Painting my bliss
The Seagull’s Perch
oil on canvas
After a while of creating, one gets known for a certain type of work. I’ve always resisted this, even though I don’t have control over how I am perceived, and I like to change up what I work on constantly. I follow what my gut tells me to follow even if it’s in a totally different arena of where I had just been. I know, it goes against all advice that is given about developing your voice/style, essential to being considered serious about your work, blah blah blah. Now, I don’t mean to disrespect that advice, because there is truth to it and it is important to develop your signature style, that unique voice. It is essential. But for myself, and at this point on my creative journey, I know what my work is about and I also know that I need to explore it in different ways- whether it is through paint or fabric or found natural materials, through painting or sculpture or the book arts. So, I follow my own advice and create what I want and how I want. I am not accountable to anyone else; this creative practice is for me. But I still question myself at times.
Recently I have had this urge to pull out my oil paints and canvases and paint water, seascapes, and moments found on the coast. I have mentioned before that water is where I feel home. I can spend hours bobbing up and down in the ocean. I’m not really into the sand part, I don’t particularly like to lay out on a beach… it’s about the water. I recently did something very new and foreign to myself- I did a guided visual meditation and guess where I ended up? Yep, in depths of the ocean. It was pretty powerful and not surprising at all after I have had time to think on it.
I started painting this canvas above and originally I was going to paint a golden hill on an autumn day…but then I started mixing up these grays and started painting what I knew would become a seascape. Last year we visited Maine for the first time and did some hiking along the coast. A resting moment- where I stared out at the gray rocks into the water and a seagull touched down to perch on the rocks- inspired this painting. And even though I was happily painting, I couldn’t help but hear that whisper of “You shouldn’t be painting that, that’s not what you do.”
As I was painting this moment by the water, I took a break and checked my email. In my inbox I received an out of the blue email from a woman/fellow artist who had attended one of my workshops in the past as well as collected a few pieces of my work. And in her message, one of the things she wrote was, “Your courage to follow your bliss is admirable”. How interesting that right at that moment of that self-doubt, she sent me that message! I am so grateful. I returned to the painting and finished it up. And it felt right and good that I created this moment by the sea.
I am happy to report that this painting is on its way to a new home in Oregon, a place by the sea.
Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: sat-chit-ananda. The word “Sat” means being. “Chit” means consciousness. “Ananda” means bliss or rapture. I thought, “I don’t know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don’t know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being.” I think it worked.
– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth