Dec 09 2008
I’ve been craving a bit of solitude lately. Speaking of this need to a friend, she offered me her place for the weekend, while she was out of town. After sharing houses for years, this small break was like heaven for me. I decided to make it into my own little creative/spiritual retreat. The focus was to read, write, walk, paint and meditate… and nothing else. I highly recommend this to anyone who feels overwhelmed by the pressures of the everyday. Whatever it is that engages you with your higher self, focus on nothing but this for a day, a weekend, a week… whatever you can afford to give yourself.
At the outset, I decided not to judge whatever I produced. This is time for me, not for pumping out salable artwork. Sometimes the pressure of that is itself debilitating. I wanted to flow with whatever came up for me.
I started the painting above a little before the retreat, but brought it along to have at least one thing that already had a beginning. It was the freshest thing in my studio. It began with star-shaped flowers…. then the swirling sky. I started to see a bird in the sky, so I painted that. Then I saw the woman. It’s not finished, but I sort of like it this way right now. When I come to a place where I don’t know what to do next, I stop. I feed my senses with something else until the next step announces itself. I read, walk or I paint something else.
I was at a loss about what to paint next. Mostly, I give myself too many choices, so my biggest dilemma is making a decision. I got up to make some tea and looked at Joy’s walls for a little while. I found myself staring at a madonna image. Mind you, I’m not a religious person (in the traditional way, at least), but when a little voice in my head told me to “paint myself as the goddess”, I decided to do it. The result is less goddess than peasant, but there’s something I like about it. One problem I had was that the only mirror I had with me was a two inch magnifying mirror, so I can’t see my whole face in it. I can see one eye, a nose, my lips in isolation… but could not see the whole at once. So I decided that was my challenge, to figure out how to make them work together. I struggled with the proportions. I’ve finally come to a place with it that I recognize myself, though there is some odd distortions. It still needs some work, but I don’t want to overwork it. I want to leave it partly unfinished.
(When Joy came back, she was surprised, and told me that she put that madonna image up for me, and wondered if I would see myself in it).
I started a couple other little paintings which are still in their beginning stages. In both, I started with a textured background by pressing plastic wrap into wet paint. It was easy to see trees, branches and leaves in this, so I took out my oil pastels and started to define these shapes. Not too surprisingly, a river formed in both of these paintings as well. The image of water and trees is something that bubbles up in meditation frequently these days. I visualize this body of water (a stream or river more than an ocean). At first, I am only aware of the reflections on the water. The water reflects the sky and shadows of trees above. I feel gently pulled into it. It’s like I am on an invisible boat. I don’t have a body, but I sense myself being pulled along the river. I am lost in the motion of ripples, the reflection, the shadows. This is the archetypal landscape of my soul: water, trees, sky…
I realize that I want to paint from the source more frequently. To go outside and paint what I see in the reflections of the water. But it was a rainy weekend, so I decided “the source” was whatever I could pull out of what I saw in the paint. These are timid beginnings so far, but I see the potential already. Again, I like looking at the work before it’s been fully realized.
Another thing I thought about painting (but didn’t) was a pomegranate, based on images that have come up in both meditations and dreams. But when I opened the fruit, I was confounded by the complexity of hundreds of seeds. I decided to do a photographic study instead, to help me decide how I wanted to approach the subject before I try to paint it. The night before I went out to purchase the pomegranate, I burned a candle that overflowed. I picked up the wax and realized that it also resembled the pomegranate, so I posed it with the fruit, which seemed to emphasize the sense of oozing. I ran the image through some Photoshop filters to see how different colors affected the image.
In my dream during this retreat, I was eating the pomegranite seeds (sharing it with Joy, who was sharing her home with me). I looked down on my plate and was surprised to see that the seeds were glowing like little light-bulbs. I knew it was about embracing the feminine archetype… to learn about and hold this power… and to realize that my connection to this world is through the senses, to embrace that also.
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