The Year Long Canvas #14 – Progress, Endurance and a Big Spill

“There’s a little black spot on the sun today

That’s my soul up there

It’s the same old thing as yesterday

That’s my soul up there

There’s a black cat caught in a high treetop

That’s my soul up there

There’s a flagpole rag and the wind won’t stop

That’s my soul up there.”

Lyrics to KING OF PAIN by STING

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YEAR LONG CANVAS – very beginning, last week and today’s small progress

Well hello again – the YLC canvas and I welcome you back. In the previous post I listed some of my background info and news, and since I am putting together a brand new portfolio I had all that information gathered together so it was convenient and easy to do a blog around it. The painting I posted with that blog entry WAS NOT the YLC, as I hope you realized from its title….and its composition. That post was a delay and denial tactic. The YLC has sat untouched.

So we are due for an update on the old YLC and this period of time has  been tough – I knew those times would get here…. I have not been able to concentrate much on the YLC for the past few days. I have been concerned about some issues that are so near and dear to me that my mind is preoccupied. Nothing life threatening, just annoying small stuff that usually I can shake off, but this week not so much for some reason. Even the horrific news about Iraq has me rattled. As if I could do anything to change it. The result is that the YLC has not enjoyed a single new stroke or even a fond glance for about 2 weeks. But I have gotten a lot of other tasks done. Stuff that requires absolutely no intelligence, actually, but has to get done. One of which was to change the printer ink, when I spilled red ink all over me, instantly looking as if I had been brutally stabbed in my thigh, stomach and hand…and it will not scrub off. So what an interesting weekend that will make when I get out and around.

After the stabbing however I did make a few offerings to the YLC and the art Buddha. Nothing major – uninspired things you might not even notice, nevertheless I can honestly claim that I changed her. That is all I have to do, you know, is keep changing her.

Just for fun I have pictured the canvas as she was when I started on her months ago, then the second photo is how she looked before I worked on her today, and the third photo is the newest version of the canvas as she is this very minute. Maybe you will see the changes. If not, don’t worry about it. It’s pretty uneventful.

Have a lovely weekend!

 

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Return to a Place

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This weekend, as my beloved Rocky Mountains tip-toe lightly into SPRING, careful to sidestep any more major snow and wind events,  I was fortunate enough to return to a favorite mountain hideaway. A place isolated from the circus of everyday life; up a long, lethargic driveway, meandering around Aspen groves and pines, hidden high on a sunny south slope enfolded by trees, commanding a place of importance under gigantic rocky outcroppings. This place is a sanctuary for me and I am its’ grateful guest. In my absence of six hard winter months, I dreamed often of its hand-worked beauty and primitive silence. It is a place like no other. When I could not sleep I would wander its rooms, imagining how strongly the wind was rattling the roof, wondering how many mice families were frolicking there, riding out the winter in its relatively balmy interior. Hoping no trees were uprooted. Looking forward to seeing the wildflowers that were planted last summer just outside the kitchen door.

I have spoken before of the significance of PLACE. If you are someone who has an extraordinary place to go to – one that gives you back your sanity and holds the rest of the world at more than an arm’s length for you as you regroup – well – if you have that you are indeed blessed. This special place need not be grand; it could be a humble chair in a tiny space by a fire, could be a beach, a trek, a restaurant, a cabin, an art studio or a journey to St. Peter’s Basilica. But if it always without fail gives you the gift of peace and comfort, it is a home place.

Walking in the door was like returning from an enforced confinement somewhere else. A home without a family comes alive again when a door is finally opened, after long days and nights signifying nothing but the passage of time on empty rooms, and people arrive.  Everything looked bright in the noon sun. The dust motes danced in swirls as we entered, instantly transforming the stagnant internal climate with our human presence. Piles of dead bugs were neatly arranged in corners as if they all knew where the graveyard was and went there when the end was in sight. Cobwebs swinging like iridescent threads with the breeze of our movements, the smell of powdery, dry dust – it was all perfect. We smiled and embraced the beauty.

Getting water back in the pipes. Turning on the heat. Cleaning the bugs out of the sinks and bathtubs, then discovering a small bathroom window that had been accidentally left half open all winter long! Through record-breaking snows and roaring wind racing through the pines at break-neck speed this window gave old man Winter access to the house. Why didn’t a raccoon tear through the screen seeking warm shelter? I wonder how much snow had piled up on that floor….what the temperature plummeted to in that area of the house – mysteries we will never have answers to.

