it is a recognizable famous building with oodles of fanfare. I also liked the way the onion domes point to the sky, like his upsweeping antlers.
The elements of this painting emerged from my childhood idea of luxuriousness, one I yearned for then and thought about often. I wanted to wear a fox stole and a satin gown with a string of pearls, and live in a mansion that overlooked a lake with swans. My desires were probably impressed upon me through movies from the 1940s and my high-minded grandmother who liked the finer things in life.
For younger readers, wearing a dead animal around one’s neck may seem like the height of cruelty and disgustingness, but in my day our grandmothers saw these furry ornaments as a symbol of distinction and refinement. When no one was home I’d sneak the coveted carcass out for dress-up, and with lipstick and rouge I’d pretend I was on my way to being the next Hollywood starlet or glamorous socialite.
The stole wasn’t just fun to wear because it was sophisticated. It was also a real taxidermied animal, complete with little teeth. You could feel the bones in its arms and tail. At the same time I got to look like Zsa Zsa Gabor, I was able to snuggle and stroke a real creature that seemed the next best thing to a live pet. That smelly stole kept me company, stoked my highfalutin dreams, and delivered an hour or two of quasi-happiness.
In our third Without a Net Creativity Class, our topic was “Welcome Everything,” a call to embrace not only beauty and happiness, but even the aspects of life we’d rather skirt around. To get class going I read out loud the poem, The Guest House, by Rumi, which I’ve posted before. It speaks for itself. […]
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.
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 […]
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.
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 […]
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.
Oil on board 2013 16″ x 20″
Someone once told me that my past was my greatest asset. I took it as a prompt to value my experiences in their ability to give clues on the path of transformation. That said, I hated the saying for a long time. There were plenty of experiences I avoided revisiting, and many things about my past that seemed unfair or too difficult to ever expect to find meaning within. Over time, and with the help of this painting series exploration, I have found my past to be an exceptional—although tough and scrupulous—teacher. The pains of looking back and looking inward were sometimes excruciating, so I painted this piece as an homage to faith—a reminder that I would be OK, no matter what I uncovered in this examination.
My animals are inspired by the archetypes of various religions and cultures, and this one is no exception. I chose the sheep, one of the world’s most obvious symbols of faith, as expressed in Christianity. (For those unfamiliar with this symbolism, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who watches over his flock.) I adorned my sheep-girl in a dress I would have loved when I was a kid. The luxury of blue velvet and the high collar give it a Sunday-going-to-meeting feeling. I drew inspiration for the background from some of the morning walks I take on local public paths near my home. Along the trails sunlight pours through trees to cast shadows on green lawns, which can’t help but start my day with a welcoming greeting. Corny, but heavenly.
In my sheep’s hand is a bloody Band-aid, an emblem of childhood wounds, which she holds almost timidly. This small thing near the bottom of the painting, away from the usual focal center of attention mirrored my trepidation at going forward with this painting/writing project, knowing that my shadow side, my past, my secrets, my mistakes, my doubts, and my blindness would be under the microscope.
This piece embodies an offering. I’m offering myself—the good, bad, and whatever— to my own scrutiny, to whoever wanted to look or listen, to God, to nobody. I didn’t feel proud or brave, just willing.