“Without time and space unburdened from external input and social strain, we’d be unable to fully inhabit our interior life, which is the raw material of all art.” Maria Popova
I spoke in a previous blog about how uncomfortable many of us are because we’ve been thrown into solitude, a slower pace of life without external demands on our time. With less distractions, we are suddenly, alone with our thoughts, and the world seems pretty fearful and uncertain at the moment. However for me this time in solitude is welcome Which is not to diminish the hardship. I too am worn away by loneliness and a grief for the society we have all lost. Still, it is also true, that as an artist I spend a lot of time alone. Over the years I have come to require time alone so that I can experience the quality of spaciousness that comes from being alone with my thoughts. It is not just noise I need to block out, it is competing thoughts, and the ideas of others. Those interrupting thoughts and ideas would prevent me from following the trail I am discovering, like a curious puppy. While solitude is required for studio time, I believe everyone requires time alone. Solitude allows us to center ourselves and find creativity. Sometimes you need to sit in a quiet room in order to hear your own voice and not let it be drowned out by the noise of others. I recall my mother of five children saying, "Quiet down so I can hear myself think!" Working on these daily paintings I sit quietly without expectation of outcome and explore spatial relationships and how tension is created through the variation of color and/or shape and the size of the shapes. At the time I made this painting, the blazing orange trees outside my windows had been replaced with a warm and lovely burnt sienna. The faded light green and yellow leaves on the ground mixed in with occasional deep reds and dark colors.
“Our capacity for what psychoanalyst Adam Phillips has termed ‘fertile solitude’ is absolutely essential not only for our creativity, but for the basic fabric of our happiness,” Maria Popova
Practicing art, like practicing meditation, makes the practitioner into the kind of person who pays attention to the world they are in. Looking at the world through a lens that selects for beauty fosters an attitude of awe and wonder in the common place . Communicating what you discover about the world is what artists: poets, dancers, actors, photographers, and painters etc. do. My #morning light series on Instagram, and this blogabout that topic is a natural outgrowth of my practices. All people who learn to seek out beauty are rewarded with a lightness of spirit. You can take a moment to pause and focus on beauty whenever you choose.
“Make a place to sit down. Sit down. Be quiet…” Wendell Berry “How to Be a Poet,”
As I've said, when I sit down to work, I try to empty my mind of expectations of how the painting should look. It is harder to maintain that non-judgmental gaze as the work continues. Meditation practice helps with this. Here is a field of colorful marks, clearly influenced by the colors in the outdoor environment in the autumn days.
“The impulse to create begins… in a tunnel of silence,” Adrienne Rich
Around the time I painted this, I had been thinking about how we tell ourselves stories to make sense of things that happen to us. This tendency helps us move along in our lives, learning lessons as we go. After touching something that is glowing red with heat we will tell ourselves a story that prevents us from doing that again. If someone betrays our confidence we put that into our story of how our relationship with that person should proceed, taking precautions to not tell them anything we do not want broadcast. However, our perceptions are limited, and limiting. We cannot see everything that is going on and so sometimes our stories do not encompass all the facts. Taking a step back and questioning our reaction to an event and perhaps considering other interpretations, frees us from stories that can limit our experiences as we continue in life. As I look over many of these images, I think about the wind swirling leaves or petals together and then dispersing them again. All is transitory in our lives, good, bad, happy, sad - nothing remains.
Replete is the world with a spiritual radiance, replete with sublime and marvelous secrets. But a small hand held against the eye hides it all,” said the Baal Shem. Abraham Joshua Heschel,
There is a slowness to time spent in solitude. That expansion of time allows us the space to discover the sublime in all that surrounds us. These days, we are all forced to live life at that slower tempo. Because we are so used to the societal push to move faster and faster, this slowness feels totally wrong, perhaps even as if we are betraying a moral code. If we can accept the slower pace as a gift, our perception of the world will be enlarged. In this piece, I manipulated the plastic characteristics of the marks and colors introducing space, volume and movement.
Mankind will not perish for want of information; but only for want of appreciation. The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living . What we lack is not a will to believe but a will to wonder. Abraham Joshua Heschel
Of course I do not spend all of my time in my studio or in silence. I go out into the world , (I am limited to walks with my dog these days) and I observe my surroundings, I “drink in” the colors and forms, the light and shadow. I become a container for all this information, I synthesize these observations and gestate them into paintings. Solitude provides the environment for the transformation to occur.
The cool and light colors create intervals among the bright and dense colors in this one created on 11/13/2019. This final piece in the series, like many others, has an ambiguous pictorial space, it could be read either as a landscape or a pile of flora.
Someone once commented on one of my morning light posts, saying that I lived a poetic life. I interpret that to mean I notice details, I notice beauty, I notice the good in the commonplace You do not have to be a. musician, painter, dancer or poet to have this quality of awe and reverence for creation. You must simply make it your intention and make it a practice to pause and really focus. In this way you carve out creative solitude even if the moment lasts for just a heartbeat.