On Growth

Three years ago I sent myself to a life drawing/painting intensive because I wanted to be able to execute portraits well. What I gained from the experience was a completely new perspective of art that I had never experienced before.

I had very little arts education. I was given the paint and the glue and the brushes and paper and charcoal and all manner of tools to create art with. But I was never taught how to use them. Not well anyway. I never learned how to use the materials and I certainly never learned what had been done before me to capitalize upon.

Now I certainly was taught some things. My college art history classes were a torrent of memorizing dates and time periods. But there was little time spent exploring technique, artists and their contributions. In fact I was so confused and disenchanted with the course that I wrote a paper entitled “Art is Dead”.

I was required to take ONE drawing course in college. I also took a course on color in which we, well, used color. My time in the college art department felt like someone said – “Well in this class we’ll be using color. So do whatever you want that involves color” or “In this class we’ll be drawing. Draw.” And while simply drawing and playing with color have their place and are beneficial, this sort of instruction is not educational. It certainly doesn’t smack of higher education to me.

Imagine if physicists or architects were treated to the same sort of education. Instead they are treated to in depth educations in which the history of what has come before them is discussed in detail. The knowledge that has been discovered, techniques, ideas, hypotheses, the math, the vocabulary, etc. I also studied business and believe me, the courses were much more challenging and abundant with facts and figures and truths.

Art students are expected to simply “express themselves” within the very loose confines of a course. Instead of learning painting techniques based on various masters, I was told to “paint”. While I painted with oils for the 4 years I attended university, I never once learned how to use them. And maybe I was supposed to have figured that out before hand. After all I’m sure the math students had used calculators prior to enrollment.

I think it is very unfortunate that schools are so flippant with their art degrees. And maybe this was just my own experience. But I have talked to many others with similar stories.

So when I decided to revisit my education 3 years ago it was something that I’d been craving for a long time. I knew that there was more and that I had missed something in my arts background. And holy moly did I find it.

What I was introduced to is ancient art knowledge. It is art making that has been happening since the first men recorded dying buffalo on walls. It is observation. It is seeing. It is recording the world through my eyes.

The techniques used to do this have changed throughout the years, but essentially since the beginning humans have observed and recorded their surroundings. The Greeks did it exceptionally well.

When Rome fell and Christianity gained a foothold, it became somewhere between forbidden and frowned upon to make images of realistic humans as we are not supposed to worship false idols. Around this time Islam pushed into what is modern day Europe, also forbidding any recording or imitation of god’s creations. So for a great deal of time, the skills were lost.

In the Renaissance and later the Neoclassical eras observation coupled with skilled recording came back in full swing.

But here’s the thing – all art, all of it, is abstract art. After all we cannot possibly capture the precise reality of a moment. My simply looking at the object of my still life distorts the object. Then my attempt to record the object distorts it. And so people played with this notion and pushed it and pushed it. And some of them stopped looking and turned inward for expression. So things changed, as they do and new art forms were born. And skills were lost. Again.

Historically you’ll find that most artists known for their expressionist and deeply abstract work are well educated in drawing and painting techniques. They have learned the basics and from that place been able to make new choices as to how to use the materials. They built from and distorted what they knew. I get the impression that this foundation is no longer an expectation.

I stopped painting highly abstracted work because I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no foundation that I was working from. And the work was fine. I sold it. People loved it. But, it wasn’t enough. I knew and I know I can do better.

Here are some reasons why I am only painting from life:

First of all I absolutely love it. The hours I spend in meditation and communion with an orange or flower are beautiful. I would meditate all day if I didn’t have other tasks to do. To sit and truly see and appreciate what I am looking at for what it is is absolutely magical. This is primarily why I paint from life.

I see painting from life as practicing to quiet the ego and still the mind. Instead of freely giving into reactionary feelings (anger, red, drip paint, swoosh, push, pull, screams, cries, splash, somber, purple), I am quieting the mind, breathing in and out, staying in the present moment and carefully being with my surroundings. This is a practice I see taught nationwide. It is hurts me that people don’t see the association of their yoga or meditation practice with my own. This is the same practice. 

Then, I am eager to attune my senses to realities that work and are true. I look at my past work and see shapes and shadows that even in an abstracted figure don’t work. And having this understanding is what I believe will take my work to a new level of expression.  Because even in the wildest abstraction, something based in reality will sing more truly, more vividly. I met a man who sells abstractions in Santa Fe. They look like wild landscapes with deep layers and pockets of earthen colors. Every single line he draws is the outline of a figure from life drawing.

If you were to speak with any of my teachers they will tell you that we are painting light. Not flowers or figures. Light. I am seeking to capture the play of the one thing that we truly see. Without it we would see no colors or transitions or separation. The light is all we see.

I don’t know what to make of all of this yet. I only know that right now I am dedicated to following in the footsteps of so many who simply sought to record their experience on this planet. And for now that means practicing my skills and communing with lemons.

Shiny Things

I keep getting the same lesson over and over again – beware of the shiny things.

I have a vision. Work hard, practice, make my shop better and better. In time I do believe I will be selling my artwork regularly and making a decent profit from my store. So far this plan has been working. Every year sales are better. My abilities as an artist are improving and I do have a waiting list of people who want to purchase artwork (lemons…everyone wants a lemon!).

But sometimes I get distracted and I call this my shiny thing syndrome.

