Your Life’s Collage

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Mixed Media Collage by Jo Ann Brown-Scott

I have always enjoyed mixing it up. I find it nearly impossible to swallow things whole without tweaking some little aspect here or there to achieve a unique recipe that appeals to my own particular sense of intellectual or aesthetic “rightness”. And we are not talking about food here folks.

I am hardly 100% anything.

My religion, if you can call it that, is a spiritual soup of many doctrines and beliefs. I am not strongly spouting off any hard and fast doctrines – there are aspects of Christianity, Buddhism, the Jewish faith and several others that when combined into one whole all work together quite nicely for me. I am a child of the universe. I believe the earth is alive – our hostess – breathing and in need of constant nurturing. We serve at the pleasure of the planet. And we are so disrespectful.

My art (my life-long passion) and the art of living my life are a collage of experiences which I stitch together as I go, adding new pieces of knowledge to the whole. Whenever a new snippet is added to the fabric I am weaving, everything that has gone before is slightly moved and adjusted and changed by the arrival of new information. Edges of things, sometimes cut and sometimes torn,  are overlapped and meticulously arranged; texture here – color there – lines naturally formed with paths of information and achievement and failure and loss and joy and wonder and discovery take my attention forward to the next thing. Texture, pattern and color are my  life’s manifestation of events – whether those events be happy, sad or somewhere in between. I see my experiences  in those artistic tactile dimensions.

Every single thing is of value to me. I do not miss much. I notice, I am aware. And I am often, daily and hourly and even minute by minute – AMAZED. Life is an ever-evolving tapestry – a blanket of layers – a textile of humankind. I am but one, but I am mighty.

Your life is the same. We all question things. Most of us  live in the space between the extremes of knowing absolutely and not knowing. I truly doubt that you are 100% anything at all, unless it is human. But there is great value in simply that.

Here is a quote from me, found at the PREFACE in my new novel A CANARY FLIES THE CANYON, available on Amazon and Kindle.  http://www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

 

Mankind is on an eternal march;

a trail of humanity driven by instinct

and perhaps divine inspiration.

Although we are at time directionless,

straying randomly from the path

an internal compass guides our way

and we are actually at one with the stars,

purposely aligned and aware

of our place in the universe.

book

 

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The Buddha Tooth Relic Museum and Temple in Singapore’s Chinatown

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http://www.btrts.org.sg/english-home

photos taken in May, 2015 on my second trip to Singapore, copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott

It matters to me not what your personal religious beliefs and proclivities might me – there are places on earth made for the enjoyment of all people anywhere and any time. If you are unable to gain even some small satisfaction or comfort and appreciation from them, then read no further. But if you keep and open mind and heart, then read about this place that warms my soul.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Museum and Temple holds a special place in my heart, for reasons I may never fully understand. My second visit there happened this month and was more moving than the first.  Part of the reason is that I am a person who values deep connections with people, places and things. Familiarity is of great value to me; I build upon my visual memories, smells and tactile experiences by getting to know things better and better.

When a great Buddha dies he is cremated, leaving bone and teeth remnants (and perhaps other remains) that are considered sacred and holy. But even during his lifetime, fragments of hair, for instance, are bestowed upon people who deserve to have that remembrance of a great Buddha with the possibility that it could make a difference when needed the most. Thus there are various temples around the world which house Buddha fragments of some type or another. This relatively humble 4 story temple in Singapore’s Chinatown houses a tooth fragment, displayed in a two meter tall, solid gold stupa which is a draw for many people. The temple is always crowded with visitors and there always seems to be some fascinating ceremony or mass reading going on which adds to its energy and colorful nature. Monks in saffron robes chant, incense burns and offerings of only the most fresh and perfectly beautiful fruit line the alter.

The roof garden pagoda on the top level affords a near silent respite from the action below – and you enter its enclosed peacefulness through a door that shelters a giant red prayer wheel, one of the most beautiful I have seen, and immediately you are invited to spin it as you walk around it murmuring your most fervent hopes, thanks and wishes to the universe. A red columned hallway surrounds the inside garden where gurgling water is the only sound, flowing amid lush, multi-colored foliage and flowers. This is a place of privacy and hope. A place to bring friends who you care the most about.

Buddhism, as you probably know, is not a true religion but a way of life that, among other things, places value on every living thing no matter how humble or even how grand. No matter what you believe personally, if you can embrace just that one thought, you must be on the right path. Wars could be a thing of the past….if only….we all believed that one thing.

Cambodia’s Angkor Wat…the moat, the mist and the mystery

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Today I am drunk from travel; jet lagged with brain fogginess. My appetite yells HUNGRY at all the wrong times and I am tired when I need to be awake. It required an entire 24 hours of travel to return home to the USA from time spent in Singapore and Siem Reap, Cambodia. I will be like this for a couple days.

My photos prove Angkor Wat was not a dream. I was indeed there, glistening with sweat from the unwavering heat, walking the powdery red dirt path up to the bridge that crosses the ancient moat surrounding Angkor Wat. Then, for several days,  experiencing a silent other-worldly shadow of a former civilization; a place where people lived and loved and laughed; a place where 40,000 elephants walked the same stone paths I walk as they built the city; a place crumbling from the insistent destruction of time and massive trees roots that meander along moving gargantuan blocks of stone as if they were legos. These were a people who appreciated the beauty of intricately carved stone – story-telling daily life in sculpture of meticulous detail – revealing subtle expressions on faces and costumes of fabric, folded and wrapped on dancing women, working elephants and animals, flowers, and gods and goddesses both evil and benevolent of spirit. Constant renovation is a given – it goes on and on  through the donations of other countries who care – as walls continue to collapse and the monsoons roar in hell bent on destruction.

One favorite of mine was a deep, dark stone room whose interior walls are covered in precisely spaced Ping-Pong ball sized holes; hinting that its walls were once embedded with giant gemstones so as to catch the sun’s rays from a tiny slice in the stone and light the darkness with multi-colored reflections.  Then another smaller stone room where we are told by our extraordinary guide, An Rachna of Cambodian Trails, that in spite of what might seem perfect conditions for acoustics, no human voice or music will echo there – but if you thump your chest over your heart seven times the deep heart-sound will indeed “echo” when you stop, seven times, reverberating in various intensities according to the stress level of your soul. And it worked. Angkor Wat is one discovery after another, each raising another group of questions in your mind – what happened here? Why did these intelligent people die? How could the site possibly have gone undiscovered for so long? It is an enigma wrapped in mystery…you almost feel that you know the people after two or three solid days of tracking their lives.

The contemporary people of Siem Reap will welcome you. They have melancholy eyes and joyful smiles. They are kind, helpful and eager to please. They spend time with you in conversations that go deeper than trivial inquiries about how you are today and where you are from – they hang onto your every word with a genuine curiosity about where exactly you are from in the USA and what it looks like there – how do you manage to get all the way up to your mountain home in the Colorado Rockies? What is snow like? They do not want you to leave without keeping the door open for your return. Cambodia is still, quite literally, maimed, mangled and war-torn from the days of the Khymer Rouge; land mines are a large concern, and the unspeakable atrocities toward the Cambodian people are evident everywhere you go. In rural communities fresh well water is becoming less rare thanks to donations from private individuals and countries, but still in short supply. A water well can be purchased for just about $100 and there are many organizations worldwide who will handle a donation for you – one well can supple several families who live near each other. The children are tiny, also in great need of better nutrition, and milk for babies and toddlers is scarce. We were able to spend hours of time driving the countryside, visiting and smiling with families and children, watching them cook lunch for the family along the winding dirt roadside.

This series about our trip to Cambodia in 2015 will continue…..probably for the remainder of my life. I would love to take you along.

Please visit http://www.cambodiantrails.com to learn about guides in Siem Reap.

The Year Long Canvas Welcomes August

YLCAUG1The YLC, still dripping wet with a new cool wash of turquoise. copyright 2014 Jo Ann Brown-Scott – zoom in for greater detail

Today it was time again – my inner art Buddha winked and smiled and indicated he wanted to meet me in the studio this afternoon and see some evolution on his friend the YEAR LONG CANVAS – affectionately known as the YLC. The incessant rains have stopped – it is about 80 degrees and sunny and I have a lovely weekend ahead….so I thought I would honor his pure and simple request and squeeze in some new work on the canvas. Seemed like a good Karma kind of day to me.

Have any of you read the book titled Breakfast With Buddha by Roland Merullo?

A sort of grumpy man finds it necessary to make a road trip due to family concerns, and through an odd set of circumstances he finds that his traveling companion is a Buddhist Monk, the last person in the world he would like to be confined with in a car for several days of driving. The Monk is enigmatic, smiling, fascinating…much like the Dahli Lama…and nearly silent except for asking his driver the question that opened both mind and soul, “Why so angry?” What follows is a long yet simple conversation about the meaning of life, continued over several days of driving.

visit http://www.rolandmerullo.com

I am not an angry person, and that is precisely the point of so many things in my life. I forgave everyone and chose to forget the worst of things over the years. The lack of anger explains the vibrant color in my art, my almost constant smile and tendency to be light-hearted and free-spirited. And it certainly goes a long way toward understanding how in the world I can continue to adhere to this crazy assignment of working on one canvas for a whole year. I guess the secret lies in not taking it all too seriously or too personally. I got far less seriously involved with the YLC when summer came and I could relax more and let go of the simmering urge to hurl it through a window.

This YLC needed cooling off today – she needed a wash of my mother’s favorite color of blue and she needed a lot of wetness – she is still glossy and drying in the photo. I am also inclined now to turn this painting in a vertical direction – just because I am weary of painting it horizontally. So when she dries I will probably proceed to the next step after rotating her so that the large round ball of red-orange is in the bottom left of the canvas. Let’s see what happens then!

Singapore, George Clooney, the Arctic Circle and Food

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Tomorrow is my Monday art class – advanced abstract expressionism. If you are following you know by now that I have been offered the odd assignment of working on one canvas for an entire year. Oh I do other canvases too, but I use one of them as a 365 day continuing, living breathing project that I vow to keep working on whether I want so badly to finish it or not. Yes I accepted the challenge. Yes I sometimes feel that I am nuts to have done so. You have read all of my speculation about the why’s and wherefores of this project (check my archives) – I am sure you could offer some new ideas I have not yet considered about the lessons to be learned from doing this.

What I do know for sure is that I am not a person who gives up easily or is likely to give it anything less than my best effort. I believe that when you commit to something you keep at it until it is no longer for the good of any one thing or person – it has turned sour, in other words. I don’t foresee that happening with this project – there is just so much to be learned from it.

But I do want to think about other things besides THE CANVAS. It is a big world out there and whatever I choose to fill my free time will support, inform, guide and feed my art projects – all of them. I am working on several things at once, parallel with THE CANVAS. Life goes on, all around them.

Today some of my thoughts are on Singapore, for instance, and a trip I made there last fall. I cannot get Singapore and Bangkok off my mind – in a good way. I miss them. I want to go back. I learned a lot while there. The entire journey was eye candy for me, but I also learned a lot about Asian people, Asian food, legends, Buddhism,Monks and relic tooths and Jim Thompson textiles and silk worms, temples and markets and the Asian art of foot massage. What an exotic trip. Thanks to my lovely daughter who was my tour guide, and knows the area well, my simple mind was loaded up with layers of complexity. That is what travel does.

I am also thinking about that rascal George Clooney, who is astoundingly, enthusiastically and actually voluntarily engaged to a lovely woman who is finally, I believe, a person with brains as well as beauty. For all of us (girls mostly) who have been fascinated with him from afar, this is something that has captured our attention. This will be interesting, watching the progression, from sworn, dyed-in-the-wool bachelor to husband……would love to have been a fly on the wall when gorgeous George changed his mind and had his epiphany.

One of the best meals I ever ate was at the Turkish café pictured above, located in the Arab Street section of Singapore. I am thinking about food (I am starving and ready for a meal right now) and how it unites us all in its never-ending daily preparation ritual. You are fortunate to have it and lucky be you if you can enjoy the luxury of  choice, answering your cravings and satisfying your palette. If you have a well stocked pantry, I consider you wealthy. If you ever watch the National Geograhic TV show called “Living Below Zero” about Americans who live near the Arctic and must hunt caribou, bears, fish, goats etc , for survival, you are probably as impressed as I am with their strength and courage. Their pantries are well stocked or not depending upon weather, ammunition, deadly accurate shots and absolute luck, plus their own ability to trek way out into the wild and cut up and haul back whatever they shoot. I know that I could never do that.

Back to George Clooney – he does great things in Africa. And she is a brilliant lawyer based in London who deals in Humanitarian issues. Perfect.

Aren’t you fascinated by what other people do?

 

The Zone and the Creativity Chakra

                                                 

Photo #1 courtesy of Julie Bleadow-Wilson on Pinterest.com,  Photo #2 courtesy of wonderhealing.net

Highly creative people are especially in tune and aware of the mind-body connection – we live and breathe so that we can create. What is happening to us is deeply and irreversibly connected to what we create. As artists we are expected to be a product of all of our experiences both internal and external. This is so obvious that it is often overlooked in the bigger picture of creativity. We are all products of our environment, but some more so than others.

Most likely you have all known people who are super sensitive – to sunsets, to sadness, to death, to birth, to chocolate chip cookies and everything in between ….they feel more deeply. They absorb the world around them, inhaling it deeply and storing it in their limitless mind-body experience storehouse where even the smallest event or the tiniest living being is worthy of remembrance and honor.  This is the art Buddha’s home, in my opinion; the Buddha whom I lovingly, reverently and affectionately reference frequently.  At the other extreme are people we have actually known and even perhaps loved (once) who are like the highest quality Teflon – everything seems to bead up and roll right off. They have the depth of a birdbath – they skim the surface of life. How they manage that is beyond my understanding, despite many years of trying. It is a form of denial perhaps, or maybe just fear in its simplest form.

Most of us live and thrive in the middle ground of those two extremes, happy to be there, but even then occasionally surprised at ourselves when we slip off the dead-center bubble position over some thing or another that takes us off guard with its power to shake us to the core. That is so human. Usually however, we are conscious and aware, balanced, normally functioning and just fine, thank you very much.

If you are an artist, writer, creator of any variety reading this, I am wondering where you place yourself? Are you super-aware or medium or just not all that aware of your own mind-body connection?

The six major types of consciousness are:

Auditory – Awareness of sounds

Gustatory – Awareness of tastes

Olfactory – Awareness of smells

Tactile – Awareness of touch and bodily sensations

Visual – Awareness of what we see as color, shapes, etc

These five types of awareness depend upon the totality of your mind and body  – your general health. If all of your senses are up and running then you have a lot of incoming data to work with – all systems are go – you are receiving information twenty-four hours a day – filtering in what to keep and discarding what you do not need. It’s a full time job. You have to be an air traffic controller on steroids. It is exhausting, especially if you are an artist – so many ideas, sights, smells, conversations, feelings and tastes. It all factors into your daily experience. But if one or more of these senses is a little OFF or under the weather, or totally gone in a major permanent way, that requires an enormous mind-body compensation.

However! There is also a sixth sense – an awareness that depends upon none of the above  – it is a state of mental consciousness  – and it is aware of all the other senses but not necessarily dependent upon them. It is also more powerful than the sum of all the others, but less well known. Some people do not acknowledge it – others swear by it and use it daily. It is a sort of super-human tuning in, or special consciousness, to everything your mind-body connection has to offer you for a rarified, limited space of time. You will recognize it when it arrives, and you will most certainly know when it has left. It comes and goes, and lucky be you if it visits you often, as Yoda might say.

If you are an artist, a writer, an athlete or any kind of creative creature and you have experienced the astonishing level of sensory awareness known as the zone, then you know that is where miraculous things can happen. Master paintings are done, the best music is written, literary classics are penned and athletic records are made and  broken – almost effortlessly. Many books have been written about this phenomenon – most notably the national bestseller titled FLOW, The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

The Chakras are zones of your body which are the seat of all the mind-body connections. That is an entirely fascinating and astonishing subject, worthy of many other blogs. But let me just say that the seat of creativity lies in the second Chakra – the area of your body that is the most sensual, the most sexual, and the headquarters of sensuality itself. Those of you who have experienced being in the zone, doing your best and most brilliant work, for hours on end almost at the exclusion of the outside world might agree with me that it is an extremely sensual and pleasurable place to be – akin to making love. In my blog archives is a post of many months ago which I titled “The Love of Making Art is Like the Art of Making Love”.

Are you, or have you ever been “in the zone” ? My wish for you is that you find that place and visit it often.

 

 

The Creative Epiphany – January 6th, The Day of Epiphany

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Photos courtesy of my recent trip to Singapore and Bangkok, October 2013

This blog was originally written as a broader continuation of my second book, The Creative Epiphany – Gifted Minds, Grand Realizations available on Amazon.com, by Jo Ann Brown-Scott. Since the book was published in 2008 we have had what I am going to say is great success for a first time author and a book that was published through Amazon’s self-publishing division. As I frequently say, the GIFT OF CREATIVITY is AWARDED FREE AT BIRTH –  everyone gets some. Your lifelong challenge is to accept it, locate its best vehicle and venue, then define how you can most effectively use it for yourself and the greater good. Remember that part about “the greater good”  because we do not include clever, creative criminals in the greater good category.

After you read my Introduction, in which you will come to know the lovely, personified creativity as I see her and defines just what a creative epiphany is, then offers suggestions for how you might be able to tap into a life-changing epiphany for yourself as well, you will see that the book is a compilation of personal experiences from 19 creative people including myself, who all had life-changing epiphanies involving their personal gifts of creativity. I selected people for the book based upon recommendations from friends, my own circle of eccentric acquaintances, family members and experts I knew. I interviewed the prospects by phone and in person, the theory being that if that person had an amazing life-altering story and could tell it beautifully in a normal conversation, holding my attention for hours, then that person could write it down and with my editing then release it for the world to read, thus changing lives. I was right – the stories are all told in a conversational style that I was careful to edit without stomping out the character and personality of the teller thus altering the book into a collection of boring, homogenized junk. It is not a perfect, polished example of literature – it is a real, down and dirty book from people living out in the trenches of a creative life, and that is not an easy life. They tell it like it is.

I have heard from many “strangers” who read the book, enjoyed it and gained something from it, including a psychologist who says he uses it as therapy, a highly devout woman doing work in a Buddhist monastery, a person walking down the streets of London who happened to see that the person coming toward her was also carrying a copy of this book. With Amazon you reach the world – with blogs you reach the world. For me, sitting here at my computer or painting in my studio, that is an intoxicating phenomenon. I have so much to say, and thank you profoundly for listening.

(Oh and as a side note – They say the sincerest form of flattery is to copy – and we have had that experience with our book in a publication that did not just borrow our idea but was bold enough to use my exact phrasing from the back cover of the book. If you check the dates of publication it is obvious who is copying who…and so was I flattered? Not so much. Not in the least. Was I angry? Much. What is that old quote? The one that says, “Be Yourself – everyone else is already taken.” Well hell yes, of course.)

The Day of Epiphany, January 6th. approaches I wanted to honor it with this blog. According to Wikipedia, the Day of Epiphany is defined this way:

  • Epiphany (feeling), an experience of sudden and striking realization
  • Epiphany (religion), the appearance of a deity to a human, known as theophany
  • Hierophany, an epiphany or manifestation of the sacred more broadly defined than a theophany
  • Darśana, Hindu term commonly used for “visions of the divine”

I prefer to reference the modern definition of epiphany when I write about it – the “light bulb” effect when a piece of life-changing inspiration or information comes to you in a moment of grand realization. You have had that happen – I know you have. It is both shocking and welcomed – sometimes the “knowing” percolates up through your consciousness over a period of time and gently but powerfully gains your attention – at other times the message might strike you instantaneously like a bolt of lightening. The common thread is that an epiphany brings information – an enlightening message of some variety – that you did not have before. A missing piece in your plans. And you needed it to move forward. It is of great help to you and utmost importance that you pay attention to it.

There are some keys to accommodating the arrival of the coveted epiphany – the best one is to remain open and present, living in the now, aware and alert to all possibilities. Keep a receptive mind, engaged and involved in life. Be hopeful. Have faith.

The creative epiphany – read about it. Listen. Have one.

www.epiphanysfriends.com