Swatch of Life

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“The ability to create great art comes from an awareness of yourself and what surrounds you.” ~ Jenie Gao

I remember when my daughter used to ask me questions about everything, the most random things. Like, Dad, what would happen if we all lived in a whirlpool?

How do you even begin to respond with a logical answer? Truth is you can’t, but you still answer the question, to the best of your ability, and she always understands.

Life throws us these random curiosities sometimes, and each and every time we have to make our way through with our own understanding and experience. Art teaches us this value. Through simple childlike questions we learn and experience the creative drive that inhabits our spirit, and we express it in whatever functional way we can.

Sometimes, like a child, we have to test the objects of our creativity. We have to question the structure of whatever we choose to create. We have to see the result, ask and test the substance which we use on our palettes.

Enter the swatch board..

A simple swatch board is an artistic tool to be used for testing applications of color, blending structure, line and brush strokes. It may seem like just a simple rudimentary tool to be used as a key or a guide, but it can be so much more. In fact, the creation of the swatch board itself is a work of art all its own. It is an artful expression of the questions we must ask, and of the structure which we are attempting to find.

The swatch board is a childlike projection of our desire to both learn and create. It is a question of self-awareness, and of our surrounding world.

I invite all artists to create a swatch board. Play with the color, test the brushes. Make swirls, circles and patterns. Blend, brush and streak. See the birth of creativity within your testing of its gentle life.

All creative spirits should exercise this simple expression of life. It is a marker of what drives us to be creative. It’s a child asking a question about whirlpools. It’s why we share what’s inside of us.

It’s why we are who we are, in color, in patterns, in blends, streaks and spirals. It’s the diversity of the world represented by one simple truth.

We all desire to share what’s inside of us.

Enjoy your swatch board. Enjoy your life.

 

Charmed Chaos

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“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

I’ve always been told that art needs to be comprehensible, that people should be able to understand it. But really, if you look at the variety of artwork in the world, not just contemporary art, but at all art over generations of time, much of it is not comprehensible. I’d say that either way, it is all interpret-able, maybe.

When I first started painting, and even back when I was drawing, doodling and sketching at a young age, I recall never having a goal. I never had a particular aim other than to just create something appealing to the eye. I never knew where to start and I didn’t know when I would be done. I just began and allowed the pencil or the brush to take me into another world.

I believe that this is truly what art is about. This is about transporting the viewer into another world, another frame of mind, or into a part of reality that had yet been seen.

Art loves chaos. And in many ways, art is a charmed chaos, or, a divinely orchestrated chaos. It takes the chaos of the mind and transforms it into a view-able frame. This allows a window into our crashing thoughts, to the tormented soul, and into the uplifted heart. It is a beacon for the human spirit and a marker for culture.

Once in every great while, I allow the freedom of the brush to take hold. I simply let go and let the moment become part of reality. It is emotion, thought and muse. It unfolds as the brush touches canvas. It simply is. It wills itself into existence by taking my hand and working on its own.

Everything wants to live. Even Art.

The piece above began as a blank canvas. I had no picture in mind, no goal, no conclusion to my work. I just began, and it became. I still don’t know what exactly it is, or why it is, but nevertheless, it is.

I believe we should all let loose the brush, and lose our inhibitions once in a while. While I create many structured and sensible pieces, the work that I allow to live without sanction is where my heart resides.Sometimes it is dark, sometimes it is light, but in the end, I believe that it is always a bit of both.

Maybe it can be interpreted, maybe it can’t…

But really, that’s not the point.

The New

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“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.” ~ T.S. Elliot

Goals are fun to set, especially during the first days of the New Year. We see it all over. People buy new things, healthy things; things that help one quit smoking or things that count steps and monitor heart-rates, things that uplift and empower and things that inspire a healthy body and mind. For some reason, the New Year, this random day is as symbolic as the first day of spring, ushering in renewal, rejuvenation and revival.

The gym becomes full, at least for the first month. The walking track gets crowded and the hiking trails become a bit more traveled. Running shoes go out of stock as do most organic health foods. It is truly the time for change. It is truly the time for self-awareness.

As our lives often beg for revival, renewal and positive change, so does our creative spirit.

I’ve recently learned a small but profound truth in regards to art myself. Our soul must express, and not just in one form, or in one particular medium. We can have style, but our style must be challenged for it to grow holistically. A catharsis must be allowed over a wide range of mediums, not to remain stagnant in one form of expression alone.

