Do you question randomness? What is destiny?

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The older I get the more I question the validity of a true, pure, innocent, random coincidence.

I question events that happened seemingly out of the blue, but really not, as I look back over my shoulder at life.

In my life, or any life, I often observe a pattern in the information that “randomly” comes to me at the oddest times; messages come in unpredictable spurts surrounded by different colorful contexts but bearing the same core theme, delivering the same basic wisdom that apparently I need to hear. If I listen, wow that is great. I’ll probably be just fine. If I don’t, the message will hit me again with a louder impact in a different context, trying to get my attention….hey! Listen to me! Get a clue!

It is not that I believe our lives are beyond our control and that nothing at all is random; what I do believe is that we are indeed given choices and of course our destiny lies in which path we take. Perhaps the choices we are given are not random. Perhaps the universe sends us just what we need to learn in the form of various choices of a certain category, based upon our purpose here on planet earth. Perhaps even based upon what we learned in a past life and what more needs to be experienced in order to live a more enlightened existence. The purpose would of course be to evolve as a human being; to contribute to the greater good, to be a better person and to leave some wisdom behind when we move on…

People often wonder what their purpose here really is. What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing? Rumi wrote about it repeatedly and our modern writers have made additions to those three big questions….I have a t shirt that adds, “Where are the cookies?” which is of course an important thing to learn about life.

My new novel is about a contemporary woman artist growing up and growing wide, as I like to say, since a good life has both width and depth; she is struggling to learn things about life and art. When a kid has no mentors, no advisors, no guidance and no quality advice as she grows up she has no choice but to go inward, and learn everything the hard way. But oddly enough, going inward and finding things out the hard way, the lonely way, is an excellent foundation for creative development. It stimulates your creative juices; it requires that you ask questions of yourself. In a way it is a twisted gift the universe has given you; a nasty trick that life plays, hoping you will rise to the occasion at some point and conquer the obstacles in your path, taking the high road and pushing through to the other side almost all by yourself. You finally arrive where you always hoped you would be, battered, wounded and worn, but just in the nick of time to enjoy it. Better late than not at all.

In my novel, “A CANARY FLIES THE CANYON” (soon available on Amazon.com) I track this evolution in one young woman. The title is enigmatic, whimsical and of course reveals its origin in the book…so please watch for that. But I am just wondering, have you ever seen a canary flying free in a rugged Colorado canyon, elevation 8500′ and climbing? A small yellow dot in the shadows and the sun, flying her heart out to a higher destination, dodging hawks and other birds of prey, through all kinds of weather? It does seem absurd, does it not?

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The Creativity Muscle Personified

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Best Laid Plans 18×24 mixed media by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, copyright 2015

I believe that creativity is a mind muscle that needs consistent flexing to remain active, aware and functional. People ask me sometimes what can be done for burn-out; the inevitable creative blockage that arrives without warning like an unwanted houseguest who might settle in and stay for days on end. All of a sudden you find that you are stalled in the middle of what was a great creative roll. Or perhaps you have been anticipating a new project for weeks, simmering and planning and building your creative excitement for the day when you must begin work, when you are amazed to find that you experience failure to launch! Fear of success perhaps?

Creativity is a fickle bitch, isn’t she? She comes breezing in, all colorful and witty, commanding your complete attention and getting you all jazzed up with her come-hither looks of sensuality and promise. You cannot resist her; you build your life around her, dropping all practicality and allowing yourself to get caught up in days and nights of her entertaining and stimulating tease. You produce your most inspired work – you paint, you sculpt, you write, you compose music, you cook, you photograph, you build, you design, you weave and you invent and you pull your inspiration from the vast store of fantastic ideas that creativity carries with her in her mysterious bag of tricks. She is your favorite guest. You cater to her; you feed her your best foods and give her her very own space in your home to do with what she likes.

But sometimes she is just a momentary guest, getting you all fired up and sweaty with energy and then she leaves in the dark of night and disappears for long spells of time when she is out of communication and mysteriously gone entirely off your radar. How can you lure her back?

But you see she never really left. She is always there, hovering over or behind you, watching, making comments and sometimes rude remarks about what you are doing and how you spend your time. You must realize, you must know by now that she actually does live right there, just over your shoulder of consciousness. But sometimes she time-travels – she has to – are you kidding – that is what she does best! She cannot be confined to the here and now. The universe is her playground.

She gets cranky when you fall into ruts and don’t exercise her enough. She needs daily activity, she needs sunshine and awareness to be happy. She needs stimulation, conversation, the flow of ideas and the food of thought. She needs far horizons of new places and unknown adventure. She loves humor, she gets off on sex and romance, she needs film and theater and children’s joy and the wisdom of older minds. She wants it all. Feed her often and she will come back – her brief flights of fancy when she does not answer your calls, your texts, your tweets and then your high-pitched screams for help will be less frequent. When she begins to notice that you are a serious, dedicated creator who will not be denied her attention, a person who is filled up with potential that you were given for free at birth, she will truly respect you and she will never be gone for long.

Copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott 2015 – This post is excerpted from my upcoming novel to be published in late summer of 2015

The Artful Grace of Gratitude

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The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.

Friedrich Nietzsche  Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/f/friedrichn100896.html#Xjd7rOQCkWQr6kYC.99

I am reminding us all today what Nietzsche had to say on the subject of art. And I so agree with him. Furthermore, you have all heard the quote, “There but for the grace of God go I.” from John Bradford. John Bradford was a prebendary of St. Paul’s. He was an English Reformer and martyr. Bradford was in the Tower of London for alleged crimes against Mary Tudor for his Protestant faith. Bradford was burned at the stake on 1 July 1555. Life’s adversity finally caught up with him, apparently. But he left us with a quote we all remembered. en.wikipedia.org

My Archives contain a blog I wrote titled “This being human is a guest house…..” That is a great quote by Rumi, used for the title in a post where I discuss the experience of being creative and how that gift might be affected by basic human daily moods, life’s worst traumas and all points in between. For some reason or another this blog is recently receiving a lot of attention. People can relate to it – probably because we know that none of what life offers us ever comes our way without meaning attached and/or an implied message that can be learned from it. Nothing is wasted in the universal plan. Everyone has a story and yet what you do with that story is what defines you and your creative work. Where and how do you place a creative reference to the joys of your life and also the troubles you have seen? Have you learned to put the passion from your life experiences to good work? Will you share? Can you reveal yourself for the sake of creativity? Are you a card-carrying member of the human race, having paid your dues of life out in the muddy trenches, or are you merely a side-line observer?

My recommendation in that blog is to use these swings in spirit – these normal and/or difficult human experiences – these ups and downs. Use them to your advantage, be influenced by them, acquire depth in your creative efforts from them and milk them for all they are worth. The gifts that life’s experiences bring to you are the unexpected dividends that feed your creative soul. The best writers, artists, poets, actors, composers, photographers, inventors don’t live in blissful bubbles. They allow themselves to FEEL. They offer themselves up to the universe as vulnerable human sponges, able to absorb and learn and express. If you are going to be blowing in the wind at the mercy of one day’s terrible misfortunes or another day’s earthly delights, then walk directly through the chaos and let the pain or the pleasure wash over you and allow it to bring depth and understanding to your creativity. Paint right through it, write about it, speak or sing or photograph it. For God’s sake express yourself. If you will just feel things, deeply, truly feel them rather than attempting to deny or escape their weight on your shoulders, your creative work will shine as a result, because people recognize soul when they see it.

People who drink to excess out of denial, use drugs for painkillers and to escape, while becoming experts in dodging life’s greater challenges are forever frozen in the hollow status quo of being pitifully without the degree of character development and depth that is earned by feeling deeply. If you want to experience the passion for life we are all meant to enjoy then do not shrink from adversity. And on the flip side, when you are high on life and all it has to offer, decide what you are going to do with that intensity of joy. Even goodness holds responsibility for expression and thanks……display your healthy soul so others might learn.

A kind of gratitude is born in walking directly into the fire and coming out OK on the other side. Someone told me the other day that I seemed to be quite happy now. This was a person who knows my history – and is aware what I have been through….the before, the walking through it, and the after. My art and my writing have become enlightened and enhanced as a result of all of it – they are the total sum of all my parts, because I figured out how to use adversity to go deep. And I know whereof I speak.

My Passion For Art – Forever Green

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THE WARMING                                            FALL’S DEBRIS

copyright 2014, Jo Ann Brown-Scott – 2 paintings in the Evergreen Center for the Arts Show, opening Friday, May 2, 2014

Here I am, YEARS later, and I have come, out of breath and energized, full circle  – but I am not as dizzy as I thought I would be.

Decades ago (1976) I was living with my family in Evergreen, Colorado, with a Fine Arts degree under my belt and nothing to do with it.  The word in the fine arts dept. of U. of Colorado, Boulder campus was, up to that time, and quite obviously, that historically women were not making  much progress in the art world. Slim to none, as a matter of fact. It was a realm ruled and managed by men and only sparsely sprinkled with women who painted primarily as a hobby and had somehow managed, against all odds (roughly the same as being hit by lightening) to make a name for themselves, purely by accident of course, in a man’s world. I knew that, and I still chose the school because of its art department. I wanted to attend a school where I could learn my passion. I was told to get my teaching degree because I would never be able to sell my art or to gain any kind of recognition as a female artist. I went against that grain of society, including my mother’s strong advice, got my art degree, did not get a degree in teaching, and proceeded to paint just because I loved it. Feeling as if I needed some refresher courses ( two lovely children, living in Evergreen) by 1976, I took some classes from an accomplished local artist named Jane McFadden. Her husband was a foreman on the legendary Mt. Evans Ranch.  (He looked exactly like the Marlboro Man…hard to concentrate – but I digress). Not intending to brag here, just to report what actually happened, I found myself in her class, on the first day, painting away and glad to be there, when Jane walked over and looked at me and said quite seriously for all to hear, “What are you doing in this class?”

Gripped with the fear of being thrown out for lack of talent, I answered sheepishly that I was there to learn….I wanted to paint well…..maybe I am not ready for this class….?

She said, “Jo, you could be teaching this class. I could learn from you. What are your goals with your art?”

II said that my goals were just to paint well.

She said, “If you want to paint well, you are already doing that. Wouldn’t you like to sell your work? If you would, I can  help you market your work…”

Within several weeks I had sold my first painting (except for one I sold in high school) in an Evergreen Summer Art Fair and was on my way to  having a fulfilling, marketable art career. Intermittent but fulfilling. I put my passion for art on hold at several junctures in my life which in retrospect now seems downright stupid. But we live and we learn. At the time I thought I was placing my emphasis on the right things. But overall, in the larger picture, I have had a long-lived art career and have always been able to sell my art. Many thanks to Jane McFadden for igniting the passion and the desire to SELL MY ART. The flame has never gone out. She is my hero – the first of several who took me aside through the years and demanded that I take my art seriously.

This Friday night at the Center for the Arts Evergreen Show  http://www.evergreenarts.org  I am honored to have 2 paintings juried into the show. It is a significant event for me because I moved away from Evergreen in 1986 or so (?) and since that year I have moved about 10 times, all over the damn country, mostly following men I loved who had the “bigger career”. The most recent move being to northern California, where I lived for 3 years before returning to the Denver area last July, 2013. I do believe that I am close enough to Evergreen to call it full circle. Wow – it is so good to be home.

As of today I am changing the focus of this blog site to more specifically reflect what I am personally doing with my art – the first and most long-lasting love of my life. The everlasting passion that has been there for me through thick and thin, through tragedy and joy, around and above all other activities that I love to do. It has outlasted several men, major geographic moves, health issues, deaths, feast, famine, mother nature and temporary flights of fancy. It is the rock solid foundation of who I really am.

I will take you along with me and tell you what I am achieving with my art.

It’s time for me to go insane with it – to throw myself at it and give it my all.

If not now, when?

 

For inquiries about this art, the YEAR LONG CANVAS, and others, contact me through this blog.

My art can also be seen at http://www.artspan.com – go to the category of Mixed Media, click on my name in ARTISTS and it will show you 3 of my images – click on any one of them and it will open my entire website.

You can also visit my art/literary website at http://www.epiphanyfriends.com

 

 

The Divine Madness of Abstract Art

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Have you ever watched a painter of abstract art actually paint? The artistic process is as exacting, as agonizing as is traditional, representational art – in the skin of a totally different animal.

If you walked into a roomful of abstract expressionist artists at work and stayed awhile, feeling the energy, listening to the often audible, agonizing utterance over a disappointing gesture on the canvas, hearing the constructive but critical comments from the instructor about an area so small that for the average viewer it would go unnoticed in the whole, or the occasional gasp from a painter who has been pleasantly (or unpleasantly) surprised over a result on the canvas when the paint did exactly what the paint wanted to do, your eyes and ears would be opened to a process that is divine in its madness and perfect in its imperfection. I believe that successful abstract painting requires from the artist an eccentric vision, curiosity about what ESSENCE really is, faith in the journey of the process and a free, confident spirit willing to invite adventure and improvisation, to name just a few. There are many more. I could go on.

One Christmas my daughter slipped into my stocking the ideal solution to all of the centuries old misunderstanding of abstract art – a peppermint flavored breath spray, small enough to always be available but discreetly hidden in any pocket,  that gives a person instant understanding of Modern Art!! Who knew? The back of the packaging has powerful testimonials from cherished customers who insist that they became instant, educated art critics with just one quick and easy pump of the atomizer.

Of course I was not the one who needed it – but she knew that I would run across many who did need it and so I carry it with me all the time. Yes it gets a lot of laughs, and always a select few who look at me incredulously, eyes searching for clues, wondering if….perhaps….

I wish I could tell you where to find these; they are probably jumping off the shelves.

Know anyone who needs a spritz? Line forming fast to the right….