Birthday Schmirthday

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I had to have another birthday last week. I am older than I have ever been and still dazed and confused about life much of the time, but doing fine. These birthdays can kill you. There were a couple days worth of celebration; cards, calls and lovely gifts mixed in with a few dark, unpleasant surprises, but such is life. It was a real birthday – real – not quite all love and laughter every single minute all the time. But that’s ok, I am ok and life goes on. Yesterday I had a birthday lunch and movie with a dear friend, tonight I am having a late celebration with an exceedingly important person in my life, and so the birthday beat goes on….beat beat beat, just like a heart.

I ran across several quotes this week that I happen to love so much that I wanted to share them with you. The one on the cover of the black book that I was given just yesterday, in the above picture, is stunningly true, and I know that because I have lived it. I guess we all have.

Here is the second one, from one of my favorite people for wise and wonderful quotes, Maya Angelou :

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”

That can keep you thinking all day long, going over your life and remembering when you might have made that mistake. When you reach the upper birthdays you have probably, if you are getting older AND wiser, weeded some folks out of your days because they are no longer an enhancement to your life, for one reason or another. Life gets short, your days are numbered, you have a sense of urgency about how you will best spend your time remaining. If a certain someone is not ever contributing to the great good, you tend to see less of them, wanting to spend your days in positivity and appreciation for all the things that bring you to a good place, a place of comfort and joy.

Many Thanks to my brother, for sending me one of the most beautiful, original birthday greetings I have ever had. I will keep it and read it every year. Thanks to all my many friends ( including my blog friends whom I have never met) and relatives for remembering me and being the loving support that keeps me going, because it really does take a village, for your entire life. I value your words of wisdom and your ability to make me laugh. I have you in my life because you are all lights in my universe, and we all need to have light. You all influence how I paint, what I write about, what I say in conversation and what I believe in my heart to be true. We are all the sum of many parts, and I am the expression of the sum total of the people I surround myself with. So are you.

But you all probably already knew that, didn’t you?

 

 

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Creative Thinking

 

  

photo of RUMI courtesy of: spiritualnotreligious.blogspot   Rumi art from glad.is

You know by now that I find many words of wisdom in the poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi – a man who was born in the year 1207 in Afghanistan, which was at that time a part of the Persian Empire.  ( Just as a frame of reference, time-wise, the year that Michelangelo began painting the Sistine Chapel was 1511. ) Until the age of 37 Rumi was a brilliant scholar and teacher. His life changed dramatically when he came to know a wise, wandering man who was a dervish. Shams of Tabriz became a god to Rumi and with their friendship, for Rumi, there came a new kind of spiritual enlightenment.

One of my all time favorite quotes from Rumi is this, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

I have several of my own interpretation of that sentence, found by applying it to various situations. I will allow you to have yours….but I can assure you that the intent of the quote, coming from Rumi, can only be  good and purely spoken. It seems that no matter what my needs are at any given time for a meaningful quotation, I only need to open my Rumi book and one or more appropriate ones appear to me. His words are timeless.

I can absolutely apply this quote philosophically to life, to love, to any number of human conditions, to painting, or to any kind of creative endeavor. Simply put, it says that you must think outside the box and that there are no rights or wrongs in creativity, no mistakes, only the doing that comes with inspiration.

People always want to have creativity defined. Well that can’t be precisely done. There are so many aspects and variations and manifestations and incarnations of it that after a while it becomes lime green jello. But I would imagine that creative people – the most creative people – have a few things in common. Things both you and I have observed – not really mysterious things at all. Early indicators of exceptional creativity in young children include an extraordinary descriptive vocabulary, an attention to detail and laser focus not always found in small children, early reading, constant questions, taking things apart, risk taking, a love of adventure, building collections of beloved specimens and treasures such as bugs or stones, and endlessly searching for new ideas.

