Such a diversity of individuals enter my studio these days, now that it is located in connection with an art museum. These are strangers from many walks of life, the common denominator being an interest in art. Some of these people saunter in, look abstractly about, see nothing to their taste and walk out. I often hear them chatting with the representational landscape artists next door.
Other individuals are curious about my work, enjoy the diversity of mediums and the character within my abstract approach to art.
My favorite guests are those who walk in, glance about confused until their eyes focus, and then scurry forward to get a closer look at the most obscure pieces. These people might be gesticulating wildly at the large paintings or grabbing for the magnifying glasses to look closer and closer at the minuscule pieces. Either way, they tend to burst out in response to the stories they see inside my work and I get to see how something I've made has touched another soul deeply.
There is no better feeling than meeting a stranger at a deep level.
This is in honor of 6 real individuals who have or are traveling through deep illness. One has died and another, a 15-year old, has a limited projected life span. A third is fighting cancer. The remaining three are struggling with illnesses that are not life threatening but take concentrated efforts to avoid physical pain.
What is remarkable about all of these individuals is they were/are striving for happiness no matter what, and achieving that happiness is the purest essence of human healing. Just as the able bodied can be horribly unhappy, the crippled and endangered can fight the pain and mindfully live in a space of joy.
How does an ill person achieve this joy? It is a scientific fact that our brains secrete happy juices when we do three different actions: Play, Care, Search. I call these the "healthy picks (pcs)." When I think back on the happiest moments of my day I like to ask myself... was I playing? ...caring for someone? ...searching for a new angle or topic of thought?
The 6 real individuals above were/are experts at positive thinking through use of playing, caring and searching. As long as the mind is interested in these three activities our positive brain juices reward us with good feelings and these in turn create more good feelings. Then we can go dance in the streets with Pharrell Williams even if we are on our backs in bed with no physical ability to prance vertically to the music.
It's all a matter of using our imaginations wisely. As an artist I have chosen to paint a caring image about illness. It involved a long search for me to find the right way to portray a balance of pain on the figure's face with the joy that is in her spirit. I began this piece in 2012 when I met the 15-year-old. Understanding exactly what I saw on her face took me over a year to distill.
As mentioned earlier in this blog, I am at present working on a large blue/white painting. My intention was to create something diffused, rather indistinct, but when I looked into my first layer of paint I saw so many birds I immediately tried instead to capture the avian chaos. One of my main frustrations about bird illustrations is that while the birds are clearly recognizable, a sense of movement is almost always missing. I am not so much interested in distinct differences between species as I am in wanting to capture birds doing their thing on land and in flight, their bodies abstracted into a flurry of shapes suggesting movement forwards and back through time and space.
I have lived with a bird watcher for 28 years and it seems osmosis is finally having its way with me. And with such a flurry of energy! This is a very confusing piece to tame! So far I've found within the rough first layers of paint at least 80 large or small bird shapes of multiple species and artistic genres. (Examples: Perigrine Falcon, Kingfisher, and swan. Representational, cartoon, and abstract.)
Because the piece is expressively abstracted the viewer has the opportunity to discover wings and feathers or beaks and talons within shapes that a moment before might have looked like gently rolling hills or shifting rocks and twigs. An iceberg becomes an upside down white bird breast becomes an iceberg again. A beak becomes a skull becomes a beak of a bird facing another direction. I'm having so much fun finding all of these points of perspective in the detail that I am wondering if the chaos of flight can actually be handled as well. Maybe this painting is too complex to be tamable. So many dripping avian splatters (bird poop) and whooshing flight lines and then the question of how to make an airy atmosphere feel grounded enough, safe enough, for the viewer to venture into. Part of me doesn't want this painting to be tamed. It's too much fun to fly around in while I'm solving problems with my paintbrush.
Where am I when I am not posting?
Sitting in my studio, trying to tame the chaos.
Here is a very early stage of the canvas I have been working on for the past three weeks.
Me being me, this painting will end up a very detailed whirl of events, and most likely full of color.
As of today I will be in four different group art shows. Three are located in California cities and one is in Chicago. The themes are "Equilibrium," "New Beginnings," "Our Natural World," and "Small Works." My mind wants to bend backwards and wonder what thought patterns inspired these topics. Why do we feel a need for balance? What have we lost? What is unnatural in our world? Who among us are comfortable with looking closely at the details of where we are right now?
Here's a detail as seen through a magnifying glass. The fun for me is discovering forms and figures I didn't even know I was creating because they were so small when I drew them. Under magnification all kinds of interesting possibilities appear. It just takes a positive attitude and the tools and energy to look.
I cut up the group of 2"x2" drawings (see Dec. 18 blog entry) and handed them out as gifts to a group of art friends. While I was personally influenced by the Big Sur fire when I was drawing them, I also thought about this group of women and how we all go through difficult times in our lives, and the tools we use to keep from sinking into dysfunction or worse.
