Don’t hold your breath

Inhale: One, two, three, four, five – hold for two beats; exhale: five, four, three, two, one – hold for two; then repeat.

Concentrating on controlling my breathing creates space inside of me. Like wind blowing a sail, I am buoyed. In the space between breaths there is the peace of a placid ocean. When I greet that space there is a deep sense of homecoming that I too often deny.

I find that meditation for me is most efficacious through physical exercise that forces me to control my breathing.

When I was in labor with Maya, I got through it by focusing on my breathing and regulating that breathing through chanting. The Anusara invocation is a chant that feels at home within me. I would breath in for the duration of the 4 line verse :

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and then release my breath slowly through a second repetition. This allowed me to control the fear and the pain.

When I’ve been in my best yoga form, I would be able to channel endurance and grace through my postures by focusing on my breathing. In those times, I would feel that elusive sense of transcendence that keeps you coming back to the floor. I would feel power, beauty and sweaty exhilaration beaming through me like I was the sun.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to get there. Years really.

Though I’m not back anywhere near there, I’ve learned something about strength. There is the strength it takes to do something awesomely well that you are innately good at. That is honourable and beautiful. What’s also beautiful and perhaps more meaningful for me at this point, is the strength required to journey back from a place of difficulty to a place of strength. When you’ve fallen far down a hill you’ve already climbed, it takes an incredible amount of will and self forgiveness to journey back up again.

I don’t show up to the challenge each day. I wish i did. But I’ve reopened the door and am taking steps. I tend to run in fits, stop for long rebellious periods of: “well I don’t need you either”, and then sprint again until I’m out of patience and breath. This is not a winning strategy.

Lately I get the feeling that I should try walking the whole way back up that mountain. I think I should try going steadily, one breath at a time.

One word at a time.

One difficult choice at a time.

One harrowing conversation at a time.

With painting, with yoga, with many creative endeavours and perhaps even fitness – it’s most important to show up with whatever regularity you can muster. If it’s 5 minutes of vinyasa a day – beautiful. If it’s one jagged sketch on the subway each day – lovely. If it’s 10 non-work or list related words a day – amazing.

The daily return – or the making of the ritual is the hardest part and often the most rewarding.

 

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Monday mornings

The thing about deciding to empower your creative self, is that once you do, your non-creative exploits start to grind you down. The thing about being a working mom, is that you wake up on Monday mornings, see your sleeping child and quietly grieve that you won’t spend all day with them again for another 5 days.

For me, my creative energy is not purely tied up in any one aesthetic pursuit, but rather, a certain dedication of spirit and current of ingenuity that I try to live with. It’s as much in the things that I make, as in the energy, planning and commitment I give to my loved ones, to my job and even to my diet. I began feeling this way about art and creativity when I was a teenager. I would look at the many Mechanics and IT people in my family and see how heavily invested they are in their work. How ingenious and commanding they are in their knowledge and skill; and I would think – Wow! What art! What soulful dedication! What worth!

In a sense it’s the mental action or inclination toward artfulness and really makes the difference to oneself and the world around you. Where, in our daily lives, the artifacts of our labor are so often disappointing, or not our own, it’s good to remember that the expression of our creative minds has value to ourselves and those around us.

So, as I begin my week, I try to remind myself of this. That, even though the work that I do in my professional life is often unremarkable and repetitive, that there are still parts of it that I can fully commit my creative spirit to. Sure, I really have to work at it sometimes, but really – who doesn’t? That’s just the shape of things. Sure, I miss my daughter, but really – she needs to eat and she needs to live somewhere, so I have to suck it up and work. Pretty much, the only thing that I really have control over is the attitude and spirit with which I approach my life.

So here’s to an awesome Monday. We’re going to make it one.

JumbieJewels

It’s Art Market time again! I’ve taken part in a couple of art markets. Before now I’ve mostly shown paintings & drawings. This year however, I will be showing jewellery.

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I started working with air-dry polymer clay a couple of months ago, experimenting with thickness, strength and hand painting techniques. I hadn’t worked with clay before, but I did a lot of research along the way. After a few batches of using the air-dry clay, I started using Sculpey oven bake polymer clay as an alternative. It has been an invigorating learning curve. It’s been a while since I’ve really dug my teeth into learning a new medium. Each batch I make is fresh and exciting to work on. I am sure that this is the beginning of a deeply satisfying, clay-filled journey.

This particular process is great for my immediate lifestyle. Polymer clay is easy to work on in small batches, for short bursts of time. It’s easy to get my creative ‘fix’ by working with colour and texture in such an immediate way. I’m reading about more traditional clay techniques as well, however I really don’t have the time/space/resources to make a traditional clay practice tenable.

