I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.

Good designs sell – mine sell out!

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Savor"

Living in the moment is something too many of us forget to do, me included as it was pointed out recently. It's important to savor whatever is in front of us at any moment -- warm puppies, happy children, the smell of pine trees, the Thanksgiving leftovers in my refrigerator.

I did the attached flower for no other reason than I felt like doing it. I savored the time of copy/paste/rotate/fill/emboss... When I was done with it, I wondered why did I waste time on something for which I don't have a practical application? There are so many "useful" things I "should" have done instead. I was following a friend's advice to "lighten up", and pushed myself to doodle while watching tv. The doodle seemed enough to computer doodle too.

I read the Tao of Pooh this week, and absolved myself for "wasting" time on impractical computer art. I greatly recommend this book. It's Eastern philosophy ala Winnie the Pooh, and one of my brother Brian's favorites. He has quoted it to me for years, and I finally read it after finding it in my niece's bedroom last weekend.

The lesson I've been contemplating this week is that water doesn't run in a straight line. Having spent so much time on the bank of my river, I've watched the water flow around rocks, wander to the edges, and go wherever it finds the least resistance. Thinking about this has let me give myself permission to quit banging my head on what I "should" do, and apply my energies to the things that feel more comfortable and happy. When I think of "shoulds", I procrastinate and spend my time in self-criticism. In other words, get nothing done instead of making impractical flowers.

Maybe the flower is important in ways I haven't considered? It reminds me of what I like to do, and another of the lessons in the book is to be true to our own natures and success will follow effortlessly. I look at other people's blogs and notice the cute children's art and funny cartoons. That's great for the people who like to do those things, and I like looking at it, but I like painting flowers. Sometimes impractical, fanciful flowers with no apparent use.

I feel lighter and happier to allow myself an impractical flower. I feel less restrained to allow myself to wander wherever the water wants to take me. Happy artists make happy art, and that makes the world better for everyone!

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Sneaky"

Dad talked about elves and fairies as if they were behind the nearest tree, with a superstitious tension in his shoulders as he explained the ways and laws of their parallel world. "Always treat them with respect" was his most frequent advice. "They don't trust humans" was another of his facts. The main thing I took away from his stories was that elves and fairies could be sneaky and vicious no matter how beautiful they might seem. Walking through a fairy ring of mushrooms could mean death or permanent enslavement in their world.

I laid back and watched dragonflies dancing among the tall grasses and flowers, against the backdrop of blue skies and fluffy clouds, and knew the dragonflies were fairies in disguise. It's always best to be careful. I didn't fear Santa marking down my mistakes on his famous list. I knew the tag marked "from Santa" was in Mom's handwriting. I wasn't stupid. Santa was a myth. Fairies were real. I could feel them in the sparkling grasses next to the water. Listening. They are the spies of the alternate world.

I put my foot inside the fairy ring. Nothing happened. With one foot firmly planted on the outside, I put some weight on the foot inside the ring. Nothing happened again. That night I looked out my bedroom window and wondered if I could see the lights of the fairies' dance, and could almost hear their council deciding whether or not to punish me for daring to question their sovereignty.

The next day I ran through the fairy ring. I figured if I went fast, my feet wouldn't destroy their invisible houses. I nervously watched from my bedroom window to see whether or not they would come to punish me. Nothing happened. The fairies accepted me. I didn't push the boundaries again. I wasn't trying to hurt them, just test my own bravery. I passed.

Some of my all-time favorite books are the series of Faeries and other magical creatures by Brian Froud and Alan Lee.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Burning"

This is what it looks like inside a Native American sweat lodge. The fire burns outside of the heavily blanketed mound, and hot rocks are brought in so people can sit in the dark and sweat, pray, meditate.

My first sweat lodge was an accident of fate. Hoosier National Forest in Southern Indiana allowed the Lakota Sioux to have a Sun Dance in the park. The Indians took this very seriously, but in order to gain permission, they had to agree to allow parkgoers to watch. The Sioux resented this. I resented their resentment. The Lakota are as native to Indiana as I am. I also resented that they had a lot of unwritten rules that I promptly broke because I didn't know what they were. Alright, it's common sense not to drink pop in front of people who are fasting, but I didn't know they were fasting. I didn't know that I shouldn't pee in the sacred Port-a-Potty (reserved for dancers), or walk in front of the dancers when they weren't dancing. If they'd clued me in about any of this, I would've obliged. As it was, the Indians were annoyed, I was annoyed, but the Sun Dance went on with young men tearing the flesh on their chests where it was attached by thongs to a central pole and the drums beat and beat and beat throughout the heat of the summer day.

