I lost some of myself this past week. or, at least I’ve been looking for something of me that I cannot seem to find. This brain trauma thing is hard to understand. There are no signposts to tell you where you are, no milestones to help keep track. Sometimes you’re moving forward and sometimes it feels like everything but you is moving forward.
Maybe that’s why I am painting – to have a path from beginning to end that gets me somewhere.
Most of my work now starts with colour choice. There are colours that look like someplace I want to go, to dive into and feel with all my senses.
Since travelling seems out of the question right now, I find the only places I can get away to are through the paint and music (when my head can process it). One can truly swim around in the sounds of Bon Iver and the depths of indanthrene blue.
I’m just checking in, with you and myself. Maybe next week will be different or it may be much the same.
just call me Dory. x
There are holes in my paint and I need to figure out what to do with them.
There are some holes in my heart, too. and I’ve got to take care of them as well…
The question is, what ones do I fill and what ones should I leave? Sometimes trying to fix a hole doesn’t help. It’s become an integral part of the work, part of the landscape. If I go tinkering around too much, I will alter what has become. I risk damaging the whole by rewriting the history. So I need to be careful. and I need to take my time.
There are fillers and sealers and sanding techniques, books and videos and seminars – plenty on offer to fix my problems – but that doesn’t mean it will work for me. So I am going back to basics, back to what I know: take each empty space on one at a time, to see what can be done. Fill up those that will accept the paint and leave those that won’t. Repair what I should and leave the other to rest. because sometimes things just need to settle…to heal and become part of who I am now. Sometimes, it’s about letting it go…
because perfection is an unattainable goal. What suits the canvas as she stands now? what sits well in the light of this present moment? Make your choices from here, not from a place of “what could have been” or what should have happened. That kind of thinking risks every other mark, every beautiful place on your canvas.
So here it is – paint and thoughts on ocean, air and atmosphere. There are smooth places and fixed holes and untouched textures on display. It is a whole picture, the sum of all these parts you see plus the journey to get here which you can only imagine.
This painting’s process reflects a bit of my own. I’m still working on me – carefully, one space at a time. How about you? Be careful with your own canvas, too. There is hope for us.
The professor over our sculpting class decided to run a little experiment, observing us in all our early-morning-class glory throughout the semester. It was like having Kesuke Miyagi in the room. He and his grad students surreptitiously watched us, even taking notes (!) about our practice as we squished the clay and I tried not to get covered head to toe as per usual. He sat us down in the last days of the year, wanting to share what was gleaned. He told us that he’d run a comparison study in his other classes, those with students who were not majoring in art but took the class as a requirement filler or thinking it was an easy grade. The strongest difference, by a significant amount, was how we approached our work. With us there was singular focus, a quiet concentration and discipline within our use of time. The other students were noisy and distracted and ready to run to the next class. but not us. We were caught up in the rhythms of the process. “Much to your benefit,” he stated, “and your work reflects that.”
I’m pulling on this discipline now, reigning in my scattered thought processes as I focus on the work. As I concentrate out beyond the noise and distraction of my self-doubt, tender heart and healing head.
I’m not going to candy coat this; there is a cost. When I get up after a couple of hours in the studio, I try very hard not to fall over. I feel the strain in my left jaw and inner ear. My thoughts start to spread out again and the internal sounds come thumping back to the fore. But the trade is worth it. I might have to go lay down for hours. I may get nothing else done until the evening. But the therapy of the rhythm, the tincture of the colours soothes my soul. And it gives me hope.
So I’m minding my own business, stepping into my new post-accident try-to-get-back-in-there life and art routine when I feel myself headed for the floor, as if I’d actually stepped onto a roller coaster ride mid-flight. Welcome to viral vertigo. Yeah, it’s a thing. Like my swirling, fluttering head space needs more velocity.
Have you ever felt sideswiped in your creative practice or life goals? It seems like “when the going gets tough the tough get…” grounded. Instead of developing new skills, I’ve been sitting in my studio surveying the mid-process chaos (see below). and I’m grasping for another level of patience, with myself and my circumstances.
Once I figured out how to maintain some balance, I got back to work because I desperately need the focus. Sitting down to move paint is new for me, but I have to try.
Sometimes, being pushed into another way of doing things gives unexpected results. I find it helps if I purposely look for these bright stars when I feel off course and upside down.
I’ve got a long way to go, in more ways than one. But there is movement, albeit stop/start teeter/totter and roundabout.
I hope. and maybe this gives you some hope, too.
I feel like jumping in…and then I feel like running away…several times over. This is me starting a new way of moving paint while I find a new way of helping my mind think, my brain to exercise. Since the accident, I find myself and lose myself for moments of time. It’s hard to explain, but it feels like a slow motion button gets pushed on inside my head and I cannot turn it off at will. ’tis the mystery of that space between my ears…
I had been looking at some new techniques for several months, gathering information and ideas, but I never got to the starting block. for lots of reasons. In this rest and recovery time, I’ve picked that research back up – trying to be inspired while testing my left eye’s compliance to focus, watch, and read with my right. In this whole process, here’s what I have discovered:
Spontaneity needs to be planned for.
This is my new normal right now.
I know, right? That really goes against much of the way I “work”. It frustrates me just to think about thinking that way. But if I set up everything I can in the hours I feel strongest and most focused, it will all be waiting for me to dive in when I next feel I can.
Thankfully, my kids are finally old enough not to go jump in it themselves (the cats, not so much) internet shopping is my friend because I cannot drive yet, and I already know how to work in complete silence. You can read about that here .
so, deep breath. and another…here I go…
I lost my tribe awhile back – that circle of people, however loosely connected, who encouraged me, gave input and listened. Artists and creatives who knew me as an artist. I didn’t realise how much that loss took its toll until the needle hit empty and then got buried somewhere deep in my heart. Empty. I’m not playing the blame game; there are too many factors to count as to how I ended up here. And I’m really good at winning that game – I always blame myself the most. So my art and my creative space quietly slipped into dormancy, almost four months in a cave. I tried to make it out a few times but my heart just wasn’t in it. so what’s the point?
and then life was altered in a way that wasn’t slow or empty…
On a routine Sunday morning, only a few miles from our home, in just a flash of a second a vehicle came out of the grey and crumpled our car into a metal ball. It crumpled my husband, our youngest girl and me. Incredibly, we all lived to tell the tale. I am more than thankful for that astonishing miracle.
So I’m two months into a different kind of cave, trying to heal from the head trauma. It’s slow and frustrating. I am slow and frustrated. With time on my hands that I don’t want to have, in quiet resting I cannot avoid, the empty creative space in my heart is fluttering and thumping and trying to be heard. I don’t quite know what to do. I’ve restarted my art many times, through many seasons, but I’ve not been this way before. I have not been in this way before.
I guess that’s why I am here again, the blank page where I think through my process while working through the paint. Maybe right now it’s more like processing my thinking while the paint works on me, in me.
I’ll let you know how this figuring out thing goes. this healing of head and heart. I hope.
when you have so many words needing to be said, and far too much emotion to express
that nothing could possibly come out…because if it did it might not stop and there would be nothing left on the inside of you to hold up the outside of you…
well, that’s where I’ve been. and what I’m trying to find a path through.
So here is September – a new month and season and time for a different setup in paint. It’s a mix of what I was doing and what I might need to reach for. I’m not sure yet if it will work …but at least it has begun.
I’m moving paint again and it might be moving me…however slowly…through. giving voice to words unsaid, release for things too felt.
“courage, dear heart” – CS Lewis
for me and for you, too.