Despite our surface differences,
we are all made of the same clay,
and driven by the same hopes and fears:
hope of pleasure,
fear of pain;
fear of loss
and hope of gain;
fear of disgrace
and hope of fame;
hope of praise and
fear of blame.
Be gentle, be aware,
and help each other:
if one falls,
so do we all.
Yesterday I was reminded that I needed to come up with an artist statement for a one-woman show I'll be doing next month at our local library.
I've known about this exhibit for months, but some part of me never quite felt sure it would happen --one of those too-good-to-be true things that occasionally attack us vulnerable artist-types. Plus I'd been so caught up producing work for my November show, which was a much larger space, that I'd sort of lost track of this one.
Suffice it to say that when the email arrived, even though I'd been attempting to paint new work for it for the last month or so I was caught off-guard: oh no, this is really happening, and I don't even know what paintings I'll be showing!
So where am I going with this, you ask. Well, as so often happens, under stress new revelations can emerge. But first let me give you an important piece of background information: About 8 months ago we moved from our colorful, light-filled home on the beach to a log cabin in the woods. The cabin comes with a large and lovely studio, but as you can imagine, it's a bit dark, and the predominant colors tend to be in the brown/tan range, whereas the predominant colors of our beach house were more blue/green.
I had decided that if I were going to be a successful artist, given that more people furnish their houses in browns and grays than in purples and teals, that I should change my preferred color palette, and that living in this new environment would be a great way to encourage that. So I have been endeavoring, over recent months, to introduce more browns and grays into my work.
But as I went wandering through the stacks of artwork now cluttering every corner of my studio, trying to decide what I should show that would be pleasant to look at in the gray month of February, and what sort of title I could give the exhibit to tie all the work together, I realized that despite my efforts to the contrary, the works that make me happiest were the ones with lots of blue and teal in them. There are one or two exceptions to that rule, but for the most part those were the winners.
So I decided to just go with that, and entitle the exhibit "Brightening the Winter Blues." So much of my work was done, but I still had to write an artist statement. And as I began to write about the role of color in my life I decided to confess that I'm a synaesthete: one of those rare individuals for whom words, numbers and sounds have colors.
I duly wrote up my artist statement and submitted it, and then realized I really needed one more painting to round out the exhibit. I wanted it to reflect the values expressed in the artist statement, and I wanted to pattern it after another painting of mine that I really love: of all the work I've done it's the one most likely to make me smile.
So I painted this one. It's actually not quite in the color range shown here, because I photographed it this morning under artificial light in a tan room and the photoshop color filters don't quite successfully compensate for that. In reality the yellows are less green, and the greens are more teal... but I digress. My point is, I painted this yesterday. And I like it, though not quite as much as its predecessor. And thinking about it in meditation this morning I had one of those massive insights that both thrill you and make you feel like a total idiot for not realizing it sooner.
Of course! I'm a synaesthete. ALL MY LIFE I have made decisions based on color. Any time I've ever had to make a choice, I've ALWAYS gone with the one that has more color around it. What colors, you might ask? Or -- and here's the more important question -- what colors inspire rejection? Answer: browns and grays. Well, duh! If I don't make life choices that are brown and gray, why would I find any joy in painting browns and grays? Which explains why I've had so little success in that arena, and why I've been wanting to paint over much of what I've created in the last 2 or 3 months.
Hey: so what if the stuff doesn't sell? The whole reason I started painting in the first place was because I got so much joy out of smearing colors on a canvas. Why would I try to regulate myself into colors I don't love just to find a way to finance the habit?
I know. It seems really obvious laid out like this. But I had to take my own time getting there, because it was a lesson I needed to learn at a deeper level; not just something I could realize in my head. What makes perfect sense to the brain often takes a while to sink down into the heart — or maybe, what makes perfect sense to the heart may take a while to filter up to the brain.
... which of course doesn’t mean everything I paint from here on out will be blue, or fabulous, or even necessarily abstract; it just means I maybe trust my instincts a wee bit more than I did. I can’t really let go of my longing for approval — I’m human, after all — but I can allow my own approval to matter more. It all has to do with appreciating and loving my own particular way of being in the world, something I often struggle with.
So now I will finally listen to my husband and daughter, who have both been telling me we need to paint the interior of our new home. The walls are currently a sort of dull tan -- which looks good with all the wood. But the fact is, it won't really feel like our house until we paint it the colors that work with our stuff, that resonate with our hearts. We're blue-green people, not brown people, and it's time to stop trying to fit into the wrong color box. We can do this!