Monday, November 1, 2010

Money as Debt

İt has been a while since my last blog. Part of this hiatus has been due to questioning the relevancy of the original intention of this blog to what seems most important to me these days. İ had started this blog as vehicle to share various musings that occurred to me as a way to provide inspiration to myself and others in the context of building on the creative endeavors in my live. İ wanted to make art and share with others what İ came across along the way, thinking that it would be useful and interesting. İ am still drawing everyday and find lots of uses for my art in my classroom at school. But talking just about art has never been a subject İ had much time for. As the worldwide global depression continues to unfold, İ find myself more and more interested in understanding this catastrophe which history tells me will change everything İ have known. These times are certainly interesting in a nod to the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." İn educating myself about our current situation, İ discovered that my knowledge of money, that thing that drives so much of our lives,lacked much sophistication.İ discovered that most of my ideas about what money is and where it comes from have been based on disinformation. İ am certain that İ am not alone in this as were more truths about money and economics more widely known, İ believe we would not be facing what may be the worst economic crisis in history. Toward this end, İ want to recommend Damon Vrabel to you. İ think listening to what this man has to say and what he has to teach is time well spent.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Have you been standarized?

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

İ am of the mind that much of the conformity we walk around with belongs in the category of foolish consistency to which Emerson was referring. Toward this end, İ want to thank Alan Watt for bringing to my attention a little book called " An Anatomy for Conformity". I want to share the closing passage of this illuminating text:

How to Do İt

İf one wishes to produce conformity for good or evil, the formula is clear. Manage to arouse a need or needs that are important to the individual or to the group. Offer a goal which is appropriate to the need or needs. Make sure that conformity is instrumental to the achievement of the goal and that the goal is as large and as certain as possible. Apply the goal or reward at every opportunity. Try to prevent the object of your efforts from obtaining an uncontrolled education. Choose a setting that is ambiguous. Do everything possible to see that the individual has little or no confidence in his own position. Do everything possible to make the norm which you set appear highly valued and attractive. Set it at a level not too far initially from the starting position of the individual or the group and move it gradually toward the behavior you wish to produce. Be absolutely certain you know what you want and that you are willing to pay an enormous price in human quality, for whether the individual or the group is aware of it or not, the result will be CONFORMİTY

I recently received a message from a long time friend who just left the teaching profession after over 15 years of service because of her frustrations with the public schooling system, in large part to its overweening fixation on testing which she characterized as an interference upon the actual teaching of the schools. It is often assumed that a high quality standardized test is a reliable measure of learning which provides meaningful feedback to students, teachers, parents and administrators about student achievement and thereby providing a measure for accountability for all involved. Part of the logic underlying such testing is that the learning being measured must conform to the parameters of the test in order to be valued. Implicit in this logic,learning that falls outside these parameters is not measured and therefore not valued. To be sure, some learning may be measured in this fashion, but if we allow for individual learners and their unique needs, it is easy to see that the cost/benefit analysis of such testing endeavors favors the test makers over the test takers.İf you think of such tests in light of what İ shared earlier about how to create conformity, İ think its quite clear that tests are part of the armaments used to induce conformity and ease the prospects for control within the populace. Having been a teacher for ten years now and a student for too many years beyond that, İ am sad to admit how much İ have been involved in the machinery of conformity.
Over time, İ have become more and more convinced that such things as tests and other standardized forms within modern schooling reflect not flaws of the system merely requiring enlightened revisioning and reform but rather key features of a dehumanizing process. The negative outcomes of this process should be understood as evidence of the malevolent success of this system. İt has not been poorly designed to create an enlightened populace, but rather brilliantly engineered to pump out broken humans ready to take their appointed place. Outside of my experience in support of this view and İ would argue, in line with much of the school experience of anybody reading this, İ would like to share some relevant points raised by John Taylor Gatto in his essay, The Six Lesson School Teacher:

Lesson One: Stay in the Class Where You Belong.

