Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Addicted to Art

"True artists, whatever smiling faces they may show you, are obsessive, driven people."  So said John Gardner, and I agree.  But is it so bad to be obsessive and driven? With regards to art making, I think it is a fine state to be in at least once a day--hopefully more.

I am reading Ensouling Language, again, by Stephen Harrod Buhner because even though he is writing about the art of nonfiction, the practice of the craft--with its intense, insistent, stubborn passion--is the same urge to mastery in all artists, be they painters, dancers, musicians, cabinet makers, or writers.

This quote from Wallace Stegner struck a particular chord:
Except for amateurs and dilettantes, writing is not a part time occupation, nor is it the automatic spilling over of genius.  It is the hardest kind of work, the making of something from nothing.  No one but a dedicated, disciplined, even bullheaded individual is going to go on, day after day, sweating for five or six hours to make a page that may have to be thrown away tomorrow.

When an image comes into fullness, alive on the painted surface in a way that I could not quite grasp when first beginning to work with it, when that something takes on its own life and joins me in a blend of breath--that moment is gold.  In that brief glittering moment there is no amount of money or acclaim that can match the sensation of fulfillment.

And there is an addiction to that experience.

I am using images from the Oracle cards of my Journey Oracle deck to illustrate these thoughts, because while all 47 pictures did not rise to this moment of gold, these did. 

#12.  This image was painted in my Mother's house the first time I returned after her death.  While a few suggested it was a bit callus of me to paint instead of grieve, this is my grief.

#30.  Sometimes it is the intensity of detail that suddenly transforms into the felt intensity of a passionate "Yes, this is it!"

#20.  In the best way of art that transcends itself, I have no idea where this image came from.  Here is form and essence, together.

#32.  All artists check their work by feeling it. What is remarkable in this oracle image, for me, is not so much its construction as its sense of conversation with the other-than-human.  I have felt like that too. 

#10. Most times my art reflects back what I know, sometimes, it shows me what I don't know.

For me this is the most powerful sensation to which I am addicted--being led into the unknown.

Monday, August 12, 2019

How to read a painting using 7 ideas

Paintings are made of marks that are built upon a surface much like a writer builds words into a story.  And just like a reader can connect words into a larger meaning, a viewer can use these 7 design ideas to read a painting: unity, contrast, dominance, repetition, harmony, balance and gradation.  I am giving an art talk on Friday, August 16, 7 pm at the Old School House Gallery about how these 7 ideas can help us see more deeply into the new work of Annie Belcourt, in her exhibition titled "evanescent."

Here are 7 questions I will explore in a gallery walking tour of Annie's work, combined with images of her oil and cold wax landscapes that appear, like the definition of evanescent , to "gradually disappear like vapor."

is the repeating of colour, tone, shape, texture, size, direction. 
 It may be exact or with variety. 
 How is repetition like an echo? 

Marks are felt as well as seen.   
Why is balance a force as strong as gravity?

is the sequence of small steps from one extreme to another.
What do we feel when gradation moves 
in all directions at once?

can be opposition, conflict, or complimentarity.
How is contrast like the plot of a novel?

is the rule of a superior force. 
Can more than one kind of mark be equally dominate?

happens when marks have similar attributes.
What are the extremes of harmony?

is integration, a oneness of all the parts.
Why is unity the single most important idea?

A special thank you to Richard Trueman for these beautiful photographs of Annie's paintings. 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

How to accept your own authority

Do you accept your own authority?  Are your direct experiences the credentials that generate a sense of confirmation and worth for you?  I sometimes struggle with believing that I am the authority in interpreting and understanding my life experiences.  It is easy in our over-trained, over-specialized modern life to believe that someone else's view has more validity than mine does regarding my personal power.

Yet I have been self-taught in so many parts of my life. I became a drum maker by learning from the drums themselves.  I taught myself to do shamanic dreaming without any formal training in dream psychology.  I created an Oracle by following the dance of intuition and art, by listening to nature and my inner wisdom.  So how come I don't accept my own authority?

I recently created a new one-card reading technique for using the Journey Oracle, and I am using it in this blog to explore this question.  ( In case you don't have a Journey Oracle yet, all the instructions to go to certain page numbers are referencing the book that is part of the card set.)

