Horses · Portraits

Working Meditation

“The essential thing is to work in a state of mind that approaches prayer.” Matisse

I am taking a break from adding details to a commissioned piece of a beautiful black and white Tennessee Walker horse. Shades of brown and gray make up the landscape as the sun is just past the peak of noon on a late autumn day. Snoopy, the horse, has been gone for around five years now, but his presence is still felt daily. He has become a muse, of sorts, for my customer, and I have the beautiful opportunity to capture the wisdom and love of Snoopy. As I critique my progress, I am convinced that more is needed even though a well meaning friend says, “Awww, it’s perfect just the way it is!” I smile, and think to myself, “not yet.” Even though I do not know what is “missing,” I know that my muse will!

Isn’t that the way with artists of every kind? Whether our canvas is a baker’s pan, a block of stone, a ball of yarn, or an actual stretched canvas, we know that inspiration will come. Like Henri Matisse noted, creating art is a meditation, a prayer, in motion. When I look at a blank canvas, my immediate reaction is probably best described as panic. Panic is then quickly followed by doubt as thoughts of “who do I think I am” rumble around in my mind. But, and it is a big BUT, as soon as the paintbrush hits the palette and finally the canvas, something magical happens. Stroke after stroke, blend after blend, shade before shade. . .what once was just a reference is now a finished piece. I stand back and stare. When did this happen? Wow!

And so it goes, working in gratitude. . .that prayer, that meditation–and I am fortunate enough to live this life. I think that each time I complete a piece I find it easier to begin the next. Instead of comparing my work to others, I celebrate the talent that streams through me and rejoice in sharing it with the world. I’m always surprised when a piece sells right away, or two people are wanting the same original, or I get accepted into a juried show. But should I be surprised? Probably not, because when anyone works from a place of love, of meditation, of truth. . .how can the result be anything but joyful? So many times we as a society look at work as drudgery; we complain of long hours, ungrateful customers, and low wages. What if, and it is another big one, WHAT IF we all changed our approach to our work, maybe even call “work” something else? Would everyone benefit from the love, truth, and joy that went into every cup of coffee served, every product shipped or rung up at a local cash register, every green bean picked and consumed? Ahhhh, therein lies the rub. . .as for me, my art will be created in meditation. . .and really, studio time is not work, is it? –Nicki

Art Studio · Portraits · Positivity

Negative Space as Positive?

Like everyone else, my routine has shifted–no Friday night markets, no art festivals. With this shift, has come more studio time. Rather than rushing to ready everything for the markets, and trying to creatively pack my MiniCountryman, I have been graced with the time to fulfill commissions. One such commission was a portrait of a customer’s granddaughter. Human subjects make me a bit nervous, especially when I need to capture the likeness and essence of the person. Doing “Fridas” for my own basic amusement is a lot different than a portrait of someone’s beloved granddaughter so I was enormously relieved when after several days of careful work I discovered this strong and beautiful young woman looking back at me from the canvas on my art table.

But, the space behind her–that negative space–oh my! I can hear art teachers from my distant past pointing out my lack of attention paid to the negative space. It’s a thing, I can assure you! So, as usual for me, I wrestled with how to fill that space in a fun light-hearted way and it made me think about the lack of negative space my day planner use to have… because after all, hasn’t life taught us to fill every moment, every space on our calendar, with a scheduled activity? Don’t we wear our completely booked calendars as badges of honor? How then could I leave the space behind this beautiful young woman blank? And then it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks: life with COVID has taught us that indeed we can survive without old routines, old expectations that every moment of every day be completely booked. Life circumstances has forced negative space on my calendar pages. Ironically, however, this void or blankness has not been void at all but rather has become filled with creativity in the studio. So, what did I end up painting in the negative space of the granddaughter? Beautiful, whimsical patterns. . .patterns that suggest wind, motion, and fun because what else would a creative young soccer player wish for? The negative is positive.

Nicki