Saturday, June 20, 2020

This small painting, "Dolor de Corazon" (Pain of the Heart ©10-2013), is from one of my journals. Today it expresses the sorrow I feel over the violent murders happening across this country. Our law books save the death penalty as the ultimate price to be paid for certain violent crimes; that I know of, no state or federal law designates skin color as such a crime. Yet our Black sisters and brothers have been dying by the hands of the police without evidence other than skin color. Rather, their crime seems to be a combination of victimless behaviors: jogging while Black, sleeping at home while Black, dozing in one’s car while Black, or driving legally to a new job on a sunny morning, while Black.    
The great divide in American culture is the abyss between those who live with the threat of extermination every day and those who never give it a thought. 

I am a Roman Catholic, at least that’s the discipline in which I grew up. And in that tradition we recognize martyrs, their sainthood stands as testimony to their bravery against villainy. Our Black brothers and sisters are nothing short of modern day martyrs, recent victims in a long history of African American martyrs whose lives were taken viciously, for no “good” reason. Why has this country endured the long and brutal subjugation of citizens whose progenitors were brought to this country under even more brutal and unjustified events?
            At least now we seem to have come to the place in our history where those who ‘never give it a thought’ can no longer stand witness to this villainy. The American people are witnessing genocide and they cannot wash it out of their minds or conscience.  
Just as women could not vote until men decided that we could, Black people will stop being brutalized when a white system stops brutalizing them. Days and nights of protests around the country are a powerful cease and desist order.
            As a brown-skinned person I have known the sting of racism when it unexpectedly slapped my face. So I flinch every now and then, protecting myself in situations where I read a facial expression or catch a sideways glance. Maybe that’s why I have always embraced and celebrated the mosaic of people that make up this world. In a poem called Too Many Names, Pablo Neruda says “I know only the skin of the earth and I know it is without a name.” We are the human race, children of this beautiful and amazing planet. Let’s appreciate our differences as we value mountains from desert, river from ocean, and valley from seashore.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

"Travelers' there is no path, paths are made by walking." Antonio Machado

It was shocking to see how very long it has been since I posted an entry here. And I see that I intended to take up posting again on a regular schedule. As I journal, and do so without any prodding, it would seem that blogging should be an easy process. But the element of visibility makes blogging a form of self-promotion, and there is the issue that keeps me away.
Growing up, I was discouraged from any type of boasting or self-aggrandizement. Good grades were expected, and pride about accomplishments was kept quietly within the family. Self-promotion was bragging, and even blogging would qualify. I often feel embarrassed for people who push themselves into the public limelight even though self-promotion seems to be an essential part of modern life. Even people who have no talent, no skill, no accomplishments, nor even a profession now create their own "brand", to promote their face, body, personality, or their pet hamster.
Being shy or modest (not a word we hear very often) or just introverted is a definite detriment to success. If Vincent Van Gogh were painting today, he might be just as unknown as he was in his own time. The only thing that might make a difference would be if his brother Theo had computer skills and the attitude of a promoter.
So, maybe this entry speaks to some of you who share this issue with me. If so, it may be encouraging to know that someone else struggles with it as you do. Unfortunately, I don't have any tips for turning the tables. I have no suggestions for transforming you into a promotion-loving social media star. But then, we have Oprah Winfrey as our cheerleader, and there are many social media gurus. I've heard them, but it's my attitude toward self-promotion that remains an issue. I have attended meetings, conferences, and conventions for women in business hoping that something I learned there would teach me that self-promotion is fun and nourishing. I have listened earnestly, taken notes, I've even kept special notebooks. I once hired a personal business consultant. But after years of pushing myself to overcome what I have always considered a significant shortcoming, I have to recognize, that for good or bad, I am who I am. I am an artist. I am not a business person, I'm not a good promoter of my work.
I am deeply envious of those I see who have someone in their life who is happy to do the work of promotion for them. Sisters, brothers, husbands, children . . . any artist who has 'a someone' who believes in them and who takes pleasure in showing their work to the world, is twice blessed. If you are that fortunate, your gratitude to that person(s) should be unending.
I've never written publicly about the issue of self-promotion. In fact, this post feels like a confession. It shines a light on one of my faults, and in this society it is nearly a sin to fail in self-promotion. I don't know any one with some  type of ambition who is not on Facebook, for example. I took myself off of Facebook for a reason: I am appalled by Mark Zuckerberg's refusal to rein in the Russian hackers who smear that open forum with lies and misleading ads and posts. If everyone took a stand against that refusal to contribute positively to our democracy, the inventor of Facebook would at least have to question his role in the last presidential election. So there you are, I am not afraid to take a stand for what I believe in, good for me. Except that in this case it also takes me out of an easy place to promote oneself without too much embarrassment.

