Trust the process was a mantra at school. Lesley was ahead of its time, pioneering the field expressive therapy. Feeling perpetually out of place I welcomed these words as a way to push out chronic thoughts of comparison, failure and inadequacy. My mantra had been you’ll never be good enough. Trust the process was the medicine. It taught me to let go of attachment to outcome with everything, not just art. Poverty showed me there wasn’t enough so I’d better make some productive use of every precious resource which made art and living, terrifying. As part of being a student I was given access to gorgeous supplies; thick, cold pressed papers, the acrylic paint tubes that cost more than $7 each and fresh boxes of oil sticks with the words: ‘professional quality’ on them. I’m not pro bro. I’m not good enough to even touch these fine things. In the first studio class, after a whole year of just theory, we were invited to make marks using soft willow sticks on massive sheets of thin skinned brown paper. The instructor would treat us to different music each class and the whole time all we were allowed to do was make marks. Once I got past the guilt of wasting time, paper, charcoal and oxygen, it was liberating. Everything stuck in the rusted paths of my head got loose. Creative juice is a real thing. I’d felt it before but, like everything else, tried to save it in case it would run out. For whatever reason, like all the other serendipitous miracles of change, this was a permanent shift. Limitations lifted from other places too. When something was stuck or I found myself fighting old tapes I’d remember the words trust the process. It tells ego to sit down making room for God to show up.
There’s always the ache for more because we’re living beings who never stop growing. There’s an ache to make, offer and connect because those needs are built into our design; no need to judge or defend. My ache was hungry so I fed it.
Heal: India ink, pen, oil pastel and chalk.
Sometimes when I meditate I see 8 billion strings moving towards a far off light. Each person is a tiny circle along the strings. The image gives me peace as it suggests everything is unfolding in it’s own right time and all I need to do is keep choosing love and sliding along my string. Birds, eggs, feathers, fish and flower buds are symbols that have shown up in my art for as long as I can remember. They make comforting messengers.
Untitled: acrylic, oil pastels
I was talking with a friend while painting this. She was telling me about the film version of The Glass Castle and how the ending message wasn’t sitting right with her. I haven’t seen the film yet but I’ve read the book and thought it was brilliant. Jeanette Walls’ story was the first relatable but beautiful description of poverty and resilience I’d ever read. Rather than condemning her parents, shaming her family or society, she claims unfiltered ownership with depth and compassion for her reality. While painting and listening to my friend grapple with her hopes for a kinder world I kept thinking: stop trying to fix eternal problems. And I laughed. Not because I’m glad the world is broken but because I’ve seen how pain has become a gift in my life. I believe it’s all, eventually, good.
Incubating: India ink, oil sticks, charcoal and acrylic
This composition shows up every now and then. Eggs, feathers, figures; the possibilities of ideas and abilities within each of us. The possibilities I’m hoping to hatch within myself and also things still hiding or needing protection. There was a feather in the highest egg but we were fighting so now it looks like the shadow of a wing or a dove. Either way, I just kept saying yes.
Bazaar Obsession: acrylic, India ink, chalk, glue and mixed media
And finally, this mama-jam. It’s a piece that’s been waiting to get born for weeks. The cut outs mocked me from the work table. My husband said she looks like she’s floating in a cereal bowl with milk. She is not. It’s a Jimmy Choo-bird laying a Kate Moss egg in a cage which may or may not have bars and it’s all about anorexia, consumerism, trauma, healing, the life-death-life cycle and whatever else. You’re welcome to weigh in. There’s also a fish. I love it.
Back to a different kind of work tomorrow. In one of my three bags, I will pack trust. xo
p.s make your mark