Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Retreating Again

Art Journal collage, 8 x 8 inches
My busier-than-usual winter is over, and I can cruise into the rest of the year with as much ease and grace as I can muster.

I'm "talked out" here for now, and not yet back into an art-making mode.  Nor do I have the desire to push myself or rush into anything.

And I do want to pull inside myself again and quit this public venue for a while.

So I'm back on retreat, and this will be my last post for the foreseeable future.

Hope you have a wonderful season.  I'll see you when I see you.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Personal Projects

This last batch of ATCs was created a couple months ago.  Most of them are in others' hands by now.

I've been devoting myself over the past few weeks to a deeply personal project ~ changing my eating habits for good.

Although I've been lacto-ovo vegetarian (dairy and eggs in the diet) for many years, over the last few I found myself eating way more processed wheat products, cheese and ice cream than I knew I should have been.  And not enough actual vegetables. 

For the past nearly-50 years, my forays into tinkering with my diet included spans of time as a vegetarian, times of relatively light meat eating (beef rarely but chicken and/or fish fairly often), a couple of vegan years, and many years of periodic extended juice/fruit fasts.

I'd also been a light drinker for most of my adult life.  Never alcoholic, but a social drinker and someone who looked forward every early evening to "wine o'clock."

That same inner voice that almost two years ago told me to start meditating in earnest, told me last July that I'd had enough alcohol, that I was done with it and ready to engage life without it.  I've been alcohol-free for nearly nine months.  The mere thought of drinking now makes my mind swim.

Remember that sinusitis I mentioned a couple months ago?  After thoroughly researching the issue online, taking numerous OTC drugs without success, going to the doctor just to have confirmed that I did not have a bacterial or viral infection...I started in with several alternative home-care remedies and finally the sinus situation began resolving itself.

Which led me to realize that I needed to change my eating habits.  Although I had blood drawn in January and the typical allergens in my blood were very low to non-existent, nevertheless it became obvious to me that my body has been reacting to something or things I was ingesting, or something(s) in the environment.

So I've cleaned up my diet for good.  I'm now gluten-free and vegan.  I'm eating to satisfy my body's need for nutrition, not to satisfy my ego or my sweet tooth.  I've given up all processed foods, instead eating fresh or dried grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits and a few other extremely healthful things.

This is actually easy for me to do since I always only cook for myself and I very rarely go out to eat.  I gave away everything in my pantry and refrigerator that wasn't what I want to eat now, and replaced it all with the most healthful options.

Most likely this sinusitis, these protracted allergies, are environmental in nature, because I haven't cleared them up fully yet, and they keep coming back.  At least I've ruled out food allergies, though.  And I'll continue to do everything holistic that I can to strengthen my immune system so that this relatively minor problem doesn't become something far worse.

I've had the good fortune to be healthy.  I'm not taking that for granted any longer.

If you're one of those few who truly want to explore this subject, Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford is indispensable.

Happy Spring.  May you be healthy. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Broader Horizons

Art Journal collage, 8 x 8 inches
Since my last post, I became a book reviewer for Net Galley.  I'm taking my reading to the max, you might say.  So periodically I'll be posting a review or two of new and forthcoming books, rather than just mentioning them...

...beginning with The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman.  I really loved this book, and if you're a fan of birds (and who isn't?), you'll love it too.  In highly readable fashion, the author deftly paints a portrait of the brilliance of our avian friends, based on extensive research as well as charming anecdotal stories.   Ackerman takes us around the world to different avian research centers as we learn about birds' vast smarts in so many areas, their technical know-how (using and making tools), vocal talents, extraordinary navigational achievements, aesthetic inclination, social intelligence and communication skills, and all-round adaptability to life.

If you love birds, don't miss this book.  It's heart-warming, engaging, enlightening.  Humans have a lot to learn from birds.  I'll never look at one again without realizing what truly amazing creatures they are.

In other's painting lesson is a good one, meaning I could get into this one.  But not right now.  There's too much I want to read.

With a few exceptions, like novels from authors I've been following for years, my reading has ventured pretty exclusively into non-fiction.  I'm letting myself be guided by a thread that's taking me from one book/subject of interest to another.  I suddenly feel open to learning about a lot of people, places and things that I've perhaps overlooked before.  Or never had the time to explore previously.

