If I hadn't started painting, I would have raised chickens.
~*~ Grandma Moses ~*~
Well, comes the day you look over your life and think, "If I haven't done it yet I'm not gonna do it," OR, "I haven't done it yet so I better get a move on!" I am more in favor of the latter.
My great heroine for decades, since I was still young with babies at home, has always been Grandma Moses who didn't start painting until she was in her 70's and painted until she was over 100. One of my all-time favorite quotes ever is attributed to Grandma Moses who said, "If I hadn't started painting, I would have raised chickens." Well, as a 58 year old writer and fiber artist I have always wanted to paint and explore other artforms, AND, yes, I have long wanted to raise chickens. And very recently I have begun to stockpile art supplies when I could get them on sale and finally made the leap beginning with pastels which I've fallen in love with. Soon I will have the easel set up and begin painting as well, and, you guessed it, a friend is going to come help get a chicken coop up back here in a little fenced area of the Dragonfly Cottage gardens and by this summer I will be raising chickens AND painting. And heck, I'll only be 59 in April, I'm beating Grandma Moses by a long shot. I'da carried her a basket of eggs if she lived down the lane!
The above two pastels are the first and second ones I have ever done and the third will be below. I am starting the 4th today. I am making my art a daily practice, and I am being very gentle and kind with myself. I am not here to do anything but stand aside and let the joy find it's way to the page or the canvas or whatever I am working with. I was the little kid in school that got rapped on the knuckles with a ruler by the nuns and told I would NEVER be an artist because I would do things like paint tree trunks purple and the leaves periwinkle blue and the grass magenta and the sky orange. I was a dreamer, and that hasn't changed but with nobody here to smack me on the back of the hand with a ruler I'm just going to plunge ahead and do what has been inside of me for 50 years. I guess it takes some of us longer than others to conquer that early fear but if not now, when?
And the thing is that the art is blossoming in the middle of writing a book that is sometimes a little hard going and I can express things when I draw that, even as a beginner, allows things to surface gently that are coming up for me as I write in a very healthy and supportive way. Too, as I start to gather together my "basket full of eggs." or rather skills, to see what I have to offer with the new business I am creating I have come to realize that there are elements that have stood me in good stead for decades and somehow, now, like when a thermometer is dropped and shatters and the mercury inside splatters all over but it rolls back together and becomes all of a piece again, many disparate elements of my life are coming together again in a way that has helped me realize just what is important for me to do, what I am interested in doing, perhaps what I have to offer.
The book that I am working on is a non-fiction account of what it means to live as a woman with bi polar disorder. It is very honest, the difficult and the hard times are there but also the ways that we learn to cope and grow along finding things that sustain us and the beauty in life along the way. In doing so I have come upon something I have written about for a long time and it was the inspiration for my now defunct etsy shop when I was selling my fiber art, "Maitri's Heart and Hands." That name came out of the knowledge that because I live with more than one mental health diagnosis I need to be vigilant about self care, and of course have a wonderful doctor, good meds, alternative therapies, and many spiritual practices in place all of which I employ nearly daily, but the one thing that has been critical for me was not to stay "in my head" for too long but to balance it by moving "into my hands." Hence if I am writing I have long had a basket of fiber work next to me so that when my brain cells screwed up tight, or I felt blocked I could turn away from the computer and hand-spin yarn or weave or crochet or knit or any of the numerous forms that I work in with fiber. Now I have a rolling table with art supplies here next to me so that on one side is my big farmer's table with my computers, printer, scanner, etc, and other side my art supplies. In this way I move back and forth and feel much more balanced.
Above is the 3rd pastel that I did and put up on my Facebook page to share with friends as I work through my process of learning and integrating my art with my writing. After a couple of questions I wrote a response there that I will copy over here...
"You know, there's something about this that is so sweet because I am just allowing myself to be a true beginner, (Think Shunryu Suzuki Roshi who wrote, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few.") I have always been self taught in everything I've done which leaves me in a perpetual state of beginner's mind, so these pieces I am doing are little pieces of myself sort of becoming unlodged, if you will, and floating to the surface. In this piece I started with the Vesica Piscis, (Click the link for a fascinating wikipedia entry on the Vesica Piscis.) that powerful ancient symbol of 2 circles intersecting and the place where they intersect referred to as the mandorla, meaning almond-shaped, has been referred to in ancient times as representing numerous things from a woman's genitals to the symbol of the fish Christians use today with references to the Kaballah and even the Holy Grail. You can still see the mandorla under the girl on the left's long hair. It's funny because people have wondered if these were two lovers and they could be but for me it is the union of the 2 sides of myself which as a bi polar woman, "Hold On," refers to me coming to a place of more union between my two halves. I know you don't get all of that from a beginner's simple drawing, but it's not how it looks so much as what I process and what comes up and out when I'm doing it. I'm making it a daily practice even if I have to work on one particular piece for 2 or 3 days. Sharing them here seems like an important part of the process, maybe me shyly coming forward with sides of myself I've never shown, even my little art pieces, and owning them. Somehow it just feels right."
And so I have begun, a little ahead of 70, and if I don't end up wildly successful as an artist in a few decades at least I'll have eggs. One way or the other I'll never go hungry.
I shall now get out my pastels and begin again...
Blessings & Love,