the art of making art

“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.” 

Pema Chödrön, Practicing Peace in Times of War

the words above are really wonderful. they represent an idea which seems so progressed, so advanced, and so worth achieving. however that idea seems so far away at times, too. i have yet to live with my heart open consistently. i manage it at times. i feel good during those times. i also slide back to living a smaller life rife with emotional reactions, gut impulse, and intricate tribal type war dances that signal messages to the universe. 

these latter mentioned times are not my proudest moments. if i were to compare them to paint on a palette, those moments would be the darker hues, violets, deep reds, black blues, black greens and browns- shame, blame, denial, and fear all becoming like leg irons creating shadow and drama. as i metaphorically capture my life with brush in the current time, i may very well be using the blacker tones. strangely, i seem almost stuck in a spiral of these dark hues- almost drawn to them- even when i want nothing more than to blast bright yellow or pink on the canvas. 

hockney sketch of he and picasso

none-the-less my agenda is to learn to be different. to be open, to be curious, to work with fear, and to not shut down first. big hopes for a small town boy. i paint and i throw away. and i paint and i paint over. i paint  and i set aside. and just as david hockney suggested about the work of picasso- it is all the same connected piece of work- just like a japanese paper scroll- that rustles, and twitches, and has its own life while it is viewed as a whole.

This is one way in which Hockney has maintained a close, posthumous relationship with Picasso. Early on, the Spaniard’s abrupt changes of style had licensed Hockney to do the same. One of the aspects of both artists that confuses commentators is their stylistic shape-shifting. Lesser artists, Hockney wrote in 1976, can get trapped in a way of working. Picasso didn’t let that happen, he had the courage to say, “I’ll quit this!”

“When you stop doing something it doesn’t mean you are rejecting the previous work,” says Hockney. “That’s the mistake; it’s not rejecting it, it’s saying, ‘I have exploited it enough now and I wish to take a look at another corner.’” That was a lesson for Hockney in his thirties, and one he is still drawing on. The spectacular landscapes in his current Royal Academy exhibition are the latest of such changes of tack – and, I believe, a stunningly rich one…. reprinted from a David Hockney interview at

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