Creative ones of any age read a lot – voraciously. They challenge existing ideas. They are gifted beyond the norm with many talents; along with that goes an advanced intellectual ability and a higher IQ.  Therefore they can see or imagine multiple perspectives and they are always learning. They are generally quite imaginative, unusually curious, and in the time-worn phrase, they constantly think outside the box. They see the world in a unique way. They are less concerned with making mistakes and they acknowledge little wrongdoing – in fact there are no mistakes, only learning experiences.

I suppose creative thinkers can also be narcissistic,  eccentric in the extreme, endlessly amusing and  somewhat crazy but that discussion is for another time. That crowd is still out partying and have not come home yet.

Rumi says, “Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street. I took it as a sign to start singing, falling up into the bowl of sky.”

And so….this is how it happens….the fire is re-lit

?????????? The Year Long Canvas BEFORE…..and AFTER (see below)

In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest, where no one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art. – Rumi

I woke up this morning newly-brave.

Born again into risk taking and artistic experimentation.

After about a month of YLC in-action I am ready to make my next big move on the YEAR LONG CANVAS, unapologetically and without a dot of hesitation. Something has kicked in and recharged me, and if I had to guess what that was, I think I would say that it had to be a perfect storm of things.  My glorious weekend in the mountains, a poem I received from a wise blogging friend who lives in Israel and is enduring the agony of that conflict, a Harley ride in the Sunday rain, the full belly laughter that I experienced on the phone with a friend, grown children who still love me – all of which are life affirming and reinforce for me the constant wonder and gratitude for the days and nights I am living. I am filled to the brim with life, wanting to value every day.

To be so fortunate is a miracle to me. I agonize for my friend in Israel. I feel deeply for friends and family who are suffering. The flip side of that is my determination to live my own life to its best potential, as a thank-you prayer to the universe. A joyful offering. I too have suffered, been miserable, lost people I loved, been disappointed and hurt by people who are still alive. I don’t live in a bubble. But I am not one who can hold on to pain and keep wringing it out of my days and nights when I am given a chance to let it go. And I have let it all go. It is just good Karma to remind myself of that every once in a while and have a little celebration.

Today I will do some things to the YLC with a “what the hell” attitude – geez I can always paint another painting – who do I think l I am, giving such weighty importance to a mere canvas? What is the worst that can happen? I very seldom ruin a canvas….

I am tired of avoiding it.

Today I welcome it and will confront it with a smile and a song. I knew I would be back. Told you so.

If you do not like what you see, or you are bored with this entire project, leave now. Or hang in here and  see what happens. You can refresh your mind about what I am doing on the YLC in my Archives if need be. I can assure you that whatever brushstrokes are done today will be made from a stance of positivity, as a prayer of thanks.  Nothing done in the name of my art will be angry. Strong vibrant color is a sign of joy and healthy strength, powerful compositions are confident and life-affirming. Thick paint and high texture indicate the need to feel things deeply and experience passion.

Abstract art is perfect for prayers to the universe; the art Buddha smiles.

YLCJU14 and AFTER, copyright July 2014 Jo Ann Brown-Scott – not yet titled

Art at the Speed of Life

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Mixed Media Collage titled Life Weavings by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2014

It occurs to me that the Year Long Canvas of which I have been writing in my recent posts is humming along at the speed of life – one day at a time – with some days more attentively dedicated to it than others. What else can a painting ask for? I mean really, I have worked on many canvases for months, on and off, off and on, and at the end the best I can do is to call it DONE, with many unrealized possibilities for its final form still floating around in my brain. In my sleep. In my waking hours too. But I had reached my limit of endurance for working on it and so it stays where it is for all eternity…I have a long way to go before I make that decision on the Year Long Canvas.

All you can do in life is to take each day, doing the best you can, 24/7, under the circumstances of the situation you have to work with. That is the best scenario you can hope for with any of your endeavors. You cannot be expected to perform based on information you do not yet have….you have only the NOW’s worth of information to go on.

