Category Archives: CREATIVES

The Unknown Artist that Everyone Loves

Despite it’s tragic ending, most of us of a certain age remember with great fondness the Disney film Bambi.

Originally released in 1942, it’s considered one of the finest examples of animation from the 20th century.

bambi_tyrus_wongYet the artist responsible for the backgrounds, the atmosphere, the ‘look and feel’ of the film is still largely unknown. Tyrus Wong, 104, died Friday Dec. 30th, yet another remarkable artist to pass on in 2016. You’ve probably never heard of him, however, due to the lack of acclaim offered to Chinese Americans of his generation.

Wong worked as a staff artist in Hollywood beginning in the 1930s. He created storyboards and concept art for both animated and live-action films, many of which are  beautiful paintings in their own right.

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Born in China in 1910 he arrived at Angel Island at age 9 and was promptly detained under the Chinese Exclusion Act. Eventually he was aloud to join his father. It took until 2001 until Wong received  recognition for his remarkable work.

Fortunately for him, and us, he lived a long and creative life.

Read more about Tyrus Wong, here:

 

Movie Legends Ascend to the Firmament

Farewell my Princess

empire-strikes-back-carrie-fisher

I wish this awesome girl hero had come along when I was even younger- but even in college years she was inspiring. When did we ever see such a kick ass heroine in space?  Leia opened the door for Ellen Ripley of Aliens, Captain Janeway, even Buffy.

[BREAKING NEWS: DEBBIE REYNOLDS DIES, 1 DAY AFTER HER DAUGHTER. LINK]

When Carrie Fisher wrote Postcards from the Edge, I was really surprised. She was so amazingly candid for movie royalty. When she came out as manic depressive, I was thrilled.  Maybe we could finally talk about it like any other illness.  May you can be brilliant, creative and flawed. Even crazy. And it’s okay.

2D957D8700000578-3280234-image-a-17_1445336449812When I saw The Force Awakens, the reunion of Leia and Han was a kick in the heart – a good one, but full of real life angst. No fairytale romance for them -clearly they gave it a go, but grew apart. Years of gritty revolution took it’s toll, of course they’re battle weary.

Thank you, Carrie

For the inspiration, for the laughs, and most of all for permission to tell it like it is.

Some words of wisdom from Carrie Fisher

  • “I feel I’m very sane about how crazy I am.” 
  • “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ” 
  • “There is no point at which you can say, ‘Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap.” 

Seriously?

This American Life commissioned some musical theater songs inspired by this unbearable election ordeal, and here’s one of three (listen to the other two HERE.)

This is the refrain, in the voice of President Obama.

Angry?

Am I angry?
You ask me if I’m angry?

And I’m at a loss for words.

After all we’ve done,
every battle hard won,
every hair gone gray,
in the name of this place,
in a history paved
with incredible mistakes –
I pledge my allegiance
to these united, divided states

Seriously.

 

Winning While Not Winning

Back in September I applied for an artist’s residency at Big Bend National Park, an opportunity to live and work for a month in one of our largest and most remote wilderness areas, right on the Mexican border (image above.)

As I worked on the application, I gained a new understanding of why I paint the way I do:

My painting is both objective and reverent observation, a deep, active appreciation of the natural world.  My aim is to inspire others to look more deeply and develop a more profound appreciation for our world.

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I wrote quite a bit about why painting on the Border would be important to me, and I’ll explore that in a later post.

I didn’t get selected for the residency. When I got the email I was mildly surprised, as if I really believed I would. In the email from the National Parks Art Foundation was a personal note that I was one of the finalists. Which felt really good.

Last year’s Artist in Residence at Big Bend was painter Dawn Waters Baker. I fell in love with her work instantly. I feel it beautifully captures what I had imagined creating at Big Bend.

Please go look at Dawn’s beautiful paintings and leave her comments if you can.

Dawn talks about ‘the emotional landscape’ –  not what is there but how we experience it, what we feel. That really comes through in her luminous paintings. They are filled with awe and a deep respect for the space. And she called the final show Reverence.

I’ve never been one who takes rejection particularly well. But this was a whole other experience. I got to know myself better by applying. I looked forward to bigger, more spacious paintings and the magic of a desert landscape. I enjoyed dreaming about how I would fulfill the residency requirements. And then I fell in love with Dawn’s paintings.

I feel complete, or pau as my Hawaiian healer friend Carol Burbank would say. It’s all good.

Harvest, Gratitude & Balance

We’ve crossed the Equinox into the autumn season, and Friday last my Circle gathered to celebrate Harvest, Gratitude and Balance. As the day and night became equals we honored the bounty in our lives, the miracle of our journey through time, and the harvest on our tables in the following feast.

Fall Equinox or Mabon is one of the celestial holidays follow the seasons on which the lives of our ancient ancestors depended.  But, how ever far removed from our ‘modern’ life, This is still the ground truth: the elements must cooperate for the miracle of growth and life to occur. I bless the organic farmers and sustainable agriculture movement for their life-giving work.

In the ancient stories, the tale of Persephone journeying to the underworld uses a Mother’s grief to express the shriveling of the lush greens of summer. Her daughter has gone down into the Underworld taking her Maiden’s love with her.

Yet it is ultimately the third of the Triple Goddesses that rule this time: the Crone. This chant, which repeats and repeats, describes her transits thus:

She cuts the cane and gathers the grain, the fruits of Fall surround her.
Her bones grow old in Wintery cold, she wraps her cloak around her.
For she will bring the buds in the Spring, and dance among the flowers,
Her kisses are sweet in Summery heat, she sings in leafy bowers. (repeat)

to the tune of traditional English ballad  Nonesuch; lyric by Hope Athearn

These days the Witch of pop culture is appearing everywhere in preparation for Hallowmas, Samhain, Holloween, Tous Sant. I think the trope of the ugly, wicked witch describes how our culture feels today about the aging and aged woman!

But in that lies in a cruel misunderstanding of the dance of light and dark in our World: all life cycles. Our Priestess reminded us that we’re not just spining around the sun, we are spiraling through the universe, creating incredible energy as we go.

We spiral through space singing  of youth and age,  dancing between fear and joy, moving from innocence to ignorance to wisdom.

croneHow would the might oak from acorn grow, if the tree and her leaves never fell to rot and enrich the forest floor? The mushrooms wouldn’t grow, the worms no shade and the robins no breakfast. Life cannot continue without the death and decay that creates rich composted soil to receive it. Life cannot arise without the dark womb to nurture it.

Six months of light, and six months of dark.
The earth goes to sleep, and later wakes again.
O dark mother, we honor you this night,
And dance in your shadows.
We embrace that which is the darkness,
And celebrate the life of the Crone.
Blessings to the dark goddess on this night, and every other.

 

Small Press Expo 2016

I had a wonderful time at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda MD today, with my companion Maddie who is 14. We each went to different panels and met up to compare notes.

I am new to the world of contemporary comics and I have to say: WOW! It was such a vibrant scene – the exhibit hall was packed with creative happy people, colorful, expressive, curious, interesting, and fun. I played a new card game with giant demo cards, met my graphic novelist hero, Noelle Stevenson, ran into some fan artists I know, discovered a magical book about Monet’s Mouse!

I attended one panel with several comic artists discussing how they support their drawing habits. Creatively, of course!

Tomato Fairies

Cathy G Johnson works as an illustrator, teaches after-school programs and sells books and prints- real hand made screen prints!

Here’s a book she offers for reading online: “Going Back” – a travel journal.

Eleanor Davis is an illustrator you’ve probably seen around. She recently illustrated a New Yorker article “The Most Exclusive Restaurant in America, and here’s one of a series of Google Doodles:

Aimée de Jongh came from the Netherlands to #spx. Here’s a video she animated:

The whole thing filled me with hope for the world, so many happy creatives making magic and sharing it with an enthusiastic audience. I won’t miss next year’s show!

My Heart Flow with the Waters

I live on a lovely little bay off the Potomac River, downstream from Washington, DC. It’s alive with turtles and catfish and migrating water birds. Bald eagles nest in the woods nearby, along with osprey, woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks and many other birds.

it blocks the light, killing plants below, rotting makes a stinking black mess

But my bay, and the larger Chesapeake, is choked with foul rotting algae much of the year, the result of excess ‘nutrients’ from farms, sewage, run-off and lawn fertilizers. The sewage plant has recently had to absorb the waste outflow from a gigantic new development over 12 miles away, with more than 5,000 residents and 13 million  visitors annually.

While National Harbor has brought jobs and tourist dollars to Prince Georges County, which has never benefited as much as surrounding counties from DC’s economic growth, this overwhelms the sewage treatment facilities resulting in more filth in my bay.

