The “Art” of Light And Dark

I started taking art classes last year. I’ve been an artist all my life, and have dabbled in the creative arts on and off all these years, but put any serious artwork on the back burner for various reasons until the last ten or so when I started to explore photography as an art form. In the last two years I’ve also added writing, drawing, and painting back into the mix. I’ve been lucky to find a program hosted by Rutgers University that offers all sorts of classes for “seniors”, which lo and behold I now am. I’ve learned an awful lot taking these classes, not the least of which is that seniors are bright, educated, motivated and vital people with tremendous wisdom and experience, and a great sense of humor. I also feel fortunate that these courses are available and taught by impressive, accomplished and talented people.

I was working on a painting at home…on my own…without the critical and directive eye of my instructor. I’d been working on this piece for a few weeks, albeit tentatively and with limited confidence. Our final classes for the season had just ended and I made a vow to continue working on my own until September when we begin again. True to my vow I approached my easel and decided to dive in and get my brushes really dirty.

Recently I read an article on creativity. The article focused on how artists will often arrive at a point in their work where they come to a crossroads. They start the work going great guns…their creative juices flowing freely and hot as fire and then they hit a wall with a thud. Nothing works. Colors aren’t right; words don’t flow; music is not harmonizing; whatever the expression, it’s just not happening. And it is here where an artist will often stop. They might simply set the work aside and start something new or in drastic cases, in a fit of despair and frustration, they might destroy it completely. Either way…they abandon the work without allowing it come forth fully. The article goes on to say that this is the point of critical mass, the point where the artist needs to be patient and gentle with themselves because this is where the rubber truly meets the road, so to speak. This is the point where an artist digs deeply into their “Courage to Create” (also the title of a book by Rollo May that I read many years ago) and stay the course in spite of the roadblocks and resistance. There is more here than meets the eye.

Back to the painting that sat on my easel – I reached that point of inertia several times. It was working…then not working. I had vision and talent…I had nuthin’. The image was emerging…the image was shit! Like that.

I’ve had this experience more than once. It happened again with the painting. I hit a wall. It was going well for a while and I started to see something emerging that looked like art. I got brave and started to bring the work up a notch and BLAM…it was All Stop. I walked away from it. I had homework assignments and other work to do and used that as an excuse to ignore it. I thought maybe I’d switch to charcoal drawings for a while. You name the distraction and I thought of it. And then I remembered the wisdom of the article I read and put the painting back on my easel. I took a deep breath and kept going. Layer by layer, color by color, the piece began to come to life. I took chances…baby steps if you will…and if I didn’t like the effect I went back and did it a little bit differently. I remembered some of the advice my instructor gave during our classes and applied it to the painting. Before long I was in “the zone” – things were working and time ceased to exist.

I’m delighted to report that this advice works! I pushed through and the painting began looking more and more like the original vision I had. While a painting (or any work of art) is never really finished, I did complete it with some real satisfaction. I saw my way through fairly clearly and my trust in the process, at least for now, is restored. In fact I went on to a second painting and put the same process into play with more confidence. The second one is also “complete” and a third is in the pipeline. What I know is that this will be an ongoing practice for me, as I imagine it is for any artist, or scientist, or musician, or dancer or anyone in the act of creation. And staying the course is the lesson.

Ironically (or perhaps not) the first painting is a study in light and dark. It’s also a study in mystery and the forces of nature. And it is not lost on me that the lesson is very much one that I teach others. In the work that my husband and I teach called “Infinite Possibilities” which is based on author and teacher Mike Dooley’s NY Times best-selling book of the same name, one of the key messages is that when we take steps in the direction of our desires The Universe works in partnership with us in the unseen to bring about the things we hold in our thoughts and dreams. This work teaches that behind the scenes, even when we think nothing is happening in our lives and things seem to be stuck or we seem to be “spinning our wheels” there are indeed wheels turning that we cannot see, moving us toward what we seek. In the case of the creative process, when I reached that moment in my painting when nothing seemed right and I felt like stopping or even destroying it, it was being birthed somewhere just beyond my ability to see it. Hanging in there with it as those wheels kept turning allowed it to emerge.
The working title for my painting is “Light and Dark” but I’m entertaining a few others since it represents a new understanding of the process, at least for me. For now what is re-affirmed for me is that light and dark can live in harmony; trusting the process (whatever the process may be) is vital; The Universe always has my back even when I fall into fear or uncertainty; I am a creator; I love teaching others how to harness their own power; and I love re-learning these lessons and anchoring them ever more deeply in my own being.

~ Franne
woman on fire
P.S. There is a blank canvas sitting on my easel mischievously beckoning me to begin again.

WEEKLY STRETCH – 6-24-16

healthy boundaries beach

SUMMER DAZE! Oh how I love summer. The Summer Solstice is my absolute favorite day of the year. It is the day filled with the most sunlight and to me it is ultimate gift of Mother Nature. I spent my “first day of summer” at the beach. It was delightful (no pun intended – well, maybe pun intended). It was a beautiful day with shore breezes, high willowy clouds, sunshine galore, the rhythm of the waves, the wonderful salty air, seagulls, sand, the works. Nirvana!! I was there with my sister-in-law Kathy. Soon after we set out our chairs and got settled with our toes in the sand, looking out at the ocean I said to her, “Even in this wonderful place that I’ve longed for since last summer, I can’t get my brain to slow down.” Her response was, “Breathe”. Such a simple directive…”Breathe”. So I did. I consciously took in a long slow breath, and consciously let it out in a long slow exhale. I did it again, twice. And finally the thought stream slowed down a bit and I was able to be fully immersed in the deliciousness around me. (Thanks Kath!) Funny…I frequently give the same directive to my clients, but in the moment of my own wandering incessant thinking I needed Kathy to remind me to walk my talk. Maybe it was the intoxication of the beach and the ocean that made me forget one of my favorite thought interventions. Or maybe that’s just an easy excuse for what happens to all of us; we forget to use the tools we have to take care of ourselves.

Summer is a time to slow down and be. Let yourself.

So today’s stretch is twofold:

STRETCH: 1. Go to the beach or lake or some large body of water!!! Let the energy of water rejuvenate your body and soul. 2. Breathe! Take a moment in your day to stop…inhale deeply…hold your inhale for 4 counts…then exhale to a count of 8….S L O W L Y. Check in with yourself. Do it again…and once again. Enjoy the peace.

WEEKLY STRETCH – 6-17-16

IMG_3233(rev 0)

It’s been a tough week since my last posting. Hard to believe that so many people’s lives have been turned upside down and so many are grieving. And that’s just the people we’ve heard about in the media. Many others are suffering who don’t attract media attention. In fact, most do not. Moment to moment someone is hearing news of a loss, or an illness, or a sadness that has taken them from their normal state of being to a completely different state of being…in a microsecond things have changed and nothing will ever the the same. Life is like that. Change is like that. We don’t always know when change will happen, and we like to think we have some measure of control over how and when it occurs. It’s the times when we don’t…have any measure of control…that turn our lives upside down. And it is in those times that the truth of our humanness is most evident.

This week the best and the worst of humanness has been calling my attention. Once again, as we see the faces of young people gone too soon and the “evil” that is responsible for taking them, we have the opportunity to make choices. Sadly I’ve witnessed some choices that are unthinkable to me…laying blame on the blameless, name-calling, racism, homophobia, extremism, hate. And I’ve seen heroism, kindness, unity, compassion and love. In some cases these incidents have brought people together; in others they have torn people apart. The dichotomy is startling since my first thought is always “how can I help?” rather than “who can I blame?”. The images and the discussions were too much for me at one point and I had to remove myself for a while to re-group my own energy and stamina for holding a higher space. After a 24-hour news sabbatical I returned with the resolve to look at the week’s events as an opportunity to be reminded of Presence.

Staying present in the moment is the only way I personally can manage the media onslaught. Present in my life, present with hope; present to breath and heartbeat; present with compassion and healing; present with forgiveness and vision for something so much better. I cannot control what anyone else will do in a given situation. I cannot change anyone’s deeply held convictions no matter how contrary they are to my own. I cannot take away the suffering or the pain I see in the faces of grieving parents and loved ones. I can only be present to life and be in a place of gratitude for the days I am given to live it. And living it, to me, means being fully present for all of the myriad experiences it provides. I can make the choice to bear witness to it all, with my heart open, my arms open, my mind open, my eyes…open. I can make the choice to help or blame. I can make the choice for Love. And in my view, Love always wins.

