Post Seven: Beginner's Mind


Post Seven: Beginner’s Mind

At Carie’s studio, SoftWater Studios, set up to paint.

At Carie’s studio, SoftWater Studios, set up to paint.

Last week I had the opportunity to paint with my mentor, Carrie Jadus. Carrie is not only my mentor for this grant, which I am beyond grateful for, she is also my oil painting hero. To me, her work speaks. It tells stories, evokes emotion, has strong qualities of play and love and struggle and hope. It is divine. So to say that I was out of my comfort zone stepping into our painting session is a simple reality. Before this session, I had also never painted along side another artist. However, the newness of this opportunity tickled me as I am old enough to know that experiences outside that zone of what we're used to, within reason, can be the most enlightening kind.

Carrie set us up with a still life of sunflowers against a gorgeously contrasting teal background with a direct light source. Ok, now I was nervous! I usually paint from photos I take as I meander through my days. Rarely do I paint from life. However, again, I know this is an area I can improve on so I was delighted by her choices. Also, while I have painted sunflowers before, it was in a more illustrative way, glazing over the attention they deserve. Carrie set our painting stations up with painting palettes, turpentine, linseed oil and brushes. Next she began demonstrating her approach. We laid in loose light and dark washes, roughly sketching in shapes via tone. This challenged me immensely, to zoom out, to allow our brushstrokes to build shape rather than using charcoal to make lines as I'm so used to doing before I start each painting. It felt loosy goosy to me and it looked down right ugly (mine, not Carrie's). I could see how Carrie's shapes and strokes evoked an understanding mine did not quite achieve. It was challenging for me to let go of my lacking in these early and simple stages.

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As human beings we have such a strong desire to want things to make sense and be perfect so quickly. Immediate gratification, right? Quick, immediate, available. Finished. It's the world we live in. I resisted this urge repeatedly as Carrie and I continued to lay in lights and darks, color and detail. We talked about the "ugly phase" of a painting, and the ability to be ok with the ugliness of a painting's under carriage. As someone who has been painting for almost 20 years and in a self-developed style, I felt more like a kindergarten student, rather than an experienced oil painter. Typically I am the one instructing others, this time I was the student allowing my art and my "less-than-perfects" to be seen. In yoga teachings, we learn to adopt a "beginner's mind" in all situations, giving value to the newness of every day, each experience and every moment, understanding that we are different from one day to the next. We appreciate that the only constant is change and so we learn, with practice over time, to meet ourselves where we are, knowing that place is ever shifting. We work to not compare ourselves to our past or future selves, as well as to others. I reminded myself of this principle with every sigh of effort I released during our session. We painted for 4 hours. I walked away encouraged. I tried something new, got out of my comfort zone, explored new paint colors and was given an outstanding lesson on trying to loosen up.

I took my piece home and finished it that night. Typically, it might have taken me longer to finish this piece. But in the letting go of my desire for perfection, I found something new. I put another hour or two into this piece and called it done. If I had followed my usual approach, I'm sure I could have painted something tighter and more exact. If I had taken the extra time to really observe each singular detail. However, this was an exercise in effectivity versus perfection. How efficiently can I lay down what I see to translate through suggestion? All the fun and play is in this ability, which is something to fine tune through one's career. After painting with Carrie, I feel like I understand this better and will continue to explore it. Carrie showed me that this is an ability to develop to become a better painter and artist. The art of suggestion, versus the art of exactitude. It is an artful skill.

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As I write this post at my favorite coffee spot in St Pete, Black Crow Coffee on 1st Ave S, I just ran into Olivia, one of the coordinators for this grant. She is also the coolest, most put together recent USF graduate you'll ever meet. Highly self-aware, brilliant, bright, mature and just plane lovely. I know her through working together with Nomad Art Bus and from St Petersburg Yoga as well. I am totally amazed and inspired by her brilliance and youth. She is a natural leader and I so look forward to the good work she is doing and will continue to do in her lifetime. She's the bomb-diggity. I want to say thank you to her, Danny Olda, Kimberly DiVito and all of the wonderful people at Creative Pinellas. Thank you, Carrie, for your mentorship and thank you, Creative Pinellas, for making this all happen. These experiences change everything and I encourage everyone out there to go for it and do the important work that is in your heart. Show up for yourself and everything else will follow. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes for all of us. It's all that work that aligns the stars to shine the light on our way to a what we truly desire.