Lesson Two: Turn On and Off Like a Light Switch.

Lesson Three: Surrender Your Will to a Predetermined Chain of Command.

Lesson Four: Only Authorities Will Determine What Curriculum You Will Study.

Lesson Five: Your Self-Respect Should Depend on an Observer's Measure of Your Worth.

Lesson Six: You Are Being Watched.

Gatto has lots more to say about our educational system and I highly recommend reading what he has to say. İ'll be looking for ways to get out of the foolish consistency İ've found myself in.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Invitation

I have been meaning to post this poem for a while. It is one of my favorites, one that has inspired me ever since I first read it. Every once in a while, I come across something that makes me think about my life, who I am and how that is all sitting with me. This poem is one of those somethings.


The Invitation by Oriah

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

Back Home

I am back from vacation and ensconced in my new domicile. The two weeks I spent with my Dad and Aunt Connie were great. My folks had expressed the desire to see Turkey off the beaten track so back roads it was. My father-in-law was a splendid tour guide, sharing so many of the little gems that only the locals know. Outside all the great sights we saw, it was also momentous for the fact that it was the first time Sinan had spent with his Grandpa Gary and Great Aunt Connie. Sinan and I are at home for a couple of weeks exploring the parks in our environs until I start back to work at the end of August. I hope this missive finds you all well.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Viva Vacation!

I will be on vacation soon so my posts will be sporadic for a while. This summer will be a momentous one as I have family arriving from the States soon for visit. I am looking forward to showing my family around some of my favorite places in Turkey and to seeing some new to me as well. Before they arrive,I am moving to a new home where I will have more room for my art. After all tha fun ends, I will begin preparing for a new teaching position this fall starting at a new school where I will have my own classroom for the first time ever! Have a grand summer!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Art Wars

Creation goes through its ebbs and flows. I like to think of the time when creation slows as a time of filling the well so that future work may be replenished. I believe that being creative means keeping a commitment to create, a disciplined approach that maintains a regular contact with the work you are creating. I don't subscribed to the notion that an artist is someone who waits for inspiration to strike and then fills the canvas with that inspiration. Rather, I find that inspiration comes out of working every day, in my case, drawing, especially when you don't feel particularly inspired at all. The common notion of inspiration is related to the mystification of artists, perhaps by themselves, where the artist is seen as some sort of magically endowed human who can do what no ordinary human can do. I think that any of the artistic avenues of creation are completely accessible to anyone who cares to spend the time needed to develop the skills related to the art form they are interested in. To be sure, there seems to be a range of aptitude whereby initially, one person may pick up the techniques of this or that art more quickly or with more ease than another, but experience shows me that the race goes not to the swiftest but to those committed to the long haul. The fact that genius exists does not mean that only genius should be considered worthwhile. While few of us will ever be like Mike, we can all learn to play the game and enjoy it for its own merits. Recently I have been in one of those chop wood, carry water times, not feeling particularly inspired in my drawing and I came across Art Wars, a website that offers periodically running contests for artists as a way to generate inspiration among other things. I entered the piece posted here as entry for the "Eyes" contest. Just like doing this blog every week has been a great boost for me artistically, I think entering in art contests such as Art Wars will be a boon to me as well.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cherry Picking

İt's cherry season here in Turkey and one of the yearly traditions in our family here is to meet in one of my wife's family cherry orchards and spend the afternoon with family picking cherries, eating some of the pickings and other delicious foods. We just came back from an afternoon of that so if you are in the neighborhood, you are welcome to come a get some of the cherries that are overflowing from our fridge. Sinan had a great time playing with one of his cousins and hated having to leave. After being cooped up in the big city, getting out into the country is such a treat. The rain has been generous around here and the fields around my wife's village are golden with grain and green with knee-high sunflowers. And of, course the cherry trees are heavy with fruit. An interesting aside about the area where the village is, it became the homeland of a group of Celts who left Southern France to be auxiliaries for the Roman legions nearly 2000 years ago. There is one hill İ have visited overlooking her village topped with a field of rocks that looks like it could have been part of some ancient fort. İ hope you avail yourselves to the opportunity of seeing such things and more when you pay me a visit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dancing Days

