While trying to understand the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi, a friend introduced me to the concept of Yūgen, another important concept of traditional Japanese aesthetics. It suggests that which is beyond what can be said.
The term is first found in Chinese philosophical texts, where it has the meaning of “dark,” or “mysterious.”
Kamo no Chōmei, the author of the well-known Hōjōki poetry, wrote of yūgen: “It is like an autumn evening under a colorless expanse of silent sky. Somehow, as if for some reason that we should be able to recall, tears well uncontrollably.” Another characterization helpfully mentions the importance of the imagination: “When looking at autumn mountains through mist, the view may be indistinct yet have great depth. Although few autumn leaves may be visible through the mist, the view is alluring. The limitless vista created in imagination far surpasses anything one can see more clearly” (Hume, 253–54).
And so I come to the "limitless vista of the imagination" and its mysterious quality. As artists and appreciators of art, these concepts are not new. Yet the beauty of the imagination is that it is infinite and constantly changing. By embracing it, we are giving life to art every step pf the way...
In traditional Japanese aesthetics, Wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete". (WIKI). It is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. It is rooted in Zen Buddhism and the ancient tea ceremony in which the imperfections in the pottery and glazes were honored.
Ive been thinking so much about this idea lately as I take a look at my unfinished paintings at various points of imperfection and transience. I am learning to appreciate them for what they are and not try to find the "just perfect" point at which I can say that they are done. It is a deeply self-accepting way of being, one in which our society does not value. We are constantly struggling to make our faces, bodies, houses, cars, children...perfect. How about if we just loved the cracks, the broken edges, what would that look like in our art and in our life?
This photograph of some decaying plant near my home struck me as beautiful in its subtlety of color, texture and shape. I think of that time honored Leonard Cohen song: There is a crack in the darkness, that's where the light comes in.
I INVITE YOU TO JOIN ME ON THIS JOURNEY IN MY WEEKLY CLASSES, WORKSHOPS OR THE UPCOMING OJAI RETREAT IN SEPTEMBER.
I have just completed a week of summer art camp with the most creative, enthusiastic group of kids imaginable. I provide the inspiration and the opportunity and they run with it to places that I couldn't predict. This week we focused on animals. I always incorporate use of natural materials and look what they did with the bark that had fallen off the trees in the park!! They are gorgeous.
I have 2 more weeks of camp each with a different theme. One will focus on the intersection between Science and Art, a very exciting program. Check them out if your child is free in August. www.theart-process.com.
In the meantime, enjoy whatever summer plans you have. And sometimes, no plans are the best!! Our lives are so programmed...
I have just returned from a glorious week of sailing in the Mediterranean around the Greek Isles. If anybody has ever wondered how to kickstart your creativity, go and experience something COMPLETELY different. I was fortunate enough to be sailing on the Mediterranean Sea and was inspired by the dazzling aqua of the ocean and the muted tones of the houses on the island of Symi. However, you can have a change of scenery wherever you are. The art process doesn't happen always in the studio. It happens when you dive into the ocean, take a stroll in the woods, climb a mountain, explore a new neighborhood or page through a new book. Changing your perspective is a great way to avoid stagnation in your artwork. Join the art process studio in one of our many classes, workshops and retreats. We focus on the whole"CARASTROPHY" as Zorba would say...
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Recently I heard an interview with philosopher and artist, Enrique Martinez Celaya. Drawn from workshops he has taught at Anderson Ranch, Colorado, he wrote a book called "on art and mindfulness". He writes: "When doubts bring you down, go back to the work not with the intention of doing something great but of doing something that marks your presence, that affirms you exist. Do not let yourself remain absent."
I love this quote. Those of you who know me and my style of teaching and working, know that I bring mindfulness to the art process. For me, mindfulness needs to be existing both in and out of the studio. However, it is not always easy and each day I try....
I have been thinking about this idea about time in the studio: the difference between chopped up time and sequential time.
Don't get me wrong, ANY time in the studio is of value. However, when I squeeze in art time between other tasks, I tend to avoid going deeper into my process. It seems that I am starting again each time and not assigning it the value that it deserves. When I devote a good few hours, or a whole day to my painting, there is no question that I swim in deeper waters at the same time while valuing my art process more.
