The Art Spirit

There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Sign-posts on the way to what may be. Sign-posts toward greater knowledge.

Robert Henri

Monday, March 5, 2012

Facing Fears

I have a million excuses not to paint.  Some of them are legitimate.  With so many reasons, it's become a habit NOT to paint, to procrastinate each day until it's too late.

Yesterday, being the first Sunday of the month, was what we call Fast Sunday.  There are several things we do as part of this monthly practice, which I won't go into, but one major aspect is our personal prayers and intents for our fasts.  It is an opportunity to consecrate our sacrifice of feeding ourselves for the purpose of adding power to our prayer and supplication that we make during the fast, sort of way to show God we really want an answer to this prayer, so we are trying to make a place to receive it, humble ourselves to open our hearts to the Holy Ghost and show not only God but our own selves the strength and sincerity of our intent.  Kind of a "pretty please; I need this badly ASAP."

Usually we don't share what we fast for.  It's a private and personal thing.  But I'll tell you mine for this month.  I asked specifically that this week I would make painting my priority, manifested by spending at least two hours each morning, from 9-11, in my studio painting.  Whatever I would be doing or whatever I would still need to do that hadn't been accomplished yet, I would stop and paint for that time.  Unfortunately today, my first morning intended for putting this plan into action, I didn't wake up until 9:45, upset from something last night, still sick, still tired, with an endless list of urgent MUST-do's, unable to focus, with no inclination to do anything, least of all paint: a task that is demanding of my mind and energy and comfort and courage and time, a task that I have no clue how to begin, having no specific plan or painting in mind.  I am terrified.  But now I am in my studio.  And I thank God for that.

So, even though it is now 11, the time I thought my two hours would be up; even though my laundry is downstairs and would be good to wash during my time in the studio; even though I haven't run in days, haven't had breakfast, haven't read my scriptures; I am here, my canvas board on my easel, eager to make the first brushstroke.

Art & Fear.  Game on.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Phasing Out & In

I'm having a hard time quitting my job.  I've had something like 7 "last day"s.  Now I have the option of staying on with fewer hours.  Do I stay on or make a clean break?

Continued employment in position I know and feel comfortable in with sufficient pay
Established and routine schedule
Time off when family travels
No need to say goodbye to the kids I love quite yet
I get the summer off

No social security and health benefits
Leaving later will be more difficult/no clean break
Problems and challenges remain the same
High cost in terms of emotional, physical, mental demands and investment
Does not contribute to my career path or aims
No free evenings
No contract

What is the right and best thing?  Let's pray about it.

I told them I'd have an answer by Monday.  I'll let you know how it goes.

I had a great lunch outing with my friend Richard and his wife, Boo, yesterday after class.  We took the subway to Union square so I could introduce them to my favorite art supply store, New York Central, then followed it with a delicious Thai experience nearby.  I got the steamed dumplings and Spice Cashew entree with chicken.

Richard's a fellow artist from Ireland I met in my class with Gregg Kreutz at the Art Students League, and he's a complete gentleman and great human being.  I've only known him the month, plus a few weeks, maybe, but his character is transparent, and I appreciate his sincerity and passion and kind heart.  Boo, whom I met only yesterday, is marvelous.  Apparently her passion is in the culinary rather than visual arts, and she seems just as good as Richard, and both leave me with a conviction that the world is better for having each of them in it.  They're seekers and lovers of truth that live their lives according to the best truths their skillful discernment has revealed to them, and I'm impressed and inspired by their obvious lack of apathy and efforts to learn and do more, furthering and refining their own development.

One of the gifts of coming to New York has been the chance to reenter a community of other artists.  Three things inspire and motivate me to return to the studio and pick up my paintbrush: the experience of seeing someone or something in nature that overwhelms me with its heartbreaking beauty in form or mind- and heart- expanding truthfulness (a sort of a revealing glimpse of the mysteries and genius of God--it feels a lot like love/is the experience of love); coming into contact with the creative work done by other people/artists (past or present, visual, musical, writing, dancing, architectural, and almost any other form of inspired craft or labor or product); and, finally, the interaction and company of other working artists.  In summary: God's creations, Man's creations, the People themselves.  Richard is one of these peers that inspire me.

Another of the gifts of New York is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Certainly the list includes other museums like the Frick, Neue Galerie, MoMA, The Morgan, Brooklyn Museum (and 6 or 30 more); the rich multitude of galleries and studios in SOHO and Chelsea and the Village; Central Park; and even the subways.  But my most common destination for a combined sacred and artistic experience is the Met.    I had two days off a couple of weeks ago, and the very first thing I did when I would otherwise be at work was visit the American Wing.  It was shockingly as though I were taking a breath after holding it for months, even a year.  I suddenly remembered who I was and why I came here.

Would remaining at my job mean further procrastination of my life? Or can I slowly use the freed couple of hours every day to gradually return?

This weekend is going to be saturated with prayer.

All advise is welcome.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

New Beginnings

I just quit my job. So I could pursue my career. As an artist. Terrifying when I have a Manhattan apartment rent due each month, no portfolio, no supplemental job, no business experience, no business cards. My domain needs to be reactivated, too, and I need to build a website for it. Courage, or suicide?

Pray hard for me.