Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Plein Air and World Peace!

I love to plein air paint.  If you are not familiar with the term, it's just french meaning "in the open air".  So outside.  I love it because I am outdoors in nature.  It is never the same day to day even in the same place because the light changes, the weather changes, the flora changes.  I like that because I guess I bore easily.  It's a challenge each time to complete a painting in one sitting or two.  You learn more because you are forced to think fast.  I think that helps me not get so caught up in the perfection of a finished painting.  I can put the failed pieces aside knowing that I could have done better with more time!  Or that's what I tell myself!

Another reason I love it is I do it with some really fun and talented friends.  I don't get to do it as much as I'd like.  Time, finding a free friend, and weather (I'm a fair weather painter.  I can take the heat but loath cold weather.  Rain is bad for watercolor too!) are all things to consider. I won't paint many places alone anymore.  Just last Monday evening a group of us were painting at Goodale Park downtown.  The pond is lovely with water lily pads and lotus blooming.  We were all positioned quite close to one another just next to the pond. 

While I was painting some guy came by and started to watch and then engaged in conversation. That’s distracting anyway when they don’t move on and you can’t paint and talk at the same time- like me.  He was asking a lot of informational questions and was really in my personal space, making me uncomfortable. I turned to face him and get a good look at him in case I needed to identify him in a lineup!  He commented that drawing/painting is a gift.  You know me, I don't believe that, I told him it is largely learned.  THEN: (wait for it!)… He says he’s been in jail twice and there are guys in there who have no training and can draw like a photo. Oh, but he’s not a murderer or anything, just DUI convictions! (he could have led with that!)  I think he was just messing with me, and I didn’t go running out on the lily pads or anything! But next thing I know, my friend is standing on the other side of me, with his 6 foot plus frame and say’s “can I watch you paint too?” The guy moved on. And thanks John!

Now in my fertile imagination I can take care of myself.  In my mind I am a tough, ass kicking, Karate expert.  An ex FBI SEAL sniper who packs a glock.  Kind of a cross between Clint Eastwood, (my friend Sly) Sylvester Stalone and Dolly Parton, (they are a distraction which gives one the advantage!) - who does the vigilante thing on the side. 

My mind is a wonderful place!  I think very creativly.  My body on the other hand has betrayed me!  I couldn't do a one armed push up if my life depended on it.  My dad's in better shape!  I don't own a gun and don't know any marshal arts.  So the reality is I have to embrace that and be careful. 

All humor aside, that is not the only reason I paint with friends.  I am a social person.  I love people.   They energize me.  You know those quizzes in magazines that tell you what kind of dieter or exerciser you are?  What kind of creative are you?  Do you like to create in solitude and order?  Or do you like the buzz of activity? Do you do best side by side doing your own thing or in collaboration with others?  There are many such questions and the results can help give you personal insights that get you where you want to go.

It helps to know yourself.  Then you can play to your strengths.  I bet you can guess what type person I am.  But knowing these things about myself means that now I make sure I take a class or paint with others regularly.  Not just to get the work done, but to learn from them and to energize my own work.  I also spend a lot of time alone.  I think that's all the more reason to make it a point to do what I love with people who share my passion.  A shared passion connects the human spirit.  Now if we could all just realize that we are all connected!  World Peace- Yeah baby, and all from my plein air group!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Yin Yang of Creativity

Last winter I wrote quite a bit about being blocked as an artist, because I felt blocked as an artist.  I read volumes about creativity and unlocking or unblocking it.  I tried a lot of things to unblock it.  The most recurring theme that presented itself was that negative energy blocks creativity.  Negative situations, thoughts, actions/behaviors and so on.  While I agree with this,  I also have to disagree.

Eastern religion teaches balance.  The yin yang of life.  Though I practice Christianity, the duality of man is still the overriding idea.  So while I agree that negativity might block our creativity, I have to say I've learned a huge lesson from the eastern philosophy.  A surprising lesson.

As I was trying desperately to rid myself of my "negative energy" and to unblock my creative self, I became very aware of the negative.  It was as though in my attempt to exorcise it, I amplified it.  That's a bummer!  And try as I might, hard as I could, as focused as I was on being positive-right behind was the negative!  Ouch!

But the yin yang idea teaches me that although the negative might be perceived as bad (and I'm not saying it's not here-believe me) the two are, well...They just ARE!  My understanding now is that I need both to make me who I am. That the two exist as one. I don't know if I'm stating it right, but  I am the artist I am-the person I am- because of both the negative and positive.  And I can learn to work with and be productive in and with both.

For example, where would country music be with out the dysfunctional relationship?  Without troubles who would sing the blues?  Many of the worlds greatest masterpieces were created by tortured artists working out their angst!  And lets not even go there about literature... I have to tell you, the books that stand out in my life are not the ones I've read that had only positive things in them.  The human experience, the good, bad and ugly are what make for good reading!  (I don't know if you can translate this to my Foodie friends, except to say-without the failed or experimental dish gone wrong we would be eating oatmeal every meal world wide!!)  Sometimes we have to embrace the negative and deal with the fact that it just "is" to unblock ourselves.  To just relax and accept that we cant control what is. From that has come some of my best insights and consequently my best art. 

I think the current trend is to "positive think" yourself where you want to go.  While I do believe that, I have found great comfort in my failures lately.  And I am accepting all of me.  The good/bad person I am. The good/bad artist.  The artist who doesn't make a masterpiece with each attempt even though I've been at it for years.  I am forgiving myself.  And others.  For being human.  For the universal yin yang factor.

Does that mean I sit back and not try to be more positive?  No.  I think making the negative a positive is still my goal.  But without the negative, where would the struggle be?  How would we grow?

Just another thought.