My husband read me a quote about how our country doesn't really know how to do grief. We expect our family, friends, neighbors to bounce back unharmed by traumatic change, and we are surprised and disappointed when it isn't so easy to achieve this cork behavior ourselves. These drawings describe thought/behavior tools that can help with buoyancy.
Francine Survilo wrote to me her thoughts about the drawing she received.
"I like the little ladder picture because of the idea of getting different air. I remember a time when my mom was having a terrible, upsetting time with her landlady trying to make her get rid of all her flowers and I was trying to help. We would both get so upset and then one day I drove us a couple of miles east to the Baylands where we sat on a bench. After 2 or 3 minutes we both felt so much better - just light and free like our old selves. That's what I thought of when you talked about the differentair up on the ladder."
A bit more activity has appeared on the page. Making this kind of drawing takes time. Each individual is a world unto him/herself, as we are in life. One must disassociate from one type of thinking figure into a different personality/experience and character drawing style. Interruptions from life helps, too. That little pig is Miss Priscilla who was released from her pen when the Big Sur Fire burned too close to her home. I keep hearing her grunts of pleasure.
Sometimes life takes us on adventures we'd prefer not to travel. These little drawings are about the courage we find within ourselves to get through rough times and to reclaim dreams lost. Somehow we have to turn what is difficult into something that is transcending. It takes a certain mind set, and it can take months, even years to achieve. It is absolutely doable.
I drew these the first day I learned my home town was on fire. Many of my friends have lost their beloved homes with nothing but their lives and a vehicle to drive out in. If you are interested in helping those devastated, here's a link with information.
In order to reclaim lost dreams it helps to find within oneself:
(Reading left to right)
1) Unconditional love.
2) Inner balance through concentration.
3) Trust in the lessons from your ancestors.
4) The ability to climb towards breathing fresh, clean air.
5) A trust that you can soar with your own inner strength.
6) Your own unique triangles of experiential insight and strength.
7) Creative energy.
8) Your personal spiritual holy grail.
9) Your own unique key to answering the question.
10) The light that is reflected in the glass that is holding the liquid.
11) Community support.
12) The relaxing atmospheric thought of meditation.
13) Your connection with nature.
14) The knowledge that every deep hole is full of insight.
This work in progress is pretty much what it is all about. Here we are, doing our own things, each of us in our own worlds and then sometimes reaching out to others. How we touch those near us is sometimes messy and at other times helpful and maybe inspiring. There are confused times when we don't read other people very well and make matters worse by reacting from a place of inner anguish or self disrespect. Balancing these miseries are the blissful moments where those we meet enjoy the unguarded sounds that come out of our mouths.
Some of us are natural clowns, some natural frowns. We might be emotionally straight brains or twisted psychological tornadoes. We might ponder the universe or be those that are fascinated by the cracks in the sidewalk. We are those who love a good cup of coffee or those who get jazzed by herbal concoctions. We are they who have never met an argument that isn't lovable or those who cringe at the sound of a nay. Is it air under that hood of a car we love the most, or that which blows off books in forgotten libraries? Do we delight by the stories of others or wish we didn't have to hear so much noise in the world? Do we like frijoles, sushi, cooked cabbage, fried worms, chocolate roasted with love and inspiration? Do we pop mint life savers when we are at a loss of what else to do?
This past weekend I had an Open Studio and my art room was full to over flowing with strangers and friends alike. Each individual was a walking inner story sharing my space and looking into my art mind with interest that ranged from enthusiastic soul mate to informed critic and on towards detached skeptic.
What thrills me about the whole experience is that it was not a one sided experience. People did not just come in and look and leave: instead there was discussion about views and perspectives and philosophies. We talked about my work. We talked about their work. We both found and noted similar chords as well as disparate notes that set each of us apart as individuals different from one/another.
Communication is at the heart of all art. It is so easy to settle into surrounding oneself with like minds, but the fascination is in discovering the diversity, recognizing that what we might think at first has no meaning actually could come alive when thought upon... and then Wow! our world has just been enriched with the youthful vitality of the newly perceived. This past weekend such wealth of ingredients was tossed into my compost pile. This morning it turned into black gold. Time to create guys! You, too!
I am a visual person who draws and paints about life, viewing the world from a variety of perspectives. Since I have one foot in civilization and one foot in nature, and my head isn't afraid of deep caverns or dizzying heights, I end up in some pretty interesting places. ~ ~ ~
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I have two blogs. Toldileigh.blogspot.com muses about the world through the lens of my art mind. The second blog, Maybeperhapsifyouwill.blogspot.com, is a bunch of nonsense I create by harvesting characters from my artwork and giving them dialogues.
All art/writings in blogs copyright Leigh Toldi unless otherwise specified.