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

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. 

 

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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.  

 

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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

 

 

 

 

Samvega, or my trip to California to get quiet

 

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From June into July 2014, I went to California to do my art. I got quiet.

Right before I left I opened a favorite author's book, "The Wisdom of Yoga" by Stephen Cope and started to read it. I ran into the Buddhist concept of 'Samvega' and it blew my mind. I put the book down and stopped reading it as it was a pretty decent shock to my system. This all happened by page 15 & I needed to process this metaphorical brick wall. Not the most accomplished reading session but I think that discovery will always be a dog-eared moment for what is to come next for me. I went on to pack and left the book behind but brought the concept with me across the states. I needed some percolation to happen. The day after I got the LA, the woman I rented from (now a great friend) showed me the mediation space of the Lake Shrine where I began to feel like making this trip/pilgrimage was right. This place was right and the extreme discomfort I saw myself in was right. Here is why it was like hitting a wall of realization, discomfort and ultimately a soft sigh (content taken from Stephen Cope's book, "The Wisdom of Yoga": 

The Buddhist monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu describes the state of samvega as: "The oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it's normally lived: a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly: and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle."

The reason I wanted to write about this concept was not only because of the impact that it had on me as I was reading it, but also because I see this happening in our culture, among my friends, situations and people I read about. I think there is an evolution in the human mind happening right now that is part of advancing to another state. I see a growing community affected by the following "symptoms" of samvega:

  • A puzzling failure of previous sources of satisfaction
  • A heightened concern with authenticity
  • A deepening pull toward an intuited interior world
  • A sense of urgency about realizing deeply hidden gifts and talents
  • A global and diffuse sense of internal disorganization - equal parts psychological and spiritual
  • A deeply felt internal imperative to stop business as usual - or to "get quiet"
  • A call to explore a path that might give transcendent meaning to the enigmas of life

The person that left their corporate job to start a micro-brewary because they wanted to create a product of quality and share it with others. The person that wants to make jewelry in a light-filled studio and uphold a sense of authenticity they feel is missing in the mass-market offerings. The person that opens a pop-up store that becomes successful because their customers sense their desire to create a better product, a better brand. These are examples of samvega without having to get into the texts of Patanjali's "Yoga-Sutras". There are a myriad of examples all around us every day that point to this undercurrent of change that is taking place.

Over many nights that I sat in quiet with nature in Topanga, CA, I came to realize that it was time to let go of the control that I thought I had over the future, be okay with the now and viscerally understand the past is where it should be, in the past. I am certain this is a lesson I will grapple with forever but there was a sense of calm, of peace, that came with it. In the end, there is an excitement that comes from this place, in addition to solace, that everything will be okay. With these moments of stillness we find a type of faith - when things do strike us, and they will, we will be better equipped to handle them. In this quiet space, we get to connect to our authentic selves and it opens that thread of faith so that we can follow our own true path.

Samvega opens our intuition up for self-directed reorganization that allows us to become better participants of this life. It is a step in pointing us in the direction of authenticity and hopefully less madness.

~b

The book --> "The Wisdom of Yoga, A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living" by Stephen Cope

In Pacific Palisades, west Los Angeles area, The Lake Shrine Temple is a beautiful place to sit still, no matter your belief system

 

Detachment & Surrender are Not Dirty Words, Anymore

 

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I was in the car driving through the beautiful Ojai, California area with a friend recently and I was explaining what happened a long time ago when I got laid off from a very well paying job. I often spent 17 hour days working through crazy deadlines as part of defining what websites should be, their interactions and what a company's presence was online. And when I lost that job simply because the client I was assigned to stopped their work on their website due to economic times, I lost my identity. My friend used the word detached to describe my reactions to this whole moment and it caught in my throat. I never thought of it that way.  I did detach. Bigtime. Severely. In ways that still affect my ability to work for others. If you identify with your job as your usefulness, your contribution, and that is stripped away, who are you? 

As we drove through the mountains, I told her that at the time I really had to reevaluate my place in the world as I identified myself with my work. I came up short and I have been chasing that idea of wholeness ever since. That event brought me to my knees and looking back on that lesson I have realized it was the beginning of learning to surrender. Though, until recently, surrender is not a word that I have even worked into my vocabulary. 

I never really climbed back aboard that "work til you drop / take one for the team" train too often since. I work more efficiently and I define my output as part of the quality that I want to own. I redefined my sense of self and I moved it to the work that I produce and not the job that I am in. Now that I am updating and shifting the balance in my life to creating more art and really trying to find the "whole", I am finding that detachment and surrender aren't such dirty words to me anymore. 

In those months after losing that job I quickly got another job. It was one of prestige in my industry and on paper, a beautiful experience. But I have been looking beyond ever since. I guess looking for some shiny object that does not exist. In Buddhism, the idea of desire and its cause of so much suffering is front and center. Sometimes you just have to run into a brick wall to snap you out of continuous cycles. Buddhists call it samsara, Catholics call it purgatory, but no matter what religion, it is the same. I am slowly eroding this ever present desire for more. A desire to have something else. A need to fulfill a perceived brokenness. A way to fill a hole that never seems to fill. And through this erosion, I am finding a sense of detachment. Not a cold or inhuman place, but an opening into being able to receive more input. It becomes like reeds in the wind on the marsh - you ride it and the effect of the winds are less destructive.

This place of detachment is like a deep breath of acceptance because at the end of the day, it is our reaction to the craziness of life that defines us, not what happens to us. I may even offer the word surrender...

~b