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

 

bortman_89_detail_02.jpg

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.

IMAGE.JPG

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.

IMAGE.JPG

 ~b

Work In Progress (WIP)

I have been working on a series that has been evolving from an exploration of maps and topography of the California terrain. For now, I want to talk about the progress of working on the wood panel again (I started my painting career doing large panel paintings) using watercolors and gesso. The wood has such a tactile surface. I am leaving the wood to show through and am adding the gesso to create my white. I have been working in inks and watercolor lately, so this new series has me replicating the white of paper with gesso and gouache. 

 

IMAGE.JPG

My source material is the topography maps and a lose interpretation of Yosemite Park. The other material is in the form of satellite views of some type of industrial storage facility. This mashup of man and environment is something that is super stimulating to me and it allows me to look at this as a beautiful painting while taking these serious and consequential issues to the foreground.   

 

Materials used:

Dr. Ph. Martin’s watercolors - I am using them for their brightness and their viscosity as they are a bit thicker and almost gel like in their consistency. 

The panels are 12” x 12” wood panels from Art Alternatives. I am going to do some more research on wood panels to see if I will continue to work with these (or even go back to paper). For now, they are working out great and I can seal them with Golden’s matte medium. 

 

Using the wood panels as a surface for this exploration is a great support for the environmental impact of man on our natural surroundings. I have been looking at the question of “What is a natural disaster?” Since that is such a human centric question and it comes up when nature impacts man, even to the benefit of the land, air, and water we need to live off of.  

 

IMAGE.JPG

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 >>

 

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

Process & Art: is the still point the artwork produced or the source that produces it?

 

image.jpg

Nothing like an interesting koan-like question to start the day. The inspiration for this post started with a reading about yoga and its connection with experiencing a still space in a practice. This reading surfaced a frequently debated question about art: What is more important, the process of making art or the product itself?

In meditation and in yoga practice, the body prepares for a state of non-reactivity. The word samskara (Sanskrit for Subliminal activator, imprints left on consciousness by actions and volitions) represents an impression of things from our past, things that leave a type of "groove" in our conscious and unconsciousness. They are like a dip in a road, a rut of sorts. In mediation one seeks stillness, a cessation of these samskaras, these impressions, if you will. This state is called nirodha. Nirodha is a moment where the body and mind are still. What is really interesting is that in this state of nirodha, the body recognizes it as a place of healing.

So bear with me here for a moment... The debate in art is this: What is more important, the process of making art and all that goes into it or the product in its final state? The expression "hand of the artist" sums up a lot of process. It can mean, literally, the physical impressions of a brush stroke style, or other markers that represent a signature style of a poet, writer, painter, boat builder, surfboard maker, sculptor, musician, on and on.... I will argue that it can also mean the process used by the builder that produces the final act of creativity. The readings, research, inspirations, conversations, the repetitive practice, sketching, pulling a melody from the air, the failures, all represent a complex state of creativity. A communicator must take a lot of information from all types of resources, distill it, become familiar with it, push on it like a bruise and develop a personal language to spit it back out. The moment the artwork is complete and ready for the world, it no longer belongs to the creator.

In essence, what happens in this distillation process, like a good scotch, is a voice. When the creator sits back and finds this thread they tap into stillness. This place of stillness is a sense of trust that their hard-won language and vision will be handled with care. The result is a book, a painting, new song. Whatever the output, one could call this a moment of nirodha. Maybe this is the foundation of the creative process. I know that the Yoga-Sutras are not about this process but I find the similarities too close to ignore. We are all creators that are striving to trust in ourselves and our ability to heal and move on. Inherently, we want to communicate our lessons.

I am coming closer to this intuitively through meditation and yoga and it has been a surprising clarification that I want to explore more. A group of my friends have been debating the question of what is more important, the process of making or the product of making for over 25 years. This is an "art koan" that will be debated and has been debated forever.

What does the label "artist" encompass and mean? In our seeking, research, distillation and finally, voice, is it the art we are sharing or the experience of creation? What does it mean to nurture this vulnerable voice in our culture? Once art moves beyond the creator, it becomes universal. Art that moves people finds the golden thread of human expression and sets out to heal others. It no longer belongs to the artist.

I will open the floor to you. What is more important - the final artwork or the process by which it was created?

~b

 

For Reference:

Patanjali's Yoga-Sutra # 2.46-48 states -->

The postures of meditation should embody steadiness and ease.
This occurs as all effort relaxes and coalescence arises, revealing that the body and the infinite universe are indivisible.
Then one is no longer disturbed by the play of opposites.

Samskara: Subliminal activator, imprints left on consciousness by actions and volition

Nirodha: Stilling, cessation, restriction

Art & Ego: Are they diametrically opposed states?

 

image.jpg

In reading "The New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle, I ran across this statement: "If you are content with being nobody in particular, content not to stand out, you align yourself with the power of the universe. What looks like weakness to the ego is in fact the only true strength. This spiritual truth is diametrically opposed to the values of our contemporary culture and the way it conditions people to behave."

Ok. I get it. My head gets it, is maybe a better summation. What is hard is that being an artist and working to "get my artwork out there"; it is an odd place to be in. The idea of surrender is a hard thing to get used to since I like a healthy dose of control. And the idea of marketing oneself is also a direct opposition to surrender. Now I will say, the art will get done not matter what. I am compelled to create it. I am also compelled to share it. That is what it is there for. I spend a lot of time doing it, thinking about it, defining its thesis and sharing the ideations that come from all of those exercises. That is the most amazing thing in our current cultural shift of a sharing online community - the ability to put yourself out there.

Does this run against the concept of an ego-less self?

An ego-less state is this sense of quiet. A knowing. Not a place or intent to make others hear you. Or see you. It is Being. And making art is sharing; a loud or a quiet place of 'See Me'. At what point does its creation turn itself into a place 'being in service'? There is a sense of power to make something and bring it into this world - something that did not exist before you made it. And there you have the ego. And if you create something and you do not share it, it falls to the wayside and you are in direct opposition to the muses that offer you a path to the creative spirit. No one wants to shit on that. Your state of nothingness is a tragedy since we are all meant to be here to create. It is not only music or art, it is full creation of being. 

I have no answers here and since I am writing this blog I am obviously participating in the social community and a ego-centric space of sharing. And it feels great to be noticed, to have my art liked, or hated and most importantly - discussed (right behind being bought). The only thing that I know to fall back on is that I do come from a place of curiosity, authenticity and a pure desire to 'make'. That will not change and as I strive to connect to that inner still state, I can at best, keep the ego in check and understand that it is there but it is not ruling.

So show up and create, fail and create some more...

~b