My thirty days of painting art cards has come to an end, I succeeded in following through with a daily regime that offered no money or other obvious pay off. I’ve felt pride in painting the minis and feel pride in writing about them daily on my blog. For some this may be standard practice; for me this has been living outside my lifelong norm. The number one lesson I’ve learned this month is, employing a daily creative practice is like a soothing salve for my burning grief. I’ve learned living in the moment isn’t as easy as just doing it and Ive learned living in the moment takes mindfulness and practice. I’ve learned that creativity happens in the moment; creating too, happens in the moment. I’ve learned each day lived in the mindful moment will bring a new surprise, something I did not know about or know how to do or a new way of seeing the same old thing. I learned I can follow through, my motivation is still somewhat illusive but I do follow through. I’ve learned by limiting my options to ones insuring success, actually guarantees success and I’ve learned allowing myself to succeed brings no harm. To celebrate a successful culmination of thirty days of blogging about my meditative mini masterpieces it seems appropriate today’s featured card is a bouquet of flowers.
Each day when I write in my journal I make a “to do” list of minor things to accomplish for that day which if followed, effectively fends off slothfulness. My commitment of an art card a day for thirty days was made in part as a way to get me back into the world of the living; guiding me back into light hearted creative, mindful occupation of my days. In fact having a project to do each day has propelled me toward a busyness I never would have imagined. The daily propulsion necessary to write in my journal, paint and write a blog post a day too is beginning to take away from the enjoyment of each step because there are now too many…Relishing the idea of my own productivity now prompts the question “Have I become a person who has to fill all my time with productivity”? Even if I’m reading a book or meditating I am still doing “something”. The art of sitting still to be silent and to listen to an inner philosophical meandering or to watch nature for long periods has been lost to me. Has guided meditation to music, replaced quiet reflection. Or does quiet reflection have a new name – meditation. Either way my “to do list” will include more quiet reflection in the days to come. Looking backwards to the early days of this month, pleasure was found in the small tasks I gave myself because I was marvelling in the moment. My tasks as the days have past this month have grown; now I look ahead to the next task failing to realize the moment.
With my thirty day commitment almost at an end I wonder “what have I learned or accomplished”? When I began this project I envisioned moving forward to this point on the calendar where I’d be arriving at enlightenment, of a sort. That my mini masterpieces would be inspirational in themselves, they would be startlingly beautiful with new and imaginative subjects. Not so, I’ve not reached that point. What has happened though is I’ve reached a point of wanting to make mini commitments to myself for myself, making me stronger, healthier, more dependable, self reliant, somehow more complete a package. A person I can feel proud to be, a person who follows through, meeting deadlines. It has been a struggle gathering myself up each day to write a blog from a new perspective, trying to sound interesting and interested. In the end I’m satisfied with both; my mini masterpiece art trading cards and with the effort it has taken to agree to making a commitment at all. One thing I have learned about myself is, if I say I’m going to do something, I do…. My word is gold. The issue has always been, even saying I’ll do “something”. To me the word commitment is just another word for promise. And a promise, is a debt unpaid.
This little sunflower is an exact expression of how I feel today,bright, robust, full of life, good health, joy, peaceful bliss, beauty, alive! What a thrill it was to thrive in a mediative state throughout the painting of this mini masterpiece. This sunflower reminds me of a row of sunflowers Jason’s dad planted the summer Jason passed away. After Jason’s death and when I returned home from his hospital bedside the row of blooming sunflowers were the only spot of beauty on my horizon. And memories of Jason’s last birthday party here before they bloomed, he turned 41.
He asked I provide the venue and he went ahead and arranged it all. Jason sent out invitations, I sent out invitations and many turned up. At least 60 – 75 people who wanted to, came and went throughout the day. At some point in the middle of the afternoon and from the deck, calling out for everyone’s attention, I made a birthday speech. Jason made a speech too. ..mine began something like this…. “The day you were born Jason, was the most memorable and best day of my life. It was a starting point for me. My life and what went on in it was now referenced with: when Jason was a baby, or when he was five, or before Jason was born. And Jason I know you won’t like me to say this again this year but, I always celebrate this day, the day of your birth as ….my own birthing day”.
Jason’s voice from the crowd surprised me by booming out “keep on celebrating it mum”. Jason’s birthday is July 23rd, 1970… The same day as what I like to call my birthing day. This year I celebrate my 44th birthing day, thank you very much Jason.
Some days I want to retire from my life in the here and now to my future life for just a day ;in another house, in another location. Where we are at peace with a lot less….. No phone, no tv, no car, technology close by, short walk to all services, friends, an ocean, a beach to walk on. A life of creative pursuits, gardens to grow, books to read, paths to walk, blogs to write, friends to invite… A life without all the clutter and stuff….a life without complication, a life of peaceful joy. In my minds eye the cottage below lends itself to just such an opportunity…a creative outlet… a fixer upper, swathing pathways through flora and fauna to garden patchwork beyond with benchs to sit upon for reading or sketching or tea with friends. This is the place my meditative painting took me today …A mini master”place” just waiting for me to arrive.
