I am reading a book by Anne Lamott, at least I am attempting to find the quiet time to read this book. Last night I was able to read a few pages before my too busy mind had me in another room doing “something”, “something” I can’t even remember. Anyway, there was a part in the book that resonated with me and I am writing this because you may also connect to this thought. She began writing because it was a place to go to really be herself, a place we all should have.
It would be ideal if we could always be genuine and express our inner feelings and thoughts and carry out our lives just as we want to but, sadly, I have finally admitted to myself that many times we have to “edit”, simply out of consideration for others. But, if you turn inward to your feelings and express them in an art form, you heal and you find yourself there.
I paint and I write. I have enjoyed these two mediums my entire life but now, finally, I am searching for a way to be more authentic with both. I think before, I was painting and writing for “you”, now I only want to do it for me, I want the honesty to drive me, for if art is not honest, it is Nothing.
So, here are a scattering of words trying to make a thought, here is my honest attempt to write what I feel is important about art and here is how I define it…self-expression that causes a prompt for someone else . I work within the margins of paint and pen but perhaps food, flowers, fabric, song, etc. is where you find your muse. Done…
just because – Elizabeth, Buttercup, Kera, and summer
In another conversation, there was talk about inspiration in the context of art. As an art student, long ago, I learned about many great artists (in books and in galleries) and digested unusual and sometimes amazing thoughts and opinions from my teachers, some I even remember! We had assignments to copy the old masters, to understand their techniques better, to even be inspired but there needed to be some conversation about semantics here also, the difference between copying and being inspired within the framework of art. Art, in all forms, begins with an inspiration, at least to do meaningful art, art that has a source has a heart and that, for me, makes it good art. Many artist find their muse or inspiration in nature and in the characteristics of interesting people and many artist learn more about technique through copying and writers through reading other works, etc. Unfortunately, that edge of creative inspiration sometimes bleeds into that bitter, unattractive edge of “lifting” or an even tougher more descriptive word “copying”. The age of the internet has brought with it the opportunity to lift someone’s ideas and take them for your own, which, in my opinion, is the opposite of what an artist is, unoriginal. My words are harsh but for those of you who have had this personal experience, these words are perhaps soothing. I cannot quite understand how people cross over, how do you create art if it is not something that moves your soul and releases itself in the form of paint or words or dance or music, etc.?
So, those two words, inspiration and lifting, create a flurry of conflict for me, as do belief and faith, a flow of semantic confusion on a Monday morning. I hope that it is inspiration and faith that moves us forward.
I could be outside from daybreak to nightfall in these early October days. I see the season changing going from the green and lush of late summer to the brown and crisp of early fall. The air is sometimes clear from dampness and the sounds are lucid, sounds of leaves and wild rabbits in the woods. Sounds from inside reminding me of years past, of times I thought would never end, times from my youth when there was a larger expanse from fall to Christmas, a vastness that gave me time to absorb it all and appreciate it more. It eludes me now, I am over scheduled with only me to blame in these days of early fall when the woods turn colors and the inner spaces are revealed.
As I think these reflective thoughts that the cool crisp air has caused, I think of the difficulty in life to compare yourself to others, to measure yourself by the progress or regression of other people – especially those fictitious characters you see on the TV screen and the awkward half truth snapshots of your “friends” on social media. I think of this in specific reference to art and the challenge to be original, but it is a generic application. We all have uniqueness, but sometimes we get caught up in the propaganda of this high tech, consumer driven society. I think of people like Beatrice Potter and Vincent van Gogh who lived in isolation by today’s standards and the work they produced and the people they were – totally unique. I wonder how dishonest their art would have been had they lived now amongst all the pressure and illusion of what is real. To look inside and discover ourselves is so difficult with all of the false intrusions.
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ”
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
e.e. cummings 1955
just a few things to ponder – the media is ever present and can be so very damaging.
I wish I could remember more about her, like her name, was she a mother, what kind of house did she live in, but I can’t and it was very long ago and there is no one left to ask. It was the summer of 1974 and I was an art student in Nice, France – the Cote d’Azu (a moment I am so grateful to my parents for , for they sacrificed financially to give it to me). Anyway, every week day morning my friend Kathy and I would walk from our room at the Universite de Nice to a second floor studio with huge windows and tremendous light. Our journey would take us through the French Market in downtown Nice. There were colorful market umbrellas and plucked chickens hanging upside down, color wheels of vegetables from the neighboring countryside, Frenchmen speaking so quickly and bargaining so loudly and there were flowers, buckets and buckets of fresh cut flowers and everyone bought a bouquet; everyone had fresh flowers on their table each night for dinner. The personification of this sensual experience could be found in one of our models. She too would walk through the market each weekday morning. Along the way she would gather fresh fruit and baguettes and of course, fresh flowers. She carried it all in an oversized straw bag that was very old and full of character and the day’s supply of food. She wore a summer dress of sorts, one very simple and minimal, for she was a nude model and she was able to dismiss it without much effort or fumbling. She had sandals on her feet and her hair was gray and loosely gathered in a large clip; again, easy to take out and tumble on her shoulders and cast shadows and interesting lines for us to sketch. The thing I remember most about her was her smile, the radiance she brought to class each morning, as we stood behind our easels, still sleepy from the night before, and there she was with flowers and joie de vivre; content to be exactly where she was. She could not speak much English, but that was okay, her smile spoke of life and passion and happiness. I remember thinking she must have been “old” to be a model, especially a nude model, but she was so comfortable with whom she was and that transformed into a thing of beauty. I am probably nearing the age now that she was then and I reflect on who she was; someone, I suspect, who had sorted out all of the foolishness in life and was capturing the core, each morning, each day with flowers in her old straw basket and simplicity in her life.