When i was a kid I LOVED the NeverEnding Story. There was a scene in the movie that has always stuck with me – a huge, powerful stone giant sits and looks at his hands lamenting that and his big, strong hands were not strong enough to save his friends from the Nothing. He says, “They look like big, good, strong hands. Don’t they? I always thought that’s what they were… “ . That idea of your hands being the real agent of your ability has stuck with me. I put similar stock in my own hands. My eyes and hands do my work, and I’ve rediscovered the great great joy of getting my hands dirty.

As part of this new foray into jewellery, I am launching the JumbieJewels Etsy shop. I have a couple of things on there at the moment but really, I plan on populating it when the market is over. I’ll post here as well as on Instagram with updates.

So, in conclusion, if you’re in Toronto this weekend and you want to spend a sunny day in the park, come see the Christie Pits Art Crawl. Sunday 27th May from 9am-4pm.

Look for JumbieJewels and please stop by and say hello.

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The Toddler Art Critic

Yesterday, on the bus, while I was taking my daughter home from daycare, I had need of my sketchbook. My daughter was fretting and starting a major fuss because our trip was taking a long time due to rain and traffic. I had already read the books that we keep in the stroller for her. I had already given her snacks and water. We had even sang a couple of songs together (to the chagrin of the other passengers, I’m sure). With a few blocks further to go, I was running out of options for entertaining a 1-1/2 year old. I looked into my handbag to see what I could come up with and decided to show her my sketchbook.

 

My current sketchbook is a light grey Baron Fig notebook, given to me by my BFF Stacy. I think it’s about 3/4 full of sketches, lists and recipes. My daughter was fascinated. She flipped through the pages and her eyes lit up in absolute joy when she found a sketch of her dad. She pointed at it and began an enthusiastic chorus of ‘Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!’. This lasted until she came to a sketch of our dog, Kai. She then started a chorus of ‘Kai! Kai! Kai! Dog! Dog! Dog!’. Then she went back to Daddy. All in all the sketches were a hit and they got us to our destination without the infant rage.

 

Funnily, the sketches she loves so much, were sketches that I thought were abject failures. I thought they were wonky and weird and not worth mention, but the Little One saw something in them – picked up on the resemblance that I thought I had totally missed. It felt pretty great. And it made me think more on what art is especially when it comes to portraiture. There’s something to be said about the vibe you can capture, even when you fail at resemblance.

 

In other news, I’m working on some clay things. I’m experimenting with polymer clay since I have not found any options near me for firing raw clay. I’ve looked up some videos on making a wire armature for figures and I hope to get some more clay to try out some of those. Also I’m working on some painted clay jewelry. I’ve been experimenting with techniques and will post when I have something I’m happy with.

 

As always, thanks for tuning in.

Asleep

My Instagram followers would have seen that I’ve been experimenting with portraits (to varying degrees of success). A friend of mine showed me a drawing that she started with pencils. I haven’t used pencils in a while now, so I thought I’d give them a try.

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This sketch, I worked on in 15 to 30 minute bursts over a 2 week period. As a source image, I used a photograph that I took of Mauri and Maya a few months ago. It’s a very personal and lovely moment that I’m really happy to have been able to capture. I’m looking forward to doing more pieces like this.

I’m really feeling the pencils, so I’ll probably stick with them for a bit.

Knock Knock

Knock Knock Knock.

I hear rumblings and thrashings from big, galumphing creatures behind the door. I try to peak through the curtains, but all I see are the shadows and silhouettes of varied and strange creatures. They’re having the greatest party I’ve ever not been invited to. I’m knocking on the door with hopes that my gate crashing will be accepted. I mean I have no recourse if they don’t let me in – even if it is my own house. What do these creatures care if little old me wants to join in the party? They’re having a fine old time on their own. Still, I’d really like to go in. I am drawn inexplicably to this place. I am drawn time and again. Because, I’ve been to these parties before. I’ve drank the wine, danced on the tables and made-out in the closets. But I keep losing the password. I keep misplacing the directions… even though it’s my own house.

Still, I’m going to keep knocking. Someone’s got to come out for a smoke some time. Anyway, I’m still getting some shades of good stuff, even though I’m on the periphery. I can still hear the beat of the music, muffled though it is. I’m confident that I’ll get in, if I do the leg work.

That’s why I’m going be sketching every day, at least once, for the next month. Here are last night’s and this morning’s offerings.

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