// >//]]>
...feed your soul with art & creativity!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Surrender to the Process

This morning I had planned to go to a craft market to sell my artworks.  But my ignition failed on my car and I'm going nowhere.  When I returned to the house to have a cup of coffee and figure out what the day would turn out to look like instead, I realized that it's not in my control and the best thing I can do is surrender to the process and be open to the opportunities that the day holds.

Abstract painting, "Progression".  (c) 2011 SZing. All rights reserved.

This is not unlike the process of doing artwork or painting.  It also applies to most businesses.  And it certainly applies to our spiritual living.  We do not have the entire blueprint.  We are only given what I refer to as "marching orders" and have the tiny corner of the overall plan.  We can use our free-will to determine how best to carry out our marching orders, but fighting the marching orders only prolongs the pain.

I could have come inside and been so upset that my day's plan was messed up and allowed that to cause my entire day to be blown apart.  I could have fretted and fussed and tried to "make" it work out--although in this instance, short of hiring a taxi, there really isn't much I could do today to get things working out how I wanted and expected them to be.

Abstract Painting, "Conflict of Interest", (c) 2010, SZing.
All rights reserved.
One of the reasons I love the Painting Experience that I attended this past weekend is that I have learned to (mostly) surrender to the process.  I will admit it is only through some rather painful and wrenching resistance in the past that I learned this hard-won lesson.  What I found by surrendering to the process is that it "shushes" the inner critic and the inner control freak because I listen, acknowledge their contributions and they go away.  In the act of surrendering, I am able to hear and see clearly what the next step in the process needs to be--whether that is a change of paintbrush, loading the brush with a new paint color--like maroon or red instead of green--or if the next step is an image or idea of some particular item that comes into consciousness and must be added to the whole.  In one case, this was a goat.  It hung out in the back of my brain the entire time I was painting and was the last thing I put into the painting, but I honored it and gave it its place.  Had I refused to do so, not only would my painting have been incomplete and felt incomplete, there is a very good chance that I would have become stuck or frustrated and perhaps done something drastic like paint over the painting in order to avoid the issue of the goat. 

In recent months, I have begun to call surrender "the great cleanser."

Abstract Painting, "Monsoon Season." (c) 2010, SZing.
All rights reserved.
In the past, the word “surrender” held negative connotations of ideas of suffering, limitation, lack, or loss. It meant giving up something valuable and implied there would be pain of some sort. Over the years, I developed a new way of looking at and allowing surrender.  I see surrender as the restoration of my spirit to its divine and original state—a cleansing of sorts from the day-to-day will power that the human “I” tries to exert upon my world.  There is joy in the release from the pressure of having to “make” things happen.  Surrender moves beyond my human self/will to allow the power and presence of the Source to flow and guide my thoughts and actions.  In some respects, this fits the traditional definitions of surrender in that I “deliver my fugitive self into the Law.” 

Abstract Painting, "We Are Everywhere", (c) 2010, SZing.
All rights reserved.
To surrender is to relinquish monkey mind busy-ness, planning and thoughts of “how things should be”, allowing things to be as they are.  Surrender is the release of Spirit that brings freedom, confidence, peace, abundance, health, faith and more of life.  To surrender is critical to faith and manifestation.  All situations, events, activities, thoughts and processes have a natural path. Rather than forcing a path, Surrender allows the existing path to be revealed.  Surrender opens a door to possibilities, imagination and exploration. 

In surrendering to the process, my artwork continues to grow and ends up better than it would have had I fought my intuitive guidance and inner knowing.  I trust my art...and conversely, my art trusts me.

(c) SZing, 2013. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spontaneous Expression

I just returned from a 3 day retreat--also known as The Painting Experience held in Orlando, FL.  Perhaps I have mentioned it in the past.  This is not your ordinary painting retreat.  We learned no specific technique for painting.  We did not have any pre-determined subject matter.  We were not producing for quantity, nor especially for quality.

So...one might ask...what was the point then?


(c) SZing 2004, My first "Painting Experience" retreat painting
entitled The Creation
As in life itself, each person's experience is absolutely unique, so I cannot and will not say that the insights or thoughts I had, nor the outcomes or "aha" moments will be the same for another person.  I cannot say whether the experience is mundane or spiritual, whether it is fun or frustrating, whether it is freeing or captivating for others.  I can only know for myself the highly personal and powerful experiences I have had with The Painting Experience.

