Friday, February 17, 2012

Writing Art

My Valentine's Day was the best day I've ever had, and I got to spend it with Dan -- on the floor in the kitchen with ink, watercolors, and paper!!
I have never just sat down and allowed myself total freedom to just play with no outcome intended. I've always thought about what my "play" was going to turn into. There always had to be a finished product in mind and how to market it, advertise it, sell it... So, what an amazing experience to just sit down on the floor and experiment with brushes, inks, and watercolors along with some instruction from the master.

What was really interesting was that while I was painting I came up with names for these faces. Stories popped into my head and for the life of me the writer in me was exposed!! Woo hoo!

And so the writing began:

When Myra Klemdensky came out of the Post Office she spied Mr. McClintock eyeing Persilla. She sees the look in those eyes -- those eyes of an endless depth, the trap of so many unsuspecting men.

Really, Mr. McClintock had nothing else on his mind that morning than to mail the package for the Mrs. Three point two five pounds was all it weighed. He had no idea what was in it, but he knew to say no to all the questions he was asked about its contents -- no liquids, no hazardous materials. He said no because he knew it would get him out of there quicker. He wanted to be done with his errands and back to the house. Well, not exactly the house, but the shed out back he'd converted to a studio of sorts, a place where he could pull up a stool, pick up a knife, and whittle away at a stick he'd found on his way in. He'd drown his moments with the clip of the blade against the stick. Eventually it'd be too dark to see, and he'd stumble through the shavings dripping from his jeans scattering like ants across the floor. He'd tell the Mrs. he'd mailed her package that morning because she'd be sure to ask as if he were incapable of remembering to do one damn thing. He'd make his way to the den where the TV would already be blaring "Wheel of Fortune" and he'd slide right down into his corduroy recliner where every bend and give in its construction fit his bottom and back to a "T". He'd pull the TV tray up to him and wait for the Mrs. to put his bowl of chicken noodle soup and plate of saltine crackers on it just in time for the first spin of the wheel.
Persilla wore her hair long. Some people said that made her look like a hussy. No one her age should have hair that long and skirts that short. She didn't much cotton to what people said about her. The words were spoken in whispers as light, as quick as the twitch of butterfly wings, and just as quickly -- poof! -- the words disappeared, as if they were never really spoken at all.

Persilla loved the finest silks and embroidered linens. She draped beaded scarves over her dresser and coffee table. Her lampshade's beaded fringe tickled her fingers when she turned the lever that brightened the room. And she loved to read in a way where her finger was locked at the edge of the page, being on the ready to flip it just as her eyes spied the very last word. Then up to the top of the next page without realizing any break in the sequences of letters. She trilled away her moments in silence, not even the tick of a clock, or a footstep on the stairs, as she lived alone. Alone with her books. Her imagination filtered in any missing descriptions in the paragraphs. Every single character became her closely-guarded friend. She imagined in great detail every crust of pie they rolled on their old wooden farmhouse table or granite kitchen counter top. She knew who was allergic to wheat or who broke out in hives after eating blueberries even if the author didn't note it. She knew these things because they were what was important to her. She cataloged this information to recall what she could and couldn't serve them.

Dan gave me paper that was all different shapes, and my aim was to paint on them without altering their sizes. Since I had a tremendous amount of long strips I went for the eyes.

Oh my gosh, I had so much fun it was decadent, luxurious, and positively sinful! I ended up painting for two full days.

And I even painted snacks...
which gave Dan enough energy to paint the village where all these characters will live. They're watching with bated breath!

And, after painting a million of these faces, I have to share with you my absolute favorite. This is one way that I'll have a puppy living with me!!

