daily painting | contained

A favorite place for me to visit is the nearby Alameda/Oakland estuary where these huge ships deliver and pick up containers filled with all kinds of goodies. I love watching the shipping cranes in action, seeing the tugs escort the hulking beasts to moor under the praying-mantis-like contraptions, admiring the lovely San Francisco skyline and bridges in the background. The other day I snapped a few photos of this scene as I loved the bright red hull of this hard-working, ocean-crossing vessel.

Ok folks a bit of therapy-speak coming up so feel free to check out now. Here goes. Some of my most profound healing moments occurred in a group therapy setting, facilitated by our skilled and beloved counselor Peter Frechette, several decades ago. One exercise we did was to create a “container” — a safe way to express deep emotion, grief, sadness. This amazing environment, where trust had developed between group members, was difficult, challenging, healing, life-changing. For example, a person I might choose with whom I felt comfortable would hold me in a protective, gentle way so I could emote and let old childhood feelings out. For me to feel so secure was earth-shaking and phenomenal. Thus, the title! For this painting is of a container ship, and I hope you think I’m SOOO clever! (I’m not, but still.) These days grief often overtakes me, and while I do not have the safety of that group of peers to hold me while I weep, I know how to create a protected setting, which is often the overstuffed chair in my studio. Where I can sob away. Which brings profound healing and mending of my heart. I was immersed in the creative process of this painting today, pastel chalk dust flying. Loved every minute of it and danced away while drawing and painting (Sam Cooke is a favorite). Yesterday, though, I sank into my spattered chair in my studio and cried and wept and was immersed in profound sorrow and loneliness. Relinquishing control of those strong emotions is the only way to heal. You have to let them wash over you. And you get to the other side. Contained, sheltered, better.

20″ x 30″ watercolor, sticks and ink, chalk pastel, pencil on paper = $775

 

 

 

daily painting | outburst

My lush, blooming amaryllis bulb has four giganto blossoms atop its stalk like those tall poles with siren loudspeakers you see outside sometimes. Four! Each the size of a big salad plate, with another stalk reaching up, hoping to outdo its sibling. I decided to do a rendition of this lushness in my studio using larger paper, ink with sticks, watercolor and pastel.

In elementary school I remember science projects, simple experiments of planting seeds and watching them sprout and grow. I was quietly and secretly amazed that little small hard things could contain a miracle like that — how could a tiny seed hold so much information, and need so little to burst open with life? I carefully — unconsciously — held back my curiosity and thirst for knowing these things, as that meant vulnerability and vulnerability meant exposure and exposure meant danger, either from my father’s rage and derision or my mother’s mocking, sharp tongue. I learned to stay deep inside myself and thus survive. Once I arrived in my twenties, struggling with crippling PTSD from childhood trauma, I sought — and found — professional help. My first therapist gave me words for my roiling feelings, helped me find support groups, counseled me and guided me into hope and love and wholeness.

These spectacular blooms grew out of a lumpy, humble, ugly duckling of a bulb. How is that not a divine marvel? As I painted these flowers, I got completely lost in the creative process and felt a joy in making art I hadn’t felt in many months. I was a whirling dervish of splashy bright paint and powdery pastel chalk and drippy India ink and I hardly knew my name, what day it was, the time. It was a Disney Fantasia dream reminding me that life happens, whether from seeds or bulbs or paintbrushes or pens and inks. No stopping its amazingness!

22″ x 19″ watercolor, sticks and ink, chalk pastel, pencil on paper = $550

 

 

 

daily painting | blues

Finding words is a challenge today, five days after insurrectionists tried to violently attack and disrupt our democratic process, egged on by a sitting president. I’m shocked, stunned, speechless. Having a hard time shuffling through tasks and chores and January plans. I’m sort of sure we’ll be OK. But never in my six decades have I questioned that our democracy would continue — until now. I’ve always taken it for granted, even if unhappy with voters’ choices and flaws in how we govern. Now, I’m rattled. Now, I’m unsure of our future. While I do believe we will get past this dark moment as a country, I have no pollyanna notions about how hard this will be and it was already severely challenging. I’m dodging puddles of grief and loss and isolation and loneliness. And facing worries for the country I didn’t know I loved so much. So today I counsel myself to employ gentleness and kindness toward myself and others. If foggy I will turn on the headlights. If knocked sideways I will get up and keep going and find my path again. I will keep taking sheets of paper out in my studio and “painting out” my overwhelming feelings. And if all I can manage is to vacantly stare at ocean waves at a Marin beach, that’s what I will do. As I talk to friends about these events, I know I am not alone in my stupefaction, which I just decided is my new favorite word. Tenderness and love for ourselves and each other will help us get through this. And rage.

22″ x 30″ pencil, pastel, ink, watercolor, acrylic, oil pastel, crayon on paper = $795

 

 

 

daily painting | splash zone

I was watching a documentary about Keith Haring and loved seeing him do his line work. I’m already crazy about my oil pastel sticks, so I couldn’t wait to take a break from watercolor and head into my studio and take out fresh sheets of paper and mark them up. The sticks are gooey and thick with pigment but take forever to dry, so I do hesitate to use them at times. But not last weekend. This drawing will be sticky for months, but that’s OK. Working like this taps into a deep part of me, and is quite healing and cathartic. Abstract works are helping me work out complicated feelings about my sister who died in November. Why did we fight so much when we were little? How much childhood pain & trauma did she subsume into her chanting practice? I know she suffered during her teen years, as did I, with depression and despair and we both found ways to comfort ourselves. Today I feel deeply saddened by the dramas that played out in our family with our parents who were terribly wounded souls. I am glad for the mental and emotional stability I have worked hard for, and I am sad for the ways Kathy and I acted out, as little ones, the unspoken frustration and rage in our family. Today I feel peace and heartbreak at the same time. Emotions can be so confounding. Best not to argue with them. [Note: after I posted this, I watched this 16-min TED talk and was a bit blown away by it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVnwC-taQXM&feature=youtu.be or look up, “Through the Mud We Rise | Michelle Esrick”]

15.5″ x 18″ pencil, oil pastel, crayon on paper = $360

 

 

 

daily painting | dance it out

I love my Zumba classes that are available on Zoom from local dance teacher Lynda Gutierrez. Her classes always cheer me (and make me really sweaty), and she is such a bright and warm presence. She often says, “Dance it out!” Meaning, work out your frustrations by dancing. It helps! And working out my emotions in my art studio helps as well (especially since I managed this morning in my stocking feet on my wood floor to have my foot slide out from under me, pulling something in my hip; no dance class today, must rely on art to work out emotions). Last weekend I was hankering to express myself with pen and pencil and oil pastel sticks on paper, inspired by several art documentaries I watched. It was surprisingly satisfying, and provided grief relief. This piece kind of looks like a dance party on paper, which made me think of Lynda. On this rainy day as I sit on a bag of frozen peas, feeding my news junkie tendencies, sipping my Earl Grey tea and writing this blog, I appreciate the sanctuary my art studio in Oakland provides. I will hobble there this afternoon and keep working.

15.5″ x 18″ pencil, oil pastel, crayon on paper = $360