A builder of fine homes once told me that houses need people in them – they deteriorate rapidly when they are empty for long stretches of time. The materials that go into the construction and the interior finishes need the warmth and humidity that people provide, doing all the things that people do. Cooking, washing clothes, taking showers – all that and more is what houses need. Houses are almost alive. Wood needs to breathe. Call me crazy but I firmly believe that houses need love, laughter and conversation too. If you do not believe that houses have a heart, a soul, and a need for human companionship then I am sorry for you – you have missed a key point somewhere along the road of life. Several of my very best friends have been magnificent old houses, weathered, wrinkled and wise…

Your special place need not be a house, of course. The discovery is yours. But do find yourself a unique footprint that you can return to for re-fueling. It will keep you sane, prolong your life, listen intently to your thoughts and that place will watch for your frequent return.

The Year Long Canvas Project #5 – Taking Off

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Canvas in progress, not yet titled, copyright 2014, Jo Ann Brown-Scott

Things are finally beginning to take shape – the composition has gained complexity, additional depth, and more color without losing its rhythm and movement. It is still recognizable from last week, but at some point it will give up its former identity and be in the witness protection program….my way of saying that it will have a whole different look, probably. That is very likely to happen with a year to go.

I am pleased with the progress this week, but already wondering about how I will add another warm color to all these cools….what intensity, what shades, what COLOR? I really don’t want the Naples yellow to be the only sunny color. Although it could. But the artist says she wants more color.

Last week the painting that resulted AFTER I stopped working on this year long canvas was pretty cool – it can be seen in the #4 post – and the same is true this week. I am working on another 24×30 canvas at the same time I work on this one and it is going to be a fine painting, I think. I am not quite ready to go public with it, and this post is supposed to give center stage to the year long canvas, so….we shall see.

Abstract art is supposed to work from any orientation – whether  you turn it upside down or rotate it sideways. As you can see, there is very little happening in the upper portion of this canvas, and that issue must be addressed soon. It’s never a good idea to get too far along and still have such a void in one large area – it makes you desperate to fill it up at some point, and then whatever you do to it looks like an afterthought rather than an integral part of the composition. Right now it is screaming for my attention…and I am not answering yet, living on the edge of a decision about what to do to it.

This entire canvas screams at me sometimes. I hear it calling for attention and yet I can’t run ahead too fast. A year is a VERY long time. You would think that the larger the canvas the easier the challenge, since you would have such a vast area in which to screw up and figure out how to fix it, time and time again as the months go by. But if you remember, my instructor told me not to add the challenge of SIZE to an already difficult assignment. So here we are at 24×30 and every single minute stroke shows up. You cannot sneak anything in there without it being noticeable. Idiotic moves will show….and the idiot has to correct them. I realize that there is no failure with this project, only learning experiences, but even so there will be days when I am not at all happy with what has happened to the canvas by my hand, on my watch.

I am going on a walk now and I am going to see if I can find the art Buddha to come along, because this abstract world is enough for now.

The Creative Epiphany – The One-Year Painting Challenge, Official Blog #1

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Denver Art Student’s League – the building, a classroom, the floor – March 17th, 2014    

In review – My esteemed instructor for Advanced Contemporary Painting, Homare Ikeda, has offered me a challenge – to work on a painting for a solid year. Certainly not at the exclusion of other work but parallel with all my other works. The canvas, we have decided, need not be larger than 30×40″ and could in fact be a bit smaller. The task, which of course I accepted, is more about the 365-day journey than the destination – more about having patience and resilience than the amount of time required – more about trusting yourself with the addition of each and every gesture than in asking for constant direction from the instructor. For a person like me who usually works quite fast, it is an exercise in pacing and meditation over the work being done.

**For the first two (unofficial) posts introducing this project, see my archives titled “Art Imitates Life, as they say…” published 3/13/2014 and “Back To The Classroom, Seeing Things Again for the First Time” published 3/11/2014

March 18th, 2014

Today I have begun. I have finally made my decision about the canvas size based upon Homare’s recommendation not to choose an odd-ball size (I was considering a tall narrow size of 20×60″) that would only add unnecessary frustration to this challenge. So the chosen size is 24×30″

It’s almost a blizzard now, where I am, in my second floor home studio south of the Denver metro area, but it won’t last long. It’s SPRING! Great day to paint. The north light in this room is wonderful, especially with lots of snow flying around outside.

I begin by painting the entire canvas with my favorite base color – unbleached titanium. It’s warm, it’s neutral, and it’s friendly with the color palette I usually hang with. I slap it on with a large palette knife because that also adds subtle texture, and I am all about texture, color and pattern.