I first "met" Stewart Cubley when I stumbled upon his book.

I had been drawing and craving some form of creative outlet besides creative writing and embroidery for a long while.  I bought some inexpensive paper, some paints and brushes.  I worked through the book for an entire year on the same painting.  I used the book as guidance when I would get stuck in my own head, my own fear...and the "unknowns."

The Painting Experience was developed by Stewart Cubley and Michelle Cassou many years ago.  They wrote Life, Paint and Passion.  Just look at this luscious, juicy cover...someones process art some time in the past....
Book cover copyrighted by authors/publishers

Just look at the sub-title:  Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression!  Wow!  As a creative person, (and aren't we all?  Even if we have divorced ourselves from that creative spark within?), I absolutely get excited at the idea of spontaneous expression.  What this implies is freedom to create.  It implies no boundaries.  It implies no planning or strict forms.  It implies....well, there are many ideas this implies but I invite you to explore for yourself what this might imply.

In 2004, I first attended a week-long retreat of The Painting Experience in North Carolina.  It was astounding to me when in the first meeting, Stewart said, "When you finish each painting, you're going to sign, number and date it."  WHAT????  I had taken a year to do just a single painting.  What could he be talking about?  As it turns out, throughout the week I completed multiple paintings.

(c) SZing 2004, "Day of the Dead" from my first
Painting Experience retreat

Then I retook a 3 day retreat in Maryland in 2008.  I only worked on one painting and didn't even complete it as the details and involvement I had with the painting became quite intense and excited me to work on the details.  It was cathartic for me.

And now I have just completed another 3 day retreat in Orlando, Florida.  I completed one painting and began another.  Others in the retreat completed many--and I think one woman must have done at least 25 paintings in her experience over the three days.  I really wasn't paying that close attention except that every time I looked up she was changing her paper.  Me?  I was so engrossed in the "story" and experience and the dialogue I was having with my painting that I was totally engaged right up until the last 2 hours of the retreat when I finished the painting and began the second.

My painting as it appeared about half way
 through the process 2013, Orlando FL.  (c) SZing 2013

I suppose I must correct a statement I made above:  "We learned no specific technique..."  Well, we didn't necessarily learn, but rather, re-awakened or remembered how to listen to our inner voice--that inner critic even.  I'm not talking about psychotic episodes here but that voice we all have that speaks to us almost non-stop about everything we see, hear, experience...This was more about opening a dialogue with that voice so that it could be heard, sometimes shushed (the critic) and allowed to guide.  It is the doorway to mystery and living juicy.

I have discovered over the years that for me a painting does not feel finished until I have listened to my inner voice, acknowledged it's feedback and honored it's requests for specific items or colors to be used in the painting.  I know the painting is complete when I get no more "marching orders" for what to include or do next, no new thought of a specific detail or color to add.  When I can look at the painting and ask, "What else do you want?" and not get any further promptings...I know I am done. When I have  tried to "act as if" I was done but really just didn't want to include something or was afraid I would mess up what I'd done, I have had the nagging feeling that the painting isn't complete or finished and usually I end up having to put the paper back up and add whatever I get a hit on to include.  I'm learning not to hurry the process and to trust the silence and the voice which ultimately, is my Self.

(c) SZing, 2006, "Hanging the Moon"
I don't know what other participants experience.  We don't really talk a lot about it--partly because it is so personal but also because one of the primary rules of the retreats is that it is a "comment-free" zone.  No judgments!! There is no speaking while we are painting and we may look at other's work but must refrain from talking about it either in the positive or the negative or giving any thoughts or suggestions or any feedback whatsoever about the pieces.  This is more difficult than you might think, because often I have seen work that I was very intrigued by, liked or was even in awe of.  There have been other works that I have thought perhaps the person was hiding from themselves by covering over things they had painted, or finished up really quickly without really honoring the painting itself...but none of my personal thoughts or judgments were given voice and even sometimes had to be dealt with internally as it was none of my business what others were doing or experiencing. Sometimes I like to not look at others work so that I can continue to be authentic to my Self and not borrow ideas.

 Curious?  Check out this video about the process....

I truly do not feel qualified to explain the process for another person and would never want to misinform another as to what The Painting Experience is or does or what the benefits are.  I would highly encourage anyone intrigued with the idea of spontaneous expression or intuitive creation using paint and paper as tools to take the risk and join a retreat.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Combining Ideas

Sometimes the best thing we can do for our artwork is to combine ideas and mixing mediums together we have never used before.  This can result in amazing new techniques and outcomes.  A core concept of creativity is the combining of unrelated ideas.
butterfly hat
Here are some favorite medium mixes of mine.
1.  Combine tissue paper with acrylic paint.
2.  Combine ceramic paint with glass.
3.  Combine found objects with glass.
4.  Combine wood and paint.
5.  Combine paint and metal.
6.  Combine sand with paint.
7.  Combine textiles and text.
8.  Combine digital art with wax.
9.  Combine tinfoil with glass fusing.
10. Combine ink and photographs.
apple orange
Here is a quick and easy, fun and intriguing way to combine unrelated ideas as subject matter for your art or writing project:
Create a list of items you like now or liked at an earlier time in your life—here is a random list of items I like:  butterflies, bicycles, gardens, swimming pools, seashells, clouds, bluebirds, cats, party hats, fancy dresses, high heeled shoes, books….
Now I could take two or more of those items and create a piece of art that combines them.  For example:  A cat with butterfly wings riding a bicycle; or A bluebird in a party hat and fancy dress lying on a cloud.
musical bird
Here is a great link for some more thoughts about combining ideas and creativity.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What’s Your Name Anyway?

It can become very routine to get in a routine.  Sometimes this is also called “A Rut.”
Which is not good to get into.  Unless you’re an elk or a deer, but that’s a whole other discussion.
no name
Consider what can happen simply by changing the name of something.  If it is your art, you could change from “bad” to “good.”  You could change your genre of art from Abstract to Cosmic Expressionism.  You could change the title of a work from “Ode to the Woods” to “Wood, Where You Be?”  See how making a simple name change can, in fact, alter one’s perspective and perception of something?
john doe
Not to get all Biblical and stuff but there was a time early on when Mankind was given permission to name all things living.  Imagine what the implications would or could be if Great Ape was now Hairy Beastie Who Beats His Chest and Has Banana Breath.  Or if Kangaroo was now Bouncy Ball of Fur with a Pocket.  Maybe Fish could be named Scaly Slippery Side Faced Water Wigglers.  Okay.  You get the picture.  On one hand, I think it is important not to get too hung up on a name.  There is an argument for it all being “semantics.”
name badge
It has long been a tradition that a person’s name is one of the most important “possessions” they can have.  Whether that be through dint of reputation or the more superstitious belief that it was important to keep your real name a secret lest someone take your power away.
I believe that Words do have power and we must be aware of and carefully consider what we name our creative works and the names we give ourselves as well. 
For many creative people, calling oneself an Artist or a Writer seems to be fraught with all sorts of “deservingness” issues.  If you are creating art, writing, or making music, please, please consider calling yourself an Artist, a Writer or a Musician.  Let yourself be what you are.
precise name
Keep in mind that should you decide you do not like a label that has been attached to you, you can choose a new name.  Today, I am Woman Who Juggles Many Tasks and Risks Falling On Face.  Tomorrow I may be Little Miss All About Recycled Upcycling Trash User Girl. Next week maybe I will be Jelly.  I get to choose.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Which Way Should I Go?

One of the hardest parts about being an artist can sometimes be the need to make decisions.  It can be as simple as “what type of paper to use” or “what size paper to use” to decisions about taking classes and where to submit artwork for shows.
yes no maybe dice later now never dice
To make a decision means to cut off—as in cutting off other options or choices.  In a world where we are inundated with possibilities, the ability to make a decision can become extremely overwhelming. 
which way should I go
Not all decisions are life-changing or will be significantly noticeable in our day to day activities.  In order to overcome procrastination, and to be productive, the ability to choose is critical.  One of the easier ways to make a decision, especially if the question can be posed as a yes/no answer is to toss a coin. 
easy decision making