Author Archives: shellseeker0913

About shellseeker0913

Contemporary Artist and Spiritual Coach - Western Tradition Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation

Studio Rhythms

Stephanart Studio Rhodos

“Stephanart Studio Rhodos” Phone Photo DS

Proposals, jurying, framing, carrying, selling, or not

Sketching, canvas prep, composition, colour, painting

Artist statements, bios, CVs, photographing, website posting

Contemplation, creativity and rest: these are the rhythms of my practice.  The ancient monasteries called it “Ora et Labora”:

“In Christian mysticism, the phrase pray and work refers to the monastic practice of working and praying, generally associated with its use in the Rule of St. Benedict.” Wikipedia

The vertical blinds flutter as I unlock the studio.  Sunlight shines across the white colour spotted floor.  I drop some supplies in, take in the fir-treed mountain view from here and mostly just notice the mess:

Cuttings from garden and fashion magazines

Dried paint skins on plastic take out lids

Brushes in red Folgers coffee cans

Glass beads, Play Doh, and wooden rulers

A painting on this easel and the other

Time stands still here.  I like that. Ideas formed and partially executed, a yellow pad with tiny sketches of what is to come, and the temptation of the paint itself wait.

It is about the paint – the way colours juxtapose, drip, run – even onto the floor. This is freedom.  It is the space to make a mess, to leave it there and to long for this antidote to the structured life I lead outside of these walls.

 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Book of Ecclesiastes

 

 

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Kingdom of God

IMG_1127

“Chafer Beetles and Moss” DS

A sky-full of pink flowers came up on my inbox this week.  I sat mesmerized by the hijacked blue space above blackish tree trunks with picnickers below.  I noticed that the branches were not symmetrical, nor were they asymmetrical.  They grew in a misplaced tangle of branches.  The master gardeners at VanDusen could have stopped this mess.  Surely they could have pruned saplings into a pleasing pattern of limbs.

http://www.vcbf.ca/shop/petal-mats

I felt the same way when I first moved to B.C.  “Couldn’t some one clean up the dead tree trunks in the forest?” I thought. I came from a city of manicured lawns, of new plantings, of clean tidy suburbs.

Only gradually have I come to realize the great cost of having arborists prune every tree here.  Stanley Park would be like a hothouse for trees.  Was it not enough to see all of the chain saws after the blow-downs of the 2006 windstorm and re-plantings?  It is the wildness, immensity and density of the growth in the park that make its beauty.

https://globalnews.ca/news/3123909/watch-10-years-since-major-windstorm-hit-stanley-park/

“So could it be this way with humans too?” I ponder.  We look at the tangle of behaviours, that annoy and confuse us, especially our own, and wonder how a perfect God could love us.  An ad on TV pleads with us to “bring back our children’s ‘wildhoods.’”  What!

https://gorving.ca/bringbackwildhood/

I admit that wildness can be ugly as seen on the blackened wet sidewalks of the Downtown East Side of Vancouver.  Yet the sense of community there can be strong.  I think of the saying that God lets the tares grow with the wheat until a future time to burn them (Book of Matthew).  The question comes to me: “Do weeds have beauty, have necessity, have purpose?”

Out my front window I see a lawn that is the worst mess ever.  Lime-coloured winter moss has crept over it.  The gardener came with his rolling drum cutter and took regular round plugs of soil out of the earth “so that the lawn can breathe”, he said. The chafer beetle had already done that, but I guess the gardener needs his earnings.  The scene is an ugly mess that cannot be called a lawn.  “It would have to be replaced.  But it would just come back again,” I mused.  I don’t know: “Can I live with this collage of green and brown?”

Questions with solutions arise: “Would more plantings of colour this summer take the eye away from the chaos?  Could I sow wildflowers in the remaining grass?”  Perhaps my yard will become a mini Stanley Park with the wildness/wilderness barely controlled.  “Is this the way to handle family get-togethers too?” comes the thought.

Spring chafered lawns and canopies of pink flowers co-exist.  Can this be perfection – at least for now?

Restoration

 

Skunk Tracks to the Studio

“Skunk Tracks to the Studio” Phone Photo DS

I was like Martha today, concerns filled my mind (MarthaMartha, you are worried and distracted by many things… Book of Luke). Snow was piled deep on the stairs. I did not go out on this Sunday, as is my habit. I knitted, listened to a podcast from Loyola Press and had a long bath perfumed with Emozione.

I dressed in my white paint-soiled fleece and jeans although I would not venture over to the studio. Skunk paw prints tracked over the melting patio snow disappearing under the building. We had called a truce for now.

I prayed. I breathed. I wanted to work but was tired on this Sabbath day. Run-off gurgled in the drainpipes. I could see the wind blowing the tops of the fir trees.

As I thought about sitting in the sunny window in the moss green chair from Germany, I picked up a forgotten copy of “The House by the Sea”, May Sarton’s journal. This is her entry for January 19th, 1976:

“It’s been a hard week, bitterly cold again. Yesterday was ten below zero, today, eight below, and even the brilliant sunshine feels cold as it shines off ice underfoot and across the frozen snow on the field. I do not feel very well, although the fever has gone. However, not being able to push very hard – even writing a letter a day has seemed an enormous effort – I enjoy this house, the space and light, the plant window full of flowers, cyclamen, begonias, the browallia I brought in from the garden still a marvelous deep purplish blue. The little orange tree is covered with round oranges, and, amazing to say, the lavender star-of-Bethlehem still falls in showers of little flowers. A final bowl of paper white narcissus takes my breath away with its intoxicating sweetness as I go past, for such perfume really does seem like a miracle with the frozen earth outdoors.”