Few people consider how their toilet flushing, lawn chemicals, street run-off or local farm waste are affecting our natural environment.

And yet our river is quite healthy for an urban river, as the birds and  the fish who still live here will testify. In many places the situation is much, much worse.

The voracious habits of the developed world, now exported to China and India’s millions of aspiring workers, are only accelerating the pace. In my lifetime we’ve destroyed most of the ancient forests on the planet, and killed half of the wild creatures that roamed the earth.

Consider this, from Joanna Macy & Jennifer Berezan:

Please be thoughtful in your choices that impact our world. Consider what you can do and give to help reverse the damage our people do to the world.

Alice Ferguson Foundation
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Indigenous Environmental Network

defy reality: be an artist

This recent post from Chuck Wendig’s blog Terrible Minds got to me:

Nobody wants you to be an artist.

It’s for a lot of reasons. Some come from a good place — they think, hey, we want better for you. The life of an artist is hard. Be a bricklayer, a doctor, a ROCKET LAWYER, something, anything. Art is how you lose. Art is how you die. Don’t be an artist, because we don’t want to see you struggle, starve, and go mad.

Some of the reasons come from a deeply cankerous place: jealousy (“why do you get to fritter away your hours MAKING ART and I have to sell toilets?”) or misunderstanding (“art isn’t work, it’s just lazy piffle for lazy losers”) or alien menace (“ART GIVES HUMAN BEINGS HOPE AND IT MAKES THEM MORE RESISTANT TO HOSTILE TAKEOVER FROM EXTRATERRESTRIAL FORCES”).

Some governments don’t want artists because art is truth, even when couched in illusion or deception. Some schools don’t want art because how do you test art, and everything is about the test, goddamnit. Want to get a mortgage? Tell them you’re an artist and ha ha ha oh shit.

Art is a hobby, art is a waste of time, art is a thing you do when you’re in elementary school or in the retirement home. It isn’t a life. It isn’t a career. FUCK YOU, NO ARTING.

Chuck Wendig’s blog goes on to explore where his will to persist arises from. For him, it involves a lot of fierce defiance, a big don’t-tell-me-what-to-do with a lot of cursing. And, I get that, being infuriated by this ignorant culture and the stacked deck that creatives seem to face.

illustrator: Shricka

But what if that “F-you” attitude doesn’t really energize you? What if your art needs to be about connecting and caring? What if you really DO care what other people think?

To some extent Chuck is absolutely right, Nobody wants you to be an artist. There’s plenty of discouragement to go around.

But listen inside: YOU DO. YOU want to create, pursue, invent, explore.

Then get to work.

Forget perfection. You can’t control success. You aren’t anybody else. You are you. It doesn’t matter if anyone believes in you. Let their disbelief charge your batteries.

You can believe in you.

Focus on today. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Make something. Create something.

That’s the place I need to dwell. I want to paint. I live for creating. So, back to work! I have buttercups to paint. It’s great work if you give it to yourself.

Music and the Divine Feminine

Jennifer-Berezan_MED_by-Irene-Young copyIn honor of Mother’s Day, I want to share the music and work of Jennifer Berezan with you. Berezan is appearing in concert May 27th in Washington DC for the first time, and I am thrilled to get to hear her.

Jennifer is a unique blend of singer/songwriter and activist. She has recorded over ten albums, and in them you can hear the sacred energy arising from her Buddhism and earth-based spirituality. Jennifer lives her commitment to environmental, women’s, and other justice movements.

Singing Praises for the World

Jennifer’s music is woven with the sacred nature of the Divine, and her work calls of a healing of the world. Listen to a few minutes of “Song for All Beings” and you can hear the invocations, the blessing, the love.

Not only a performer, Jennifer Berezan teaches music and healing, as well as leads sacred pilgrimages throughout Europe. I dream of journeying with her on the Women’s Pilgramage to Malta that she co-leads with archeo-mythology scholar Joan Marler. They visit sacred ancient places like the Ġgantija, the megalithic temple to the Goddess, the world’s second-oldest manmade religious monument.

ancient stones, ancient sea

Upcoming Concert & Workshop

Jennifer is appearing in concert in the Washington DC area for the first time on May 27, 2016, and also teaching a 1-day workshop on  Music as a Path to Mindfulness and Healing Saturday May 28. This  is a unique opportunity to experience her music and her energy. For more information about these events, visit Goddess Works Media.  Link for CONCERT TICKETS. Link for WORKSHOP REGISTRATION

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