Comfort, ease, love and joy are available to all of us.

With love,

Anna

 

Post Número Seis: The Balance of a Snowbird Lifestyle

Post Número Seis: The Balance of a Snowbird Lifestyle

"Love where you live, and love who you are. There is only one of you." - Me

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On Thursday, July 18th I drove up to Creative Pinellas in Largo to participate in a panel conversation with the 9 other awarded Emerging Artist grantees. It was the first time I got to meet in person both the grant director, Danny Olda, and the other amazing artists awarded this spectacular grant. I arrived early to meet with Danny and see the gallery where the final show will be exhibited. It's stunning! And huge. And was the kick in the rear I needed to get to work.

During our panel conversation, Danny presented each of the artists with two prepared questions and then opened the conversation up to the audience. I was the first batter up ("Ayres" is both a blessing and a curse, always the first up through my school years), a blessing in this instance because it eliminated any opportunity to overthink or get nervous. He asked me about the transition from living in Vermont to Florida and how it has shaped my art. I love Vermont and appreciate so much how it influenced me into the person I am today. The untouched landscapes of Vermont makes it incredibly easy to immerse oneself into the natural world. As an empath with an environmental bend, I reboot best in nature. As a child, I was outdoors playing for much of my free time. Even in winter, I got outside to build mazes in the snow and skate on the nearby icy cornfields with my siblings until our fingers and toes were numb with cold.

However, there was always a period of the year when it felt nearly impossible to get enough time outside. Ice held the snow hostage, the sun did not come out for weeks it seemed and the wind stung like whips against already chapped skin. As a fair, redheaded child, I hated this time of year. I was sensitive to the cold, dry climate. My skin chapped and I felt trapped. In addition, it felt like summer was much too short and rarely did it get hot enough for my liking. I yearned for long days filled with heat and sun that would never go away. Those things felt painfully fleeting in VT and when they did arrive, I felt anxious knowing they'd be gone far too soon.

My 32 years in Vermont is the basis of who I am. Vermont provided a connection to the natural world without my even trying. It was just there. A constant. My normal. It is the reason I paint: to be a part of the solution. I believe that staying engaged with and  preserving the place that is our home is the most important element to our continued evolution.

When I vacationed in Gulfport and Treasure Island almost six years ago, I knew I'd landed somewhere I wanted to spend more time. The colors, skies and tropical flora excited me. It was so different from the terrain I knew, and so WARM!!! St Petersburg is to me what New Mexico was to Ms. O'Keeffe. I felt like, duh! Why didn't I move somewhere like this sooner? Well, because I didn't yet know that it existed. It also felt that a person of my nature may be helpful in a place like Florida, more so than Vermont where I fit right in. The natural world thrills me here: the storms, the heat, the energy, the plants, the sea. It fuels my soul. Things are quite convenient here: there are grocery stores  a 5 minute drive in any direction from my home and I rarely travel more than 20 minutes to get anywhere I need to go. However, over the past five years I have found that this convenience comes at a price. Pinellas County homes over 500,00 people, a similar population to the entire state of Vermont, in 1/16th the space. More people means way more traffic, buildings, man-made things, etc. And less nature. While getting out to the beach and soaking up the bird songs when I'm at home are wonderful, these man made conveniences take their toll on anyone's nervous system, and mine is no exception, despite my yoga & meditation practices. Again, I am a fair skinned, redheaded child, meaning I am highly sensitive...to EVERYTHING. For this reason, I have found myself migrating back to the land from which I came the past two years for 5-6 month periods. I know that I want to reside predominantly in Gulfport, FL, but I also know my spirit needs rest and balance. For this reason, I may continue to be a new-age snowbird. Why not? I long for the slower pace of Vermont in the heavy summer months here, and yearn for sunshine and the sea when Vermont is encased in ice for several months.

I have tons of work to do here. I am so inspired by the Florida storms that roll in constantly this time of year. I can't get enough of them and want to paint them endlessly. I hope to have a few examples in our final show September 12th! Here are some photo inspirations I captured recently with a trip out to Sunset Beach.

It was such an extraordinary experience to sit amongst the Emerging Artist grantees and talk about our art. There were so many incredible questions followed by thoughtful and insightful responses. I am so honored to be amongst this group of outstanding artists.

