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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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

 

 

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.

Creativity – Surprisingly Human…

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mixed media painting by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2013

Thought allied fearlessly to purpose becomes creative force. He who knows this is ready to become something higher and stronger than a bundle of wavering thoughts and fluctuating sensations. He who does this has become the conscious and intelligent wielder of his mental powers. (James Allen)

Many articles are written about creativity. It seems rather a newish thing, that after centuries of witnessing its manifestations but not bothering to stop and figure out what the internal dynamics of it are, we now seem to have the time to pick it apart and examine it more closely. Everybody wonders how it happens – what facilitates it, who gets it, how do we nurture it, does it peak and then decline with age, how it can be enhanced and how to increase its potential.

First of all, everybody gets their fair share because it awarded free at birth – absolutely no one is born without it. The degree to which it shows up depends upon which gene tendencies you begin to massage – because certain aspects of creativity can lay dormant if not discovered, acknowledged, encouraged, stroked and cared for. When I taught mixed media painting to adults, people came to my class who had been CEO’s of corporations, high earners and achievers, outstanding in their fields which of course requires enormous vision and creatiity. But they had waited until their retirement years to tentatively tap the latent but strong desire they had kept hidden to someday learn to paint. They had been extremely creative in other areas of their lives to the point where no one had a single clue they secretly wanted to paint. The desire had been put on the shelf or choked out entirely for years, so  that ambition of a different caliber could take the lead at the exclusion of all else.

The creativity was bound to come out sooner or later…or was it? We hear all the time about people who discover they can sing, dance, write, paint and numerous other creative activities well into their adult lives, and I say what a shame that they waited so long. I wish more people would live the wondrous, colorful world of creativity all along the journey and not confine it to the last couple chapters of the book of life. Think of it! Life is all about the journey…living in Technicolor is of great importance.

We must not be too ambitious. We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint box. And, for this, Audacity is the only ticket. (Winston Churchill)

There is no secret formula for being highly creative. The habits of the most gifted creative people vary enormously – they are observed and envied, scrutinized and examined by people who want more of what they see. The trick to being creative and using the potential that is already there inside you is to dig deep and know yourself. Define what you desire, ask yourself if it is true and appropriate to who you authentically are (because not every one of us has exactly what it takes to be a Steven Spielberg) and what you are unconsciously drawn to, and give it some oxygen. Bring it out to the light of day. It does not have to crowd out everything else, to the extent that you drop whatever else you were doing and give it your complete 100% ALL  (although that has worked for many people) but it does mean that you must give it a fighting chance to be heard, seen and nurtured. You have to be willing to bring it out of hiding and show it to the world, unapologetically, unselfconsciously, and even proudly, as you sharpen your skills and learn. You cannot be timid – you must be strong – gutsy –  not easily discouraged – able to listen to criticism –  and you must have confidence and trust yourself even on the days when you are less convinced that what you are offering to the world is worthy of attention. Creative people make mistakes, get embarrassed, sometimes make fools of themselves all the damn time – even the best of them. But they keep going. They have tenacity. They are resilient.

But you knew all that, right?

A heartfelt sense of aspiring cuts through negativity about yourself; it cuts through the heavy trips you lay on yourself. (Pema Chodron)

The Creative Epiphany – Giant Redwood-like Birthdays

sunone Muir Woods, California

Today I am having one of those epic birthdays, right on the heels of Thanksgiving, that are thrust upon you to get your complete attention and sober you up about life. I am beginning to feel like a giant Redwood. Last year launched me involuntarily and against my protests into a new decade and now, a brief, fleeting, sort of nano-second year later I have my first year of that decade already under my belt. My belt is tightening with all the decades under it. When I was growing up I never could imagine I’d be this old, and I thought that if by any chance I was, someday, this old, I would be at death’s door – shriveled and feeble and ditsy and wrinkled and not having any fun at all. Might as well be dead, I thought.

I am none of those things, to my own amazement. I walk normally, I can still run and climb steep mountain trails, I am not at all feeble, and/or ditsy. I have a gorgeous boyfriend and yes we are lovers. I am a bit wrinkled but so are my younger friends, and I am having Tons Of Fun, enjoying one of the greatest periods of time in my life. Who knew it would be like this? I still listen to the R&R station on the radio when I drive because it is upbeat and infinitely more energizing than the news talk shows. I do believe that the channels you listen to on the car radio are revealing of your internal state of affairs. Please don’t listen to those idiotic and arrogant “spouter – offers” who seem to want every single person on the planet to believe as they do. They will pollute your day, robbing it of any optimism and cheerfulness, and eventually sour your mind and your soul on life. Listen to the fun stuff.

