I have been busy, I feel like I’m always busy – I am in perpetual motion and while I proport to be an artist not enough of my time is spent making art. By far I spend more time promoting my art workshops, designing new workshops, writing about new techniques, and teaching than I do making. I am forever in an internal conversation about the balance of teaching and making. I do enjoy both and to be frank I couldn’t make a living on just the art – people hunger to open up their creative hearts and I love to help them through my workshops. But sometimes I want to make for the making, not because I’m going to teach a workshop and I need a sample, not because I’m going to write a magazine article and need to pitch an idea – just make. So, this week despite an anvils weight of anxiety about all the things I need to do for an upcoming workshop and art sale, despite the fact that there are always contacts I should be making and connections I should be deepening, and despite the absolute mess in my studio, despite all this I chose to make. And what do you suppose I chose to paint? A still life. What a wonderful term – Still Life.
Still –noun -deep silence and calm; stillness – Synonyms quietness, silence, stillness, hush, soundlessness, noiselessness, calmness, calm, tranquility, peace, peacefulness, peace and quiet, serenity
Life –noun – the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death – Synonyms existence, being, living, animation, aliveness, entity, sentience, creation
What an interesting parring – perhaps that is why artists are drawn to create a still life. Something in the tug between stillness and animation the juxtaposition of tranquility and change. A still life is capturing a quiet moment in the act of changing. The fruit will wither the flower fade the moment in between is caught up in the still life.
Unbeknownst to me – in the chaos of my week, my month, my year – still life called. Despite that fact that I didn’t have time for making this week, I didn’t have room for making this week- still life called. I’m so glad it did and I’m so glad I listened. The making of these two paintings calmed me, readied me, revived me. The stillness in the action brought me back into my body and breath and made me ready for this weekend’s teaching – this month’s selling and showing.
I give thanks to the universe for showing me this perfect persimmon, this fecund pomegranate and whispering in my ear to stop, to make and observe this quiet, abundant moment – to allow and honor – Still Life.
If you have been reading my blog for awhile then you know that I (like everyone) wrestle with shoving all the things I need to do into the twenty-four hours that are granted me each day. And I (like everyone) rarely succeed. My list grows longer and the satisfaction of crossing off a finished task is diminished by the next item I write directly below the satisfying red line above. Also if you are a long time reader you know I have several jobs; the graphic designer for The Bishop’s Ranch and Resident artist, art teacher at Healdsburg Elementary school, as well as working artist and art promoter. This is all set up to say that I am busy. So yesterday when I had arranged to meet two friends, one before teaching and one after teaching to chat and deliver a calendar, I will admit I wrote these two meetings on my to-do list like any other task. And I am ashamed to tell you that I was looking forward to crossing these two tasks off my list just like any other task. I tell you this knowing full well that these two women will be reading this blog post; both are great blog subscribers, art patrons and all around supporters of my goal to live artfully. When I came to my first tea date it began to dawn on me that I needed to slow down, get off the speed track and be present. My friend, who is struggling with a vexing and mysterious illness, was calm and present and full of joy for the moment and the beauty of the day and our time spent together. She was full of wisdom about taking each day as it is and doing the best you can with what you are given. And so when I sped off to teach fifty 2nd graders the joys of art I was lighter in my step and brighter in my voice thanks to my cup of tea and thoughtful conversation. After teaching I returned to the same coffee shop (The Goat for you Healdsburgians in the know) to meet another friend and chat and share. I as with my previous tea date I did a bit of kvetching about not having enough time and striking the right balance blah, blah blah. This friend after asking about the possibility of a winter art sale, without hesitation offered to host a gathering at either her house or massage studio, I didn’t even ask, she just offered! Amazing! As our conversation wandered she mentioned the upcoming Samhain (pronounced Sawin) a Gaelic festival marking the end of harvest and welcoming the winter. A time embrace the dark, embrace the cold, embrace the coming quiet a thoughtful discussion ensued (this will show up in a future blog). Both these conversations, these tea times, these portraits of the artist in still life with friend, were so much more important than any item on my to-do list struck through in red. Thanks to both of you for this reminder of what’s important, precious, solid, sustaining and true; friendship, conversation, exchange of ideas, a cup of tea, me and you.
I can’t let loose of everything on my list so here is a reminder to get your calendars today
I love doing still life paintings and drawings. Just the name itself denotes a quiet, reflective, tranquil pursuit. Still Life. Perhaps it’s because my life doesn’t seem to have enough still spaces that I am so drawn to the subject matter. I love the whole process of creating a piece of still life art. First you scan your surrounding for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Then take time to arrange the objects of ordinariness into a balanced and pleasing scene. Just this part of the process is a pleasure, a stopping and stilling of life’s vigorous pace. If you stop right here at creating a little scene of pleasure, that could be enough; enough to make a still, calm space in the swirling winds of everydayness. Taking the next step of sitting still (there’s that word again) and sealing that scene in a piece of art over a few hours or days is a lovely, leisurely quest. This notion of still life reminds me of something my yoga instructor said at this week’s class. She always begins the class with a meditation, she led us into quieting our minds by reminding us to ground our bodies on the earth sitting quietly, gently, grounded in the space between earth and heaven. I was so struck by that image: the space between heaven and earth. That is where we reside, in this blessed space that is neither earth nor heaven but somehow both at the same time. We must remember to create an aperture, an opening for still life, it is in still life that we recognize this blessed space in which we dwell; the thin bright line between heaven and earth.
This still life drawing was done on my iPad. I am still having fun with this new medium. The image will be available to purchase in print form in a large range of sizes on my website (if not today then soon) go to the website or email me for information. http://lisathorpe.com/