There must be a time when we cease speaking
to be fully present with ourselves.
There must be a time when we exclude clamor
by listening to nothing whatsoever.
There must be a time when we forgo our plans
as if we had no plans at all.
There must be a time when we abandon conceits
and tap into a deeper wisdom.
There must be a time when we stop striving
and find the peace within.
David O. Rankin (U.U. Minister San Francisco)
My goal as an artist is to paint without talking to myself, to paint and not listen to myself, and most especially to paint peacefully. It isn't exactly that I'm new to this way of painting. Every year for the past couple of years, I paint for months at a time, but it doesn't come easily, especially not when I'm explaining to myself that I don't know how to do it, and that is just the beginning of my talk. I know, yes I do, that I'm not alone in this struggle. Sometimes I really love painting.
Up to this point, I've had a great time. The canvas is hectic, but I'm enjoying the journey, right through the point where I painted in the dark background below because I wanted contrast, and I needed to simplify.
This is the angry teenager stage. I've done a number of things I really like. I still like the central figure and the turtle is getting more definition. This is the point I've gotten stuck in many paintings before: making smooth transition spaces with interesting gradations of color blending. The purple background still had more energy showing than I wanted, and hoping to make it work I painted in a world of precious little butterflies. I tightened up. I'm tried too hard. I lost my rhythm. At this point the fun stopped and the talking started. Now turtle woman who definitely has attitude is getting impatient with me.
If I take out that green I added on the left, the whole thing looks kind of like the inside of a snow globe. I like that, but I begin to imagine she feels like I did when my mother sewed my clothes. I was not gracious about standing still while she pinned and re pinned, ran the sewing machine and then asked me to try it on again. She must have wanted to wring my neck. I need to figure out this color background stuff while the turtle woman isn't looking.
Here's the beginning of another painting. It's a larger canvas, 40x40, and this is the really fun part. I love painting without a plan, playing with color, daring to let my brush take the lead. Are those the beginning of glasses left of center? Forget it. I try not to think this could be a painting about windows or doors. Much much too early. In part that's where I got stuck in the painting above. I began to love the combination of butterfly and turtle totems. She wants to survive, I tell myself. I'm personifying her. I'm making her much more than a painting. Yikes.
I keep circling back to this quote by Thich Naht Hahn. "There are two ways to wash dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes." I need to paint in order to paint. I know I can get a painting back to this point. I always love my first few layers. Now I think I need to practice the blending that's stopped me before. I need to make sure this painting is willing to change, and I'm willing to change it, and then I need to go back to the first one when I have the skill to change it.
Baruch ata adonai, I feel like I've told you all this before. Maybe if I go through this over and over I will shoot out the other side with a better skill set not only to paint but to deal with myself. I hear you tell me I already have that. This is all about patience, right? Yes I thought so. Then please help me to be patient with myself and others and not always need all these words to understand what I intuitively know already. Amen