And so this week our stretch is about Presence.

STRETCH: Practice being present to whatever comes. Allow yourself to feel the feelings that arise, and give yourself space to feel them deeply. Be compassionate with yourself; be gentle with yourself. Hold space for healing, hope, gratitude, equanimity, and peace.

It is my deepest wish and hope that one day we will know that those we love are safe. Until then, may we all hold a vision for something so much better.

WEEKLY STRETCH 6-10-16

R&R JACKSON BROWNE

What a gorgeous day! We here in the northeast have been patiently (well…maybe not patiently) waiting for Spring days…and finally we are in the pocket so to speak. Ahhhh…delicious cool sunshine greeted Sophie and me on our walk this morning. It’s early June. Hooray.

Last night I had the pleasure of sitting in on a rehearsal of a show my husband Bob is appearing in with The Reock and Roll Revue, a fabulous band that does theatre shows highlighting an historic album in rock and roll history and duplicating that album in total. These shows are the brainchild of an extremely talented man I’ve known and loved for many years, Tom Reock. Each of these shows is masterfully performed by amazing musicians and includes a wonderful historical narrative that informs the audience of what went on behind the scenes in these artists lives at the time. All in all every one of these performances over the years has been a “happening” for sold out audiences. This year I’m thrilled that my husband, my brother Hal, and my niece Lindsay will all be performing along with Tom and the rest of the Reock and Roll Revue. The album they will be performing is Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty”.

Sitting in the rehearsal studio with a crew of master musicians was a great honor and thrill for me. I happen to love this album so the music itself was enough. But being witness to the collaborative process and respect these musicians have for each other and the natural unfolding of creativity was, to put it mildly, “really cool”. My husband says I have a musician’s ear and a musician’s heart. I love when he says that because one of the great frustrations of my life is that I don’t play an instrument and at this point in my life, after a few tries with guitar, I just don’t have the patience for the learning curve. So I’ve resigned myself to live from my musician’s heart and listen deeply with my musician’s ear. Last night I was doing just that. I felt surrounded by creative energy. The room was vibrating with it and I let myself be saturated by it all. I can’t imagine anything more enlivening that sitting in a room filled with music created by some of the best players I know, many of whom are part of my family. By the way, this morning I woke up early and got back to work on my most recent painting with renewed vigor and energy. Thanks guys!!! I’m coming to every practice!!!

Today’s stretch was inspired by last night’s experience:

STRETCH: Take time to honor the gift of creativity. Make something. Draw, paint, decorate, cook, look, listen, dance, color, do anything that taps into your innate ability to create. It can include creating space, creating relationship, or even creating time in your day for self-care or fun. Breathe into that place within yourself where creativity resides. And celebrate this amazing gift.

WEEKLY STRETCH – 6-3-16

Helping Hands against blue sky

Today’s stretch is about support. I must be the luckiest person alive when it comes to support. I have a wonderful family, loyal and precious friends, and a husband and partner who loves me unconditionally and has supported every one of my dreams. That’s not to say that my life has always been easy, and when it hasn’t been support from those in my life has been there without question. This week I’ve seen how life can be when support is not in place. I’ve seen someone who has lost all of the support I take for granted (because it’s always been there). I’ve witnessed someone “hit bottom” as we call it…and with all of her dignity intact, ask for help and support to bring herself back up. And what has really blown me away is that in the asking the support showed up. I am so humbled by her story and how she has kept herself barely afloat in order to stay with her precious dogs and keep herself and them alive and safe. What comes to mind is the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I”, since any one of us could find ourselves in the same situation at any time. I’m happy that we have been able to be a tiny part of that support, but what is the most humbling is how many people…strangers…who, when asked, simply showed up to help someone in need. I’m grateful to have witnessed this…and I am inspired in ways it would take too long to list here. So today’s stretch is inspired by a woman of great strength and dignity:

STRETCH: Notice where in your life you are supported. Ask yourself how you can offer support to someone or something and how that might look. Support could be a kind word, an offer to drive someone where they need to go, a donation of time, talent or treasure. And as a second stretch, ask for help when you need it. Help is available. You need only ask.

More to come.