This year my goal, resolution if you will, includes branching outward into foreign mediums, new stylistic theory and exploring that which I’ve yet to. The painting above is a template for a new form of abstract figure study that I’m working on. Through this form, through this challenge, I choose to search for a truth I’ve yet to discover, as it is with all art.

For those not acquainted with the mind of an artist, this is both exciting and scary. It is new ground, not traveled. It might be awkward in execution, horrible in presentation and unaccepted by critics and peers. At the same time, it might be wonderful, powerful and spark the desire for more. It can be all these things and more.

It is new, and in being new, it is free. This is how art is born, and this is how art lives.

I challenge all to explore the unknown this year, in both mind and spirit. Let this freedom of the foreign take your heart and mind into new places, new thoughts and new dreams. Dare to be inspired by the unknown, by the unseen.

Read a novel that you would otherwise pass over. Open a journal and write a story if you haven’t ever tried. Paint with oils instead of acrylic, use wood instead of canvas. Carve instead of chisel. Choose to experience life with the brightness of new eyes.

Believe that this is the day where all things begin anew, and it will be.

Happy New Year

The Ground

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“A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.”
Leonardo da Vinci

An artist must create a background. No matter musician, painter, writer, dancer or actor, we all must have a background, a beginning; a point from which our work and our lives begin to live.

The background is more than just a stage or foundation. It is more than a smattering of color in a painting and more than a random coloring of history in a story.

It is more than the melody that threads together the chorus and more than the step that connects the pirouette. It is more than the scenery beyond the actors face, and it is more than the first chord that any musician plays.

The background is the primal voice of our art. It is the first echo of our voice and the first cry heard from our hearts. In it we find the woven, inseparable brothers of light and dark. We find the first shadow and we find the first flaw.

The background connects all that can be contained in its margin. Without this crown of strength, the flatness of life is shown through in all works, and in all life.

The background is sometimes unseen. Often it is completely unnoticed. Sometimes it is gray, white or even invisible from man’s sight. But, it is always there, always the connecting source, always the point of awareness from which emanates all life’s colors.

The background is life. It is the stage which you call home. It is the rest you take before a long day. It is the thoughts and ideas you have about others, about life and about yourself.

What color is your background?

Is it textured, rich, full of noise? Full of darkness?

Is it full of light and awareness? Is it sharpened, or diffused?

Does it hold your heart in place? Does it move your soul, or move your life?

The background is a sacred place. It is the beginning of all creation, the garden, the birth swaddle, the uncurling from dreamless sleep. It is the place where the ghosts of the future speak to us.

The background is the beginning of the dream, the unseen witnessing of the miracle. It is the first chord of the grand chorus, sung by the universe for all men to hear.

Create your background well and live to brighten life.

 

The Art of Line

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The line that describes the beautiful is elliptical. It has simplicity and constant change. It cannot be described by a compass, and it changes direction at every one of its points. ~ Rudolf Arnheim

We are all welcome here, within the art of line.

The line is full of motion. What seems plainly straight is more full of movement than one can see. Line carries with it inertia, the line is artful inertia. It moves and leads the eye, the heart and the rhythm of life around it.

One line can form two, and two can form several. Three lines can intersect, forming sacred geometry. All lines have this form, though they are not simply linear. The move both forward and backward, through time and across the mind. The line becomes what one sees and lives in memory.

This line is infinite; never starting and never stopping. It moves beyond the footprint of origin, beneath the tide of moon driven waves. It pervades all things and coalesces with dark and light.

What is the line? What is this art of line that has lived before time began?

This is the finger, the brush, the words, the thoughts and the dreams of all creation. It begins without beginning and ends without end.

The line is the spiritual vein of art. In life, it redeems the wicked, saving the souls of the wretched with each pulse, with each ripple of time in each glimmer of the eye. It calls to the to the painter and to the watcher. It drives us mad with each stroke and lifts our hearts without pause. The line is life.

Where is your line? Where is your art of line?

The line is born as we are born, though it has existed before we first ever spoke to the world. This unbroken, unfettered, unfiltered divine laser lives as we live, stepping where we step, extending outward along our path. We find it behind us and in front of us. It lives where we walk.

We cannot escape the line.