I am indescribably grateful for this grant and to Creative Pinellas for all they're doing to nurture and grow the arts in our area of the world. Thank you to the fine folks of this organization who work hard to provide these opportunities and make art possible!

Thank you for reading!

I love you,

Anna

Post Numerus Quinque: Vermont LOVE

Post Numerus Quinque: Vermont LOVE

I had the extreme pleasure of traveling home to Vermont last week. If you have not been, July is the ideal time to visit if you enjoy lush green mountain landscapes and warmer weather. The week was full of refreshingly cold mountain river dips, fast-paced hikes and feasts of local food prepared slowly and with love amongst friends and family. Nature is the number one way I fill up my cup, and Vermont provides unlimited refills this time of year. It was hard to leave, to say the least, and as I get settled back into life and art in Florida, I use this blog to reflect on an experience that makes life feel so full and beautiful.

While in Vermont, I was blessed to fulfill some business of the artistic variety. The first was for Meg Schultz of Meg's Events. Now in its 11th year, SIPtemberfest is a Vermont based fall festival that celebrates Vermont's extensive brewers and musicians. Each year Meg asks a local artist to design an image for the event's poster. I was so honored when she asked me! I love these kinds of projects because as a painter, versus a graphic designer, it's a fun challenge to navigate ideas in a more graphic approach. Meg made mention of a pet portrait she saw on my website with a floral background so I took that idea and rolled with it. The finished product includes an art deco themed backdrop of hops with a cascading waterfall into a single frothing pint glass of beer. The waterfall felt appropriate as beer made in VT begins with its fresh mountain water; water that stumbles down its incline through ancient glacial till aka giant boulders (that's right, Vermont and surrounding areas used to be covered in ice!), creating a splendor and variety of well-loved waterfalls. Here are a few progress photos to give you a taste of the final poster:

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The second order of business included dropping off an order of stickers to a gorgeous new shop in downtown Burlington called Home & Garden at 206 College Street, across the street from Stone Soup (if you need lunch). Owners Jack and Jana are a lovely couple from South Carolina who moved to Vermont about a year ago to be closer to their daughter and her family. I first met them at the Burlington City Arts Artist Market last summer as a vendor. Their shop is a blooming garden of colorful and creative decor for the home and its gardens. They now carry my VT LOVE and VERMONT IS BLUETIFUL stickers. They'll also soon carry 8x10 prints of Camel's Hump . If you are in the market for some gifts, they are the place to go to. I bought myself a sweet little candle in green glass with the scent of "Moss". I have it burning as I write this :)

That's all from me for now. Stay tuned for some painting in the next few days! And here are a few captures from the VT trip to sooth this Florida heat.

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Post Numeri Quattro: What We Leave Behind

Post Numeri Quattro: What We Leave Behind

"It's not what you take when you leave this world behind, it's what you leave behind when you go."

- Randy Travis

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 Hola chicos and chicas!

With the help of so many lovely people I rang in 37 this week! June 19th has always been one of my favorite days of the year, and this celebration did not disappoint. I love hearing from so many people I hold dear all in the same day, while guiltlessly treating myself to a few of my favorite things. This year included a massage with my scrumptious friend, Zoe, breakfast out at Stella's in Gulfport, work in my studio, and dinner out at Pia's for house made GF pasta, followed by homemade GF carrot cake! When I was a kid it was the greatest time of year in Vermont. School was already out, nearly out or my birthday fell on the last day of school, where everyone was excited the school year was over AND I got to throw a party afterward to celebrate. The weather by June 19th in Vermont is often ALMOST summer-like, meaning camping out and water fights were possibilities. The peonies, my floral favorite, were popping by that time in my mom's gardens. In addition, my little brother's birthday is two days before mine, so my parents, the efficient folks that they are, would throw us a joint party with both sets of friends. That meant coed parties for us, and we certainly weren't complaining. Coed made for great super soaker fights, my father typically reigning victorious against the two ranks.

Thirty six was an incredible year for me. I don't mean that in a braggy way. It had its share of challenges, like all years, but the more I apply self-focus, the more the cobwebs clear and life opens itself to me. Upon every year's end there is reflection. Thirty six was ripe with life lessons, growth and heartache. We said goodbye to an incredibly dear friend in August last year. Erin had only been 36 for a couple of weeks when a year-long experience with breast cancer sent her to heaven. It was unexpected and devastating to her vast community of friends and family. Erin was tall and gorgeous, with flawless olive skin and shiny dark hair. She made easy friends in every phase of her life, and kept them. Each one of us felt uplifted in her presence. In her 35th year, Erin began writing about her experiences going through chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy. Her blog still lives on Caring-Bridge.com and her cancer Instagram account can be viewed @ekgotcancer, and her film account @ekgotmilk. She was a wonderful writer, with a very clever, blunt and positive tone throughout. In March last year, before Erin's mastectomy and after she bought her first house, she threw a Housewarming & "Boobeye" party. Her sense of humor helped those around her digest the difficulty of what she was going through. Erin worked at Eckerd College and was a talented filmmaker. On the Friday night before her celebration of life in October last year, Erin's crew from Eckerd organized an evening dedicated to her work in film. Tears fell down my cheeks consistently that night as her striking, poignant perspective became clearer to me through her art. As her friend, I knew she was a gifted filmmaker, but hadn't seen the scope of her work until that night.

On my recent birthday, Erin's exquisite mother, Linda, and I exchanged texts to coordinate a meet up soon. Linda mentioned she'd recently read all my blog posts to date (thank you, Linda!). She also told me that Erin wrote that I was one of the three people in her life who encouraged her to follow her art. Linda said she appreciated that so much. I'm so grateful I was one of those three, but one of three?! There should have been thousands.

There's a beautiful quote attributed to several wise minds, but I'll borrow Maya Angelou's words for ease of reference. It goes like this,

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

When Erin left, I was stuck on this idea of legacy. What is it? What do we leave behind? What's it all for, especially when a life is prematurely interrupted by death? During the days and months following Erin's transition, tons and tons of people came forward with their memories and love for her. Through every phase of her life, Erin made friends and kept in touch with them as time passed by. She was an influencer. She encouraged those around her. She had a beautiful, all-knowing smile. This post just scratches the surface of her brilliance. She just made you feel good! When we first met, she told me I inspired her and encouraged me to keep up with my own art. It meant the world to me.

In reflection of all of this, if I could live it all over again, being Erin's friend in the flesh, I'd put my own shit aside and and just show up for her more. I would listen. I'd be there. I'd make sure I was at every single party she threw (she threw a damn fine party). I'd surprise her with food or flowers or whatever.

Early in the year of her diagnosis, she asked me to capture some images one evening of her striking yoga postures by Tampa bay, as she asked several friends during that time to capture different ideas she wanted to create. I was touched and honored that she asked me. Even so, it was difficult for me to set the time aside in my chaotic-feeling life, having recently moved back to Florida and still settling in. But I'm so grateful I spent the time with her that night. I will remember that evening for the rest of my life. She used two of our images for the title page of her Caring-Bridge website. The shirt she wore scrawled her mantra during that time, "No mud, no lotus." I have it now and wear it frequently.

I just read her last post and realized something. I never read it. It got increasingly difficult for me to show up for her. It was too painful to witness her in pain. It was incredibly frustrating. She was doing everything humanly possible to get healthy and stay optimistic, as her posts express, yet her condition didn't seem to be improving. 

One wasn't necessarily able to tell just how much pain she was going through. She was a magician in that way, rarely letting her guard down to even show those closest to her how she suffered. The only way I really knew what she was going through was by reading her blog, and even that dulled the pain. While I may no longer have the opportunity to show up for Erin, I have it here, and in every single person I see each day. We all do! And on the flip side, I live a life blessed by so many who have and continue to encourage me.

Erin taught me legacy. Each one of us is filled with talents and perspective that are meant to be expressed. We hold back on encouraging that in others, because so often we are holding back on it for ourselves. Creating, in whatever form thrills us, makes us happier individuals. What we create isn't necessarily the legacy, it's the set of attitudes and beliefs behind the boldness and resilience required to stick to it. When we live with that courage, it's easy to affect and influence others to seek out their own creativity. I have the opportunity to encourage YOU, friend, to follow your urges. Don't ignore them. Life is too brief and those urges help us to feel whole, something we all deserve. Erin taught me how important, and easy, it is to show up for each other when we show up for ourselves most of all. I'm doing my best. Every interaction is an opportunity to help someone align with themselves. 

Erin's presence continues to lead me and the rest of us touched by her to be kinder, better human beings. If that's not "legacy," than I don't know what is.

With love,

Anna

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Post Numero Trois: Georgia on My Mind

Post Numéro Trois: Georgia On My Mind

Last week I had the divine pleasure of visiting one of my favorite artists, Georgia O'Keeffe, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I had the serendipitous chance to visit this museum in 2006 on a diverted road trip through Southern Colorado after the biggest snowstorm of that year...in May! That's a fun(nish) story I'll tell anytime you have the desire to listen ;) .

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Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Website in Santa Fe, NM

Visiting this museum some thirteen years later I noticed totally different things about Georgia's work. At that time in my life I had taken an acrylic painting class at the University of Vermont in my undergraduate studies in 2003. I wasn't really painting yet besides that, although I'd stomped all over London, Paris and Spain during a semester abroad exploring as many  museums as I could stomach in a 6 month period. I was completely turned on by what I saw in oil painting. When I saw Georgia O'Keeffe's work in 2006 it was like meeting a soul sister. Her work was soft and feminine, yet rugged and strong. It explored color, shape, form and contrast of the natural world in ways that excited me. And it was simple. Not overly complicated. It felt tangible. I didn't recognize her visual influence on me until many years of painting later when patrons and supporters suggested a likeness in some of my work. What a compliment!

White Iris - 28x22” Oil on Canvas. Prints available here:  https://www.artbyannaayres.com/print-shop/

White Iris - 28x22” Oil on Canvas. Prints available here: https://www.artbyannaayres.com/print-shop/

This time around, I noticed Ms. O'Keeffe's abstract pieces and their subtlety balanced beauty. I find Georgia's work exquisite in her insane ability to know just how much was enough to express what she was intending or exploring in a piece. One of the finer skills in painting is knowing when enough is enough. And sometimes the only way to learn this is by going too far and losing the strength of the piece entirely. And doing that again. And again, until one eventually understands that more work doesn't necessarily mean better work. She was incredibly technically skilled, and as she grew as an artist, she combined her technical understanding with the stirrings of her soul and how it related to the outer world.

"Above the Clouds 1" has new interest to me. At one time, I may have breezed past this painting due to its simplicity, but I now appreciate the nature of calm and interesting depth through use of shape created by this patterned composition. It reminds me of a photo I took from the plane on my way to New Mexico.

Above the Clouds 1 - Georgia O’Keeffe

Above the Clouds 1 - Georgia O’Keeffe

High above the clouds - Anna Ayres on American Airlines

High above the clouds - Anna Ayres on American Airlines

I learned at the museum that O'Keeffe began traveling internationally in the 50s and continued through the 70s. Much of her later work involves her perspective from the sky, above the clouds into the limitless horizons, or down below to the abstract patterns of rivers. This thrills me! Once freed from the ground by wings, Georgia was able to involve a new perspective in her work, one that is closer to omniscience. I believe international travel is one of the most inspiring threads to being a well-rounded human being. Travel offers perspective and more informed creativity. It is high on the list of life goals I mentioned in my first post, and more validated now knowing Georgia spent almost three decades exploring the globe.

In life, it's so important to observe, ask and learn from those who come before us, especially those who stun and inspire us. Georgia is that to so many. What a legacy!

Thanks so much for reading. I hope this inspires you to follow what's in your heart just a little more.

With love,

Anna

Santa Fe - taken over my shoulder as I devoured a flourless chocolate cake from  Cafe Pasqual's  in the plaza :) Adios!

Santa Fe - taken over my shoulder as I devoured a flourless chocolate cake from Cafe Pasqual's in the plaza :) Adios!

Post Numero Dos: A Room of One's Own

Today I bought a beautiful, hardwood table from a gal who just graduated from USF St Pete with a degree in conservation. She is moving to Lake Tahoe, CA to take a job with AmeriCorps. I am so excited for her. The desk was her mother's before it was hers, and now it will be my art table. It's big and sturdy and I can't wait to spread out on it. Setting up a work space is a hugely necessary step in the process of creativity and I feel that after moving back to FL four months ago, mine is finally work-worthy!

A new desk purchased for the Art by Anna Ayres Gulfport studio!

A new desk purchased for the Art by Anna Ayres Gulfport studio!

Yesterday I had the extraordinary opportunity to meet with my new mentor for this grant, Carrie Jadus. Carrie is a self-taught world class oil painter and the co-creator of SoftWater Studios, an artist cooperative in the Warehouse Arts District. She's raised a family and created a thriving art business. She's my hero because through her experience, I have a solid example that this dream of being a painter is tangible. When I first saw Carrie's work it truly resonated and I somehow knew then that one day I would get the chance to learn more from her. There was no shortage of magic sitting across the table from Carrie getting to ask, learn and share our stories. We talked about all things art and creativity: the challenges, the rewards and the discipline, as well as the dreaming, required to make a creative pursuit realistic. I have copious take-aways and I am beyond grateful to Carrie for taking on this opportunity to mentor me.

This year is about stability for me. I'm a bit of a dreamer and in efforts to lead a charmed life, I've often followed change and what seems exciting, easily ignoring the practical. Change is a constant in life, however, in mine it verged on addiction. Over the years, it's left me feeling disorganized, depleted and confused, more often than charmed. Through steady inner work and self-development, I identified this imbalance and realized I've been waiting for someone else to ground me, whether that be friends, family or a partner. But that never worked. I also came to realize that while I was still able to create new work with this pseudo nomadic existence, it could be so much better if I wasn't adding a perpetual sense of movement into my life. Now, I am creating a more grounded way of living for myself and my art. As reflected in my first blog, I reside in a sweet little house on a quiet street surrounded by birds, trees and sunlight. I take care of Little Z, the first pet of my adult life, just bought a magical vacuum, also a first in my life, and am finally saving receipts after years of trying! I am a part of my community through jobs teaching and advocating for art. And I have a room of my own, a little painting studio, devoted to creating, as Virginia Woolf suggested is necessary for creative success. Sure I still feel pangs of wanderlust when I scroll through beautiful pictures of the world on Instagram and such, but travel will come when it's ready and perhaps from a different approach than the one that was no longer serving me. I feel so much peace in my heart now that I am here and feel that time has finally slowed. I breathe deep and sleep sound.

Doubt is still a visiting character in the story of my life, as it is with everyone's; however, I now understand that doubt is merely a substitute for impatience. Very few of the best things in life happen quickly. Patience is a necessary team player. Good art takes time, as does a good life. Things we desire have a way of coming about in their own time. There's this vision I hold onto of my future self in my someday studio slabbing big globs of paint onto multiple canvases while the sea crashes outside my open balcony doors bordered by waving banana leaves. It's fantastical and in this fantasy, I produce work quickly and joyfully. In my real life, the work I create can take years for an idea to blossom. In the past, if things weren't happening quickly enough, I'd likely make hasty changes, requiring movement and upheaval. Jobs, homes, states, boyfriends, etc, expecting change to ground me but it never did. Bringing creative ideas to life requires time, space and energy. Navigating our way through life to provide ourselves and our craft these things is no simple feet. It requires careful attention to the driving forces behind our imbalances and patterns. It feels that I am at the tip of the iceberg so to speak and when I focus on that, I know I am right on track. No doubt.

I am experimenting with a new trucker hat design. I created a hand-painted sample last year and sold it online. I'll make patches of this design that I can then add to any hat and background design. Progress! I'll be vending outside Painting with a Twist at 2527 Central Avenue in St Petersburg, FL on Sunday, June 23rd for St Pete Pride weekend and look forward to having some of these new hats available for purchase.

A special design for St Pete Pride!

A special design for St Pete Pride!

Tonight I joined 20 other Gulfport artists to start planning the ArtJones tour of December 14 & 15, 2019. ArtJones was created 3 years ago by a small group of professional artists in the Gulfport area, offering a self-guided open-studio tour of working artists. This will be my first year joining the excellent group of artists and I couldn't be more honored and blessed to join them!

I painted on a small 4x3" block of wood today. It was a scrap I found at work. The idea for this mini painting was something I saw last Easter weekend while helping my friend out with her catering business over the holiday weekend. At the end of the day, I walked across the client's lush grassy yard and looked up at the sky, a deep indigo shade of purple, with three gray green palms spread across it. To me, this little mini is so sweet and it inspired me to try more paintings on found wood. I plan to add resin to this piece to give it a polished look. Again, an idea that was years in the making and can only come to fruition now because I'm planting the garden for it to grow in. My goal is to create lots of these minis for the ArtJones tour in December!

A 3x4” mini painting on wood block.

A 3x4” mini painting on wood block.

The greatest take-away from this week's events is this: the inner work is the most important. Everything follows from there. When we're doing the work it can feel like nothing's changing, or heaven forbid, getting worse! It can take time for the outer world to reflect the changes of the inner world. We are here to learn how to love. That is all. And to borrow shame and vulnerability researcher Brene Brown's hashtag, it involves #practiceoverperfection. I'll leave you with a quote I came across recently in Don Miguel Ruiz's "The Mastery of Love" (author of The Four Agreements) that sums it up for me,

"The only thing left is to enjoy your life, to be alive, to heal your emotional body so you can create your life in such a way that you openly share all the love inside you."

Hallelujah!

Yours truly,

Anna

 

 

Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist Grant - Blog #1: EXIT 19

EXIT 19

#1 round oil brush for small details, the first purchase of my recent Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist Grant!

#1 round oil brush for small details, the first purchase of my recent Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist Grant!

“Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a featherbed.” – Terence McKenna

Two years ago I put my little Florida life into storage and moved home to Vermont for the summer. My mother and step-dad were traveling to Alaska for four months and their picturesque country home on a hilltop in the capitol city would be empty, save for my dear friend, Murray, who would be housesitting and tending to the upkeep of the old home. I signed myself up for the outdoor weekly art market I had participated in years past and made my way north at the end of May that year. I would treat my time like it was my own personal artist residency. My heart told me to go home and rest. To find my north. To sink into the natural world and allow it to show me my rhythm and routine. I wanted to know what it felt like to truly be an artist.

Quickly, routine began. I rose early after deep sleeps. For the first hour after waking, I read, wrote and meditated quietly. After, I plugged in upbeat music and hit the road for a wog, some walking, some jogging, depending on how I felt that day. Upon my returns, I was energized. I ate, yogaed, danced, showered and started my work day painting. I was working on new ideas, painting images of nature and animals onto trucker hats in acrylic paint, and exploring watercolor and illustration for the first time. Within a month, as I wogged the dirt roads below the hill, ideas came easily to me. They flooded in and would escape just as quickly if I didn’t find some way to capture them. Words, stories and images came effortlessly; like I had my finger on the pulse of the earth and the trees were speaking to me. It felt exquisite and almost too good to be true, like I was opening up to a new way of thinking, but not ready to trust it. There was doubt, worry and insecurity mixed into the joy of discipline and routine towards something I loved. At times, I wondered if I was wasting time and money on fruitless efforts and I questioned why I was still alone in this life. However, something urged me on and those two brief months of my self-designed artist residency have stuck with me since. To me, it allowed me to feel what my “impossible dream” felt like. To sample something outside the realities of my circumstances that only my imagination could dream up.

Last night, I read through my sketchbook/journal from that time. Some goals I wrote about consistently included:

  1. To live in a house in Gulfport

  2. To paint large canvases inspired by Florida skies and water

  3. To travel

  4. To teach

  5. To get a cat

Today I live in Gulfport. As I type this my new-to-me 8 month old kitten, Zeus, is purring ferociously on the floor by my feet. I’m surrounded by the calls of birds and quarreling squirrels. I occupy a sweet 2 bedroom home on a quiet dead end street surrounded by various trees just steps away from a park with a path along a creek. I teach art in several places and will soon start teaching yoga again at a church. It is the beginning of my dream, my impossible dream really, because 5 years ago I didn’t know this existed for me. Over time, it has slowly revealed itself. And there are many, many parts to the dream that either have not been known by me yet or have not become reality. Our dreams take all the time they need. So if they’re impossible or unknown, how do we come to know them? By tuning in.  Because there is no roadmap to the life beyond the practical. We are each one hundred percent unique, with our very own purpose. The only way to know what is possible is through faith. And how do we get closer to our faith? Through practice. Through making time to be still, to clear the mind to listen to the heart. To show up every single day and practice whatever way gets us there: meditation, prayer, movement, etc. Faith is the only place where the solutions are revealed. To slow down is to open the window to better feel the extraordinary in the ordinary. And that is why I paint.

Little Z chillin.

Little Z chillin.