When I was four or so, I visited my cousin Todd on a family night once when he was attending a Boy Scout summer camp. During that experience, I was dazzled by some dancers in Native American regalia performing in the fire-lit night. I made a promise that one day I would do likewise. Years later I joined a Boy Scout group for those interested in Native American dancing. We made costumes, learned dances, performed in shopping malls and went to powwows through my middle school and high school years. Years later, when I was living in Portland, OR I made another dance outfit, one that I had been planning and collecting supplies for since I started dancing. I spend 6 months or so putting it all together and danced in it at a local powwow. This process ultimately led me to getting into drawing. In addition, the whole process taught me a lot about following through on your dreams. The photo here was taken shortly after I had finished making the outfit.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Giving Up and Letting go...

Today İ found something that İ had long ago assumed İ had lost. İt amused me to find this thing as it was where it should have been and it must have been staring me in the face all this time. İ must admit that my belief that it was gone seems to have kept me from seeing it all along. İt was a reminder of how powerful belief is, how it can keep us from seeing what is right before our eyes and similarly, how it informs what we do see. This little experience made me wonder about how my beliefs affect my perceptions. İt seems that only when something unexpected comes along and rattles us a bit can we get a reminder that our beliefs are at best the map, not the territory. Plato's cave metaphor comes to mind. İ welcome learning of any similar experiences you have had along these lines. What was the last thing that made you question a belief?

Monday, May 31, 2010

While We Were Sleeping...

İ just finished watching a great BBC documentary called "Requiem for Detroit". You have got to see it, I have included a link so you can. I think that this film shows quite clearly what is in store for the US in the 21st century. İt is well known that US manufacturing corporations have largely shipped their factories out to find greener pastures among the desperate poor of developing countries, with the notable exception of our arms manufacturers. What do we actually make in the US these days? China even exports the American flag to our shores. The service economy that we are fast becoming can never maintain our Amerıcan Dream. We had better wake up. The revolution that Henry Ford started, paying workers a wage that enabled them to purchase what they produced, needs to be revisited and revised. A poignant moment from the documentary concerns Henry Ford's workshop where he initially built one of his first motor cars. This structure latter gave way to the Michigan Theater, a famous palatial landmark. As the automobile gave Ford the empire to build this theater, ironically, they ultimately killed the theater. Theater goers and their need for parking and the lack of same near the theater seem to have caused the theater's demise. Attempts made to save the landmark have culminated in gutting the theater,turning it into a parking lot. Though its walls still stand, it is a theater no more. Unless its for the Theater of the Absurd. The film is a sobering reminder of what becomes of the American Dream.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Sanction of the Victim

Among my reading habits these days is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This seems like one of those books that people of my generation read in high school or at university. SO, though İ may be a bit late in getting to this part of the canon, İ think it is much more meaningful to me now that it would have been 20 years ago. İ have been struck by a number of passages in this text and would like to share one here:
The Sanction of the Victim
" That is the flaw in your theory, gentlemen," said Rearden gravely, " and İ will not help you out of it. İf you choose to deal with men by means of compulsion, do so. But you will discover that you need the voluntary co-operation of your victims, in many more ways than you can see at present. And your victims should discover that it is their own volition-which you cannot force- that makes you possible. İ choose to be consistent and İ will obey you in the manner you demand. Whatever you wish me to do, İ will do it at the point of a gun. İf you sentence me to jail, you will have to send armed men to carry me there- İ will not volunteer to move. İf you fine me, you will have to seize my property to collect the fine- İ will not volunteer to pay it. İf you believe that you have the right to force me- use your guns openly. İ will not help you to disguise the nature of your action."
This passage reminds me of how we acquiesce to our own oppression, how we are complicit in our own enslavement. Hearkening to the power of disobedience, the chorus of men and women down through the ages who shouted 'Basta!'should ring in our ears. O how I want to be in that number...

