New Work Completed 07/2018

I have finished another piece in the Topography series. It is a mashup of a desert/mountain view sourced from satellite imagery. The panel pieces are coming on nicely. I am still finding out about how watercolors, inks, graphite, gesso, and water perform on the surface. Sometimes it can be a super pain in the ass to get the color saturation that I need. Each little rooftop block takes at least 4-5 coats of color then gesso then graphite (if I am adding specific definition). The last two pieces I added Interference Blue by Golden. It has a beautiful unicorn shimmer. The last piece I added it to the roadways and this piece I added it to the patterned background. It is super hard to get its affect in a photo as it looks like the wood is bare in some places, purple-y in other places, and dull in some places. But in person the effect is pretty great. This last piece made me feel like diving deeper into using patterns in unique ways against these landscapes, so this next piece will explore that more deeply. I am itching to get the next panel set up.

A couple of images:

Beth Ortman "The Containment of Water II" in progress

Beth Ortman "The Containment of Water II" in progress

Beth Ortman "The Containment of Water II" from the side

Beth Ortman "The Containment of Water II" from the side

The Containment of Water II by   ©Beth Ortman 07/2018

The Containment of Water II by ©Beth Ortman 07/2018

~b

New Work Completed

In continuing with my satellite / modern landscape paintings, I have a new painting up on my website, "Desert Breezes Gated Community: Not Just Living, Living it Up". This ongoing topography focused series incorporates images of land use of suburban and manufacturing locations in desert, mountain, and shoreline terrain. What we live near, what resources we pull from and even some of the things that occur in nature that we refer to as "natural disasters", interest me and have been inspiring my landscape series from the last couple of years. I have just started using panels again for my paintings and I have really enjoyed working on the wood surface. I feel that the wood enhances my messaging and landscape implications.

Desert Breezes Gated Community: Not Just Living, Living it Up     12" x 12" | watercolor, ink, gesso, on wood panel   ©Beth Ortman 06/2018    

Desert Breezes Gated Community: Not Just Living, Living it Up

12" x 12" | watercolor, ink, gesso, on wood panel ©Beth Ortman 06/2018

 

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Onwards!

~beth

Spring in LA

This weekend I worked some more on a new piece. Everything felt like it was coming together and I was meant to be in this place, in this seat, working on that painting. The wood, the colors, the filling in, and even the fussing over. The sun was out, and the blue skies felt like they were witnessing everyone being alive. As spring is opening its door in LA, the smells are different. The seals at the marina are bitching at each other and making way (or not) on their docks as they insert their dominance over each other.

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So, this painting reminds me of when I painted back in school. But it is also everything in between. The years of drawing, the marks, the paintings that never made it out of the room they were painted in until I moved and destroyed them. The new work combines my weird sense of color, the precariousness of watercolor I have come to love, the gesso that allows me to celebrate history in its ability to build on a transparent base. I have gone through a period of quiet and a slowness getting back into my groove. I will keep showing up as I know that is the key, even when it is hard, because, like spring in LA, showing up opens the door to the subtle changes and smells of a leap of time.

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 ~b

Art as Offering

For the last 3 + years I have been adding pictures of the sunrise to Facebook, Twitter and more recently Instagram. I live on the beach in south Florida and it has always been an impetus to share this view and some inspiring quotes.... some meaningful, some funny but always inspired by the mood making itself known that morning. Earlier this year I decided to make a book about some of these moments and used the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" as a jumping off point for my title, "Zen and the Art of the Sunrise". I self-published the book and put it on Amazon. Though I have a great support system of friends, the book has not done well. I keep thinking and hoping it will do better but it is what it is. I wonder if I somehow missed the point that this is an offering in the midst of the "doing" to make this thing a published event. I wonder if I focused too much on what it meant for me to have an ISBN and lost where it was always about sharing and offering.

Recently I was listening to a great show on On Being with Krista Tippett with Matthew Sanford, a yoga instructor in MN. He talks about an accident that took away his ability to walk. Ultimately the interview is about his ability to reconnect with his body. The impetus is exploring what trauma, physical or mental, does to the body and how sometimes, as the result of traumas, we disconnect our minds and bodies. Now bear with me here because this connection is a long shot but it hit me like a ton of bricks. I have listened to the show three times to work through this revelation. I have an absolute disconnect in Mind and Body. I think one of the ways I work through this is by doing art. But in the end, art can be very intellectual. What if the connection between the mind and the body happen as an offering? What if living or art becomes the offering and it pushes the emotion outwards? I strongly believe that we work through personal belief systems and create a visual language in our own practice of art and the moment we are able to transcend the egotistic self our vision becomes universal. It becomes something that may benefit others. It becomes that offering, something that is shared or adopted and made into something else and hopefully something more.