As I was setting up camp in the evening, my Blackfoot girlfriend came running to say we were invited to join the women's sweat. That sounded like Greek to me, but I'm game for new experiences. I ran after her, ducked inside the sweat lodge, sat down, and waited for something to happen. Hot rocks were brought in from the fire and put in a central pit and the opening flap was closed. In the pitch black, sage was put on the rocks for cleansing, and the aromatic smoke filled the cramped space in a pleasant, choking way. Water was ladled onto the hot rocks, and a cloud of scorching steam burned my nose and throat. I quickly decided that I had just allowed myself to be trapped in hell. I buried my face in my shirt to try to lessen the pain and misery while I became acutely aware of sweat gushing out of pores I had never bothered to acknowledge before. This is not an activity for people with heart problems or claustrophobia.

Eventually the pain and misery lessened, and I got tired of waiting for something to happen. I let my mind wander, and interesting things surfaced in the wandering. More sage was added from time to time, more scorching steam, and I had resigned myself to my entrapment. Then the prayers started. The leader of the circle stated the intent of the sweat. She said an opening prayer, much of it in the Lakota language. The Sun Dance was for preserving sacred places, and the Indians wanted patience in dealing with the white people. Okay. Asking for blessings for the preservation of the land is something I can go along with, and sometimes I need patience dealing with white people too. I was lulled into an interesting state where my body didn't feel real any more.

Then the next woman in the circle said a prayer. I had the first pains of panic as I realized they were going around the circle with prayers. How was I supposed to say a prayer to their God, for their purposes, without betraying my own beliefs?! I thought fast and hard while the disembodied voices crept closer to my place in the circle. I must've been exceptionally eloquent because the women slapped their thighs and voiced approval. I slumped in relief. I felt like I had just run a gauntlet. Then I realized they were working on another round of prayers, and I had used up all my material. Back to thinking hard and fast for another acceptable prayer. And on and on.

I had a glimmer of hope of escape when the flap was raised, but it was just to bring hotter rocks in. More scalding steam, more sage, more prayers. I wrestled between my feelings of entrapment, physical misery, and an increasing sense of the spiritual rightness in the universe. I quit working so hard on my prayers and just let myself flow with the movement of the spirit combined in the efforts of this small group of women. My meditation in the silence reached levels I hadn't considered seeking before. I quit thinking about my imprisonment and felt the moment suspended in an alternate reality of now.

When I was finally released, I suddenly realized I was the only one sitting in the dark fully clothed. My jeans were soaked through with sweat as if I had just gone swimming in the river. My husband of the time smelled me, and said my sweat smelled sweet and clean, more like rain water than sweat. I drank a gallon of water then slept like a rock in my sleeping bag, with dreams that built on my meditations.

The next day, my face shone in a different way. The surly shaman actually smiled at me. The women offered me breakfast. I peed in the right Port-a-Potty, and the Sun Dance made more sense to me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Afterwards"

I'm sulking this week because I'm facing another birthday. I stood in line at the license bureau and contemplated my driver's license. I swear I've aged too much in the 4 years since the last picture. It was so different when I stood in line to get my fake ID as a teenager. This time I paid $80 for a little plastic sticker for my license plate and a crappier picture than I had before. It just doesn't seem fair. I'd like my $80 and 20 years back.

Of course we can't undo or redo things we've already lived through, but I wonder about some of the decisions I've made along the way. Where would my life be if I'd taken the job at Hallmark? What if I'd moved out after I threw the engagement ring across the room? I'm living with all the "afterwards" of my decisions. I don't really regret them, but sometimes I've just got to pause and wonder what if?

Part of the thing of youth is that "afterwards" don't get considered very much. If it sounds fun, let's do it! Experience let's me know drinking too much causes hangovers, spending too much causes debt, and most importantly, I'm not immune to those kinds of things. Wisdom makes life somewhat less fun, and I'm not even sure it makes us any more secure a lot of the time. There's got to be a proper balance between taking chances and hanging onto security.

When I was in Girl Scouts, my troop went camping in winter where there was a swimming pool with a thin layer of ice on top. One of the brilliant counselors suggested breaking the ice and "polar bear" swimming. A line of skinny little girls stood shivering in our bathing suits and looked at her like she was nuts. Eventually I decided I was cold either way, so I jumped in and started swimming. A few girls followed my lead, and the rest watched from the sidelines. Good thing we didn't die of pneumonia while we were led back to the lodge wrapped in towels, shivering hard enough to cause an earthquake, while listening to a lecture about "character building".

Since it didn't kill me, I think maybe it did build some character. I learned I had some leadership abilities, could make my own choices, and it's okay to take some risks. Sometimes we do have to jump into the ice, and even though I'm faced with another birthday, I'm not so old I can't jump in if I feel like it.