Monday, July 30, 2012

Zen of the Fishes

I am not a Buddhist, I am a Christian, but I am intrigued by the concept of Zen.  From what I have read, it is a concept that is a bit difficult to define.  Different sources say somewhat different things about it, so I have sort of come up with my own understanding of what it means for me.  And yes, it is also difficult to define.  Today the fishes helped me understand it very clearly for myself.  My own personal Zen.

For quite some time now, I have been going down to the small pool beneath the waterfall and feeding the fish.  At first, they would not come near me, but stayed hidden in the deeper, darker water at the base of the falls.  They would dart out of the darkness like a lightning bolt, snap up the morsels of food, and be gone in literally a flash.  Slowly, over time, that has changed.  Gradually they have come closer and their fear has diminished.  But today was special.

Today, as I stood there, as still as a stone, slowly dropping one morsel at a time into the water and watching it fall, something wonderful happened.  The fish started to swim all around me.  No longer were they darting in and out, fearfully snatching the food and zipping back into the safety of the darkness.  They floated quietly in the water at my feet and waited for me to drop the food to them.  One or two of them were not even eating the food.  They were watching me.  I let some pieces float on top of the water, and they would come to the top of the water, and look at me.  I made eye contact with them.  We were studying each other. And that was the moment.  That was the moment that I knew what the concept of Zen is for me.  Everything else in the world seemed to vanish.  There was only that magical moment, standing in the middle of the pool, encircled by beautiful, gentle, curious creatures who were as interested in me as I was in them.  I could feel their fins brush against my feet and legs as gently as butterfly wings.  My mind was completely clear.  Gone were the little troubles and worries and everyday burdens I carry around and play over and over in my head all the time. Time itself seemed to disappear.  I could feel the Oneness.  I no longer felt like a separate being, but a part of everything around me.  It was magical, wonderful, and transportive.  A glimpse of a deeper, richer level of being where time does not really exist and everything is connected.

I still don't know that I can fully explain what Zen means, but I know that I have felt what it means for me. So, that is my Zen experience.  The Zen of the fishes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Boxed In

Spring I, by Starr White

Spring II, by Starr White
Summer, by Starr White
Autumn, by Starr White

Winter, by Starr White
 I'm sure a lot of artists experience creative slumps every now and then.  Summer seems to do it to me.  I don't know if it's the oppressive heat or what, but I've been struggling lately.  Just feeling a bit wilted.  Emily suggested a series of abstracts based upon the seasons, and these little sketches are the result.  We've been discussing color a lot lately, so I decided to paint some abstracts representing the colors I associate with each season.  At first, I was distressed because all I could come up with was boxes - squares and rectangles.  I tried other things, but nothing seemed to work.  So, I decided not to fight it, and gave in to painting just simple boxes of color.  As I looked at them later, I realized I had also been experimenting with space - negative space - the spaces between the blocks of color, and I noticed that I had unconsciously made representations of the feelings of light and space associated with those seasons as well. 

Spring here is fleeting - light and ethereal.  Summer is very hot, and very green.  The yellow with the black dots is a nod to the black-eyed Susans that dominate the wildflower scene in summer.  Autumn is by far our most glorious season - a riot of color and an exuberant farewell.  Winter is mostly the grays of the bare trees, the browns of the fallen leaves, and the frosty big blue skies.

Perhaps the boxes are symbolic.  Perhaps they are a representation of my desire to get out of the proverbial box and find my own unique artistic voice.  For now, I will not fight the box.  I will make friends with it and explore it thoroughly until I am ready to venture out.  For everything there is a season.

Thanks for stopping by ;)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This Is My Father's World...

This is my Father's world
And to my list'ning ears,
All Nature sings,
And 'round me rings
The music of the spheres.

This is my Father's world,
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees,
Of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father's world,
The birds their carols raise;
The morning light,
The lily white
Declare their Maker's praise.