Yesterday around the Thanksgiving table we were discussing how old all of us are. Finally I offered the info to my sweet 5 year old great-niece that I was going to be 71 today. Her eyes widened, she looked at me and said, “Great (she drops off the “aunt” ) Jo, you are going to die!” Everyone laughed and I was the first to agree with her. But I am not dying today. I am nowhere near being finished.

Honestly, composing this blog is my attempt at brushing off this birthday with clever observations when in reality my birthday is always a deeply emotional moment in time for me. Last week I was reminded again and mourned again the fact that JFK was killed just a week before my 21st birthday. I can’t say that I enjoy birthdays anymore when they are my own. I have a reputation for making other people’s birthdays special and spectacular, but not my own. I see my own as harsh reminders. I am always glad glad glad when the day is over and I can stop the celebration. I can’t wait to move on…..I appreciate everything that loving people do for me, but moving on is my desire.

What I will say to you now is nothing more than the obvious – life seems to grind along most of the time like a slow and heavy wheel, but it is a true phenomenon that when you get older the years begin to fly by. I first noticed this when I turned about 50. The number of years you have lived are greater in length and represent a higher percentage of your probable lifetime than the years you have ahead, and so an urgency settles in. You have that feeling – that looking over your shoulder feeling – that something is chasing you. Instead of trying to run faster, you understand that no matter how fast you can still run, the years are gaining on you, gobbling up your time. You have a lot you want to do and an indefinite period of time in which to do it. If you are an artist, as I am, you know that you are painting better than ever but the payment you make for that reward is a loss of time. Every single day is precious, every holiday, every visit, every moment. Every brushstroke on your canvas has to count.

Gratitude is a word you begin to use more often. Thankfulness. Astonishment at your blessings. But you want to feed the hungry children, save the whales, see peace in your lifetime, witness miracles, travel into space, and leave a lasting legacy. You wonder about lost opportunities, you have experienced forgiveness, you hope for second chances, there are mistakes you can still correct….. you often feel unworthy…..you would like to believe in reincarnation. You value living in a country where life itself is the greatest gift and every life is valued, a country where we can all make a difference and freedom is the consistent, primary focus.  But it’s getting late.

It is my 71st birthday right now but tomorrow I will be ok again.

The Creative Epiphany – My Wish for You

tree2012The holiday season brings wish lists and hopes and dreams in the minds of young and old alike.

Wishing almost becomes a pastime – who wants what, who has already purchased what for whom, which person needs this or that, where what can be found.

I hardly know you – the great YOU who are out there and have responded most kindly to my new blog. And yet I have wishes for you – wishes for everyone. Things I hope for you and gifts I wish you already have and must keep or wishes you might receive. Here they are:

I wish that you all have good people in your lives – a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, mother or father, son or daughter, grandmother and grandfather who love you and tells you so; and a husband, wife, lover or friend who loves and values you and who you value in return.

I wish that you have a special place on earth that you can go sometimes for fun and/or peaceful retreat from the harshness of the world. I happen to believe the world is a wondrous place, but sometimes the noise of it becomes too much. We all need a safe place to hide – a room, a destination, a walking path through the woods….

A pleasurable way to pass your bits of free time – a hobby you love or a service you offer to others or a skill that you can drown yourself in when you need to become consumed by something creative and meditative. Some type of endeavor that takes you away.

I wish for you an understanding of what life is all about; and that you learn the ability to sort things out and keep what is honest, true and beautiful in your life.

I wish that you have the insight and courage to know what you will no longer tolerate in your life and that you can manage to separate yourself and make a distance from any unwanted negativity, if not permanently then just for brief and welcome relief.

Perhaps most of all I wish for you love – love and acceptance of self, love for family, friends and special people in your life and love of humankind in general. We are all fellow captives here on the big blue marble, swarming around together. There is no more water now than there has ever been, no more land, no more sky and no more air. We are all using the same resources – the same gifts – that have been here since before recorded time. I wish that we could all learn sharing, caring, toleration and kindness, peace and love. There really is enough to go around. I wish that we would all see that the gifts are distributed more fairly.