Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fertile Ground

Acrylics on canvas panel, 12x12 inches
As I mentioned in my last post, things are moving very quickly...

Once I grasped that I had become all those things I disliked about my mother, I soon realized that deep inside I've been hating myself for those very things for a very long time.

I've only recently opened my heart to myself -- to have a generous spirit, loving-kindness, and infinite compassion for my own suffering and pain.  It's true that once we open ourselves to our own pain, then we naturally open to others' pain, to the pain and suffering of the world. 

And thus my huge opening now, is that I have begun looking at my mother through eyes and heart of compassion and lovingkindness.  Overnight, she has transformed in my mind from "my god-damned mother," to "my poor mommy."  The reality is, everything that happened to me also happened to her.  She couldn't have been any different in raising me than she was, because she was also raised by a crazy person, she had no good role models, and she had no skills to deal with any of it.  She did the best she could. 

What really made me get serious about Buddhist practice, at the tail end of my first year of committed meditation practice, is this:  I could now see that since my mother had become mentally ill/emotionally unstable, and since my grandmother too had been "off" emotionally, I stood a very good chance of also becoming mentally ill if I didn't get a grip on my own unskillful personality characteristics.  Personality is what each of us devises as a coping mechanism to get through life.  What we put together for ourselves is based primarily on early family experience, and cultural conditioning.  All that stuff I didn't like about myself could possibly lead me into narcissistic and borderline personality disorders if I didn't wake up.  I could already see some of the symptoms presenting in my personality -- in my thinking, my speech, my behavior.

It occurred to me earlier this week:  What If my mother had had the slightest inkling that she was sinking into mental illness, but she knew she was powerless to do anything about it?  My heart just melted for her when I had that thought.  I am so sad that she was in so much pain inside for most of her life.  I'm healing my pain now, but I'm also healing hers.  I've made a vow to do this healing for both of us, and for the benefit of all beings who suffer.


The winner of the last giveaway (the two small paintings) has been notified.  Thanks to all who entered.

Here's another giveaway -- this pair of earrings made by me, hmmm...maybe 15 years ago.  Chinese turquoise, glass seed beads, gold-filled earwires.  The earrings are 2-1/4 inches from top of wire to bottom center bead.

To enter the drawing, either leave me an email here, or include your email address in the body of your comment to this post.  I'll do a drawing on Wednesday October 7 and I'll email the winner directly.

Good luck.  And as always, thanks for reading, thanks for being on this healing journey right along with me.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Acrylics, handmade paper on stretched canvas, 12x12 inches
Things change...everyday.

I've come to a point in my seclusion where I feel almost too-cut off from the world.  You all are an online community for me, of kindred souls and spirits, art- or life-wise.  And I've been missing you.

So I'm here, today.  Over the years, so many of you have been supportive of me, my art, my personal growth -- especially the few of you I've "gotten to know" virtually.  I want to let you know what I've been up to.

I read one spiritual book in particular a few months ago, that really got me thinking about my life -- by which I mean the experience of being in my life, on the inside, way more than anything else.  And I made some interesting discoveries, essentially that who I was being in the outside world and how I imagined myself to be were two different entities.  My persona didn't match who I thought I was.

This in turn lead to more startling discoveries; like that basically I have/had become my mother.  All those too-numerous-to-mention hated-by-me characteristics of hers were now mine.  I was being her, in my life.  The way I've related to people, how I've related to everything that happens in life, my attitudes about life in general are/were not who I want to be anymore.

I've been blessed/cursed with the gene for honest self reflection, which means that being aware of my failings only makes them more difficult to embrace.  But I can't just shut my eyes to the truth, go forward in life continuing to act out a script that isn't who I am inside, and say, "Screw everybody and everything."  That's not what I want for the last third of the journey.

I've immersed myself in the past month in contemporary Buddhist materials.  I am so grateful that there are so many teachers out there now, of all Buddhist stripes, who are articulating the Buddha's teachings for modern ears.  I just recently decided to commit myself to The Path.

Meanwhile, things have been happening in my life lately, situations where I've gotten to see "my stuff" in action.  It's been eye-opening...and painful.  Most of the pain is in the suffering I experience inside my own head, as a result of what's happened.  THIS is one of the forms of suffering the Buddha refers to -- the stuff inside our heads, the stuff we do to ourselves in our neurosis.

The only way out is through.  In other words, the only way for me to become the person I want to be is by fully embracing how I am just now.  And this is where I am just now.  In this open place, this place of groundlessness and insecurity.  Not sure what's next.  But it's a beautiful day outside.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by.  And that's made all the difference."

Thanks for reading, thanks for your interest.

And now, another giveaway!  This is a set of two 5-1/2 inch paintings on watercolor paper.  To enter the drawing, either leave me an email here, or include your email address in the body of your comment to this post.  I'll do a drawing on Wednesday September 30 and I'll email the winner directly.    