This is my Father's world,
He shines in all that's fair;
In the rustling grass
I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me
                   - Maltbie D. Babcock, 1858-1901

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Black-Eyed Susans

These tough little flowers dominate our landscape at present.  They seem to thrive in the heat and dry conditions we have had the past few weeks.  I was very surprised to learn, upon close inspection, that their "eye" is not really black at all, but a deep dark purple.  You can see it clearly in a couple of the photos above.  And I just love that wee little baby one hugging its mama.  Aren't they pretty spilling over the edge of the red clay banks?  When everything and everybody else seems to be flagging in the heat, these cheerful, pretty little flowers are an encouraging sight. 

Here is a little colored-pencil sketch I made from the second photo above.  I made it in preparation for doing a textile piece on the following fabric background.

This was the result of some further experimentation with making interesting backgrounds for my textile pieces.  I chose three coordinating fabrics, cut them up into little squares and then sewed them onto a piece of canvas with the machine.  I was really happy with how it turned out and decided to use it to showcase a black-eyed Susan.

Here is where I am now.  I photocopied my sketch and cut it up to use as a template for cutting out my fabric petals which were backed with a mid-weight fusible interfacing.  The interfacing stiffens the fabric and helps prevent frayed edges.  I think it's really pretty already!  But, I want to embellish it with some stitching, so I have lots more to do.  Even though I am a beginner, and still have much to learn, the embroidery is the fun part for me.  It's a little frustrating not being able to whip out these perfectly stitched masterpieces of embroidery, but for now, I have to be satisfied with what I can do.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Color of Emotion

Hope Emerging, by Starr White

Last week, to be perfectly honest, I was in a bit of a funk.  And then one day, while I was out driving, I happened to notice the blue sky.  It was a perfect summer sky.  You know the kind I mean - brilliant blue sky with white puffy clouds floating by.  And it really perked me up.  I was carried away by the breathtaking beauty of it, and my funk started to fade away.  I was uplifted.  This got me to thinking.

What is it about that beautiful blue sky that changed my mood?  I mean, sure it was beautiful, but what was it exactly, that lifted my mood and broke the cycle of funk I was in?

Emily and I have been talking about color here lately, and how it can be used to express emotion in our art.  So, I wondered.  Was it that gorgeous color?  That brilliant blue that we know is the color of the sky on a bright, sunshiney day?  I remember feeling a sense of hopefulness when I looked at that perfect summer sky.  The feeling of optimism - that things were going to get better and that the future is bright. 

That was the inspiration for this painting.  It represents that feeling of hope and optimism arising from out of my dark mood.  A mood that was lifted by the sight of a brilliant blue sky.

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by to visit my blog.  And thank you especially for your many kind and encouraging comments.  It's nice to know there's somebody out there reading it.  Here's wishing you many brilliant blue skies in the days to come.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sun Fish

Sunfish, by Starr White
This is a fun painting I did of a sun fish, also known as bream in these parts.  It was painted in a folk art style inspired by the dot paintings of the Australian Aborigines.  You can see what they really look like here.  They are beautiful, clever fish that are lots of fun to fish for and very tasty to eat.  You have to be quick though!  Most of the time they'll take your bait and leave you with an empty hook!

Right now they are spawning in our creek.  It is fascinating to watch them.  They build nests like a bird!  The male picks out a nice, quiet spot and cleans away all the mud and debris by swishing his tail like a broom.  Then, he builds up the sides of the nest into a bowl shape by carefully selecting pebbles and piling them up all around the sides.  Then he courts a female who will lay her eggs in the nest.  He fertilizes the eggs and  guards the nest until the eggs hatch.  Then, when the babies are on their way, he and the Mrs. move on downstream to deeper waters.  At the moment, our little pond beneath the waterfall is a sunfish nursery!  We are enjoying watching them and feeding them and trying to get them to eat out of our hands.  We're getting close!

This is one of their little nests.  It is just a short distance upstream from the pond.  You can't see the fish on the nest because every time you go near it, he darts off into the shadows on the other side.  See how neat and clean it is compared to the surrounding streambed?  This photo was taken from above, so it is difficult to see the bowl shape, but the sides are built up about 3 to 4 inches all the way around.  It's a perfect little bowl of pebbles.
Here is Smokey trying to catch one.  I've been wondering why his breath smells like fish!