We must all walk this art of line. We should all dare to follow its way. Our intrepid souls follow the line in hopes that we too follow with full hearts, with bright dreams and desires of truth. The line marks our way, and draws out our deepest desire.

The art of line must be learned and lived. It must be caught and released. It must be embraced and kissed. It must always be, only to become.

What will the line become?

It already is. It always has been.

Source

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“Because when I dream, I feel no fear,
And when I am fearless, I am my most creative self.” ― Nikki Rowe

I, like many other artists, often find myself staring at a blank canvas wondering where to start, how to begin, where to place the brush or which angle to approach. This can be frustrating. But, it is a part of what we do. When this happens we must look deep within and find what we are missing. Sometimes, we can see it staring right back at us. This is the art of finding the source.

The funny part about being an artist is that when we openly express creatively, we most often go blindly into a piece without visualizing the end result. And, many times, even when we have an idea or a visualized concept, halfway through it we change direction, we change color, we might even turn the canvas upside down and start over, or sideways, or upside down then sideways. The possibilities are endless.

In our work, we move forward only with connection to the source. Sometimes the source hides from us. It is within our creative nature, however, to find where it hides and breathe life into it.

We’ve all had that once piece of canvas that just never seems to come together. No matter how we approach it, it simply does not speak to us in the way we’re searching for. It speaks a foreign language. It sits still and lifeless, staring back at us, mocking our every attempt to push forward and finish our work.

We paint over it, we rewrite it, we add whites, highlights, dark colors and texture. We change the background, we change the foreground, we change the edges, we change everything about it and end up in frustrated limbo, unconscious of what we are really doing.

This is what happens when the source of our creative energy is missing. Though, it’s never really gone. It hides from us, sometimes in the corners of our canvas, in once spec of color that we overlook time and again. The source hides in our lives as well. This creates imbalance.

In our lives, we must connect with the source. We must center ourselves and find where it hides.

All lives are connected with the source, with that point of awareness that begins and ends within us all. It is the sacred place of our hearts, the hidden space within our souls.

In life, we cannot paint over our frustrations. We cannot color over the blackness, or add white to the mopped mess of color that we’ve created. Sometimes, we must step back and look for what we missed from the beginning.

All of the arts and all lives must have a connection with the source. Without this connection, our work does not speak and our lives remain static and droll. It is through mindful awareness where we find this firm ground and let it speak through us.

Stop and let the source breathe through you. Let it guide your brush and your heart. What was once a mess of confusion will soon become a mirror of life that emanates from within. The canvas will then speak to you, the language will become clear and it will look at you as you look on it. With the source, the work will come alive.

Be aware of the source, and begin your great work. Begin your life with this connection and move throughout time with the flame of creation.

Life in Contrast

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“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” ― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Contrast is part of life, and we truly live in a life of contrast. However, what appears to us as strikingly different, what appears to us as a simple juxtaposition of black and white are really two of the same. It is within the one shade that we can find two.

We should all explore the contrast as it applies to our lives. We artists use contrast to evoke distinction and clarity within a piece. We writers use contrast to shade the personality of a character against his peers, his struggles or in completion of his goal. Within one form, we can always find two, contrasted throughout time.

Contrast dances in unison with one purpose. This simplicity differentiates the part from the whole, though it is the whole that all parts emanate from. It is this specific part of the form that we emphasize in our own lives. Sometimes we emphasize the black, while other times, it is the white.

In life, we must recognize our own contrasts. We must become aware of both the subtle and the striking differences within our own consciousness and what we perceive around us.

It is through recognizing these true contrasts that live within us all that we can become whole. With this simple understanding we can come back to the center. The contrast will coalesce within and around us, becoming one.

It is dutiful of all artists, of all creative spirits to explore contrast, just as it is for all lives to accept and understand it. This is the divergence of self and of sight, of mind and of body.

We become our own contrast. We live through our variance of self and of mind only to one day return to the true form. To become one with this clashing of color, of shade and of emotion is to become one with the heart and the mind.

Color your work and your life with the awareness of contrast. Unfocus and watch as two forms become one.

 

Lessons in Color

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“Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways. ”
Oscar Wilde

Color is a precious thing. People don’t fully understand it. This deserves exploration.

Color is the phenomenon of light. It is the quality of light that we see, but this saturation of light is so much more.

