Last winter, while in a contemplative state, I heard a quiet, small voice say to me, "Soft, like a kitten." As I thought about it more and more, I started thinking about how cats are so chill and at the same time so able to spring into action. I let the phrase sink deep into my being.
One night I shared this thought with my son who then told me that his partner's greatest wish was that she could be a cat. I decided then to make seventeen paintings of Girls Who Want To Be Cats, and the CatGirls were born!
As I've painted them and written their stories, I've come to know the CatGirls as smart, ferocious, compassionate, and creative. They remind me of the strength and power of girls, the wisdom of animals and how "soft, like a kitten" is my true nature.
My "CatGirls" will be showing until August 24 at SideStreet Gallery in Portland. I will have a book of them and their stories available in my studio during Portland Open Studios in October.
Ha ha, it just struck me how this image reminds me of the Michelangelo painting "The Creation of Adam". It's a crop of one of the paintings I'm working on currently. I'm writing about it because a cool thing happened with it today.
I was painting on it as a demo for Portland Open Studios today. While I was painting, a little girl came up to talk to me. I found out that she was four years old (almost five!) and has some water colors, which was really just a ruse to talk about her Calico Critters and then she said, "There's hands in the painting." I told her I was thinking of painting over them, but what did she think about that? She said I should keep them, so I did. I showed her how I saw a hand on the left side of the painting too, and I traced around it. She said, "It could be like they are pulling on a rope." So I painted a pink line between them, but then I painted over it with blue and drew the zigzag line with the end of my paintbrush. "How did you draw with that?" she asked. I showed her how the end of the brush just scraped through the wet paint to leave the color underneath. I could see her mentally filing that idea away for the future.
We talked about the structures on the bottom of the painting that you can't see in this cropped image. She said they looked like castles in water, and that castles have drawbridges, so I attached a drawbridge to it.
We talked about her birthday, her favorite dress, and then she told me about her ugly paintings. She told me how she had painted her mom really little and herself really big, and how it was just VERY ugly. I told her, I paint ugly paintings too sometimes, and when I do, I paint over them and start again. At which point her Mom said, "Did you hear what Sam just said? So instead of tearing up your paper, you could just paint over it and start again."
The point of all this is that inspiration comes when you least expect it, like when a four year old says something that makes me scratch a line in a painting and then the painting ends up reminding me of God and creation. Or a little bitty artist person hears that every big artist person makes ugly paintings sometimes too, and the ugly painting doesn't have to freak you out.
Someday, after I have made this painting as good as I can get it to be, I'll put it in a show and dedicate it to this wonderful little girl, and every time I see it, I will remember what a cool little person she is and what she brought to my art on this day.
Reality: I think I slipped into a different world six weeks ago. It's a world of clarity and truth - a world of incredible beauty, and also a world of horror and heartbreak, and the most bizarro behaviors and beliefs. Maybe it's the same world, but I'm experiencing it differently than I did before.
Words: I'm having trouble sharing my art, writing about it and promoting it in this world because many of the words I hear and see are so empty. At the same time, some words are astoundingly deep and meaningful to me.
Goals: It's weird because suddenly, I have no goals for myself as a painter, or for my paintings. And even stranger, I have no desire to have any goals. I'm just painting and trusting that there will be a reason and place for what I make.
Trust: I wrote a newsletter. I'm writing this blog. I'm keeping my commitments to shows, galleries and other art-related work. I'm painting most days. Nothing has changed, but it feels like everything has changed.
It was hard to write this blog, but here are some good words:
"Transformation, heading for the light of something closer to the heart."
Two weeks ago I attended a five day "Enlightenment Intensive" at a beautiful Buddhist retreat center in Washington.
Did I get "enlightened"? If you mean, did I completely dissolve into nothingness? No, I did not. If you mean, "did I have a direct experience of the truth of who I am? Yes, I did. It was sweet and simple, and changed my life. It made me laugh out loud.
The five day retreat was designed to be a complete immersion into contemplating the question, "Who am I?" - twenty-four hours a day. It was nine hours of intense dyad work, talking and listening openly and honestly with our partners at our deepest level. The rest of the hours were spent in "Noble Silence" with only the question. I ate with it, walked with it, worked, slept and dreamed with it.
Now I am home and back in the studio. I'm bringing the contemplation into my studio with my paintings as my dyad partners.
I've always worked with my paintings are partners and listened to what they want to be, so working with a more structured contemplative approach is going to be a subtle change. I'm really interested in seeing what happens.
The painting above is the first to come out of this new practice. It's called, "After That, This".
More to come, always.
I've been doing yoga almost every day since the beginning of the year. I think being upside down in all those downward dogs is having a powerful effect on me, because I've been changing direction in many areas of my life.
For example, for years I've been hosting creative/spiritual circles in my journey space, but I've recently realized I'm done with that. The energy I was directing outward in organizing and facilitating these circles is now moving into my paintings
As a result, my goals as a painter and for my paintings are changing. I'm moving more inward, and intentionally slowing the painting process down.
This painting that I'm working on right now is helping me do that.
This is the 48 x 48 inch "Marriage Is an Experiment" painting I painted last year. It had evolved from a previous version, "The Seasons of A Marriage". Now it's not even a "marriage" painting anymore. It too is going in a different direction.
If I keep a daily yoga practice for the rest of the year, I wonder what else will happen... Do you have a regular yoga practice? Has it changed your creative/artistic life? If so, I'd love to hear about it.
The seas are rising.
The seer is blind.
The earthquake comes in the dark of night.
Let's hold hands and take a stance.
Grandmother is coming -
Might as well dance.
For the past few months I've been occupying three states of mind.
1. I feel overwhelmed, sad, and exhausted. Bleh. I see too much bad news, bad-intentioned people, and too many important issues that need attention.
2. I feel like a warrior-goddess, ready to march into the unknown, kick some ass, and make a change in the world.
3. I feel capable, loving and creative. I know who I am, and what I have to do. I paint, read, write and do what needs to be done.
I am painting from each of these three spaces. The intensity of our times has led me to experiment with simplicity and constraint. My color palette is more subdued. My imagery is less refined and more gestural. There is one over-arching theme about relationships and taking care of one another. Because my shows for the year are all set up, I can concentrate on painting for them. I'm doing less in the studio and experiencing an expansion of freedom and possibility in my painting.
To see more of my new paintings you can follow my journey on Instagram@samyakyamauchi, or check out one of my shows this years.
2016 has not been the worst year of my life, but I am happy to say "goodbye" to it with this colorful, two fingered wave.
Dear Great Imagination,
I know there is truth and good and beauty here, and also terrible ongoing problems and suffering. Please let me grow big enough to hold all the justice, caring, courage, compassion, love and magic needed to transform the bizarro, incomprehensable, heartbreaking things we have created into something that is better for all of us. In 2017 Help me remember who I am and what I came here to be and do, and let me inspire others to do the same.
So be it.
Sometimes my artist insecurities crop up and tell me that I shouldn't post my paintings so often on social media. They say, "People are getting tired of seeing your stuff."
I start to doubt my motivation for showing my work, fret about what other people think, and then get annoyed that I am fretting about it... I quiet my insecurities by telling them them I don't think I post that much. I don't overload anyone's news feed. I tell them, "People like seeing my art." I also let the insecurities know that I know it's just them talking. After that, they settle down and wait for another opportunity to mess with me.
I post often because I paint a lot, and I paint a lot of paintings that I really love.
My paintings resonate at a very heartfelt level, and I want to share that with people. There's a lot of ugliness in the world - anger, hatred, suffering, dark scary stuff. I'm trying to counter some of the awfulness all around, by being the most magical, powerful version of myself that I can be, because I know change in the world has to begin with me. Painting is one way that I communicate that version of who I am.
The painting above is one of my intuitive-intentional paintings on paper. It came into being as a result of a morning walk. When I go for my gratitude walks, I ask for an intention to hold for the day. That morning, my intention was "Tell the truth of who you are." When I got in the studio I wrote it on the paper, and then this painting was born.
The Truth of Who I Am
Bigger than you might realize
Insight, Foresight, Near-sight, no Far-sight
An offering of love and wisdom
The ladder leads down-up
Painting in Portland, Oregon, and writing about it here...