So, the great idea that came from this was something I experimented with this morning in Dan's life-drawing class. While I was painting for these two days, Dan was putting together his next lesson for class. I was looking at his books with the nude model sketches, and wondered what it would be like to WRITE nude models as they pose, to come up with character sketches, story lines, etc. while the nude is being drawn by students all around me. So, this morning for two hours (I had to stop due to a cramp in my hand!) I wrote 17 pages, single spaced, front and back while a nude model posed. I've taken creative writing classes and been part of creative writing critique groups for most of my adult life, and I finally hit upon something that keeps the "writer's block" away. I wasn't staring at a blank page in my typewriter (as I'd done years ago) or looking at a white computer screen waiting for the muse to hit. Instead I was given time limits to "sketch" a drawing. Characters sprang to life. Their thoughts hurled at me faster than I could record them, and as Dan was calling time, I was jumping into the next pose that sent my imagination reeling into yet another scene.

I call my experience this morning "writing art." I just glanced at the model, soaked in his pose, and my hand took off writing. I didn't look up until it was time for him to change poses. I haven't read what I've written, so I have no idea even if it makes sense, but I do know that the scenes that played out in my head were so vivid I felt as if I were living them. I could rewrite the dialogues and character sketches in a heart beat if I needed to. I consider the experiment a huge success and one I would love to try again.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sacred Stitching

For whatever reason I sometimes have what I consider a build-up of vast quantities of explosive energy that creates an implosion in my thinking and then my body. These past 16 months have been the first time in my life since I got into energy work back in November 2000 when I have had absolutely no massage, energy therapy, regular yoga, and extensive meditation. Oh, and I'm surprised that I've got pent-up energy???

So, last week when I could feel the excessively whirling vortex of energy that consumed me, I knew I had to go within. I can blame the people I live with, associate with, the town where I occupy space, etc., but it always boils down to the fact that my problems come from within.

I went to my bedroom with a linen napkin that Dan had tie-dyed and some embroidery floss that he'd splashed with some dye too. I sat in a yoga pose, breathed deeply, and let my thoughts go before putting the threaded needle to the fabric. As I stitched, I returned to a peaceful place. When I was done with the first piece, I put it in front of me while meditating, staring at it, relaxing my eyes, and allowing my vision to dance upon the sacred cloth. It changed me. It calmed me.

the first sacred stitching
I discovered that it wasn't finishing the piece and then meditating that altered me, but the process of stitching it and letting go of my thoughts, the not knowing what I was going to do on the cloth until I did it. It was the surrendering of the process and allowing what felt right to be the whole purpose of the stitching.

The stitching became the meditation.

I do not have a background of hand sewing or embroidery. I've mastered the sewing machine and have taught thread painting for decades, so for me to pick up a needle, thread it, and hand stitch is just absurd. I've spent most my adult life going full speed ahead, my foot flat on the sewing machine pedal and my hands pushing the fabric under the needle as fast as I could. Speed, productivity... more, more, more...

The first week I bought into a quilt shop back in the 1980s, I had 10 commissioned pieces to make or finish. When it comes to fabric and thread a sewing machine has always been involved -- until now.

It took me days to finish the above piece because I took it slow. I breathed slowly. I stitched slowly. I put the needle into the fabric where it felt it needed to be, and I didn't contemplate whether or not it was pleasing to my eye. I just let it be. What I discovered later when it was finished, and I used it as a focal point in my meditation, I could relax my vision and the stitches along with the designs in the fabric became mobile. There were reasons for each stitch to be exactly where it was. Go figure...

I'm now in the middle of the second sacred stitching. Dan dyed new floss for me to try out, and I just pick up what instinctively feels right, and make a stitch where I feel it. The artist in me sure jumps out every now and then criticizing my work. However, I know the real purpose of these pieces has nothing to do with the finished product being aesthetically pleasing as much as a powerful meditative tool.

This one is still a work in progress. I feel I'll be stitching on it for days to come yet. Because of this process I've centered myself, breathed easier, and have been more creatively inspired and have initiated many new opportunities for myself. This process will be a class I'll be offering in Oswego soon. Stay posted...