It you look back at any kind of big thing or event or occasion or circumstance in your entire life, (and this usually happens when you can’t sleep at about 3 am) and you begin to second-guess the way you handled it, questioning the decisions you made at the time, and believing that you might have done better in hindsight, try to remember all the extra-curricular stuff that was going on in your life at the time. Chances are you had a lot going on – a lot to deal with – many shades of gray to be considered. All of that factored in to the way you handled things at the time. There was more going on than just the activity in the center ring at your circus of life. You were juggling and trying to keep a lot of balls in the air.

So go easy on yourself. I am certainly trying to do that myself. Seems to me that our lives are all like paintings, and we have a lifetime to paint them with endless possibilities for the composition. We make choices based upon what we know at any given time.Then we make more alterations, more changes, more adjustments and we paint some more, eliminating the negativity and giving prominence to the positive. We brighten the color, then we tone it back down. We try new things or we revert to an old idea and make it new again. This is art at the speed of life and life at the speed of art. I think it’s all the same thing.

The Creative Epiphany – The Life-Support of Art

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Breathe deeply and open your senses to the wonders around you. Be alive!  Live in the now. You are a human being, able to lift yourself up through the joy of imagery. You are an emotional sponge – soak up what you need. Art is to be used – it is a tool for information and life enhancement, available at every turn.

Go to it when you need it. The beating art is your life support.

“The saving of lives, for an artist, is surely a daily act. Artists are resuscitators of dreams, rescuers of the abandoned, lodgers of the unwanted, and keepers of faith. In our lifesaving, we are saved. In polishing the souls of others, the artist polishes her own with her resurrections. She can’t help herself – giving life is the ultimate creative act. ‘As soon as there is life, there is danger,’ said Ralph Waldo Emerson. ‘I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I am not afraid of falling into my inkpot.’ ” 

Written by Sara, excerpted from the March 4th, 2014 Letter of Robert Genn, which I highly recommend for all of you who enjoy being enlightened about the creative life.

Here’s the link: http://clicks.robertgenn.com/save-a-life.php

To be subscribed to the Twice-Weekly Robert Genn Letter, you can find out about it by going to www.painterskeys.com

From that website – Informed and successful artists and other creative folk from more than 115 countries visit this website for information, inspiration, artist advice, friendship and connectivity. Most have signed up to the Twice-Weekly Letters, which is FREE and we strongly encourage you to also subscribe to get the most benefit from this community. It has also been our goal to make this website an online resource of information for artists and a place to share with others what you are doing, such as through the Art Show Calendar, Art Workshop Calendar and Premium Art Listings. One of the most popular pages is the Art Quotes page, and we also share other things like a listing of Art Retreats available to artists, books, videos, and more.

I had to share this brilliant quote from Sara – her quote says so beautifully what is in the heart of every artist. Many people see us creative types as passive, introverted, perhaps even wimp-ish, but we are indeed the gutsy ones who smear our souls across canvas, following that brave effort by asking  for comments from perfect strangers. With our images we offer solace and comfort to the suffering, joy to the truly alive, hope to those who seek it and reassurance that life must go on. People who appreciate the artistic efforts of centuries discover all that and more.

People are moved by the sensuality of color, the fascination of texture and the thrill of a striking composition. That is wonderful. But art is not always pretty, and when it is not gorgeous to look at in the classical sense, you can be sure that especially then, when the image is not necessarily beautiful, it is still thought-provoking and it has a profound message to deliver. My wish is that people would follow that less-traveled visual path more often and care enough to discover the intent of the artist, the bravery required to make such a statement and the value therein. Dipping the pen of that artist and the viewer into the blackest, deepest well, as Ralph Waldo Emerson alludes to in the above quote within Sara’s quote, in other words. Art is so very all-inclusive – there is something for absolutely every one of us whatever mood we are in at the time. There is a time and a place for it all. When you need some life-support you will find it. Take a day trip to your local museum, visit an art class, stop into a gallery, go online to websites like ARTSPAN.com or just visit BING or GOOGLE and ask for images of your choice. You have the world of art at your fingertips, for your viewing pleasure and sustenance – an easy way to take you right out of yourself and into another world.