In my full day fearless art making workshop, we delved really deeply into our process and began a real relationship with both the painting and the ACT of painting. I will be holding monthly day long workshops coming up, so stay tuned.
Even better, join me for TWO WHOLE DAYS on a retreat in OJAI: September 16th, 17th. The Peppertree Retreat is a magical place and I would love you to join me there as we delve deeper into what art making means to us. There will also be meditation and optional yoga and hiking.
SUMMERTIME IS A GREAT TIME TO TAKE YOUR KIDS TO ART MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES.
For those of you who have unrealistic expectations (like I did) about taking your kids to museums, I have compiled a list of suggestions that will make your trips more fun, engaging for your child and will create a life long fascination with art for your kids.
1. FIRST: Put aside your own expectations for seeing art. For YOUR experience, visit the museum another day without kids!
2. Choose times that are not too crowded. Summertime is a perfect time to take them during the week at times that are less busy.
3. Do not spend too much time in the museum. Kids have a different attention span and you can land up making them dread the long, laborious museum visits that you are subjecting them to. Remember, your aim is to make them want to come back!
4. Make it about their choices. Ask them which piece they are drawn to and go and stand in front of it. Or go into the museum shop and ask them to choose a postcard of a piece that they like and then play a game by finding it in the museum. Create a scavenger hunt.
5. Ask lots of questions to engage them: What do you see? what are the people feeling? What are they doing? What time of the day do you think it is? etc. etc. More engagement means more interest.
Do you have a dialogue with your paintings?
My painting talks to me sometimes gently and sometimes screaming out at me. I talk back with paint and we begin a conversation…That conversation often reveals something to me of my state of mind, an awareness that I would not otherwise discover. Paint allows me to access that subconscious state without me even knowing it. Thats what I LOVE about the art process. When you are stuck, grab a color and paint over an area that’s not working for you. Whats the worst that can happen? You wipe it off and then surprises pop up as the layers become more complex and actually I liked what happened when I started wiping more vigorously in the piece below. Its not done, its in process. Are we ok with process? Do we have to have a product? How about seeing painting as a journey of self discovery in the same way that our lives are a journey of self discovery. We don't stop at a certain stage and say: "That's it. I'm done. I know all I need to know." No, we continue to search, to ask the difficult questions and hopefully to be open to what comes next...I would love you to join me on this search, try a workshop or better still, come to Ojai with me in September for 2 full days of immersion into the art process. hugs to you all....
Sometimes its just fun to play with paper and not take it all too seriously! In this collage, I experimented with what paper can do when you cut, fold, roll, twirl and stick! I'll be doing this project at the imagination station during the Venice Art Walk this Sunday May 21st. Come and check it out: https://theveniceartwalk.org/
As art makers we have so much to learn from children. They intuitively know how to engage in the PROCESS of making art. Its an experience for them, a journey, not an end product.
In this art lesson I played a whole lot of different music and gave them chalks and paper and let them just react to the music. Look what came out! Not one child didn’t know how to begin. Not one child asked if they were doing it “right”. Not one child said that they didn’t like what they were doing. They were full engaged in THE ART PROCESS. That is why I love working with children and why I call my studio THE ART PROCESS. I want all adults to be inspired by this idea. Making art is a journey of self discovery and when we can let go of the end product, we are surprised at what comes out.
“I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.” Georgia O’Keeffe
This is my favorite quote because it acknowledges that fear doesn’t go away, it is something that we artists learn to live with and not give it as much power as we tend to. The best antidote is to just create, create, create…
The following picture is of my students fearlessly painting with a long brush on a large piece of paper on the floor and then cutting
Amazing discoveries happen when you allow yourself to play with one medium, in the case of the video, a water soluble marker. In this month’s adult mixed media class we are working on discovering variety in lines and marks, all expressions of different types of emotional energy. Try to use only one color and one medium, I always start with black. The paintings are done on large paper with a long handled brush, then cut up into smaller pieces. Amazing energy!!!
What better way to celebrate Mother Earth on Earth Day, April 22nd than in The Art Process garden studio? With all ages from kids to adults, I led a guided meditation in the garden, slowing us down to listen to the birds and learning to to appreciate nature by collecting flowers, leaves, sticks, stones to create these magnificent mandalas from nature.