Acrylics on watercolor paper, 5-1/2 inches square


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hello!...and a Giveaway

Acrylics and handmade papers on stretched canvas, 12 x 12 inches
Just stopping by to say hi and to give something away.

Life's been good, and I'm truly enjoying being on retreat.  I plan to spend the rest of my life on retreat/in seclusion, actually.

But I don't want to drop the ball here, so I'll most likely just touch base with you all periodically rather than have regular weekly or semi-weekly posts.  That's my thinking at the moment, anyhow.

I do think about you guys.  Interestingly, I've had as many, if not more, regular daily page hits since my last post than when I was posting regularly!  Go figure.

Okay, the giveaway part ~ I have a copy of Kerr Grabowski's fantastic 2-disk DVD tutorial on Deconstructed Screen Printing.  I watched it twice, several years ago.  I no longer have dyes or silk screens, so it's time to pass the DVD along.

There are two ways you can enter:  One, leave me an email message HERE.  Or two, leave a comment on this post, below...but if you leave a comment, YOU MUST write your email address in the body of the comment

I'll select a winner next Wednesday, but I won't post it here.  I'll contact the winner directly ~ which is why you must leave me your email address, one way or the other listed above.  (If you're not hip to this yet, when you leave a comment to a post, in most cases the comments come to me without a valid return email address ~ which is why you MUST write your email in the body of the comment if you expect me to get back to you, like if you win.)

Over and out.  Have a wonderful early autumn!  xx

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Get Real

This is the painting project I mentioned last Wednesday.  Seven 6 x 6 inch hardboard panels honoring ROY G BIV.  They were finished off with gloss varnish, which is why there's glare on a few of them.

I'll be taking a break from blog posting for a while.  I'm going further into seclusion for the foreseeable future.  Will still be online two or three times a week, keeping in touch by email, reading others' blogs, etc.  But I want to stop talking here.

What suddenly realized that for much of your life there's been a wide gulf between the way you see yourself in the world and the way you really are, the way you actually show up? 

What discovered you aren't who you always thought you were?

Don't believe everything you think.

See you when I see you.  Ciao.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Acrylics on canvas panel, 9x12 inches
I created this piece a month or so ago, the last time I was focusing on neutral colors. 

We're having a heatwave on the North Coast.  It's already 79 degrees in Fortuna (up at the little airport near where I live) and it's not yet 10am.  Going for 89 today.  That's REALLY hot for here.  I've already got all the windows open and two fans set on high. 

I'm working on a painting project that's been on the back burner for a year.  Finally, on Monday, I jumped right into it.  Will post on Sunday.

My intention is to paint more.  Because why not?  What am I waiting for?  Metaphor for life, of course.

But today I'm having myself a "theater party," watching Malcolm X on DVD.  When I requested it from Netflix, I had no idea (read: didn't remember) that it runs over three hours.  I plan to sit in the cool dark and watch it today.

Just saw a hawk fly by overhead.  One of my neighbors is quite the birder and has been pointing out just how many different birds we have here.  I love birds.  But between you and me, except for the big, obvious ones (ravens, hawks, turkey vultures, egrets), the little ones all look alike to me as they whiz by.  Said neighbor has a camera with 30x zoom and she's been delighting me with images of more birds than I can name at the moment.  All beautiful. 

And speaking of birds...I've got a new zine in the works, featuring bird stamps from around the world.

Enjoy the rest of the week.  xx

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Acrylics, pencil, crayon on canvas panel, 12x16"
"Don't worry about unity from piece to piece.  What unifies all of your work is the fact that you made it."

Love that quote from Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist.  So apropos of me.

So this painting was done for the last lesson of 8 Great Paintings.  The task was to create a collage out of paper, then use that to inspire a painting.  Well, instead of making a new collage, I chose one of the hundreds I did a few years back.  Although Julie (Pritchard, class instructor) used totally different colors in her painting than in her original collage, I pretty much followed the original colorway on mine...because I liked it.  This piece of mine is way more literal than her painting was.  Which is just fine.  I still like mine.

At first I thought I might do a bunch of these, even went through a couple of sketchbooks and marked numerous collages that I thought would make good paintings.  And then I UNdecided to do that.  I'd rather move forward, wherever that is, than look to the past for inspiration.

I'm back to reading novels.  Just finished a terrific book, The Professor of Truth by Scot author James Robertson.  Now reading Russell Banks' The Darling, and loving it.

Hope you're having a good weekend! xx 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pencil It In

Acrylics, crayons and pencil on stretched canvas,
16x10 inches
I pulled this painting out of my imagination the other day.  It's 16 x 20 inches on stretched canvas.  I'm loving including pencil marks and crayons ~ wax or pastel ~ on painted works.