The Creative Epiphany – I’m Back from the Big Island…reluctantly

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Thanks to those of you who hang with me even when I am missing in action, out to lunch, off the radar, in the witness protection program and out of communication! I appreciate that you sometimes read my archives during the void. I know who you are and I think it is incredible that you would take the time to do that.

I was away – really away – enjoying my third annual escape to Hawaii – the BIG ISLAND – and now the dye is cast. I am destined to be a chronic returnee. I have got it in my blood and it is written in the stars and my soul already longs to go back. I just got home late last night, and I am already missing it, so I’ve got it bad. Someone over there asked me if I was going to cry when I left and I said YES, of course. And I did. Apparently, the legend says, if you do not cry when you leave, you will not be back. So please do cry your heart out. If you do not “get” the island thing, you are not meant to return. The big island is funky, magical, mystical, spiritual, artsy, sensual, lazy, and more….everything stops for sunset…..people gather and watch….all the craziness of the mainland drifts away and seems irrelevant…..I turn golden and I sleep deeply….and the panorama of the Pacific Ocean, my specific ocean, keeps me constantly gazing west. I see it when I wake up, as I cook, as I paint, as I walk the garden. We describe it in paint tube colors; Prussian blue, cerulean, turquoise, teal, cobalt. Coke bottle green, silver-blue and pewter. Are we in heaven? A glimpse of heaven I am sure.

It snowed on the top of the two extinct volcano craters while I was there. That is not an unusual event since Mauna Loa at 13,796 ft. and Mauna Kea at 13,679 ft., are, yes indeedy, quite impressive mountains, with their own weather systems. Not just a dusting of snow – a day hiker got stranded up there in snow up over his knees and had to spend the night, barely making it out alive the next day. You realize, of course, that an active lava flow still exists on this island, hissing, squeaking and popping, devouring real estate as it pours and actually barrels along at times, falling into the sea in a thick molten pudding with grand pomp and circumstance accompanied by  a neon orange fireworks-like display. The prevailing breezes sometimes bring VOG to the heavily populated western and northern areas of the island, rolling dark from over the mountain tops like a thick fog that is sometimes laced with chemical volcanic aromas and also crop-dusting everything with a fine, black gritty residue. It is no big deal once you get used to it, just Mother Nature doing her thing, reminding you, lest you forget, that she is always and forever in charge. She is the orchestrator of this island’s multi-faceted personality. The big island is a lady of many moods – weather extremes and big waves. It is a study in contrasts with many climates in which to live.

We set out from Kona one day across the middle of the island on the new road traveling to the Hilo Harbor area on the east coast (the new road chops a lot of drive time off the old route of Saddle Road), then north of Hilo we visited the Botanical Gardens where I swear we found another  Garden of Eden. See photos included of that lovely isolated location on the edge of the Pacific. Farther on toward the Waimea and Hawi areas we saw the lush, green terrycloth-like hillsides of Hawaiian cattle country. Yes there are vast ranches and cowboys in Hawaii – the most prominent ranch being the legendary Parker Ranch. Waimea is also known for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival where the Japanese influence is strong and the crafts of the artisans are amazing. While in the quaint little town of Hawi, we stopped in to visit and deliver new art at the Living Arts Gallery on Main Street and chatted with Mary Sky Schoolcraft, the director. The art selection there is truly divine, varying from traditional land and seascape  to contemporary, and her enthusiasm for art is evident and enviable. Visit www.livingartsgallery.net In our drive heading south from there back to Kona, along the north western coast we watched the whale migration, heading north through the Maui Channel. I was overwhelmed with delight, able to see a whale’s tail or a breech every couple of minutes, babies sometimes discernible alongside their mothers. I am fortunate to stay with a dear friend on the island, and so I also experienced some day trips and excursions that are off the beaten path to most tourists.