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Now it has to dry before I can do anything else to it. That doesn’t take long, especially in Colorado’s altitude and low humidity, but you can also use a hair dryer if you are impatient, which I am supposed to NOT BE in this challenge. I am already getting excited to do more. Calm down. I need to watch it a lot, getting to know it. Calm down. Looking for inspiration. I might be hit with a flash of brilliance….something I want to do right away! Color! But I might not touch it again for several days…calm down.

Stay tuned……

The Creative Epiphany – Wherever You Go, There You Are

fragile From Northern California back to Denver…..

On the fifth night in my new residence, dead tired from unpacking and lifting and climbing stairs and settling in, I woke in the night wondering where I was. It was as if I had been in a coma and regained consciousness, and had no idea of my location. Without moving a muscle I looked around. There was bright moonlight cutting through the deep purple darkness  in long narrow slices made by slatted blinds I swore I never bought.  I was wondering – which window was it? I don’t have a window like this one, do I? What room am I in? Where am I? Oh yes, I gradually realized. Someone had moved my bed across 3 states and put it down in a room that didn’t make any sense to me…yet.

When you change your residence you don’t have to be half asleep to wonder where you are. Moments of confusion come at unexpected times when you can’t comprehend how it all happened, although it was a 3 month process. You need something from the fridge and you open the pantry, you turn right headed for the bathroom and it takes you into the laundry room. If you get up at night for a drink of water you impact the wall where you thought there was a door with such force that you wonder if you broke your face.

Moving is not easy. But it is worth it, if you are fortunate enough to have done it for all the right reasons. In my previous blog post, titled SURFACING, I gave you enough info to know that this move of mine has been a wonderful leap, coming at a time in my life when recharging the batteries of my heart and soul was the right decision. Moving is always a major jolt and a chaotic endeavor, however, no matter how you plan it and attend to details. The members of my family do a lot of it. We are all gypsies who will leave point A and flash forward to point B for reasons of career opportunities, quality of life and being closer to those you love most. They said one night on Animal Planet that all the great migrations of the animal species are made for just 3 reasons – plentiful food, water and mating opportunities. Some things are just universal.

My brother and sister and I were born in Ohio and we have made our individual journeys to the West with relish and perseverance. Kind of like Sherman’s march to the sea. We burned some bridges behind us in the process but it was worth it and no one was injured. Then one of us moved back east again, but south. We Ping-Pong around.

It is an energizing event in life – the move. It wakes you up at your deepest core, at the very least. It requires a great, complicated  thought process to purge and pack. I have it down to a system, having moved about 25 times in my life. Each of those times, I learned more and refined my process. I have dozens of tricks and short-cuts up my sleeves by now, learned in the deep trenches of relocation suffering. My sister says I ought to write a book about it. But I am too busy doing other fun stuff.

I actually enjoy waking up in the night wondering where I am. I look around for clues and it comes to me eventually. And maybe some far off night when the clues in the darkness make no sense at all to me, and the familiar answers as to my location do not filter into my mind, well then…..my moving days will be over.

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The Creative Epiphany – Flashing Before My Eyes

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My life is flashing before my eyes in Technicolor dreams of days gone by. Excuse the melancholy interlude. It was bound to happen.

Relocating to another area, another state, familiar as it is to me and as highly motivated as I am, still seems a heavy load to carry alone. I see, with every item that is packed, a long life placed neatly in boxes, as if it could be condensed to just that. Small a space. With a lid on it. In spite of  my pride all these years at not having a lid on it. No matter how many boxes there are, the headlines of my life, the subplots, the nuances, the places and faces and times and history that define a life well lived are almost all missing, without documentation. They could not make enough boxes…to hold a lifetime of my experience. And so, for the most part, my memories are lost in space, floating in and out of the bank of clouds in my mind where they have enough room to stay.

Every goodbye changes a relationship. I am a good and loyal communicator – I do well at keeping in touch. But it is never quite the same. I will miss seeing the spontaneous expression, the revealing tear pooling up in the corner of an eye, the laugh lines deepening and the weathering of a human face. Your face and mine…because we are reflected in the eyes of eachother. Being with someone who is telling a story is a priceless window of sharing when bonds are made based upon visual impressions, heartfelt exchanges, and unspoken words. Oh you can Skype and you can do face-time, but the daily connection is what will be most missed. Because life is that – so very daily. It grinds forward like a heavy wheel, ponderous and unrelenting, and yet each moment is rare and fleeting. Such an odd contradiction. The slowly rolling wheel and the nano-second flash of a memory.