I’ve got rhythm and my body does too…The past three days theres been a struggle to find a meditative spot where inspiration streams forth. While I sat and placed my pen on paper, just because that is how I start my mini masterpiece, with black gel pen I draw a few lines…. My pen moved seemingly all on its own and in the end I painted something new. Instead of relying on the usual acrylic paints, I tried out water colour pencils; the white spaces began to fill with colour and I felt like I was returning from the dark place I had been on day ten and eleven.
Or perhaps it is how I started on those days. Wanting to try something new I skipped using the pen and went straight from brush to acrylic on paper. I didn’t use my pen at all to begin my mini masterpiece or during the process. The pen may be an integral part of my painterly and meditation style. And now I wonder if my three days have lacked lustre due to a poor meditative start. Just as these cards have become my morning meditation, so has my pen become my mantra. I love the result of this mornings mini masterpiece.
Yesterday I was so sure of my ability to stick with doing a card every day. Today though, when I sat down to paint, feeling totally void of enthusiasm and inspiration, my incentive seemed to have left me. Reminding myself to be in the moment, I stayed seated, resisting distraction and the temptation to give up and waited for inspiration to strike. When it did not, I went to my comfort zone of painting a field. A field like none other I have ever painted. Normally the fields I paint, sketch or doodle are pleasant places where there’s evidence of growth and development, they are hopeful fields, not so with today’s field. Today field is a barren place of little hope. The little bumble bee I pressed into the left centre of it all is a reminder that if we humans don’t protect them our precious bees will perish, and then so will we. Although I’m not impressed with today’s rendering I feel success in lurching across the lack of incentive hurdle and just getting it done.
I’m finding comfort back in the fields again today. Painting the familiar feels like a lovely meditative place where I can forget the pain of my grief, recalling all the things I love in this life and in the life I had when Jason was alive in this world. The brush strokes just came as free and as easy as I could hope for. Doing experiments with pastel colours and again using more of a colour wash than a heavy acrylic is new and exciting. Painting on these tiny cards has necessitated I learn to find a way to use the acrylics that is conducive to small spaces. I love this particular mini masterpiece; something about it makes my heart swell with happiness and love and a yearning to go there, to the place, to that field and make it my home. And I guess it is my home, my comfort zone, the place I love to go to. After all I keep painting in this or another field of my dreams.
My art card for this day began very slowly. My inspiration seemed so absent; I sat down, held pen, stared at the tiny card, willed action. Finally just went to my familiar place of doodled country scene and through experiment ended up using my acrylic paint as a water colour. The tiny space seemed to necessitate thinning out my colours, and I do like the affect, one I will try again. The whole process of creating this mini masterpiece was so familiar, so easy to do and came with such flow I forgave myself for turning to the familiar when in doubt. There is a kind of comfort and pleasure in the known and familiar action, which bodes the question, will I find my way to comfort and pleasure through the unknown. I’ll need to experiment at some point.
As I worked on my mini masterpiece I recalled being with Jason while he was in hospital and colouring in a little note book I bought for the purpose. It was meant for Jason to use and ended up a collaborative effort by both of us, his kids and other family members. Of course I’ve kept the note book as a reminder of last happy times together.
April 28, 2014
Recently someone tried to give me a book on grief suggesting it would help me with the sadness I feel each day as the result of the loss of my son. I was taken aback as it is not a book on grief I need. What I need are books on joy or how to find joy and happiness? The quote below by Lao Tzu was one I had seen many times before without really taking notice. Then for some reason it took hold of me when I read it again about two months ago. The message has been instrumental in helping me manage to live with grief through seeking joy and looking for the good… by living in the moment.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
At the time I had just begun a journey of thirty days of art trading cards or what I like to call mini masterpieces. The art cards are hand decorated, or hand painted cards measuring 2.5″x3.5″, meant for artists to trade with each other. Hence the name “art trading cards”.
My art trading cards are not for trading, they are for 30 days of therapy. The 30 day idea was incepted after I had introduced a friend, with supposedly no artistic ability, to art cards.
We each did two on that first day and while we worked away we became relaxed and floated into almost a meditative state as we worked side by side. The art cards were a success on many levels. Soon I got an email saying she had enjoyed doing the cards so much she was intending to make a commitment to herself of one card a day for thirty days. I decided to join her.
As it happened the new month was March and that is when we started our cards. By chance we began our thirty days on a new moon, an auspicious time for starting a new trip or new venture. Today is also a new moon, a very lucky time for beginning new projects. Until the next new moon, I’ll be sharing the cards I painted, how the process went and what making these mini masterpieces has meant for me.