In the face of the fear and rejection and the emotional rehash of traumas and beauty, the moment the artist's work becomes universal is the moment they surrender it outwards. There is a tenuous thread here that matters and it feels connected to something deeper and more universal. Maybe that is why it can be healing. I have always wondered why art is revered, protected and placed on a pedestal throughout the ages and it does not support Food, Shelter, Sex (a minimization of Maslow's hierarchy of needs). Why is it that we look to the humanities to solve the big questions? It is such a shared experience and it happened with the cavemen, Plato and it happens with the us in the now.

What if art connects as an offering and the moment the artist (writer, musician, philosopher, yoga instructor, etc...) let's go, it goes into the universal space where we are all existing? Maybe it transcends the object and becomes transcendent? It causes us to emote, react, to think and feel. Sometimes it is uncomfortable and sometimes it is dis-jarring, but always when the connection is made, it rearranges something in us.

I think of Matthew Sanford's place on the mat using yoga as his voice and I can only think that his re-connection to Mind and Body is art and it is empowering to me to explore where I am broken. And that is truly a powerful message.

~ b

 

Links for inspiration:

On Being: About >>

Matthew Sanford Interview "The Body's Grace" >>

Matthew Sanford's amazing book: "Waking"

"The Train": A thought-provoking movie on protecting art in the time of war IMDB >>

 

Exquisite Detail: Getting Lost in the Repetition

 

Detail of Indra's Net II, in progress|  © Beth Ortman Studio

What exquisite place do we touch when we disappear into our work? I love and am completely inspired by reading and learning about other artists' spaces and work habits. What is it that made them who they are? What are their fears, their doubts, their losses and wins, and break-through moments? I look into the lives of other creatives to look at what shaped them to find some correlation to my own work. Not only from an aesthetic place but more from an acknowledgement that choosing the path to make art is difficult and worth it. Are artists the voices of their generation or maybe the flag holders of a compassionate connection to the self? Making art is all about stripping the layers of the self to zero and then building it back up with a slightly different version, vision and way of seeing. In this scenario, are artists a channel? Is there something working through the artist? When one is compelled to make things that no-one needs for survival, what is behind that drive?

The artwork that I create demands that I am constantly moving into and out from repetition and practice. I read a lot. I look for an idea that stands out or causes me to sketch something. I am always taking notes and sketching little visual connections to whatever series I am exploring. I am always behind what I want to accomplish because the work is tedious and time consuming and the ideas roll faster than I can create - a perfectly awesome state to be in.

"The difference in men does not lie in the size of their hands nor in the perfection of their bodies, but in this one sublime ability of concentration: to throw the weight in one blow, to live eternity in an hour." ~ Elbert Hubbard

I ramble on in this post as I ramble through my artwork. Weaving myths, legends, media and symbolism into new things. What I think this does, or at the very least, what it has done for me is open the conversation of the spiritual. Are we the ones making the art? What is the muse? When a writer, a musician or an artist talk about a great achievement, many will narrate their part of the story and leave a part for something else to weave itself into it. There always seems to linger a legend of not being completely present. It opens a discussion that there is faith that they are a channel. If you show up and do the work, the muse will work through you. Time disappears and when you start bringing yourself back to "the moment" things feel surreal. When you are in intense creation you are in the mode. It is you and your art, your music, words, whatever your medium. So the question gets stripped down a little more to become "What is it to truly come back to the moment?". If time speeds up and slows down all at once, the human moves out of the way, what third mixture comes into play? What is that energy that comes forth?

There is something magical that happens when two things come together to make a third, Hegel refers to it as The Calculus of Fresh Thinking. He described it as the dialectic process whereby one idea - a thesis- truly engaged with another - an antithesis- can yield a third, a new idea - a synthesis - that is born from both but which is wholly neither. This sums up something that I have long ago explored, and even altered some to my own thoughts about the muse and the artwork created. I love the open question "Who really creates a piece of art/music/writing/mathematical formula, etc...?" and I love that it is like a koan that is unanswerable.