For the last couple years I've been reading AramcoWorld, a beautifully done bi-monthly publication whose mission is to "increase cross-cultural understanding by broadening knowledge of the histories, cultures and geography of the Arab and Muslim worlds and their global connections."  Especially in these days of rampant Arab-bashing and Islamophobia, I'm really appreciating learning about all the wonderful things happening in the Arab and Muslim worlds of business, culture and the arts, agriculture, sports, food, et al.  Subscriptions to AramcoWorld are free, renewable bi-annually.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

True Confessions

Art Journal collage, 8 x 8 inches
So...the painting lesson two weeks ago did not inspire me at all.  So I "ditched" class that week.  Last week's lesson was also not real engaging, although I did do a bunch of starts (first-layered sheets).  But then I never felt turned-on enough to finish them off.

Meanwhile, I was really busy two weeks ago and also needed the time off from painting.  And by the time last week rolled around, my motivation for painting was kaput.

I've given myself permission to not finish the class.  There are four lessons left and of course I'll print out the PDFs and watch the videos.  And I might even feel inspired enough to do some painting.  But I'm not going to force myself if my motivation is still on the wane.

Another thing, at this point in my painting career, or anything else for that matter, if a lesson doesn't speak to me and isn't something I'll use in future, then I don't feel I need to do it.  Most of the earlier lessons' worth of paintings I posted used new-to-me techniques that I hope to explore later on.

I've also been involved in an intense online Buddhist Practice Period through San Francisco Zen Center since late January.  And the two major things together -- the Practice Period and the painting class -- have been too much for me to manage comfortably.  Had I not enrolled six months earlier for Jane's class, I wouldn't have taken it.  But I would have forfeited my money.  (Her classes regularly fill up six or more months before they happen.)

At any rate, I'm clear on my priorities -- I'd rather be focusing on Buddhist practice than painting now.  That, and reading a lot.

I got myself a Kindle Paperwhite recently, ostensibly so I could read the really wonderful eBooks that Tricycle Magazine publishes periodically for sustaining members.  There was no way I was going to read them on my computer.  So I bought a Kindle.  And I'm enjoying it a lot.  I've already checked out several books from Library-To-Go, and gotten numerous free books from Kindle and other online sources.

The last book I mentioned here, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, was a Kindle library loan.  Then I read C.J. Box's latest Joe Pickett book, Endangered.  Then I read a terrific bio of C.S. Lewis, called C. S. Lewis - A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath.  Currently I'm reading a memoir by Lily Tuck called The Double Life of Liliane.  Plus those Tricycle eBooks one at a time.

In hardcopy, I'm reading David Whyte's Consolations, a beautiful journey deep into specific individual words.  Savoring, more than reading.  Also Diane Ackerman's Dawn Light.  I borrowed that from the library, and not far into it realized I needed to own it.  Another very evocative exploration of the wonders of the natural world.

Happy Spring!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Black and White Ball

These are most of what I did for last week's lesson, 9 x 12 inches on 80# drawing paper (as have been and will be all the rest of the finished work for this class).  Any areas that read blue to you in the images are actually shades of gray.  There were a couple pieces I didn't like, and I already made those into postcards and ATCs.  I'm really enjoying this class!

I read a really wonderful book the other day, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey.  Among other things, I now have a very healthy respect for garden snails...and I'm seriously considering no longer moving the ones that show up in my yard over to the bluff to fend for themselves.

The book had some great quotes in it, and I'll leave you with this one by Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet:

Try to love the questions themselves as if they were
locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Shape Shifting

Last week's lesson in Jane's class was about making shape studies with various methods.  All pieces here are 9 x 12 inches on 80# drawing paper.

The ones I like best are the painted pieces, the first two and the last two.  The other pieces combine collage with gelli prints, or collage of gelli printed shapes.

It had been maybe two years since I last gelli printed and I loved doing it again.  Hope to get back into it after this class is over, but time will tell whether or not that actually happens. 

What I did find out is that those smaller plates that I'd cut from a 12 x 14 inch gelli plate at couple years ago worked just fine.  I'd been curious about them because the cut edges are a bit wonky -- that gelli material is really difficult to cut through -- but the edges weren't a problem at all on the prints I pulled.