Color tempts the eyes, opens the mind and rattles emotion. For the artist, color, shade and hue are all tools to convey his message. Just as the writer paints with words breathing life into a story, the artist colors the life of his work so it may speak to the world.

We can learn a lot from color. We can see the light reflected, changing the spectrum of our minds. Our mind is a prism, filtering light through, coloring the depths of our imagination, stirring our dreams and desires.

Color can make one feel powerful, soft, sensual, admired and loved. Color can also make us feel warm, hard, powerless, agitated and sad. Through the power and use of color we extract and provoke emotion, we give a touch of life, and a touch of dreams with every fleck, every pixel.

Life can be full of color, or it can be grey. It can be as simple as black and white, or it can be colorless, void of light. It can be dark. But this is up to us.

Through color we can mute the darkness. We see the shimmer of life and taste the sweetness of existence. Bold color denounces what is dark, and covers it with radiance, with life and with love.

We color the seasons with the shades of the heart. Through brilliant reds and greens we can make the spirit of the holidays come alive. We can make others feel, and see the spirit surrounding all that exists.

We are the colorists, the artful wanderers and the creators of inspiration. We color inside the lines and out. We please the mind and satisfy the heart. We are the color of life, the incandescent smile of the universe.

Color your world with your heart and with your mind’s desire. Stand in the brilliance and bask in radiance of this shining life.

Lessons in Darkness

IMG_2285“Light can only be understood with the wisdom of darkness.”
Ka Chinery, Perceptions from the Photon Frequency

What can we learn from darkness? One can learn more than just a simple lesson. We can learn many truths from this absence of light.

In many ways, darkness is a paradox. You cannot truly see it, because it is dark. It is non-light. It is black, but blackness as well emits a fraction of light. Only through the emptiness of mind can it be understood.

Darkness can be used. It is used in the shadows of great art. It is used in elements of suspense in writing. It can be conveyed through the skills of great actors, musicians and dancers. Darkness plays a role in creation, and it is a part of our everyday waking lives.

It is only within darkness can we know the light. It is only through seeking the light can we rid ourselves of the darkness. But, both will always remain.

As night turns to day, we are always reminded of these two great compliments of life. One cannot exist without the other. This is not duality. These are not opposites. The two exist as one.

Use the darkness to remind you of the light. Explore the dark parts of life as well as those bathed in light.

To know the self is to know all parts. To understand life is to understand the dark as well as the light, the calm and the chaos, the hard and the soft.

We must understand and embrace our whole self, in dark times and when well lit. This is the way of the artist, and the way of the creative spirit.

Muse Your Moment

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“She smiled and said with an ecstatic air: “It shines like a little diamond”,
“What does?”
“This moment. It is round, it hangs in empty space like a little diamond; I am eternal.” ― Jean-Paul Sartre, The Age of Reason

Inspiration. Where does it emanate from? From what source does the muse originate? How do we find it as we stare at the blank page, or gaze deeply into the white canvas?

It is said that each day we are given a moment, just a solitary point of awareness within a fleeting second where we can choose to capture the flame, where we can choose to see our heart and its desire. This is the moment where we capture our muse.

The muse comes in many forms. It can arise from one line we may read in a book, or through the emotion we witness around us. A person can inspire us with their words, their smile or their gaze. The wind can blow a seed in just the right way, and we are then captured by the muse of nature. It is within our awareness that we find these fruits.

We must be open to these things if we are to create truly and passionately. The moments come and must be captured, but so many go unnoticed. So many are left wasted as we’re often distracted by worldly things.

The screen of the smartphone blinds us at times, though it can also be a conduit for our muse. The busy lines at the store confound and irritate us, but within this line muse can be captured. The traffic jam riles our rage and tries our patience, but within this temporary solitude one can surely be inspired.

Each moment carries with it the ability to transcend our awareness and cultivate our passions. Each second can inspire us to create, to smile and to walk ahead with a strong heart and a clear vision. It is our duty to recognize the subtle gifts waiting all around us.

Whether you are inspired by a painting, a phrase, a dance, song or even by sitting on your couch watching Netflix; capture this moment. Let it speak to you through your heartmind.

Some may be inspired by the patterns in a leaf, while others may feel the emotions of the world as they hear a bell toll. Whatever it is, be aware, be sound and be alive in this time. Be the muse of your own moment.

Life is one continuous beautiful moment. Don’t let it pass you by.