I notice movement in my mood. I feel hopeful. I have been touched by beauty and have been refreshed. The Spirit keeps the Sabbath.


“He restores my inner person. He guides me in right paths for the sake of his own name.” Book of Psalms

Grocery Shopping with Seagulls

Treetops

“Treetops” Phone Photo DS

A seagull’s cry delighted me as I exited the grocery store. Perhaps it had found some food too. I felt a surge of gratitude that prefixed a breath of the wet winter soft air. It set me on a reverie of other shopping times from years past: as a mother with crying children, as a worker with a broken foot, as a painter prepping for an art show reception.

I had been feeling down, tired, overwhelmed with thoughts about:

A health blip

A new normal in my relationship

A family conflict

An empty gas tank

A paper-stacked dining table

What little things can change our moods. Just an hour ago, praying with friends, I was looking forward to my next workshop, my upcoming art show.

I can leave getting gas until tomorrow, I thought, caring for self as advised. I was hungry, had bags to carry, food to put away and an afternoon ahead of paperwork. In front of the Rav IV windshield sharp pinecones dropped on the debris messed road from windy trees high above.

Home again a newspaper was retrieved with a climb. My face was enlivened by the mild air. I stopped and breathed again. I remembered who I was and the collaged life I had been given. Suddenly the half empty glass of my soul was filling up again. I have always loved seagulls since my childhood summers spent in a caravan at the Scottish seaside.

Art Can Imitate Life

InstallviewHolyCups

Installation View “Holy Cups” DS

At some point during the week between Christmas and New Year I find myself reviewing the year and setting priorities.  Both the studio and the prayer are quiet, sporadic, ad hoc, and unfocused.  Self care is taking its turn, finally.

Since the summer, shredding papers has been my contemplative activity.  Many of those papers are articles kept for writing essays, the essays themselves, and images for collage. This morning I came across one of my papers about the life of faith as an artist.  A quote from philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorffe expresses both the temptation of an artist and, in my case, how faith and art practices co-exist so well:

The art lover, like the mystic, turns away from ordinary concerns to be caught up in the bliss of contemplation… art takes over the function of this worldly salvation, no matter how this may be interpreted.  It provides a salvation from the routines of everyday life… Picasso expresses [about art]: “I love it as the only end of my life.”… Thus works of art become surrogate gods, taking the place of God the Creator; aesthetic contemplation takes the place of religious adoration…  “Art in Action”

Choices must be made.  In the life of faith, art making serves God, not money.  The unpopular image is enfleshed when one knows it will not be well received.  One does not build a career so much as follow Jesus on an art journey that imitates real life.

A table painted with checkerboard circle and vines, a round glass mirror, with hand-built pottery cups with holes around the edge and butterfly handles, and a little brown basket.  Is there any meaning here?  One could never drink from such cups with rows of holes.  Even so I am impressed to display them as some kind of worship.  There is no doubt that these items in their hand-made imperfect form are no competitor for the worship on offer.  It seems to me that God is pleased with this offering of my talents, such as they are.  Will it be another year of creating work that does not sell?

A Christmas Gift

 

Christmas Ferris Wheel

“Christmas Ferris Wheel” Phone Photo DS

What is Christmas really all about, I was thinking this morning. I usually make some time for at least one unusual way of celebrating to make the occasion different each year. It came to me that Christmas, really, is about freedom. A baby was born. A unique baby was born a couple of millennia ago, lived a quiet life for 30 years, a public teacher/prophet/priestly life for 3 years, was murdered and three days later walked out of his cave grave. The world changed.

The baby, the Freedom Fighter, became the Way to real freedom. This is the gift we have been given if we avail ourselves of his offer to follow him in life.   He gave himself for us. We give ourselves to him. It is reciprocal gift, a covenant. Even when our gift fails, his remains a constant. This is what we celebrate. This is who we love.

I celebrated my Christmas freedom by riding the Ferris wheel that came to town. How will you enjoy this one wild and precious life? (Mary Oliver)

An Advent Calendar to open each morning:

http://imagejournal.org/advent/

Nativity

Christmas Window

“Christmas Window” Phone Photo DS

The rooms overlooked the city. The rooms with their coloured walls took my attention. As did the happy greetings from the others that morning.

So cup and cookie in hand we chatted about this and that of which we saw and felt. My seat was in the second row of the circle of friends. As I took in the surrounding beauty, I noticed a salt and pepper size nativity scene at my feet. It stood on the iron floor pedestal of the nearby lamp.

The location for the holy scene was so unusual but in keeping with the holy event. Was this not the same low-key of the Bethlehem appearance of the holy three?

Unseen by others my attention was drawn again and again toward the Christ child so low. It was a reminder to invite God’s real time presence into the meeting. If only I had realized it at the time.