If this is an issue for you, maybe this post will catalyze some deeper thought, or maybe it will kick you into gear. For me, I continue to take small steps. I do want the world to know I exist. I want people to read my book on creativity, and my novel. I want people to see my paintings, and buy them. I am proud of what I do, but self-promotion embarrasses me, no matter how ambitious I get. So perhaps all my small steps will create a path.

Friday, November 23, 2018

"Eyes So Small" - Hiatus Over

I have been away from this blog for 11 months. I have not been away from This Creative Life, however. With all the turmoil in our country and in the world, the creative perspective is more important than ever. Remember that we are the conjurers, the people who are about to make something visible that has not yet been visible.
Ours is not just art work, ours is spiritual work, political work, and compassionate work.  Often we do not know when our work is taking hold. Even when we do not make a sale from a gallery, someone may have seen our work and felt a spark. The work may help someone see or understand something new about their life or their work. Our creation may have inspired them to take new action.
One of the hardest things about being an artist, and one of the best things about being an artist is: living with the mystery surrounding the work we do. I urge you to keep this in mind: even when you feel that you are sitting in the shadow of your art, your art is out in the light still doing its work in the world.

One of the projects I began during my blog hiatus is a process of
archiving writings and images from my art journals and writing journals. The image I have included today is just such a drawing. It was inspired by the writings of Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet. (That proves that our work keeps inspiring long after we have any sense about its role in the
Take a look at the drawing. You can see I used my left hand as a template. I often used my hands because they are like a sun:  a hot center and radiating energy in sensual human form. For me, the hand represents our ability and willingness to touch the world and other human beings; and with the eye in center, it signifies the courage to see and engage profoundly.  Rumi's quotation written into the drawing goes like this:

              I am so small I can barely be seen.
              How can this great love be inside me?

This piece first reminded me of how I felt when I was a child looking into the night sky. Fear would run through me with the realization that I was only as big as a tiny grain of sand among the million of grains I'd see on the beach. Then awe would shiver through me feeling that I must be a special type of creature to have been 'chosen' to live in this very sacred place. (Then I would run to my dad and hide my face in the fabric around his knees. He was my protector and no matter what might happen in this mysterious place, I knew he would not let anything bad happen to me.)

But I was not a small child when I did this drawing. So hopefully it can give me, and maybe you, some support for meeting the demands of tomorrow.  The first Rumi statement gives us a question (on the left side).

                  I am so small I can barely be seen. How can this great love be inside me?

 This is not a romantic love etched into the trunk of a tree. It is the enormous love of life that burns in us, like the pilot light of energy that ignites us and compels us through every day.

                         Look at your eyes. They are small but they see enormous things.

Through your eyes you see enormous things. What we see can be overwhelming, but we can move the world with our creative powers, modest though they may be. Here Rumi helps you to keep a perspective on proportions. We do what we can do, acknowledging and accepting that gestures may be small, but their impact may be profound.

The Last Thing:

Above the Rumi quote in my journal drawing I have written:

                                                          Let the outside in less
                                                          Let the inside in more

This message that came to me in meditation,  before I did the drawing. I realized that I was listening too much to the yammering of the external world, and taking too much time and attention away from the teachings of my body and my inner wisdom. I needed to realize that although I am an adult, I am still one small human in a vast world.

It's very powerful when we see a human eye at the center of any imagery. It serves as a reminder  that we see each other through time and space.And we must look at ourselves just as consistently and honestly as we look at other people. The copyright date on this drawing is 2-28-18, but it could have been done today, tomorrow, or three years ago. Our role as inhabitants of this beautiful planet  never changes. I give send this out today as a means of giving thanks, on Thanksgiving, 2018, sending blessings and good wishes to all.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

At the Milonga

In my novel, Tango Lessons, the main character spends some time dancing tango in clubs. We call any place where one can dance tango a milonga. So one would never say, “I’m going to a tango club”, instead it would be “I’m going to the milonga.” Then the location could be added. “I’m going to the milonga at Canning”, for example.
I was sorry that there was not enough space within the story line of Tango Lessons to embellish the events of the milongas because it is a rich environment for anecdotes and soap operas.
The drawing in today’s post is one I did on a cocktail napkin at a milonga in Buenos Aires. People no longer smoke in tango clubs (I never thought it was possible to stop Argentines from smoking, but the air is now clean in every milonga), but when I started going there in the 1990’s I’d have to hang dresses out for days to get the smoke out of them, and a shower and hair wash was required every night.
The cartoon illustrates the competition that exists among the women, who always outnumber the men. Also, the men can get away with being old-style machistas as much as they want to be in the milonga. They may prefer to dance with younger women. Or they may limit their dances to women of a certain advanced level of dance. Usually, foreign dancers have a better chance in that regard because many Argentine women did not learn tango in a class, they learned from going to the milonga. Foreigners, then, may be a bit more sophisticated or have advanced foot work because of having good instruction.
Then, there is seating. The person who is the patron of the event has made an investment in having good dancers attend their milonga. So they put the best dancers in the front rows, and unknown or less qualified dancers will be seated at tables back from the floor, less visible. Considering that men do not walk over to a woman to ask her to dance, that visibility is very important.
Now we come to cabezeo (this is all in Tango Lessons, by the way). This is the eye contact ritual that takes place as the invitation to dance. So my lady in the cartoon has built a curtain of smoke to insure that anyone looking at her table will be able to make eye contact with her and her alone.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Feed the animals

On the other side of the deep intimacy of the creative process, one is hurled into the lights and camera lenses of marketing and sharing one's work. This is the hardest part of the process for many of us so-called "creative types". Marketing and selling a book is very different from selling fine art. For one thing, paintings hang on the wall and exhibit themselves while you are off doing other things. Books sit on shelves, pile onto tables, rest in hard to reach cyber pages. They are much harder to be seen.
In the case of self-published books, there are no marketing departments to do the "social work" of getting the book seen and heard and read. I've learned to be patient with myself in accomplishing all the required support a book needs. It's going to be a slow process. I wasn't a marketing major. I didn't grow up with a computer screen in front of me since I was five. Social media is not second nature to me, in fact, trying to be consistent in social media taught me that I am shy, and that I would rather do creative things than connecting things. Show offs are really great at social media, people who like to be seen, people who like to be looked at. Let's face it, some people will do anything to be looked at. I was taught that such a characteristic made a person vain, perverse, and maybe even vulgar. Be that as it may, the Kardashians have proved that vanity can be a money-maker. I don't fit into that social media climbing genus or specie. (If you are a reader of this blog you know I'm often too shy to write too often.)
I am, however, very sociable, and that is a great help when presenting to classes or bookstore audiences. The interactions have been heart warming.
I love hearing from people who are reading or have read Tango Lessons. (I don't get many notes from readers of Freeing the Creative Spirit anymore.) And this is the real kernel in this post, the difference between being a painter and being a writer in getting feedback. We may be different types of animals, but both writer and artist egos love to be fed.
At the moment I have 6 reviews in Amazon, all 5 stars. Well, let's face it, most of them are friends. But they count! And every now and then I get an email from a friend or family member to say they are having a great time reading Tango Lessons. It is a wonderful feeling. I want to know exactly where they are in the story and what reactions they have to certain characters, and where do they think the story is going. But I cannot ask, I just content myself with a kind of self-satisfied realization that tells me I have given the world something that didn't exist before.
In the ACCI Gallery interview I said that the moment I saw a projection of Monet's painting of Rouen Cathedral in the Mist, I suddenly understood that painting/Art was magic. The artist, the writer, is a conjurer. We create something out of nothing and then we give it to the world as a gift.That is our form of magic. I'm sure you have experienced some magical excitement in response to some work of art, or perhaps a work of animation or music. All our art forms are magical means of transporting us beyond the hard, cold, ungiving surfaces of life.
So I'd like to encourage you to feed the artists. If you see a piece of fine art that you admire but can't afford, leave a note for the artist with the gallery person. (Someone once left me a note tucked into the stretcher bars on the back of a painting! That was great!) Write a fan letter, or email. You have no idea how much it means. Our art has a life of its own. It meets people we never meet, so we love to know that someone out there cares about that work we do all alone while the rest of the world is playing golf, going to a street fair, taking a nap, playing basketball, listening to jazz or all the other great things people do who choose not to write.
I started to write this blog in order to pass along my new Amazon Author's Page. The page has a bio, some photos, a link back to this blog. I think one can email the author that way, too. It's all new to me. Here is the link:
Thanks for reading. Maybe I'll hear from you some time.