Sometimes the shiny things are opportunities that take me away from my studio. A free plane ticket somewhere cool…why not? Sometimes its the lure of a paycheck. I keep thinking I need a “real job” to supplement my income. But what I NEEd to do is ignore these shiny things and stay focused in the studio.

So lets hope this was the last time I needed to learn this lesson! Say no to shiny things!

The Dharma Year

When I applied for MFA programs in December, I wanted to be accepted. I planned to be packing around April. Fortunately I was rejected from all 4 programs.

I was recently pink slipped as an art teacher and will not have a job next school year. I am so grateful.

These little “problems” are just such perfect timing. My shop is doing very well. I have enough savings to focus my energy on art and the shop for the next year. I am awestruck at the perfectly aligned path that the universe has laid out before me.

Through commitment and hard work, I have placed myself in the perfect position to pursue my heart centered desires. For the next year, I am going to create full-time. What a great journey for a blog titled “Seeking Joy”.

I am calling my journey the “Dharma Year”. Dharma refers to my ultimate purpose, my place in the cosmic alignment of things, conformity to my nature. For the next year I will pursue all of these things. I will work diligently to build a career in which I am able to pursue my truth.

The year is already off to an outstanding beginning. I am three days engaged (did NOT see that coming…my friend pointed out, “All a part of your Dharma Year!”). This summer I was accepted into a very selective drawing and painting intensive, Studio Escalier. In France. So I’ll be there if you need me…for three months. My art is going to blossom. I can’t even imagine how. So I’m not trying. I’m just letting it all unfold.

Thank you universe! Please follow my journey on instagram, facebook or on this blog!

 

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My summer home for three months. I’ll be spending 6 hours a day, 5 days a week studying figure drawing and painting.

 

Magnets

I dropped a magnet on the floor this morning. It skittered across the tile and came to stop much like any other object. But it isn’t any other object. A magnet acts very different in the presence of something metallic. To see it behave like a normal pebble was suddenly so odd.

I wonder about humans and this property in ourselves. Are we an average pebble skipping across the ground until we find something that makes us act in the most unusual, bizarre fashion?

This could be a positive thing – this new behavior is energetic or exciting. It could be a negative thing – one becomes listless and unimpassioned.

I like the idea of our secret power being hidden, even to ourselves, until we find the right set of circumstances to activate it.

Meditation Weekend

I just got home from a weekend meditation retreat at the Chopra Center. This is the only photograph I took the entire time. This morning I put my feet in the hot tub and watched golfers in the rain. It was very nice.

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I have long had a spiritual quest. Slowly information has been gathering in my spirit and bubbling away. However, with a busy school year, it had already been months since I last meditated. This weekend was a much needed reboot of my spiritual journey. I was grateful for 3, 30 minute meditations, 2 asana practices and instruction in meditation.

I’ve walked away with garbled notes, many ideas and a very strong sense of “rightness” (confidence?) in the path I am taking.

Set intentions, remain open to the journey.

Much of the weekend repeated concepts I have learned from my past experiences in Landmark Education, yoga training and reading books by Pema Chodron or Eckhart Tolle. Once again I ask myself what choices am I making unconsciously (my ongoing food addiction!)? What will I place into the void, the emptiness the clean slate that is my life? What does an effortless life filled with joy look like?

I have ideas and plans and hopes and desires. I have and will continue to share these and allow the universe to conspire to support me in the best manner possible.

Currently I am manifesting a Dharma year. I can see a path ahead where I am able to spend a full year immersed in the act of creating.

This morning I woke up early and meditated. Tomorrow I would like to do the same. I would like to move about my days in a conscious planned manner to ensure I get things done and can make room for meditation.

If you are new to meditation, I think this weekend is a wonderful tool to invite you into this positive addition to your life. Meditation is medicine.

For those of you who would like to meditate more frequently, let’s hold each other accountable! (Gently) My goal is to wake 30 minutes earlier than usual and meditate. Then, before leaving work, spend 30 minutes in meditation. What is yours?

Blank Spaces

I spent yesterday morning cleaning, clearing and purging my store. Dead leaves that had collected outside, little chunks of wood and other remnants of the 2015. It felt so great. I think its so important to touch things that have been stagnant for a long period of time. Stirring up the corners, stirring up the energy.

I sold a piece yesterday that I’ve carried with me for a few years now. I think it came from freeing up all of that space. Letting go of dead energy. Now I have a blank space on my wall and I get to rearrange my gallery.

Fear is a Creeper.

It is so dang easy to doubt myself. SO EASY. I do it all the time.

I am going to be so broke. Why am I spending money on this art school? Why do I spend so much time making lotion and soap when I could be hiking with my boyfriend? I should close the store. This is a waste of time. Why did I price my work so high? No one wants to buy it at that price. I’m scared.

Most of it deals with that last statement, “I’m scared.” I think we all are. I think fear holds us back from so much. And I am scared, but I’m also very excited.

More often than not, after an evening of fear based wallowing, the universe steps in and gives me a nudge in the right direction. This morning it was selling a piece of art that had only been available for about 6 hours. Right on universe, thank you.

So I am going to keep doing the work, focusing my energy on the things that make me happy, planning, setting goals and keeping my eyes open for the miraculous, wonderful outcomes that come from that combination. I will trust myself and lean into the fear.

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SOLD! “Trust Thyself”. Acrylic on Canvas. 36″x36″