My Greatest Teachers

My Greatest Teachers

Who would have thought

My greatest teachers would be

the frailty of my parents and the strength of my sons?

The rejection of family,

And closed doors of “friends.”

The deception and lies of those I thought to be sincere,

And sharp criticism of those that hold faults of their own.

Through rejection I have learned acceptance.

Through closed doors I have opened mine.

Lies of others have shown me how rare the truly honest are.

Criticism has taught me the value of tolerance.

Right and wrong, your way and mine…

This creates division.

Out of Darkness

Recognizing each others differences

Frailties and weaknesses, imperfections and faults…

All the while keeping one’s heart open

and focusing on the beauty and strength that is there as well….

This is love.

“Daybreak”

Oil & acrylic on canvas 18x36"

“Daybreak”
18×36″

 

Day breaks over the Gulf.
The white sand of the shore reflects so vividly the colors of the sky.
The small waves break with just enough height to catch the light.
Sunrise…
A metaphor for hope.

The line, which divides the wet sand from the dry,
The violet from the green
Was a challenge for me to find.
After many tries I was satisfied and I stood back from the canvas
to find a profile there.
It is a profile of a person facing the rising sun.

I considered changing the line again, to eliminate any resemblance to a profile.
Then I realized this is part of “the magic” that takes place when one falls deeply into the creative process…
when time stops and my only thought is color and brush,
Composition and light.
The profile remains.

Beyond the obvious,
who or what do you see?

Thoughts on a Feather

PickensFeatherWithGulf

 

 

Thoughts on a Feather

3/19/14

The tiny plant holds the feather tight, the wind off the Gulf blows hard,

yet the feather remains tied down, though it is meant to fly.

How often we allow others to do the same to us.

The negativity, criticism and controlling nature of those close to us,

is often difficult to rise above.

We are held down.

We give and they turn our gifts away.

We create and they criticize our creation.

We dress up and they suggest we wear a different color.

Though we are kind, we are shunned.

We open our hearts and they slam the door.

In reality, is it so difficult to let go?

There are days when my heart is filled with joy.

Though the challenges I face seem insurmountable,

I am filled with love.

I Am love.

It is then that I know the meaning of true Joy.

Yet in this time and place that I find myself

I am confronted each and every day with people who do not want me.

Yet out of a sense of duty and love, I remain.

The benefits are there too, I readily admit, yet is it worth the pain?

Love.

 Duty.

 This too will pass.

I watched that feather for a very long time.

The feather, the wind, the sun and sand…

And me.

When will I choose to let go?

When will that last thread that grips me

Finally break?

When will I be free to fly?

Is it…

 simply a choice?

I think

so.

The Shark Eye Shell

 

 

Shark Eye Shell Detail

 

Blues and grays, browns, oranges and gold, the “pupil” stares up at me from the center of the shell. There is no blinking. It seems completely aware. It is focused and still.

The Shark Eye Shell beckons one to go inward in order to clearly see.

“Margaret, you look at the world through rose colored glasses!” she said with irritation and scorn. It was the last time I would see Cora, yet she left me something to contemplate for years to come.

A tendency to look for the best in others and to look at the world with eyes of wonder, is a gift which has served me well. Having been raised where I knew so many, I had always felt safe.Life was full of magic and beauty. My childhood was full of joy.

A career would take me far away from my home for many years to come. Adventures would abound and I was never physically hurt, though there were many situations I put myself in where I am surprised I was not.

Before the days of cell phones I drove joyfully with a friend through the desert and over the Atlas Mountains of Morocco in a dilapidated rental. God knows what would have happened to the beautiful young woman that was me, should we have broken down in that remote area of the Arab world back in 1981.

The modeling career that took me to New York, Paris and Milan was full of the scum that prey upon beautiful girls. Cocaine and Studio 54, flamboyant parties and decadence, it was the epitome of materialism, self-centeredness and greed. Yet with all the compromising situations I found myself in, I came out of that career unharmed and with my integrity intact.

I have often wondered why.

Could it be that my looking at the world with eyes of wonder kept me safe? Coming from the sheltered world of my childhood, surrounded by people with the priorities of honestly and love, somehow developed in me an inability, or perhaps an unwillingness, to see all the darkness that is a part of this world.

The pain and heartache would come later.

Twenty years of giving love with so little of it returned. Rejection, loneliness and neglect were the norm. Having been taught to stick it out, make it work and take the high road, the years went by. My spirit was fading away. I remember a lifelong friend of mine crying out “The Margaret we love is fading away!” It was time to let go. I had to love myself enough to move on.

Returning to my home in the Deep South after 30 years away was a dream come true. Yet even here I was not always welcome. Family and lifelong friends I found were not necessarily the flawless people I had idealized them to be, in my mind. They have their weaknesses too.

In a variety of ways we all exhibit our own version of unkindness and self-centeredness. It was time to take off the rose colored glasses. It was time to clearly see.

The Shark Eye Shell beckons me to view people with love and to focus on their gifts, all the while understanding their weaknesses, just as I hope they will do for me.  To understand and accept the shame, drudgery, pain and weaknesses that make up this world and to still see the beauty. To be a part of the world, to be involved, to give while seeing clearly who and what people are.

People are selfish and unkind at times, just as I am.

Yet we are all at our core, inherently good. We are all loving, infinite souls.

To see clearly, and to still live in a state of loving-kindness; this is the challenge.