~b
 

 

 

 

 

The Onion Girl: Peeling Away the Unnecessary

Photo by: ©Beth Ortman Studio

Photo by: ©Beth Ortman Studio

First I took away the label of "artist" and then I thought about what to purge next... This is the idea that came out of the fog as I have been working out defining my quest to pull my dharma out from the shadows. 

My idea of dharma is about aligning oneself with their purpose. What I am here to do. For me, dharma involves merging the micro and the macro, the personal and the universal. I have been looking at the minimalist culture for awhile and in addition to the removal of stuff and excess, I am also looking at the paradigm for how to build each day around dharma. Minimalism can also be about refining and peeling away the layers of the ego, the false self. These layers are like an onion. Each layer represents fear, addiction, personal stories, false selves, etc. Instead of buying things, or looking outward for some level of comfort or internal affirmation, I have been stripping away those notions in order to look inwards at purpose. It is tough. The foundation is unsteady and I am starting to venture into the realm of faith.

When watching TV to numb us no longer works and boredom rears its ugly head, what are we left with? A consumer culture wants to remind us that we are missing things, that we are incomplete. We have stores, Container Store, for example, that tell us how to store our unwanted or unnecessary things. A box store of boxes. And it is a wildly successful place. There are things to buy, successes to achieve, money to make. But if we look around honestly, we can recognize that these make up the very things that make us unhappy.

This is super overwhelming and it is a tough place to be when trying to work out a way that does not involve this stuff. If we look inwards and ask "What am I here for?", there is a responsibility of choice to follow that voice or ignore it. For me, over the last 2-3 years, I have made this a priority. It is not something that happens over night and it is not something that will be a light switch solution but it is a wildly rewarding hardship.

I am asking these questions: What does your day look like when the need to run in circles working for others is removed? What does it look like to work for yourself? What can you remove in order to utilize time and within those hours align with your purpose? What are you doing each day that will elevate your reason to be here so that others are part of that energy? What does a day look like when you remove the "self" and use your purpose in a universal way? There is something really important that comes from this. The idea of personal self opens to universal self. Our actions affect each other. If we are kinder to ourselves, we are kinder to each other. For me, my path belongs to defining how art breeds compassion.

~b

 

 

 

Do we create our own luck when we align with dharma?

 

Photography by © Beth Ortman Studio

Photography by © Beth Ortman Studio

Do we create our own luck when we align with dharma?

I will ask up front, is this even a valid question? With that being said, I want to explore this notion. In the last couple of weeks, I have been listening a lot to the On Being radio interviews while doing my artwork. Krista Tippett generally starts her interviews off with discovering a little about the subject's upbringing. For the most part I have started with the musicians and the artists that she interviews. I find music to be an essential component of my life and a necessity to my art.

There is a theme that has come up over and over and it is that of "following your authenticity" or "following your dharma" as well as these people seem to be enormously curious. Someone in these interviewee's life made some level of impression on them that this message stuck. Now comes in the question of luck. Is the luck that they were raised by someone giving them that advice, or met someone important to them or were they open to it when they heard it? Does luck play into anything or is it a case of being open to threads of advice and happen-stance? I find this to be a fascinating question because luck seems so impersonal and these stories are full of personal meaning. For me art is motivated by the personal and it becomes universal when it achieves its own voice. There is a separation of the work of art and the artist once it is released into the world, but when it is being made, it comes from repetition, and doing the work. It is done from love, obsession, compulsion, curiosity, discipline, self-hatred, self-sacrifice, self-love... I could go on with the dichotomies.

The artist or musician, writer or physicist, etc. sits in their studio space creating something. Some work on their vision for years before it is shared and some get recognition. Most do not but that never stops them from continuing, This is where the dharma piece comes in. In the spiritual readings that I have been researching, and also my interpretation of them, it seems that following your path and aligning with dharma is what we are all here to do. In the case of the artist, there is a tangible, musical or theoretical "thing" that comes from this work. At what point is it that the person is strong enough to follow their dharma? When do they here that it is okay to create something regardless of its outcome?

If that person is moved into the limelight that gains an audience, is that luck? Or is it the following and aligning of dharma that becomes so strong and so matched that it moves past its creator and becomes so much more?

Anita Pollitzer wrote back and forth with Georgia O'Keeffe in the early career years when O'Keeffe was teaching in Amarillo, TX. Pollitzer presented O'Keeffe's watercolor sketches to Alfred Stieglitz in NYC many times. There was a point in this exchange of letters where Pollitzer announces to O'Keeffe that her vision had become universal. Stieglitz saw it and started to represent O'Keeffe in his gallery. Her work became universal and it became its own entity.

Luck or dharma? Where is the intersection of personal voice, hard work, luck and dharma? What are the crossroads that we come to that make our paths open to luck?

~ b

Check out On Being with Krista Tippett ... it is a treasure of thought-provoking ideas

Doubt, Faith and Resolution

 

Photography by © Beth Ortman Studio

Photography by © Beth Ortman Studio

I am very interested in the idea of vocation. I think of vocation not as a job but more like a career. I have been a User Experience Strategist for over 16 years (in a simplification, I make websites more usable) and I am also an artist. No matter what I do for the online world of websites, navigation and usability efforts, I will always make art. The ultimate question is, "What are we meant to contribute to?". How do I align and organize my job and art output into my vocation? Is this possible or do I merge the two somehow? I am the only thing holding both concepts together, so is this even a valid question?

I am always searching and seeking for the optimal "Flow" as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about it in his work of creative psychology and research. When I am in the studio making art - whether it is a struggle to sit down to do the work or whether I jump out of bed anticipating a day of making something, I find myself in this flow and there becomes an ease in the work. I lose time and I am not 100% able to say I alone am doing the work. I find it to be a coming home of sorts. Over and over.

In the Bhagavad Gita, at the scene in the beginning of the Great War, Krishna tells Arjuna that "Doubt afflicts the person who lacks faith and can ultimately destroy him." I was struck the moment I read this. Even out of the context of this book (which I have not read, so my context has been outside of the book), I had a welling up of questions come to the forefront. What is faith? What is doubt? Is faith tied to religion while doubt is tied to skepticism? Or is faith an internal move to trust in one's instincts and doubt allows for reviewing of all outcomes and setting the path for getting things done? Can you strip the concept of religion away from faith so that it becomes an internal compass? Does it come down to a judgement of what is successful? I just launched a book last week, "Zen and the Art of the Sunrise" to a spectacular wall of silence. At the same time, I have been overwhelmed by the support of friends and of people I don't know that have faith in the book and have gone out of their way to share it and become a part of it. Now I have to look at what this book is for.

I have put the book "out there" and all of a sudden I am faced with the faith that it will do its part. That does not mean I am not utilizing social sites and pushing it and hoping for it to do well, but it also means that I have come face to face in the mirror with faith and surrender. Surrender is an active state of being, not of giving up. I have to have the knowledge that I was in the "flow" when I created it. I have to have "faith" that it will find the person that needs it the most and that all of this will happen outside of my knowledge. In other words, outside of my ego and my desire to be "seen". I have to understand that I need to surrender it to what is next and that may be nothing. But I did my part in its creation and so I am back to faith and doubt and the swirling of these two states in my head.

I have no answers and this week has been a roller coaster of emotions and questions. This coin of happy/sad has flipped back and forth for me. In the end though, I released this new piece of art into the world. I am proud of the book and I think it will make people feel a sense of hope and it supports the seeing of nature - and in these times that is a necessity.

My book on Amazon: "Zen and the Art of the Sunrise" -->

 

Some additional great reads to pursue:

Stephen Cope "The Great Work of Your Life" -->

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi "Flow" -->   and   "Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention" -->

Lewis Hyde "The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World" -->

 

A State of Flow: One of my pieces of art in progress:

 

 

Aligning Courage & Vision

 

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This is an update to an earlier post. I think I will always be refining and updating my words. 

The Proof is in, well, the Proof: Aligning Courage & Vision

My book, “Zen and the Art of the Sunrise”, just launched this past weekend and the journey has been a pretty humbling experience. When I got my first printed proof to review it was a huge moment of accomplishment. Now I have an ISBN number. Crazy, sexy ISBN (an ode to Kris Carr here).

I never meant to do a book. For three years I took a daily sunrise picture, found an inspirational quote or song lyric and posted it to friends and family on social media. Taking the photographs started as a place of wanting to share this amazing beauty of living on the ocean’s shoreline. The ocean is a calming source - until it isn't. I will take the storms too. I have been taught, moment-by-moment, about change and the immediate upheaval in the atmosphere and about the chance to live another day and be a better person (still working on many things like road rage and my need for sugar – it is all about baby steps).

Whatever our days hold, whether we are doing what we love, sitting in silence, going to a job we love or hate, a day full of errands or care-taking, I am learning that we need to find the soft spot that allows us to be fully present and in the moment. That sentiment can be a place of peace for us as it helps make our day brighter. The sunrise kicks that off for some people. The guys from the Minimalists say (paraphrasing here), "We all get the same 24 hours to create a masterpiece. Picasso, Michelangelo, all had the same 24 hours in a day." That blew my mind intellectually. The sunrises back that up visually and viscerally.

What could I do with my 24 hours? I started to make the book. I organized quotes, I searched for copyright laws, and I reviewed over 6800 photos looking for just the right ones. I had to figure out the publishing world and its options. The process made me look inside myself to determine my voice. My friend said that I needed to get my Sasha Fierce on but I think I am more of a female Lou Reed and Ziggy Stardust type. Her point was well taken though. I had to open up and be more. I had to be vulnerable and I could not shy away from what I wanted to say. It is okay to be messy and pretty all at once. The ocean has taught me a lot about that.

Someone once told me that if she was overwhelmed with cleaning the house, she chose a corner and then chose whether to go left or right. I have used that example many, many times in my life. Whether it is making myself sit down to do artwork, creating this book or designing websites, it is all about moving forward and finding that small place of “okay” and heading outwards from there.

In the end, through making this book, I have a huge sense of accomplishment. I started in a corner and I worked on it in bits and parts. As I send this book out into the world, I want to take a moment to sit quietly with it. It has been a source of love and honor to share the inspiration of these beautiful sunrises. What can we do in our next 24 hours?

~ beth ortman

Click here to buy the book on Amazon -->

There is a Certain Calmness with Doing the Work

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I find it interesting that my job title is User Experience Strategist. At least that is what I do to earn a living. I consider my "career", or life's work, to be an Artist. In my “day job” I make websites more useful. I help clients complete their visions and goals and help their customers have an easier time navigating the websites. I find the title User Experience Strategist can also help in my desire to be a full time artist - my desire to live from my creative space. After all, we all want to be a participant in a web of our own User Experience.

Recently, I was inspired by a talk with Jared Leto at the New York Times as he spoke of his multi-faceted career (link below). He spoke of all of the different things he had his hands in, from running media companies, to creating, directing and producing videos/films, making art, acting, making music, and finally, touring with his band, 30 Seconds to Mars. The list seems to go on. He is a true renaissance man for sure. But more than that, and the most inspiring piece of the interview for me was his openness about his doubts. When he questioned himself – where he thought he was and where he wanted to be, if his audience would get his direction, his creations, etc., he said (paraphrasing here), that in his times of doubt he did what he knew he could do. He sat back down, amongst the crazy thinking, and created.

There is power in going back to your golden thread of what you are here to do.

For Leto, it is making music or art. It is the core of what brings his other enterprises to the surface. For me it is making art and all of the process, seeking and discovery that goes into it. It is just a part of who I am. I recently returned from a month long trip to California and I have a deep desire to return. I fell in love with Malibu. I live on the beach here in south Florida and it has been my teacher so it is no surprise that I was pulled into the ferocious beauty of the Pacific Ocean. Since I left my job almost two years ago to do my own thing and consult, I have reconnected with a personal freedom that has been a huge source of energy. That energy comes in waves of good and overwhelming doubt. So I sit and do the work. Sometimes it is this blog, sometimes it is fixing my website, but mostly it is my art. It centers me. Makes me find my still point. And it gives me a sense of forward momentum. When I think I don’t deserve Malibu, or success in my art or the other myriad thoughts of doubt and incompleteness, I sit and do the work. And sometimes that is enough.

I wanted to share these thoughts and his video as I am battling my desire to head to Malibu (living in the future) and learn what s/he has to teach me there and my need to be fully present. Each day brings a new layer of finding the dynamic between wanting to claw your way to “success” and living fully present in the now and being open to what is next – actively surrendering. Somewhere in between there is the calmness in doing the work.

One more thing to note about learning who I am. My friend says I should be more Sasha Fierce and I think I am more Lou Reed with a sprinkling of Ziggy Stardust. So maybe Sasha will show her way but I like the edge lyrics of Reed and the ironic flash of Ziggy. I am a Jersey girl, after all.

~b

Video of Jared Leto and Times Talk --> Click Here