21 October 2012

How Hands and Feet Made Me Forget

Last spring I took an online painting class BIG with Connie Hozvicka of Dirty Footprints Studio. To say it was transformative is not an overstatement. During those six weeks, I nurtured my intuitive creativity, learned to release my inner critic, healed some hidden wounds, and discovered a deep love of fearless painting.

When the class finished, I vowed to keep painting and stay connected with that sense of open joy. I thought of creating a painting that reflected how it feels to be open to the world, to trust in my intuition, and to be fearlessly creative. A vision flashed in my mind of a woman sitting cross legged in the midst of flaming lotus leaves. When I got home that night, I taped together four pieces of paper to make a large surface (48" x 72") and sketched out my image. I quickly blocked in the colors. I was thrilled that the painting so reflected the vision I had imagined.

I knew how I wanted to continue. I wanted to add detail to the leaves, add depth to the colors, and outline everything with black for contrast.

But I hit a wall and stopped. Something scared me. Painting on my own was different from painting with a group of supportive sisters. And so the painting sat in its unfinished state for the entire summer. And although I created lots of great things during that time, I never really painted again.

Just last week I received notice that Connie would be offering the second online painting class, DEEP, for the last time as live group class. Even though life is busy, I knew that I didn't want to miss the chance to paint fearlessly with a fabulous group of sisters again. So I signed up.

Today was the first day of class. I nestled in the recliner with my laptop and watched Connie's welcome video. Within minutes I was crying tears of loss. I hadn't realized how much I lost when I stopped painting. I had started playing it safe, avoiding creative risks, and hiding from myself and the world. I lost that deepest connection with my creative self.

And so having finished the video and dried my tears, I went into my studio. I had an assignment in hand, but I also had permission to follow my intuition and paint what I felt--assignment be damned. I began taping two pieces of paper together with the intention of taking down my unfinished painting and beginning something new.

But that didn't feel right. My unfinished painting reflected exactly those feelings I was hoping to rediscover through the class. So I decided to start painting on it and see where it led. I turned on my favorite Pandora station, loaded up my palette with an array of gorgeous colors, and dipped my brush into beautiful gooey paint

Within minutes I lost myself in the paint, which really means I found myself again. 

Time passed without my awareness as I danced in front of my painting. When I found myself holding a brush in my right hand, another brush and palette in my left hand, and a third brush in my mouth, I felt so good I wondered why I ever stopped.

As I finished painting the leaves and the background, I was faced with painting the body and face. I then realized why I had stopped painting--it was those darned hands and feet. Back in the spring, I was so nervous about painting hands and feet that I stopped painting altogether.

But today I had a different way of thinking. This painting was not about hands and feet. It was about the feeling of creative joy I get from fearless painting. I didn't really care what the hands and feet looked like. What I did care about was how returning to painting was like returning to myself. I wasn't going to let some silly appendages keep me from that.

So I loaded my brush with black paint and drew some outlines of hands and feet. That felt like blessed freedom. Look! Feet and hands! Are they perfect? Not even close. But that's not important to me. What is important is that they are. They exist as hands and feet.

I finished the painting soon after that. I don't think I can adequately describe how I feel. It's like a mix of relief, release, joy, and hope. Those missing hands and feet had weighed so heavily on me. But now they are.

And more importantly, now I am.

05 October 2012

A Painter's Eyes and an Artist's Heart

I am discovering that I have the eyes of a painter. What do I mean? I am starting to see the world in a new way--in terms of colors and forms and lines and compositions, rather than constantly making the mental translation from form to object. When I look at the changing orange leaves on a maple branch, I see terra cotta and pumpkin specks over a deep espresso crooked line--rather than orange leaves on a brown trunk. In other words, I am beginning to see with my eye, rather than my mind.

I first noticed something different in my seeing this summer, while whizzing past highway hills covered in wildflowers. The patches of varied greens interspersed with soft lavenders, deeper eggplants, shocking yellows, and subtle pinks made me want to stop the car on the spot and immediately learn how to paint landscapes in oils. Since then, I have been practicing mindful seeing as I drive, which leads me to stop driving at times and try to capture what I am seeing. (All of the photos in this entry were taken with my iPhone and filtered through Instagram.)

I am also discovering that I have the heart of an artist. I deeply feel the things I see. I can be overcome by a glimpse of subtle beauty, such as a single yellow leaf clinging to the tip of a branch silhouetted against the grey stormy sky.

I remember driving to work one morning in early September. I rounded a bend and was deeply affected by the view. The golden, slanting light filtered through the foliage and dappled the mature greens of late summer. It was breathtakingly sublime and my breath caught as my heart filled with deep joy and gratitude of the beauty of our world.

It's a wonderful gift--this transition I am experiencing in my eye and my heart. And one that I want to honor. I'm going to begin studying photography, so that I can capture more readily these singular moments that steal my breath away. And come spring, I'm going to begin learning to paint landscapes. I'm ready and excited for the challenges ahead as I stretch myself to capture in paint and pixels that which I see and feel.