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Singularity

These days, I have been talking to many of my students about the Singularity. As I understand this event, it is considered to occur when virtual reality becomes indistinguishable from the actual reality. I have been using this article to discuss some of the ramifications of the Singularity with my students. This will ultimately lead to a machine nirvana, where our chance for individuality has been destroyed, turned off like a light switch, subsumed into a hive-minded collective will that can be completely controllable and perfectly docile. Then, we will finally have peace on Earth and sing in perfect harmony.
The Singularity has been a long time coming, already we can sense its existence. The unreality that TV and other mass media entertainments have been programming into us is frighteningly anti-human. Watch one of those so-called 'reality shows' to see what kind of vices are being encouraged. Consider blockbuster heroes like James Bond, a man who can kill dozens of bad guys (often brown-skinned these days) and bed the same number of babes, all in one day between martinis, shaken not stirred, and all without a quiver of emotion other than a catchy one liner. Such a person in real life would be undeniably psychopathic.
Like all good cons, we are made to believe that we are free and that we are freely choosing everything that comes into our life , as in the way we can choose which channel to watch. Ever noticed those words- program and channel-and what they connote? In the news media and tragedies of our own lives, from time to time, we get glimpses of the real world that we frantically work to keep at bay through all of our mindless conveniences and entertainments. We work hard to create our own virtual reality. The computer allows us to take this to the next level and beyond. Now that machine worlds are being created for us to play in, while we are fooled into thinking it is just some harmless fun or blessed conveniences that we can't imagine life without, we keep on paying for our chains, helping our masters to construct the perfect panopticon all around us. Like Huxley said, people can be made to love their own enslavement. As a fitting illustration of this point, as İ was discussing these issues with a class, a few students in the class could do not without using their cell phone/portable entertainment centers in class,escaping into their own little virtual reality. Let the dead bury their dead.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Shortest Distance

Perhaps the only concept that most people still recall from their geometry lessons is that the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line. This truth can be seen throughout our lives in its various applications. One of these applications can be found in the works of those who give advice as to how to get what you want in your life. So, before this gets too solipsistic, let me cut to the chase, that is, cut out what you don't want or don't need from your life so that you can clear the way for what you do want or need. Cleaning out the clutter from my life has been one of the tasks İ have been working at for some time now. İ am here to give witness to the impact that a regular spring cleaning has on living the life you want. There is nothing astonishing about the discovery that wasting less time, energy and resources on those things that don't matter gives you more time for what does matter. İ have realized that most of the 'tricks' to getting what you want in your life are basically self-evident. Generally the problem lies not with the resources or skills we have, but rather with the clutter in our lives- physical and mental. İ think that honesty will reveal that we are usually our own worst enemy when it comes to living the fulfilling life we dream about having. To prove my point, take an inventory of your daily habits, your possessions and so forth. How much of what you do or have can be said to really matter? One thing that İ have mostly cut out of my life and have done so for quite a while is television. We are told that many people spend 3-5 hours a day glued to their television. When you consider what you can do with an extra 140 hours a months- which is just about like getting another full-time job- just by kicking the TV habit, you can see that you don't have to wait until you retire to live your dream.Over the last 6 months, İ have been cutting out lots of unnecessary things in my life. The rewards have been instantaneous. This leaves me with the time İ want for what really matters to me so that İ am enjoying more and more of what İ do and spending less and less on what does not matter, which are generally things that are usually just a drag anyway. The simple act of getting rid of the clutter from your life can be done at any time and only costs you what you don't want any way. İ would love to hear from you about something you have cut out of your life and the difference it has made.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Has the river run dry?