There was a party going on at a neighbor’s house several weeks ago on a Monday night, probably around the time I learned of my receiving this grant. At 11 pm an urge came over me to get a closer look, so I ventured out for a walk. Latin pop rippled throughout the neighborhood. As I walked past the party house, I saw people inside and out talking, laughing and playing games. Contented, I walked on. Soon images in the cool night air were revealed to me: street light-lit white flowers against an indigo sky and a palmetto palm spreading its fingers in many shades of grey green. The extraordinary in the ordinary. Before I knew it, I had the beginning of the work I will do for this grant. It is the 19th year of this century. I live off exit 19 in Gulfport, FL. I was born on the 19th day of June (more 19’s but this summary is adequate). Something about all of this feels very aligned and so I dedicate this unborn series to this time and space off Exit 19.

I feel so so lucky to get to share this grant journey with you. I love that I will be writing about the process throughout the summer months. Perhaps as you get to know me, you’ll appreciate what makes us different and find peace in what makes us similar.

With love,

Anna

 

 

 



Rambling #1 - creativity: Brene Brown & Patty griffin style

For a long time now, I've considered writing some words on the regular. So far regularity is at 100%!

Why do I want to write some words on the regular? Well, because it's been a long while now that I've spent a good bulk of my energy on discovering, exploring and understanding this little thing called creativity for myself. It can be such a bitch! So why do we put up with it or try at all if it's so behaviorally difficult? That's what I want to talk about. As well as what it means to be a creative person, living a creative life in whatever ways big or small that looks like for each one of us. I believe we are all makers of some kind or another, and I recognize the long list of words, songs, movies, books, and so on by other folks that have kept me motivated and inspired to maintain the journey, steering me away from confusion, and towards clarity. It feels like the right time to join the circus!

In the words of the ever brilliant Brene Brown, "The only unique contribution we will make in this world will be born of creativity." Did your brow just furrow? Did your eyes get squinty? It's ok if they did, but this is why I'm writing. I want to talk about why I believe these words are absolutely true and why there may be many areas of resistance associated with them. I want to talk about not just making things, but the process that gets us there. In creativity it's not necessarily the finished product that brings us joy, but rather the path of allowing the seedling of an idea to grow. I want to talk about the things that hold us back from living out our creative ideas. Things like fear, resistance, limiting beliefs, "shoulds", societal standards, shame, grief, regret. All those heavy things that hold us back from our light. From being who we truly are. But we can't just talk about the heavy stuff without also sharing the practices and mindsets that can throw a curveball at those outdated patterns. There are tools, practices and routines that can help us to slowly uncover our creative potential. I want everyone to live with their high beams on! Why? Well...let's see if Brene can help me to explain:

"You are a born maker. And we need what you can bring to us because you're the only one that can bring it."

I'll be darned, such simple eloquence. We are all born makers and each one of us is called to make something completely unique from everything else that ever existed! Isn't that ridiculous? Think about your favorite all time song ever. Can you imagine letting go of all those moments of joy it gave you each time you listened to it? Patty Griffin is one of my all time favorite musicians ever and I have spent countless hours listening to her albums on repeat while working on paintings. The level of emotional depth she brings through her voice, guitar and lyrics led me towards some level of healing while I worked. I could not imagine my experience of making any other way. I smiled, I cried, I felt love and goosebumps of inspiration all while listening to her music. She allowed me to experience both joy and sadness as I created. I am endlessly grateful to this woman for pursuing her creativity and allowing it to live out loud, giving it energy and life to continue to inspire us. 

Patty Griffin (follow this link for her tune "Heavenly Day") is just one example of millions of others who offer their creativity to the rest of us so that we might all find our way home. Creativity inspires, it sends hope, it encourages us to be vulnerable and courageous. It makes us FEEL things. It heals us. 

The musician Michael Franti says of playing and creating music, "My favorite thing to do in the whole world is play music. Whether it's on stage, on a street corner or in my living room, it always brings my emotions to the surface and that shit is healing, liberating and fun."

It took me a long time to believe in the power of creativity. And I'm still learning to trust in it. I now know this to be true: when I paint, I feel more whole. It's my jam. And when I am more whole, the world is a tiny bit better. It starts within. 

Thanks for reading this first rambling. I hope you'll tune in whenever you're wanting a little refreshment. I welcome questions, thoughts, comments, and gifts. Just kidding, no gifts necessary. Your presence is the biggest gift of them all ;)  

For more from Brene Brown check out her books and her viral TEDTalk on the power of vulnerability. The two titles at the bottom of the page are highly recommended.

Also, check out her instagram account @brenebrown for Harvey updates and calls for help in Texas.

Ciao!

~Anna

 

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