There is a park near my home that was designed using all native plants. I just love it there. One of the things I like is the wide expanse of brick, which gets pretty hot and glaring in the summer, and in contrast, the coolness of a bench tucked under a clump of birches. For this painting I eliminated all of the background to emphasize the glare contrast with the shade. Don’t you just want to grab a book and a coffee and settle in?
Also I wanted to share some exciting news for Melissa Blue… 2 paintings won awards in the American Art Awards Competition! Hooray! Well. 5th and 6th place. But still 🙂 You can see all of the winners at: http://www.americanartawards.com/2013winners.
This painting springs from my years of being a butterfly monitor. Those were glorious years that I was fortunate enough to be able to share with my children. I couldn’t give them all the freedom and wild nature that I grew up with, as it is largely gone. But thanks to the foresight of the Forest Preserve District I could get them out into what remains.
Here is a small painting fresh off the easel so I can share one of these preserves with you, too. Rollins Savanna is a gorgeous piece of land that was once a farm. Situated between 3 violently growing suburbs, I thought for sure it was doomed. I am so thankful that, instead, it has been set aside as a Forest Preserve. Drainage tiles were broken, bringing back ribbons of ground water which in turn have attracted ground nesting birds and water birds. Grand old oaks spread out their limbs here, reaching first to the sky and then stretching all the way to the ground. Majestic. Life is good.
But it isn’t, for everybody. The gallery that represents me is located in Chicago, so every so often I must drive downtown, through neighborhoods where there aren’t a lot of birds singing. In the newspaper there are frequent articles about the youth self-destructing in the South side of Chicago. I just finished reading a book about the nature of life on Earth, and the author made mention of future discounting. In particular he spoke of the youth in Chicago! He made the point that if a person doesn’t believe in a future, they will act with shocking short-sightedness. Immediate returns become precious: get your girlfriend pregnant (pass on your genes), kill the guy who just insulted you (defend your ego at all costs). Stores have all packed up and fled the violence, schools are being closed, and the people who live there don’t see any other reality beyond poverty, drugs and guns. Can’t you just hear the thoughts running through their minds? How do you have a dream of your own when it’s kill or be killed out there?
Don’t get me wrong. Chicago is a beautiful city with a lot of good going on. My concern is that the good stuff isn’t available to the people who need it so desperately. We don’t see African Americans at restoration workdays. Nature Preserves are pretty far from their world. I don’t know what the solutions might be. I’m a country mouse that doesn’t have much influence in an urban environment. But what strikes me is the parallel with Buddhist teaching, that it is our thoughts that cause suffering. If a person is busy being tormented with thoughts of despair, it will be impossible to, say, come up with a small business plan that does not involve guns or drugs or prostitution. I’m not sure they need a bunch of white folks descending on them to ‘fix’ things. I believe they need a way to think new thoughts, to dream.
So, I’ve been reading a very useful business book~ Your Art is Your Business. In it the author asks the very reasonable question, “Are you going where you want to go?” “Why yes, yes I am”, I thought in reply. And then I had a major setback elsewhere in my life and suddenly nothing made any sense at all. How could I have been so sure I was heading in the right direction when it turned out I was completely NOT?! Has this happened to you?
Happily, in all the thrashing around I did I settled on the idea of jettisoning one thing at a time and the first thing to go seems to have restored my equilibrium. I realized that the setback that seemed so huge really is not. It only seemed that way because I had become so strung out pursuing my business in a direction that wasn’t serving me, all it took was a fairly small bump in the road to send me right over the edge. If it hadn’t been for that bump, who knows how far in the wrong direction I would have gone before I figured it out? I must have suspected, though, on some level.
The thing I am cutting is going to be the little shows I’ve been doing. At first they just seemed perfect. I get to get out there and meet people and sometimes sell a few small paintings. More and more have come my way which seemed like a blessing. Eventually though, it has dawned on me that I have been putting all of my studio time into painting things I hope will sell at little events and no time at all on big joyous canvases that I most want to do. I guess at 50 you start thinking about how much time you have left, and consider more carefully how you spend the time you have.
Today was one of the last events that I have committed to. It was held in a multi-racial community and I just loved it. There was so much happiness I just couldn’t stop smiling. Kids of all description were bravely scaling the climbing wall, and live musicians were performing everything from rap to jazz while people danced. This was a community that Danced! All day, spontaneously. It was fabulous. I had more fun talking with people and laughing and dancing. Didn’t sell a single painting, though, which confirms to me what I was suspecting… this is the wrong direction for me to go. Glad I went, though : )