This week's lesson looks fun and exciting.  I'm looking forward to getting into it.  I have to report that I'm enjoying this class more than I did the previous two, and I'm quite sure that's largely because I'm doing my own thing without feeling compelled to look at others' work or participate in the class blog.  So I'm doing the work at a more relaxed pace.  I have days each week where I'm offline and devoting myself to the class exercises, along with my usual reading, meditating, and just being alive.

Life is good.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

February Eighteenth

Here are most of the paintings I did for Lesson 2 of Jane's class, 100 Drawings on Cheap Drawing Paper.  These are all 9 x 12 inches on 80# drawing paper.

The project was to slap paint on a sheet of paper, in just 20 seconds (I couldn't do it in less than 30 seconds), scribble over that with a graphite crayon, then blot with another sheet of paper.  Then, after the piece was dry, to over paint it, leaving some of the original painting in some places, covering over some areas completely with opaque paint, and letting other places show through transparent paint.

I'm happy with all of these.

Tomorrow is my birthday, February 18.  The eighteenth of February is a strange day, although just one of twelve presumably strange days in the year...because it is on the cusp of two astrological signs, in this case, Aquarius and Pisces.  Until I was 28, I thought my sign was Aquarius (air sign) because all the commercial magazines that have horoscopes in them list February 18 as Aquarius, and some even say February 19 is the last day of Aquarius.

However, when I had my chart done in the late 70s by an astrologer, it turned out that I'm a Pisces (water sign).  For February 18, and I would suspect for each of the other 11 cusp days in the year, whether you are one sign or the other is dependent on what year you were born and what time of day your birth occurred.

I've always felt as though I was standing in two worlds -- the outer world and the inner world -- and when I learned I was right on the cusp, that feeling began to make sense.  When I look at my life as a whole, I can see that I spent the earlier part of it in the outer world, and that I am now fully ensconced in the inner world.  In other words, I went from being an airhead to being a water baby.  This I can relate to.

I had my chart done three times over the years, but the first was the only one that nailed it.  By which I mean the difficulties that I would subsequently encounter throughout my life were spelled out right there in that view of where the planets were at the moment of my birth, replete with squares and oppositions all over the place (compared to a chart with a lot of conjunctions and trines, which indicate harmony and ease).

I've known an inordinate number of people in my life who had the same birthday as me -- a couple of them were lovers, and one I was even in relationship with for three years.  That last one was definitely an Aquarius.  He was several years older than me, and we couldn't have been more different, in the end.  When we met, though, I was all "woo woo" because we had the same birthday.  That was probably why I got involved with him in the first place, being I was in my occult-mystical phase at the time.  I thought the fact that we shared the same birthday meant something.  It didn't. 

And Happy Birthday to D.A., a blog reader whose birthday is also February 18.

Enough said for now.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Headless Angels

Art Journal collage, 8 x 8 inches
Another recent collage from my art journal.

Jane Davies' online class starts today.  I've printed out Lesson 1 and will watch the video later this morning.

I decided to do this class differently than how I did her other two online classes.  I decided not to participate in the class blog in any way, other than to get the lessons.  In other words, to work in isolation.

My reasons for this are several...

I know myself.  I know that if I look at everybody else's work, then I'll compare mine to theirs.  I'll ooh and ahh over some of the others' work, and I'll diss my own.  I'll wish I were doing their work instead of my own work.   I know that this will put me under a lot of unnecessary stress.

I also no longer want feedback from the instructor.  Not because I don't want to be good, or better, at painting.  But because it's all so subjective, isn't it?  Who's to say when a piece is finished or whether it's "good"?  Isn't that up to the artist, ultimately?  It isn't important to me anymore whether my work could be "stronger," or make "more of a statement."  What's important is to enjoy the process, and to make my own decision about the outcome.

Additionally, I simply can't do the "group mind" thing anymore.  Everybody chiming in on everybody else's work, everybody looking for approval or acknowledgement.  And I certainly don't want to be internally tooting my own horn when I think I've done a lesson better than the next person.  Nor do I feel the need to puff myself up by way of introduction.  None of this matters to me now.  I just want to do the lessons, or not, and enjoy my life without added stress of any kind.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.