As James Taylor sings,”The SECRET OF LIFE is enjoying the passage of time.”

He also says, “Take to the highway……walkin’ on COUNTRY ROADS…..reckon my feet know where they want me to go…..walkin’ on country roads.

“SHOWER THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE WITH LOVE. Show them the way that you feel. You can run but you cannot hide. Shower the people you love with love. Things are gonna turn out right if we only will.”

From his song FIRE & RAIN  – “Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone….I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain….Lord knows when the cold wind blows it’ll turn your head around…I’ve seen sunny days and I thought they’d never end….but I always thought I would see you again….somehow one more time again…..thought I’d see you one more time again….say nice things about me now…..I’m gone.”

To be continued at the other end of this journey….mid-July. Denver. My Rocky Mountain home.

The Creative Epiphany – Life is a Three Ring Circus

 

oct11 002 Painting by Jo Ann Brown-Scott titled Red Sea at Night, Sailor’s Delight

As I was having dinner with a couple friends the other night we happened upon the subject of getting older – a subject we don’t dwell on here where we live but it does rear its gray and wrinkled head from time to time. We live in  a  lovely 55+ active senior community of over 7,000 households that affords us many choices for how we might enjoy spending our leisure time. Sun City here in Lincoln, CA is a state of the art senior retirement area that has it all. We are located in the rolling hills leading into the Sierras, halfway between SF Bay and Lake Tahoe, so we can certainly keep ourselves busy when we go “off campus” as well. There are many people here who still work, and many who do very well at staying productive and relevant although they are completely retired. I have had a part-tine job here for the past 3 years teaching adult art classes, so I fall somewhere in the middle. The lifestyle we wake up to every morning is a positive example for anyone over 55 who is dedicated to staying active and young at heart for as long as possible.

One of my friends mentioned that she doesn’t like to volunteer her age in social gatherings because some rude harsh realists instantaneously make a judgment to themselves about her when she does – mentally placing her in a category they see as appropriate to that number, thus stereotyping her based upon no actual factual information. It drove her crazy – she could see it happen before her eyes. They either made remarks of utter amazement at her ability to stay looking and acting so young, as if she was some mutant who had drunk from the fountain of youth, or they saw her as doomed any minute when her age finally caught up with her. So she made a conscious decision to be “age-free” similar to some people who never discuss their weight and refuse to acknowledge a scale.

They said recently on TV (and sometimes we want to believe what we hear on TV) that 70 is the new 50. Well! That got the attention of many people I know. You can call this denial or readjustment of numbers a silly tactic or you can call it clever marketing….. I happen to believe it is no one’s business how old you are or how much you weigh. Who cares. I certainly don’t. But I will say this – when you arrive at certain pivotal markers in life, you do begin to realize that you may no longer be in the “center ring”. You pick up on subtle clues…in a heated discussion of some topic, for instance, involving a group of people of which you are the oldest, you realize that no one cares what you think. No one asks, no one wonders, no one directs the conversation your way. Or perhaps a group starts making plans for an activity that is quite physical, maybe a hike, and instead of asking if you’d like to participate, they assume it’s going to be too strenuous for you and leave you out of the plans. No one wants to be dragging your sorry ass up the trail. And maybe it is too strenuous, but an invitation would still be nice. Please let me hold onto my dignity; I will decide what is too strenuous for me. Maybe I’ll die trying but that’s for me to decide. Maybe I’ll just stop halfway up and eat my lunch.

It is difficult to start feeling irrelevant long before you really are. Many cultures include the older members of the family in their extended living arrangements, and that seems to me a great way of elongating  the productive years for seniors. There is usually something we seniors can contribute to the family whole that is valued and helpful, and being included in daily conversations and activities of the people you love is a crucial to feeling relevant. It has been proven that longevity is far more likely if accompanied by a healthy and happy quality of life that gives you several reasons to get up in the morning, whether it is a garden to tend, a pet to feed, a child to read to, a porch to sweep or just a friend to have coffee with on a regular basis.

The circus of life does have 3 rings, and even a carnival side-show. The trick is to figure out how you can continue to be productive in some arena. Then after that, be a little assertive about holding your place in the order of things. Don’t vacate your hard-fought territory.  Offer your opinions, laugh and listen to the conversations around you. Insist on being the same you that you have always been. This is not our parents world; this is not Leave it to Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet. This is the brand new 21st century and the statistics say we are going to be around longer. However we choose to handle ourselves as active seniors, you can be sure we are being observed. We are the new Poster Children for active senior living. Let’s make some noise about it and leave everyone proud we were here for so long.