I've experimented a lot recently with pencils and crayons on different surfaces, largely to test whether or not they are waterproof (i.e. whether they bleed or not) under acrylic media.

The white colored pencils I tried all work well and are waterproof on very smooth substrates except for the Stabilo All, which is essentially a watercolor pencil although it's made to use on glass and other impervious surfaces.  None of the white colored pencils work well on canvas textured surfaces.

All of the regular (graphite) pencils work well on virtually any surface, including the  "black" Stabilo All.  Charcoal pencils don't work at all -- meaning they bleed.

I've also tried several brands of pastel pencils, and all work well on smooth surfaces but not well on canvas textured surfaces.  They all break/crush with pressure.

Caran d'Ache Neocolor I crayons are highly-pigmented wax crayons, kind of like Crayola Crayons on steroids.  They work well on all surfaces (there are some Neocolor I orange lines in my painting above) and are waterproof.  The Neocolor II crayons are watercolor crayons.  They can be covered over with medium but will smear a bit.  Of course with water, they disperse their pigment quite readily.

I have a set of Niji Oil Pastels that I love.  Not only are the least expensive (set of 36 from Blick for under $7.00), but they're fairly creamy so I like them a lot for use on paintings.  Oil pastels in general can be fixed with acrylic medium; chalk pastels cannot be.  You must use spray fixative for the latter, which, like regular spray paint, I hate using.  Caran d'Ache NeoPastels are also good, although they're more expensive and I personally don't like them as much as the Niji's.  However, where the Niji color line is lacking, I've filled in my palette with the NeoPastels.  I've also tried the Sakura Cray-Pas pastels but find they are too hard, so they require way too much pressure to get anywhere near the color load of the Niji's or the NeoPastels.

I'm reading, among everything else, Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon.  Short, wonderful, quirky, inspiring. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Days Later

Acrylics on stretched canvas, 11x14 inches
This is my painting for lesson 7 of 8 Great Paintings.  It was another opportunity to work with the "heavy on the bottom" format, which is actually rather challenging.  It's difficult to see here, but the bottom has wonky circles etched into the dark paint, with red underneath.  Click on the photo to enlarge it.

This piece is 11x14 inches on stretched canvas.  I had another start for this lesson, on 12x12 inch canvas board, but after numerous unsuccessful redo's, I threw out the panel.

Onto the next, which will be the last lesson for this online class.  Then I'm going to go it on my own for a while.  I've got all the techniques I need, I just have to paint.  But if I don't do it or do it often enough (whatever that is), no pressure ~ I'll do what I do when I do it.  The reality is, once or twice a week I have the inspiration to paint, so that's when I've been doing it.  Not pushing myself otherwise.

I started reading A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn.  It's quite enlightening to read about this country, its founding and development since the get-go based nearly exclusively on pretexts, its abhorrent treatment of anyone who wasn't (isn't) white and rich...

Just reread Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin.  This book was one of my early inspirations for off-the-grid (metaphorically), under-the-radar living.  Another early influence was Ordinary People As Monks and Mystics by Marsha Sinetar.  I also recently read for the second time Wallace Stegner's novel, Crossing to Safety, his last book, written six years before his death in 1993.  A really beautiful book.

I'm truly enjoying these summer days.  Making the most out of each one.  Hope you're having lovely days as well.  xx

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Heaven is NOW

Acrylics, vintage and painted papers, cardboard on
canvas panel, 11x14 inches
This is the other piece for that recent painting lesson ~ 11x14 inches on canvas panel.

Rather than titling this post "Wordless Wednesday," my news is that there's not much to say.

As I meander farther into silence and solitude, I'm gradually detaching myself from "being" my story.  And from letting that illusory story guide and direct my conversations, those both inside my head and out.

I no longer have the energy for overreaction borne of aversion to anything and everything beyond life as it really is.  I'm not interested now in verbal jousting, self-justification, defensive posturing, ego-driven oneupsmanship.  So much of our conversation is about propping ourselves up, propping our egos up, actually.  When you take all that away, what it all boils down to is that there isn't much left to say.  And nothing to complain about.  Life just is what it is.  No amount of complaining or worrying or teeth-gnashing or ceaseless story telling has ever changed anything.

What I'm doing in lieu of all those habitual thought patterns is spending as much time each day as I can in conscious awareness of the moment ~ feeling it, relishing it, loving it, sensing my connection, making the most of it, getting all the joy I can from it.  Especially because nothing lasts.  This particular blissful time won't last forever ~ it will be followed by future blissful moments, but not this one specifically.  Everything keeps changing ~ I'm sure you've noticed.  You can't step twice into the same stream, as some Zen master once said.  Appreciate it now...because it'll soon vanish.

Am I getting too airy-fairy for you?  I hope not.  Heaven is NOW.