The other day I met with a friend, had the most wonderful conversation, and came home with this beautiful piece which I hung as soon as I walked in the door. The artist, Koos deJongh, created it especially for me (for which I am abundantly grateful) and shared the story behind the work.
The symbol he incorporated is the international symbol of friendship and each line and shape represents the different types and periods of friendship held throughout a lifetime. There are those that are intermittent, starting and stopping over time, always taking up where they left off. Those that are strong and bold, others that are short or long term acquaintances, some that are brief, and still others that last a lifetime.
I loved hearing the intention woven so beautifully into the image which makes this piece even more meaningful to me. It gave me goosebumps, not only to see it, but to hear the meaning behind it, too. I chose to hang it in my kitchen, because other than my studio, it is the place I spend the most time each day and I love the be surrounded by something so positive. Everytime I look at it, it makes me smile. Thank you so much Koos.
Here we are at the end of April and piece #17 of the 52 WEEKS PROJECT and still going strong...so far. Did you know that the killer whale or orca is closely related to the dolphin family? And that this guy, because he has a dorsal fin, is definitely a guy...females don't have them...and that they are social? I remember learning these things as a child when we first glimpsed them on travels to the west coast but forgot along the way, especially since their proclivity to stalk and prey seems to refute any idea of a close knit community.
I think people are the same, even if someone is grouchy on the outside, I do believe they need to feel part of the community, too. When I work evenings at the library, I often chat with an elderly gentleman that comes across as quite abrupt and even angry, and yet, over time as we've come to know each other a bit, he now makes a point of coming in to see me. And he even smiles.
It's that old adage, you need to walk a mile in someone else's shoes, I guess. Someone met me for the first time a couple of years ago while I was undergoing tests and treatment and found me to be rather difficult and we've recently connected again with much more positive results, thankfully. Though I tried hard to be positive at that time, I know I was stressed. And I'm glad I had another opportunity to connect, a better and happier one.
The killer whale is known as a traveler and guardian and is also believed to be the water wolf. There is a myth which shares that killer whale will provide whatever is required to one who needs it.
PS I wove the red mat in the first photo when I was 12...I still love it but wonder why I chose red as blue was always my favorite colour...
This is from today's local paper and I love that they included a photo of this young lady, she was thrilled that the paper was at the Art Program at the library last weekend and she is such a joy to be around. Speaking of joy, I constantly read articles about being positive but recently came across a great one about reducing stress and drama in your life. These are the points that I connected with:
1. It's okay to settle...not everything needs to be perfect.
2. Let go of negative thoughts...self explanatory.
3. Let go of negative people...who also contribute to negative thoughts (sometimes difficult to do).
4. Be authentic...just be yourself.
5. Quit work you dislike...don't settle, keep looking.
6. Be organized...be on time (consideration for self & others), remove clutter, don't rush.
7. Finish...or let it go.
8. Stay out of debt...again, self explanatory.
9. Be honest & kind...speak your truth but not at someone else's expense, you'll sleep easier.
10. Finally, it's your choice...your life, relationships, and career are in your own hands.
The greatest way for me to avoid stress is to read...this is my latest:
Let the Great World Spin
by Colum McCann
Okay, I picked this book up several times, read a page or two and put it back down. Initially I just couldn't connect with it BUT as I got further into the story I have to say I LOVED IT and couldn't put it down! It takes place in the mid-1970's and begins with a tightrope walker high up between the World Trade Center towers. The story weaves through the lives of many different people, whose journey intersect at some point. It was really was a fascinating tale of hope and I'd have to place it in my top ten list of favorites. Seriously.
I keep thinking of my work as in progress but realized that while I do this thing I do, I am also a work in progress. To help me along the way, I definitely rely on the wisdom of many others...of friends and artists, of family and aquaintances, and of the authors of the books I read. Here is a list of wisdom that I've enjoyed over and over along with a new one...
1. The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
Reading this book was a major lightbulb moment for me...as I believe it is for so many. Two of the lessons I still practice today, after many, many years, are artist dates and morning pages, though I don't always write them in the morning. Developing those good habits spilled over into my studio where I spend time every day.
2. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
This is a tiny little book that I used to carry in my purse so that I'd have something to read with me at all times...let me tell you, I wait much more patiently when I have something to read with me. It's about writing but I found that it also applies to painting, and really to all of life.
3. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
This book was originally published in 1955 and rings true even today. She was a brave woman who spent time alone every year, something I really believe we should all do for ourselves. Though it was an earlier time, the writer discusses the busyness of life and the need to recharge. It sounds like life today.
4. The Art Spirit by Robert Henri
Now this was a college book that I still refer back to...great advice on the art of creativity. It can really be opened and read anywhere in the book. A great reference and regular go-to book for me. Feeds the creative fire.
5. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Twyla is a choreographer in New York City and offers fabulous advice on creating good creative habits. Another book that can be picked up and read at any point but I've read it cover to cover many times. Extremely inspiring.
6. Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe by Laurie Lisle
My copy of this book is so dog-eared as it's been read and has travelled with me many times over the years. This is a great portrait of one of my favorite artists. I loved how feisty and unique she was...and always found it interesting that she passed away just as I was learning about her in college. I love to learn about the life and practice of successful artists. I'm a bit of a stalker that way.
7. Ninety Years Wise by Doris McCarthy
I love Doris McCarthy and have read everything by her. Though she doesn't like the comparison, her large iceberg paintings are reminiscent of Lawren Harris, another of my favorite all-time painters. It's great to read about an artist's life by an artist.
8. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
A book I stumbled upon recently through the library and I think I'm going to have to purchase it, it's that good. A quick, little read but full of great information with chapter titles such as 'Don't wait until you know who you are to get started' and 'Be boring (it's the only way to get work done)'. I read it in one sitting and I'm planning to read it again....soon as I pick up a copy.
9. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
A fascinating look at how we work...really a business book but a good guide on being productive, no more starving artist. I love anything that reinforces that there is nothing wrong with how I do things, so this is a keeper for me. I totally agree with their adage that easy-is-better. Huge believer in that.
10. The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte
This book was written by a Vancouver girl with a fabulous attitude. Another business book but really focuses on how you want to feel rather than on doing stuff. Danielle shares that balance is a myth and that you can't have it all, but that you can focus on what's really important...to you. She has a great blog, too.
This is you life.
So, this weekend I taught the JR ARTIST PROGRAM at the library and had eighteen kids registered (a record, I think). Unfortunately I didn't think of taking a final photo until a number of the kids had left but I was so proud of what they had accomplished...and more importantly, they were proud of their own work.
I decided to take my abstracted canoe process and incorporate the initial of their first name rather than a canoe, utilizing layers of mark making in warm and cool colours. They've all seen the article about my painted utility box project in AirdrieLIFE magazine and were excited to try it.
The editor of our local paper enjoyed the project so much she's asked that we offer this workshop to adults as well. Something I may have to consider.
This week's inspiration is the North American beaver or Castor canadensis and I cannot believe it was a friend's suggestion...now how did I forget one of the most important animals and symbol of our country? Yes, I know he's the third largest rodent in the world, but such a cute one!
Last summer my daughter and I learned that their teeth are orange because they are filled with iron to help chop down trees and that they generally weigh about 50 pounds but can grow to 100, heavier than I thought. They are also vegetarians and commited to family (which made me love them more). Every summer a family of beavers move into our local creek...they're beautiful but hard on the vegetation, which grows very slowly and sparsley in these foothills though I love to sit and watch them. When we visited the Rocky Mountain House & Acton House forts, we loved running our fingers through the beaver pelts, though it's sad to know how many beaver were trapped almost to extinction.
A story that always moves me, is the one of Grey Owl, who began as a trapper in the early 1900's and became a Canadian conservationist. I think of him because he raised two beaver kits in the wilds of Canada. He was born in England but came to love the Canadian wilderness, presenting himself as Apache. Pony, a wise young Mohawk Iroquois woman, helped him to see what excessive trapping was doing to the animals and to the land - because of her he became a staunch environmentalist and was influential in creating the largest natural parks in Canada.
I love that beaver symbolizes home, family and teamwork. They are also the master builder and creator, finishing every project they begin. A reminder to collaborate with others in harmony in order to accomplish great things.
"I remember the day I saw my first exhibit of modern paintings -
I'm working on a paper about art & psychology and had to ask a group of people what they felt were my three greatest strengths. A tough thing to do...a little scary as I often wonder what kind of impression I leave behind. A friend responded and added three questions that she has often used with clients:
1. What do you think I'm good at?
2. What do you think is unique about me?
3. What would you to come to me for advice on?
Love the questions, wish I was brave enough to send out a survey myself. Just for fun.
Also read an interesting article on How to Find Your Purpose (anyone who knows me knows I absolutely love this stuff: Oh, another questionnaire? Bring it on Baby!). I love anything that makes me think and reflect. That makes me see things from a new perspective. Would I want to know my (perceived) weaknesses as well? Nah. Hmmmmm...maybe I'll have to bite the bullet and ask the positive questions.
Yesterday I spent my evening painting at Cre8tive Ways and I'm happy to share that this current piece is 2/3 of the way complete. And I'm really, really liking it. I find that as I work my feelings towards the work-in-progress waxes and wanes...periods of adulation followed by abject disgust...and back again. This circle tends to happen several times throughout the period of work which is, I think, probably why people become discouraged and give up most art forms. And perhaps it is the dedication to slogging through the ebbs and flows of the work that gives an artist a small vestige of mystique. The commitment to following through, no matter what the cost (usually to self esteem, I imagine).
I'm glad I'm getting somewhere as there are four other pieces in my studio that have caused me much pain and sorrow. I feel rather bogged down by them. It was especially nice to get into a different environment to work. Fresh space, fresh eyes. Looking forward to sunny days when I can work outside once again. And every time I feel discouraged I am reminded of the words of Winston Churchill, "Never, never, never give up." And because I live with a bit of a sports nut...I mean fan...who believes sports analogy applies to every situation in life, I often think of this speech...
"Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit.