My photo was taken in the countryside around Siem Reap, Cambodia; where clean water is scarce and children have peace on their minds. 2015
My photo was taken in the countryside around Siem Reap, Cambodia; where clean water is scarce and children have peace on their minds. 2015
Malaysian Dusk and Bangkok Moon, mixed media by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2015
You know how I feel about creativity and stoking the fires to keep it smoldering – always awarding yourself with fresh experiences – feeding the creativity beast gourmet delights so that it will return to your work table and want to spend time with you. Travel is, to me, one of the finest sources of creative stimulation. Travel is a luxury we can all afford if you define it as a departure from your normal routine that takes you out and away from your home headquarters. Therefore a trip down the block is travel, an excursion to a nearby city is travel, even a hike in the woods or watching a movie is a version of travel. You just need to get out of your own mind for awhile and experience new visual surroundings. I do all of that and more…..it is part of my job description as an artist and writer.
But this time I am headed to more distant horizons. I am traveling to the far regions of southeast Asia – Singapore in fact – for the second time, and my side trip during this trip will be to Siem Reap, Cambodia for three nights to visit Angkor Wat. I am traveling with a dear friend, also an artist, so I am going to experience double happiness. We will stay with my daughter and her husband who live in Singapore ( http://www.compassandcamera.com ) and therefore we will have a resident guide for every move we make, and we will be making some major moves.
I will love seeing Singapore again through my friend’s eyes – the spectacular cutting-edge architecture, the glitz and sparkle of the immaculate, well-mannered Singapore, along with its quaint and colorful shop houses in the older sections of Chinatown, Arab Street and Little India. Then on to the massive ruins of Angkor Wat , one of the ancient wonders of our world, now overgrown with gnarled tree roots and steeped in mystery. This is my favorite vacation contrast – the precious against the poor – the opulent compared to the common. It rounds everything out and gives you a conscientious balance. It jolts your senses and keeps you humble, seeing what has gone long before and what is happening now. You can’t have one without the other.
Creatively speaking, this makes for a rare and wonderful experience. The last time I traveled to Singapore I came home and painted a body of work based upon my trip, capturing my visual, sensory, auditory and olfactory impressions of how it felt to be there. I was on such sensory overload that I could not sleep. Remembering the sights, smells, noise and food aromas of just the wild and wonderful Chatachak Market in Bangkok, for instance, fed my creativity for days on end.
Travel is the closest we can get, as human beings here in the 21st century, to time travel as it is explained by physicists and scientists – living backwards or forward in time, almost in a parallel universe to our own and finding it remarkably exotic and foreign to your senses. Yet confined to this one planet. The big blue one. I highly recommend it for your enlightenment, your creativity and your fun.
YLC November, copyright 2014 Jo Ann Brown-Scott
What nine months of attention does for an embryo, forty early mornings will do for your gradually growing wholeness….Your intelligence is marvelously intimate. It’s not in front of you or behind, or to the left or the right. – Rumi
Hello everybody! Here we are well into November and as I woke this morning I was in a great frame of mind due to absolutely nothing in particular. I had not even slept well, but something lit a little fire in me. After a long, crisp walk in the morning air the time was right; I was ready to apply the latest shock therapy to the canvas. The additional changes just happened, in less than fifteen minutes, to the Year Long Canvas that Homare Ikeda offered to me as a challenge and an assignment way back in March of this year. I would say we are in the home stretch now, but who ever knows when it will be done, or mostly done, or perhaps even continue? For those of you arriving late to this project, the objective is to continue to paint for a solid year on one particular canvas, adding layers and layers of new work on top of the old. It is an exercise in patience, confidence, acceptance of change, and testing one’s ability to focus over a long period of time on one constantly changing image. Of course I am painting other canvases as well, and finishing them, because I have a tendency to be quite task oriented. I like a feeling of accomplishment.
If you compare this version to the others in my blog archives about the YLC you will see that I am letting myself go more with each passing month, slinging the paint around with more abandon, opening my heart to more drastic change and actually having more fun with it than I did in the beginning. My loose and free-spirited attitude is picking up speed as I work through the months. I barely even try anymore – I just work mindlessly. It is my arm but something else is guiding me. I feel it arriving from over my shoulder, it comes through me and lands on the canvas. It is as if I am not even here. I am just an instrument. I do believe I am in the flow.
Obviously I use layers of paint both thick and thin, building texture and depth, a characteristic color palette that I enjoy, a linear emphasis, a roundness in some area, darks against lights and lights against darks. I am working vertically right now, but it started out being horizontal; I work all around it, turning it in all orientations as I paint, because in abstract art you have to do that. You might choose to see the suggestion of a landscape, or not. Purely abstract is fine too.
This painting could quite easily go in the direction of enormous simplicity and minimalism, by covering up almost 90% of the composition with washes of gray, black or even white, allowing just slivers and shafts of colors to reveal themselves as if you are looking through an opening to something underneath. That seems to me a rather easy, chicken way to end the whole thing.
I actually prefer the challenge of complexity, depth and mystery. But you probably already knew that by now.
YLC #12, copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott, not yet titled
“You breathe; new shapes appear, and the music of a desire as widespread as Spring begins to move like a great wagon. Drive slowly, some of us walking alongside are lame!” Quote from Rumi, born in 1207, Afghanistan
Of course it has everything to do with my mood. The day was gorgeous, took a long walk, ate some great food, listened to some upbeat music and there we were – arrived at a brand new place from the scariest storm experience of my life just 2 days ago (see the previous blog about Mutha Nature).
Let the games begin….
Lots of minor changes were made, but larger ones too, such as Lady Magenta making an appearance, dancing across everything just for pure fun, and a second (or third?) sun showed up in the unexpected sun color of purple….that’s what you call artistic license, but of course you knew that. I first took artistic license when I was in kindergarten, and teacher instructed us to finger-paint a tree. My tree was purple and she had an absolute fit, being the realist that she was. Even at that young age I knew she was dead wrong – how could she know anything at all about art history and object to a purple tree!? I have been getting her back ever since, sinking at least one “artistic license” thing in painting after painting for many decades now.
I am here to tell you that abstract art does not have to be profound and serious. Since I am working on this canvas for a solid year, I felt free to be light-hearted and free spirited. I can always get dark and brooding at some future point if I so desire. The changes made in this work session were begun with an eye for balance. The upper left area needed some action to be weighed against all the color and motion in the upper right. What to do, what to do. Circles seem to be a repetitive feature, so I thought I might just capitalize on that. Another sun, in PURPLE, could get attention. Not tooooo much attention, however, or the focal point on the right side would be severely compromised. Where is Homare when I need him? I am going to have to fly by the seat of my own pants this summer.
The changes made today were accomplished in less than an hour, and I used my fingers while wearing a latex glove. I seldom use paint brushes anymore – preferring plastic palette knives and oddball kitchen tools like a plastic BBQ sauce “mop”, scrapers and other stuff I find. I often use the dried acrylic paint that has globbed around the top of the paint tube, picking it off and pushing it onto the composition for texture – you can see one of those in about dead center of this painting, sticking out almost like a button. I love bumps and wrinkles, and I like to use acrylic very thickly but I also love to thin it down with lots of water and paint like a watercolorist which is how I first learned to paint. For Homare’s classes in advanced contemporary art I used purely paint, without any exotic collage papers or mixed media techniques, or matt medium to build up a textural affect. I am a mixed media artist at heart but I wanted to go back to my roots and see what happened there. That was a good decision because I have enjoyed it and found that I am still able to paint without any of my favorite bells and whistles. The method in my madness of returning to the classroom was to see what I was made of – to rediscover my earliest training. Doing that could only be for the good, I thought.
The YLC has a journey ahead. She will be thick with paint by mid-Fall and difficult to deal with. Unruly and short-tempered from all the indecision and abuse she has endured. She will have screamed at me to leave her alone. Making anything good happen will be a huge challenge, because everything that has gone before will have been sacrificed and lost and I will mourn those versions. I will be sick and tired of re-inventng her. She will be fed up with me as well. It will be like any other relationship!
But of course you probably knew all that.
Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better. Sydney J. Harris
Today’s last class was bittersweet, since many of us are not attending any classes for the summer, and although 3 months is a freeing and enticing stretch of time it is also a deep void to fill. And filling the shoes of Homare Ikeda ( http://www.homareikeda.com ) is an impossibly tall order – he is a gifted instructor; wise yet playful, firm in his experience yet always open to new ideas, serious about his art yet secure enough to be whimsical at times, free spirited yet always grounded in the process. Having access to the mind of the master on a weekly basis will be greatly missed.
He spoke to us at the beginning of class about artistic dedication and what a luxury and privilege it is to be able to afford the time and have the talent to paint well. Not just to paint but to paint well. He said we are truly fortunate and should never take it lightly. He said, in so many words, that we should not squander that privilege. We should not deny it or disrespect it or take it for granted. It must be honored and given expression. But he was careful to add, after several minutes on that subject, that with summer at our doorstep, he had one final assignment for us….
We were instructed to PLAY. We were told that our summer must be spent in a sort of artistic abandon – we should give ourselves the freedom and the fun of being loose, experimental, random and playful. We should absolutely have fun this summer. We have been given permission and instructed to do so.
Well alrighty then. I am all for that. Hope I have not forgotten how….to relax, to play and be silly. To be young again in spirit. To make stupid mistakes. To learn from them. To make other mistakes. Then to occasionally create something brilliant, born of enjoyment and fun.
When the class began I had not been inside a classroom, as a student, for several decades. I had just come from 3 years of teaching mixed media to adults in northern California, moving back to Denver after 6 years away, and I felt very strongly that it was time to get my own mojo working again. To paint with serious intention and dedication. To find a class and an instructor that were a good fit for me. To see if I was on the right track as I began the next chapter – the remainder – of my painting career. It was either luck or intuition or both that drew me to Homare’s class. His assignment to me of the YEAR LONG CANVAS project was, in retrospect, perfection. It demanded that I slow down, take my painting to the level of a meditation, think more, sometimes think less, TRUST myself more and promise that I would follow the process through until it was time for it to be over. I still have a long way to go, and I don’t enjoy painting in really hot weather, not even in air conditioning. I would love to take the summer off, not from painting entirely, but from painting any more on the YLC. But I will not do that.
In spite of the assignment to PLAY for the summer, I have the YLC here staying with me 24/7 in a corner of my studio. I am her vacation retreat. September will come soon enough and I will have to take her to class with me and reveal what has happened to her over the summer break. Think how it might feel to have to read a great book over the time of an entire year – when you are dying to race ahead to the end but you have to pace yourself and allow only a bit to be revealed at a time. What if babies took 12 months instead of 9? How about a year’s worth of working on the same recipe; refining and tweaking and altering until you lose your bleeping mind. A year is enough time to fall completely in and out of the creative mood at least a dozen times – alternating love/hate feelings – and each time you have to find a way to get yourself geared up and hyped up and ready to move forward again…..only to lose that momentum and speed and focus again and again and again.
Of course there is a much larger life lesson here about CHANGE. We hesitate to make changes in our lives based upon fear – fear that the newer will not be as comfortable or as satisfying as was the previous status quo. Fear that we have moved into the unknown at the total expense and obliteration of the known – fear that the life changes we are about to make will not work out and we cannot go backwards and get back again to where we were. It is my personal experience, however, that carefully considered change usually does bring improvement and enhancement with its evolution, and the result is better than expected. This is based upon knowing myself and trusting myself.
So this week I have done just a little work on the canvas and maybe you will notice it and maybe you will not. A slight bit more of purple was added in strategic areas – in about the 10 o’clock area, if you use the clock guideline. Also just a little more of it at about 4 o’clock, drifting over the orange. The purple was added for balance. Next time I work on her I will be gutsy-er, and if you are bordering on boredom, have faith, big change will come. That will be painful but no guts no glory. And I am supposed to trust that the glory will be reincarnated as a new idea every bit as successful and appealing as it was before. I love the quote I have included in this post about CHANGE – and another quote I heard once that says that to request no change at all requires great change in itself!
As a bonus for being so patient with the YLC and me, here at the bottom is another offering, all done and determined to remain that way.