why I write . . . and play

I used to keep a studio journal – sort of a running compendium of comments about work in progress,  mental detritus from former teaching jobs, thoughts about what I saw in the paintings, technical ideas… (“move this over, make that more light, open up that area”…).

‘just occurred to me that since I no longer do that, I can always refer back to some of these entries as a substitute. Heck, even if no other living soul ever reads it, that’s good enough reason.  It should, theoretically, exist somewhat permanently here.

As I mentioned once, I often like to listen to podcasts of Speaking of Faith, or the broadcast on Sundays.  It’s become my version of attending church-  or really attending to the spiritual/ethical ideas that are most interesting to me.

Recently, I was listening to an intriguing program with Dr. Stuart Brown, who founded The Institute for Play. He studied many deviant/criminal types and found overwhelmingly that the one thing missing from their early lives was the opportunity to play.  I can’t fathom a life so grim or joyless.

Brown explained how kids learn and take into later life lessons in problem solving, empathy and conflict resolution- from dealing with each other in play situations, and having a fantasy life, and being free to explore. It made perfect sense.  As artists, we try and allow that sense of wonder and non-productive play to stay in our lives, because it allows for discovery, innovation, and the unexpected gift of being outside of time.  It’s a very easy thing to lose as an adult.

My studio overlooks a public plaza that has, as one of its main attractions, a system of water streamers and sprouters that shoot out of the ground and disappear into these lovely dark rock whirlpool sculptures.P1010083 During the summer months, it’s a major distraction, but also a fascination to watch the toddlers and how they interact with these pieces.  It also encourages me to sit at my table with sketchbooks, ink, and other drawing materials and just play with ideas for the paintings of the future.

When I taught drawing, I occasionally read from several authors while my class was working. When we started using color, I chose Diane Ackerman’s book, A Natural History of the Senses, because she talks about color and how we describe what we see in such evocative ways.  Turns out, she also wrote a book, Deep Play. Here’s what she says about poetry, but I think you could easily substitute the word painting.

“There is nothing like poetry to throw light into the dark corners of existence and make life’s runaway locomotive slow down for a moment so that it can be enjoyed” … “Poetry offers truth based on intuition… we ask the poet to teach us a way of seeing, lest one spend a lifetime on this planet without noticing how green light sometimes flares up as the setting sun rolls under.”

so … enjoy the sunsets, and the toddlers

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