Monday, March 28, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Don't Worry. Be Happy.

One of the tasks last week (following Julia Cameron’s Walking in this World) was to list 50 things that make us angry. I didn’t even make it out of the top ten when I became angry. I have been struggling for the past several years to get over anger, grief and other slights and grievances. I have always been a champion of holding grudges. I can declare a person as ‘dead to me’ if they have crossed me in even a slight way. I come by it naturally—it’s in my DNA. I saw how dwelling on anxiety, anger, unforgiveness and misunderstanding could gnaw away at one’s well-being. I don’t need or want that kind of stress anymore.

I wrote down 50 things. It just didn’t feel right. I was stirring the pot—poke, poke, poke. Some of the issues have been resolved, amends made, moved on. I want to stride forward into health and healing. I tore the pages out of my journal and burned them. I’m not sure that was the point of the exercise, but it worked for me.

I don't want to paint my pain as was once suggested. Nor do I want to write what I fear. Is that denial? What I do know is that expressing gratitude, hope and faith are the powers that fuel my art and creativity. Believing images of victory. Prayer. These are the things I want to come from my heart and onto the canvas.

Another painting representing my Family, titled Faithful.

Stand before Doom

Music has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have moved,
and, as with living souls, have been informed,
by magic numbers and persuasive sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
than trees, or flint? O force of constant woe!
'Tis not in harmony to calm my griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at peace; last night
the silent tomb received the good old king;
he and his sorrows now are safely lodged
within its cold, but hospitable bosom.
Why am not I at Peace?
~William Congreve, from The Mourning Bride~

Art is therapeutic. Music does sooth a savage breast, beast or stressed mind on overdrive. Often, I plug into the iPod and am immersed in an atmosphere of rhythm, poetry, energy and creativity. And when I sing along, I sound damn good. Just kidding. But it feels great! Music lifts me up and takes me to place of peace. I am in harmony with the world. I can imagine and create again.

Several years ago, in the midst of a deep depression and anguish, Kevin and I went to a show to hear a band called Grey. Our son, Ty, was the drummer. Other members were Suzanne, AJ and a new member—women with long dreadlocks, tattoos, piercings and visceral energy. They were intimidating as a group, yet very modest, gentle and uniquely creative.

We entered the dark venue feeling like virgins at a weekend sacrifice. Ty scooped us up and escorted us backstage where we visited with the girls and another band, Om. I admire them. They dare to be different, to be themselves, to make their music and art exactly in their own way.

When it was time for Grey to play, one of their friends grabbed me by the hand and took me to the front of the stage. “She’s the mother of the drummer!” she declared. Respectfully, the crowd made a spot for me directly in front of the meat locker sized speaker. Dark, ominous, scowling young men and women smiled and greeted me, welcoming me into the pit. Closer, come closer they beckoned.
So I did.

Ty begins. Then, the bass guitar followed suit. A gust of air shot from the speaker, taking my breath away. The tempo increased slowly, steady, relentlessly. Ty played two bass drums and pounded the sh*t out of them and the rest of his kit. I could feel the concussion in my breast bone. The sound rocked me back a step. Instead of retreat, I leaned into the music. It made me dizzy. It made me feel alive at a time when I was lost.  The doom metal took my anger and grief and made it something tangible. Something I could stand up to. It gave me its power. The lead singer opened her mouth and growled—ancient, primal screams that took me into raw emotion. As my eyes flooded with tears, I slipped away from the heavy metal mass. I was exhausted. And in some magical way, I was healed. Not completely cured, but inspired, softened, soothed.

I began to paint again. Listening to Grey, Om, Janis Joplin, Josh Groban, Pink, Annie Lennox, Cake, Death Cab for Cutie...
You could say my taste in music is eclectic. And it is therapeutic.

This is the painting that emerged. It’s titled “Precarious Position”.
It’s a story about my Family.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

We're walking and we're walking.

Last week in our journey with Julia Cameron’s “Walking in this World” we considered our identity—discovering a sense of proportion. I have always been an artist, but sometimes I don’t get the positive feedback or encouragement I require to stick to it, to stay on the path. I figured out that I am a Dreamer. Now what do I do with that information?
Hmmm. I’m a pretty good story teller. Let’s give that a try. 
I keep a journal of all my adventures with my fabulous Appaloosa, Chance. I tell stories of our trail rides, medical issues, games we play and the funny things ChanciePoo does. I rode with a group of woman that I called The Yee-Haw Sisters. We had riding adventures, dinners and homemade concoctions and beverages. Tears and fears were shared and so was a ton of fun. Good friends in support of each other.  The Yee-Haws were the main beneficiaries of the stories.
I would send out an eMail and they would all reply: “Jeannie! What a great story. You should write!” 
And I would think that was a good idea. And then I wouldn’t do anything.
Then, I thought about illustrating children’s picture books. As I thought about the illustrations, the picture book became more of a storybook. All these wonderful tales and stories would just pop out of my brain and onto the page.
Hmmm. This is fun. Maybe I should write.
I wrote a letter to the editor of Montana Quarterly magazine. My sister, Ellie in Missoula heard about it from a friend in Colorado. He had read the letter and commented on how much he liked my style. I don’t think he realized we are sisters, but figured it out through some of the details I had included. 
Hmmm. Writing, heh?
On a more serious note, I wrote to our state legislature about the economy and the state’s budget. No need to go into detail of the angst swirling around with the economy. We’re all feeling it. But this was a more personal letter. Our legislator wrote back. Basically, she liked my ideas and would see about crafting a bill according to the thoughts I had written. 
Hmmm. I guess I can express myself through the written word. Maybe I should write. 
Recently, I posted a photo on a community newsletter site. I wrote a small paragraph to go along with it. Basically, I wrote about an unlikely sign that was posted at the State Park. 
“Tsunami Warning—Stay off the Beach”
Who would’ve thought that we would ever need such a sign in our little corner of the Pacific Northwest? The publisher of the newsletter thanked me and asked me to contribute anytime, as much as I wanted. 
Hmmm. Writing? Maybe I should! 
I always preach about listening to one’s heart, to the small still voice. Why haven’t I been listening? I enjoy writing! I love telling stories! Do I have to get swept up in a tsunami to pay attention? Apparently I do.
But, I am writing now.
I’m writing this blog. I am writing a story. I am writing articles, emails, newsletters, letters to the editor and even sending handwritten letters to family and friends. I am writing Morning Pages, noon pages and evening pages. Easy as pie. And I'm comfortable, confident and energized.
Hmmm... what took me so long?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

May I please see my I.D.?

Identify your Identity - week 2 of Walking in this World by Julia Cameron
The first fill-in-the-blank—
“When I was a child I dreamed of growing up to be_________________”
—had me stumped.
I wanted to be a cowgirl, a princess, a horse, Snow White or just be friends with all the animals in the woods. I filled in the blank and thought, “what does that have to do with being an artist?”
Frustrated over even one small task, I went to that dark place of self-doubt. Am I an artist—a painter—because I’m too lazy to follow through with a good education to become a doctor or scientist or therapist? 
I have responsibilities; a husband, children, a home. How does a ‘starving artist’ contribute financially to a family?  Am I patient enough? What will it take to convince myself that I am an artist? Do I dare?
In the process of Life over several years, I was slowly disappearing. I was Alice, getting smaller and smaller. Lately, I have been asking the question, “who am I?”  I want somebody to tell me, but I probably wouldn’t listen. 
As suggested in the book, I took a long walk. I thought about the things that make me happy—that make my heart sing.
books     movies     The Raven
letterpress printing       typography
paper     pencil     charcoal
color/textures/patterns (all the senses)
intuition         Faith
the way a baby smells
stories     whoppers     pretend       make-believe
animals and nature (birds, feathers, shells)
science     biology     medicine
angels (having them)       demons (rebuking them)
dogs          winged horses
grunge     rock and roll     classical music        the blues
the way things feel in my hands
comfort food         Chocolate (capital ‘C’)
imagination       dreams       logic
science fiction     The Illustrated Man  
bones       skeletons       forensic sciences
          Flower Power          peace signs       hippies
eagles       grizzly bears       howling at the moon
This process that I am following (for a week and a half so far) is painful. Feelings are beginning to stir. Some of them are starting to surface, startling me into the realization:
I didn’t dream of of growing up to be an Artist. But I have always been a Dreamer. I was born from an alternate universe. I see things in patterns and textures through the colors of rose-colored lenses.
So yesterday, I blurted out to my artist friend, “I am a dreamer!” And immediately I felt foolish.  I don’t have enough energy to be manic/depressive (only moderately active/very sad). I think I’m going crazy.  (My good friend is an artist so she gets me. What a relief.)
Today, on a walk to the beach, I asked for some help and guidance as I rallied against the gusting wind. The wind practically blew my earrings off. Rusty’s long collie fur coat was plastered to his lean body. We became separated and he couldn’t hear me call. The wind took my voice in the opposite direction. So I trudged to a place downwind and called again. He heard me this time. Together as we leaned into the wind, we caught sight of a bald eagle, sitting on the edge of the beach just a few yards away. The eagle flew up above us and stayed there as we walked back to the Jeep. 
I took it as a sign. I am a Dreamer. But even though my head may be in the clouds, my feet are planted on the ground. I’m not crazy—just going through A Change. There’s a small still voice that I can hear if I am in the right place. I can balk or rage against the the process. Or I can unfurl my wings and soar.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Can I really pull this off?

OK. That does it. I just spent well over 10 minutes posting 21 words (including title and label) on my blog, Front by the Window. I was worried about getting it just so. Perfect. And, it isn’t even the writing project I have been working on all week!  sheesh.
My purpose for starting Front by the Window was to write and post clever little ditties about my life. Charming stories about my childhood and my family. I planned on being funny, whimsical, clever and completely original. I would write astounding paragraphs of such compelling creativity and wit—the likes of which had never been seen before—that some literary agent would swoop down, read the posts and contact me immediately for swift and sure publication.
I wrote ONE entry on February 24th. Then, I struggled with what to write next. Creative Block set in with a vengeance. Then Perfectionism raised her evil head.  The writing wasn’t funny nor was it clever. Plain. Blah. Ordinary. I wrote, rewrote, erased and quit.
Then, I posted another entry. Today’s little gem of 16 words. 
I have joined with other creatives in following Julia Cameron’s guide, Walking in this World.  This first week of the project deals with the chapter called “Discovering a Sense of Origin”.  Julia seems to be talking directly to me and bringing up some painful issues. And reminding me of things I already know.
“Just do it”
Overthinking is the enemy of creativity. Been there. Do that all the time. 
She reminded me that when I dive into a painting that has been in my heart for a while, when I paint for me, that the artwork and I have a conversation. It tells me where to go next. These are my most successful pieces. I love them and so do others who view them. The gravy? They also buy them! 
Focus and Finality
I have been so concerned with the final, perfect product that I forget the process. I focus on the big picture instead of the first steps. I procrastinate because I don’t want to fail. Embarrassing. I end up being humiliated because I didn’t even try. Instead of trying to dramatically push the course of the river, I need to sit by the river and gain inspiration and peace. The artwork is there (I have all the materials and supplies, for crying out loud). It is waiting for me to begin. 
Commit to our Dreams.
I need to express myself, whether through the written word, drawing, illustrations, paintings or even blinging up my horse’s tack. It’s who I am. Always has been. I must “give voice to my true nature” and sing. Ms.Cameron says that this is contagious. That creative energy is energy. Reading those words in her book and even sharing them on this page are invigorating. I am writing!
The next task for this week is “Do Nothing.”  It’s a bit more complex than the nothing I felt like earlier today. I wanted to do not-one-thing and to be left alone in my own personal depression. Boo-hoo. Couldn’t do it. Instead, I dove into the Morning Pages (part of our assignment) and got a few things off my chest. Then, I re-read this week’s chapter. Now, I am going to post this on my blog. Baby steps. And not my artist’s website, either. On my writing blog: Front by the Window. 
If you happen to read this and have something to say, please post a comment. We are in this together. I am trying to look at change as a gift and to be patient. A lesson I learned in my artwork is to take the time to put each mark of the pencil or brush in the right place.  And, that gesso covers a multitude of sins.
Just start again.

who? what? where?


Could you please tell me my name and a little bit about myself ?

Thank you.