Monday, January 25, 2010

Ten Thousand Hours, Ten Thousand Steps


Okay, okay. I'm taking a break from the Grand Canyon painting and posting a different one that I made a few weeks ago while taking another break from the monster. It began as a plein air painting and then was finished in studio.

This little painting, 8" x 8", is of the ridge line of the Catalina mountains just north of Tucson. I'm glad to say that Catalina State Park is one that will remain open this year. There are approximately twelve others which will be closing. It is a tough time in old Arizona. However, next Saturday the radio show, Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor will be broadcasting live from Tucson. He promises to mention Tucson a lot and will probably tell some funny stories about the town. Maybe you will have time to live stream the show. We'll get to hear it at around 4 PM Tucson time.

Malcom Gladwell claims that it takes 10,000 hours of practice (among other things) to become really good at something and to be successful. And, we all know that 10, 000 steps each day can keep us healthy.

Repeating: 10,000...

My pedometer often says approximately 8700-9000 steps. Some days less. Hmm, but I'm sure I must be close to that hours thing. Wishing you many happy hours in front of the canvas! And, for inspiration to get moving, here's SamArtDog's link to a Love Project. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Grand Canyon Foreground Gesture


Here's another snapshot of a portion of the Grand Canyon painting that I'm still working on. I know, I know. It appears that I've not finished this yet and that I'm rationing out photos of this monster. However, I do hope that seeing it in bits will add to the finished view and be more interesting to read when it's done.

I recently went to the Grand Canyon Association's Plein Air on the Rim website and watched a short video (podcast really) of last year's event. Whoa! How inspiring.

This area is on the left of the 4' x 6' painting. It was a challenge because it is such a huge expanse. Time to take out the 3" brushes. It's an almost slap-dash area and I think that made all the difference.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Monks' Quarters, Tumacacori Mission, Arizona

Taking a short break from the Grand Canyon today. I've wanted to play with some images that I have from visiting the Mission at Tumacacori awhile back.

Tumacacori Mission was established by the Spanish Jesuit priest, Father Kino, in 1691. The day we were there, women from the local Tohono O'odham tribe were making sopapillas (deep fried tortillas, sprinkled with powdered sugar). We arrived late in the afternoon and were able to see a pretty nice sunset. I'm hoping to try painting the west side next.

This painting is 16" x 20" on a Blick artist's board. This is of the Monks' quarters just to the east side of the mission building. It has some buttressing in the front as it's a mud adobe structure compromised by water (hmmm. That sounds familiar). I wonder now if it's been closed due to the recent budget cuts...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Grand Canyon Meditation


This segment of the Grand Canyon painting is showing more progress, I think. I'm starting to feel that this portion, this 2' x 2' section, might just be okay to leave alone for awhile. So, tomorrow I'll work on a different area.

Reminds me that I'm learning to meditate. Do any of you artists/bloggers meditate? I'm an absolute newbie and, of course, not good at it. But like the act of painting, I recognize the benefit and often feel a lot better after a session. I'm comforted by others who've written that they aren't great at meditating either, and that's par for the course. I guess I'm trying to calm that "monkey brain" that carries me off and leaves me distracted and sometimes a bit anxious.

I found Marsha Lucas, Ph.D. , a licensed psychologist and neuropsychologist and watched her video, downloaded the podcast and have found it helpful. She makes the process so easy!

Another thing that I learned to do is go to my 'happy place.' This is something anyone can do too. Sit comfortably and imagine a moment from your past in which you were filled with a quiet joy and happiness. Then, with eyes closed, hold that image in your mind and lightly tap, alternating left hand/right hand on your body (each thigh while sitting is the standard) for about 30 seconds. Go there in your head. At first, there's nothing, but with consistent practice, I've noticed a pleasant calm--like drinking a good cup of decaf green tea--like staring into the Grand Canyon. If you're as nervous about the world as I am, this may help.

Oh, and paint, paint, paint! That'll get you away from the news and ten billion thoughts!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Power of a Mother's Voice


The holidays are over, the blue moon wanes, sending its blue tones into my head. My college student has flown back to the blizzards of weather and semester's winds. I hear in my head Bob Dylan's song (sung by Susan+Tedeschi), Lord Protect My Child:
"For his age, he's wise
He's got his mother's eyes
There's gladness in his heart
He's young and he's wild
My only prayer is, if I can't be there,
Lord, protect my child"

I'm taking a moment in this new year to consider the power of a mother's voice. When Ell was just a baby and I was still carrying him in a snuggly, I used to dance and sing with him to Tracy Chapman's, All That You Have is Your Soul. Do you guys remember that song?

"Don't be tempted by the shiny apple
Don't you eat of the bitter fruit
Hunger only for a taste of justice
Hunger only for a world of truth
'Cause all that you have is your soul"

Waxing nostalgic this evening, I thought it might be interesting to post the advice mail art that I sent the youngin' a couple of months ago. We'd had a discussion about how my voice is in his head. He reminded me that my voice, forever etched in his mind and heart, is so strong, that I don't need to be emphatic anymore. I could whisper and his whole being would respond. Whoa, eh? Sometimes that means, "If it's not one thing, it's your mother." (Robin Williams, I believe)

This mail art piece was a huge challenge for me. It has a printout of some advice I've given, with windows cut out from a photo I took of the Doubletree Hotel. We see this hotel whenever we're outside. I thought, like rooms, a mother's words are stored for instant recall (for good or ill). We can visit the good words by opening the windows. Some of my advice was: Look up at the sky. Don't look up as the birds fly over. More willing, less willful. Floss often, wash hands more often. Ask for a hug. Use a splash of bleach in your laundry. Don't mix bleach with other chemicals. All that you have is your soul. Never iron naked. Sometimes struggle only tightens the ropes we seek to break. Stare at the ceiling for ten minutes or more. "Some know the price of everything, but the value of nothing"--you're not one of those. So, call your mother. There are 64 sayings that he can see by peeling back the paper windows, a bit like those advent calendars one sees during the holidays.

I wrote:
Here, dear Ell, is what's already in your head. Like a hotel with 64 rooms, you have compartments, boxes if you will, in which data, decorated with the minutiae of pragmatic living, furnished with emotions of joy, wisdom, trust, self help and love collected and stored for a time--until it's time to add or subtract more useful aphorisms. Yet some, the deepest and most true, stay always at the ready like your mother's voice, powerful, structural like the girders of architecture that make up each room--contained--a vivid history there. Love, ma (M. S. Esparza ©)

"But really, when you come right down to it, there are only four basic prayers. Gimme! Thanks! Oops! and Wow!" --Rabbi Marc Gellman

I hope what you hear in your head are your own best, kindest, wisest, most loving words. If there are cruel ones, let's throw them out now. This year deserves a good start.