Follow the instructions in the Oracle book on page 7, 
except only pick one card.
Feel free to choose either side of the card, 
and to reorient the image, before you begin.

Quite the image for a reading about personal authority...

Begin the reading on page 8 
by looking first at the beginning side you have chosen.        
This is a picture of your situation. 

I see alarm, or surprise, or rapt attention.  The red squiggles feel like lightening crackling the air. My second impression is one of power, rather than fear. 

Turn the card over and follow the instructions for Card 2. 
This is a picture of the experience you are having in your situation. 

I see stillness, a pensive expression; my overall impression is one of uncertainty. 

Turn the card back to the first side and follow the instructions for Card 3. 
Notice new aspects of the picture not seen the first time. 
This is the change calling you. 

The eyes are looking intensely.  I am struck by their concentrated curiosity, 
like something really amazing is going on just outside the picture frame. 

Turn the card back to the second side 
and follow the instructions for Card 4.  
Again, notice new aspects of the picture. 
This is the resolution of the situation.

This time I notice that the eyes are looking in different directions.  This feels very powerful.

Follow the instructions on page 9 for Card 1. 

This is the Oracle representing the Celtic tree month: Ruis,or Elder.  The time of year associated with this Oracle is November 25 until December 22. The qualities of Withdrawal, Renewal, the Threshold, and the Brink are associated with this Oracle.  Certainly these four words seem to capture perfectly the flow that withdraws from other authority to renew a sense of one's own inner wisdom, which creates a threshold of hope and fear, and then balances on the brink of choice: do I accept my authority, or do I stay uncertain?


Follow the instructions on page 10 for Card 1. 

Because I chose the side of the card with the circle symbol, I turn to page 21 in the 
Journey Oracle book and look up the question for card #46.  
Do you accept direct experience? 
I cannot imagine a more potent question for this inquiry into personal authority.  


Turn in the book to the four sequential pages that correspond to the 
Card number. Begin with the Situation: read the 
Oracle pronouncements 
about the situation and your alignment to it. 
Receive what has resonance and pass over what does not.

Continue reading the next 3 pages with Oracle pronouncements 
about your Experience in this situation, 
the Change calling you, and your Resolution. 

Although there is much valuable insight for me in the four pages corresponding 
to card 46, I am only going to share the last page in this blog:  a fairy tale that 
contains a pathway into my question, that opens deep transformation

A Journey Oracle fairy tale
There was a child who so loved butterflies that she wanted to 
make them a gift.  She felt communication without words when 
she was near one, like a coming into power.  Her mother 
suggested she made a bead to give and that in doing so she
would discover a secret of something, a knowledge that
cannot be out there, and this knowing would be the gift that
the butterflies would most like to have from her.

"But what material shall I use? I don't want to be a death 
bringer to wood or bone" the girl said. "I'll use an empty
shell" she thought.  "This will be no harsh look at reality 
because the creature will have already left." And so the girl
found a shell and chipped and sanded it with a rock until a 
circular shape appeared.  "But now the fairy tale's over"
she realized, "now I must be doing the work to make the hole."

The girl looked for shards amid a scattered focus of rock rubble,
like seeing horns of stone that would be able to pierce without
breaking the shell. She began twirling a sharp piece into the
center of the shell circle, and felt her inner tension clearing, 
like she was going to a new place in how she used her hands. 
This twirling took a long time, the layers of shell were like
hard news that does not want to be forgotten.  Yet finally the
girl felt a little tickle against her finger, the way butterfly feet
tickle when one was walking on her hand.  A hole appeared! 

"This is the secret my Mother told me about" she exclaimed.
"A bead is not something that surrounds a hole; a bead is the
hole with something surrounding it so it can still be seen.
I am giving the butterflies something invisible." Then the girl
looked at her sore fingers, dented from all the twirling.
"Maybe this is the knowledge from making a bead that 
cannot be out there--that the butterflies want the gift of my
effort more than the thing my effort makes."

This is a way of accepting one's own authority.  It is a knowledge
that cannot be out there as a declaration of ego.  As an 
announcement of credentials.  Personal authority is 
the 'hole in the bead' that is made visible by
intention, resolve and action.