One day at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunlight and Shadow

"Sunlight & Shadow"  30x50" Oil on Canvas

“Sunlight & Shadow” 30×50″ Oil on Canvas

The older I get, the more deeply I understand how complex life is. Hence the greater need to simplify one’s life, from daily activities and duties, to the thoughts and moments that fill our days.

In so doing, an inner stillness and trust in life develops.

If one chooses to look at a “loss” or a “failure” as nothing more than a part of the journey…with little to no interruption in one’s inner serenity; loss and failure become blessings.

How willing am I to gracefully let go of that which was not meant for me? Unfulfilled dreams and many times a broken heart… Losing hope is easy.

How much of the inner light am I allowing to shine through? How much am I allowing the universal light of love, to reflect outward from my core, to those around me?

Like the light and shadows in the sand, life is a series of sunlit days and sorrow. Through faith, hope and the grace of God, the shadows of sorrow fade allowing the magic and light of life to fill more and more of our days.

The days in shadow then begin to blend smoothly with the sunlit days of joy.

On Loosening Up

 

NoLongerToFlyCC

My strokes are much looser, the paint thick, the fan brush remains untouched as I have no desire to remove any evidence of the brush.  Smooth and clean, have been aspects of my style for some time. “Loosen up Margaret,” my UIC instructor must have said 100 times. Looking back at the paintings from that unhappy period of my life, I see broken egg shells, broken seashells and dead birds. Though I am still drawn to broken shells and I still photograph dead birds for future work; my shells are often suspended and I have not painted a dead bird in many years. My work overall is much more optimistic. Perhaps because of the large amount of rejection I had experienced at that point in my life, I felt a need to perfect, as best I was able, the image I was creating on the canvas. Only now, in midlife, do I finally feel truly accepted and cared for. Perhaps this is why I am allowing myself to loosen up enough to leave evidence of “the artist” on the canvas.

A Flowering

Carol Lynn

 

“Carol Lynn”    30×30″   Oil on Canvas

Be it a shell or a flower, the objects or life I choose to paint often become more than what one may initially see. In the process of my creation, some sort of reflection of a friend or the woman we are, or once was, is there.

The painting of a magnolia flower entitled “Emily” was named for a lovely young woman I know, as the flower “became” her as she unfolded before me with paint. She became Emily, or the best of the young woman I once was, or you were, or someone you may know.

“Carol Lynn” became a life long friend who has always maintained a pure heart.  She has always been a very disciplined person and is centered in her love of God and family. Do you know such a person? Could this floating camellia with the perfectly shaped and evenly spaced petals represent a person you know?

The magnolia I am now painting has become, some 2 hours into the piece, a middle aged woman. The flower is in full bloom, the petals beginning to brown, the pistils have fallen. The pure beauty of her youth is fading. She is well past the reproductive stage. Oh but what a time of life it is to enjoy! Inevitably life has dealt her some hard knocks. With a willingness to look deeply, live compassionately, strive to soften one’s heart, forgive and more fully love, she has opened herself up to the endless possibilities of the future.

As is written in The Desiderata of Happiness:

 With all its shame, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be careful.

Strive to be happy.

 Choose, every single day, to live in love. To be love.

Quite a challenge, I know.

“Bad” days are inevitable.

It takes practice, but with time and a conscious awareness of our own thoughts, we do improve.

“Caroline”

Having completed “Caroline,” she was immediately purchased and now hangs in the living room of the woman for whom she is named. This collector is a lifelong friend who spends a minimal amount of time on the internet and so had not read my FB posts or earlier Blog on the piece. She did not know the piece was named for her.

Yet she was taken aback by her beauty and spent no time in making the decision to add the painting to her fine collection.

There are those who make art to shock, to inform, to educate. There are those who make art for the art world of high end collectors, art connoisseurs and art critics. Choosing to make art for the rest of the populace, I will continue to communicate what one admirer calls the “simplified, strong and beautiful” imagery that I do.

"Caroline" 30x30" Oil

“Caroline” 30×30″ Oil

Thoughts on a Composition

The first of three layers....

The first of three layers....

The first of three layers is done. Laying out the composition is the most difficult part of creating a successful painting. The subject becomes a reference and the painting takes on a life of it’s own. There is much more to my paintings than a chosen subject depicted with paint on a canvas.

Paying careful attention to the shapes within the piece, I see more than what is actually there. I see lines intersecting and shapes converging, abstraction within realism. There is stillness within motion, fluidity and peace. There is a woman of strength, a lady of kindness, and a little girl.

All of this is there within one flower. It is there because I have put it there. It is what I see.

Now to apply the second two layers of paint to this canvas. The piece has been carefully laid out. The final colors will be chosen, the careful shading will be applied. She is beautiful. She is a Steel Magnolia. She is Caroline.

Another Blank Canvas

Blank canvas look

It is always very intimidating when one starts a new piece. Today I am starting a triptych. It’s a painting I have done before on a smaller scale. Yet I still look at those blank canvases and I wonder if the finished painting will be a success.

Will I be able to create a pleasing image out of several tubes of paint, many brushes and a white canvas?

I try to have the attitude that every painting is practice for the next one. I have been given the opportunity to be paid to learn to be a better, and better, and better artist.

Through my medium I vow to communicate the beauty, and the peacefulness, the calm and the magnificence that can be found by the sea.

Not every painting works out. That is a given. Yet as long as I continue to hear from my audience that my work is peaceful and calming, as long as I continue to challenge myself and improve my technique, as long as my imagery is both peaceful and strong, then I will consider myself a success.

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