Art is definitely a big "go for it" practice. It's a practice of constantly taking a blank page, or canvas, or stone, or space, or whatever you are working with and turn it into something that is not longer blank, or making it different than it once was. It is the practice of putting that thing that that didn't exist before into a space for people to see that it now exists. It is the practice of gestation and labor and birth; and that is not an easy or a small task.
I think that people often imagine that artists just play in their studios all day. That they dance around lightly brushing their canvas with paint as they go. That their days are pure ecstasy and at the end, as if by magic, a piece of art is created.
But making art is work. It is setting down to work when you want to do something else. It is working through the hard spots. It is making mistakes and fixing them. It is knowing when to keep pushing something and when to stop. It is setting down to the same thing over and over and over, and still bringing your whole self to it. There are some days that I've looked at the same image for so long I can't really "see" it anymore.
Don't get me wrong, sometimes painting is one of the most peaceful, joyful, meditative activities; but some days it's like trying to coax a stray dog out from under a porch with a soggy hamburger. Some days I think, "what in the world did I get myself into with this piece, it is never going to be done." But then it is done, and I get to step back and realize that I made that thing, and that every brush stroke was worth it and that there is now something beautiful where there was once something blank, and that in the making I am changed too.
But then it is done, and I get to step back and realize that I made that thing, and that every brush stroke was worth it and that there is now something beautiful where there was once something blank, and that in the making I am changed too.
I can only be in this moment, in the present, where I actually am. All the worry and anxiety about perfection, and chance, and good or bad luck are nothing. I can only be where I am.
"March 3 2021
There is nowhere else to be, but here.
This morning I went back to sleep after teaching. I slept too long, and I felt groggy and had a hard time waking up. I felt bad about this, and maybe a little about myself-- oscillating between 'I just needed rest and to be kind to myself,' and 'I'm never going to succeed if I don't work harder.'
I finally got myself up and out for a walk-- convinced that it was in vain (as far as photographing wildlife goes). To my surprise in less than a mile I saw a bobcat. He didn't worry much about me. (A lot of animals don't in the Valley. They can be pretty desensitized.) I got quite a few photos- thankful for my luck and thinking [super] early mornings may not be the best/ or at least better. I also got some photos of a small heard of deer in the meadow by the school. I've seen them there before and think wild animals must get into habits just like us.
I had intended to walk out into the big meadow in the middle of the valley, but changed my mind at the last minute. I questioned myself on this, wondering if I'd be missing out on some 'ordained' photo if I veered from my course. How odd a thought, and what a silly anxiety. I think, just like in my morning delay, 'I'm right were I need to be; and where else can I be anyway.' I can only be in this moment, in the present, where I actually am. All the worry and anxiety about perfection, and chance, and good or bad luck are nothing. I can only be where I am.
As I sit here looking at Yosemite Falls I think about water and the relationship between water and rock, hard and soft, rigid and malleable, permanence and ephemerality; and the illusion of permanence in the things we see as strong.
One might look at the falls and think the rock is directing the water, but in actuality the water carved it own way out.
One might look at the falls and think the rock is directing the water, but in actuality the water carved its own way out. The rock had some say-- some rock is softer and easier to erode, maybe there was a crack that filled with water and froze. Maybe a fallen object directed the water along a course. Many things contribute, but there is nowhere else that water could be. No other way to flow, except in another life, in another world, but we are after all in this one. There is nowhere else you can be. So be here fully, presently, and open to the glorious experience that is living."
Since moving I've been trying to set up a really solid schedule that balances all the important things in life and keeps me accountable to my art. For me, getting into daily/weekly/monthly habits can take a bit of practice. One thing that I have found to be the most beneficial and enjoyable is to get outside. (Ironically it is also one of the first things to suffer when I get really busy. I guess it's just so enjoyable that it seems frivolous, which is a ridiculous notion-- definitely something I need to unpack there).
Anyway I did really good for a while with waking up very early, doing a little work, and then heading out with my camera and sketchbook for an hour or two. It was such a restorative practice. I came home feeling energized and excited, and I got so much work done when I got home.
One day I was looking through instagram stories and a sponsored ad from L.L. Bean showed up. It was for an article about "Shinrin-Yoku," which means "forest bathing in Japanese. It discussed the benefits of immersing yourself in nature, and went right along with what I was discovering about my daily "art walks." I'd highly recommend the article, as well as practicing "forest bathing." The L.L. Bean article says, "A study in the journal Psychological Science, for example, found that just an hour spent walking in nature improved attention span and memory by 20%." That's pretty impressive... and only one of the benefits the article cites.
The fact of the matter is our bodies developed to live and move in our natural world. When we take that element away from our lives our bodies and minds suffer. Try it for yourself: go out for an hour and just sit, or meander. Listen to the sounds, notice the colors and textures. Find beauty, and joy. If it is warm, let the sun warm your skin or the breeze stoke your face. Don't mess with your phone or other technology. Turn your phone on do not disturb. If you feel like you need something to do with your hands take a sketch book and practice sketching what you see. If you take a camera, make sure to maintain your focus on the experience of nature, not the act of taking photos. Let me know how it goes!
A few photos from some of my walks in Yosemite.