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Living on the island is a unique experience, quirky, fun, at times challenging to find what you need just when you need it, and yet everyone is generous and more than willing to help. People there are busy building, adding on to their homes, trying to find nice furniture without having to pay shipping from the mainland. If you like estate sales and good deals, it is a mecca for that. Recycling is taken to the last possible degree. We eat fresh eggs from one neighbor, and we are brought cookies from some one else….we share earthly delights from the backyard with anyone who will help us eat them. We can’t eat fast enough to use them all ourselves – avocadoes as large as footballs dropping daily by the dozens like giant avocado bombs. You would not want to be under one when it decides to cut itself loose. Mangos, papayas, lemons, wild cherry tomato plants acting as if it is a ground cover, and of course all of the flowering bushes and trees from which to bring cuttings into the house for daily bouquets. The Plumeria tree was just blooming as I left – wafting a fragrance that is intoxicating.

I have only just begun to talk about the big island. I cannot say enough. I will dream about it and I will keep it in my heart until I go back. I invite you to come along with me and read more in the coming days. And do cry….

The Creative Epiphany – Film Review, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

 poster image courtesy of linduslist.com

This film, directed by Steve McQueen, was difficult to watch in spite of the fact that I thought I was prepared. I had heard that it was brutal. It is beyond brutal – it is periodically and consistently horrific for almost the entire two hours and fifteen minutes. The story is beautifully filmed, gorgeously depicted, stunning in its impact – but beware the  pastoral southern scenery, moss hanging low over big oak branches and humidity you can almost taste, because something shockingly wicked this way comes.

I am a person who reads, and I read and I read. So I thought I was educated about slavery in the south. I have lived in the south, traveled through the south, toured historic plantations and seen slave cabins, and I have studied the Civil War. All that and more is what took me to see this film. For me it was a question of respect, and the fact that the film is well made. But still, I learned from this film things I had never known and I was given witness to atrocities I had never imagined.

The story is simple – Pre-Civil War, a prosperous and educated gentleman named Solomon Northrup ( played by the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor ) from upstate New York, once a slave, who has a family and has risen above his own early history, is re-captured, sold and enslaved again, for 12 long years, enduring and enduring, with the excuse that the papers granting his freedom do not exist. He experiences some kindness from strangers but then is sold to a slave owner ( Michael Fassbender ) who has slipped from pure and wicked malevolence into sick depravity, and who rules a plantation where even his wife, who has learned from a master, is sadistic and cruel.

Do we really need to see all the ways that a human being can be tortured in films today, returning now to even the old and basic, tried and true methods of cruelty? Is each new film – whether it is portraying battles, war, espionage, man to man conflict – attempting to one-up the ones before in regard to guts and gore? This historically accurate film is based upon a true story – and we learn in text updates at the end what happened to Solomon Northrup after he was eventually freed. Nevertheless, for me, it was a horror story. I could not watch at times, reminding myself that it is a FILM.

The acting is spectacular, the women as well as the men; and the children too. It is a Brad Pitt film, from his company PLAN B productions, and he has a cameo appearance portraying a character who sees slavery as wrong. I read that he is choosing responsible roles these days as his children grow old enough to see his work. Do his children have to see this kind of torture, I wonder? Still, there is Oscar buzz about it and I must say that I think it is an important film – a monumental film perhaps.

I saw the Oprah Winfrey film titled The Butler, in 2013, and I would place this 12 Years a Slave film about slavery, in spite of my shock in watching it, ahead of The Butler. I understand that The Butler, also based upon a true story, was so loosely based that it took liberties and exaggerated the plot to such an extent that the story was greatly altered from the truth. I do not like that, do you?

Should you see 12 Years a Slave? If you know you are lacking in information about this most disgusting period of our American history and you are responsible enough to want to learn what happened, then by all means see it. Please do not take your children who are under the age of 16 or so…and be prepared to answer their many questions in an educated way if you do invite them to see it with you. Be knowledgeable and have books to recommend, because our public school systems are lacking in time and resources to due this subject justice.

For Your Viewing Pleasure,

JABS