Like many of you, the current global economic crisis we are in is a situation that İ have been following and trying to understand,namely, how exactly we got into the mess we are in. İ have found a great video, THe Crisis of Credit,
which İ think does an elegant job of explaining the gist of the economic crisis. İt is quite short at under eleven minutes and its succinct delivery makes it well worth a look.
Another source for my economic news and analysis has been the iconoclastic Max Keiser. İf you haven't seen this guy in action, you simply must check him out. His irreverent style and cut to the bone analysis is quite refreshing when contrasted against other more obfuscating stylists. His site is full of interesting articles and you can find video feeds for his widely syndicated broadcasts on this site. İf you are someone who thinks that torches and pitchforks are long over due, you will love this guy. İf you are an economic terrorist bankster like the ones who are currently running our economic system, you will hate him. Either way, you owe it to yourself to hear what he has to say.
The colored pencil drawing İ included with this week's post was one of my first sales at one of my first gallery shows many years ago. As much as İ can, İ am trying to find work that relates to my blog without too much of a stretch. This one even has those apocryphal green shoots the economic news keeps trying to convince us of.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My First Cartoon

Part of my quest has been about integrating all of the things that İ am passionate about into my everyday existence. After graduating with my Bachelor's in art, İ began the art game, you know, making art and and putting it into places like galleries where it would be seen and hopefully purchased, allowing me to repeat the process over and over. As soon as İ had some initial success in that game, İ found that İ was quite dissattisfied with that game. Around the same time, a dear friend told me about an course in the Conflict Resolution program where she was studying for a Master's degree. The course was titled 'Art and Conflict Resolution'. İt was essentially an intro to the field of art therapy. This course, combined with my disenchantment with the art game İ was playing and my interest in social justice led me to enroll in this Master's degree program, where two years later İ graduated with a degree in conflict resolution, convinced, like many well-meaning fools, that İ could change things from within and chose to do so as teacher. İ got a berth on the SS New York City Board of Education and sailed away from Portland, Oregon for NYC's sunny shores. 8 years later, İ am still a teacher with a passion for social justice, but now living in Turkey. İn my life now, İ am circling back for another crack at the art game, retooled and refueled.
İ present here my first crack at a cartoon, which some will contend is political. İt is still a bit rough, but İ am pleased with it as a draft. Though dated now, it was prompted by the news that our Commander-in-Chief had brought home the gold and made us proud with the Nobel Peace Prize. My first reaction was, 'What for?'. All İ could think of were the announcements of more troops being sent overseas, more unmanned aerial attacks on villages in Pakistan and more money handed over to the military-industrial-media-congressional complex. As the nominations for such prizes come many months before the award is received, it seemed to me that the award was being given for the hope that well-paid speech writers were able to impart to the masses. Hope was just around the corner, where it seems she always hides, lying in wait for the next sucker to fall for her siren song. The fix is in. The deck is stacked. The House always wins. Now, to go on mixing my metaphors,you may ask, 'Would you like some more bitter with that coffee?'. To that İ answer, if it opens my eyes a bit wider, İ will take all you got.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Stop Playing Wargames

Recently I saw a video which featured the onboard filming of a massacre of Iraqi civilians thought to be dangerous by a US army helicopter crew. The commentary of the soldiers onboard struck me as remarkably similar to the commentary I hear coming from boys as they play their ubiquitous single shooter wargames. İn fact, the whole video struck me as frighteningly similar to many video games now popular in our society. A bit of research will reveal to you that such video games have the U.S. military to thank for their existence, as their use has been shown to be the answer to an old problem for the military: how do we get people to kill other people? As human beings, we have an innate revulsion to killing our fellow humans, which is obviously problematic for the military. Up until the present time, militaries all over the world have had serious problems with their soldiers purposely shooting over the heads of their enemies due to their instinctual desire to avoid killing other human beings. Single shooter games have been proven to be remarkable tools in getting those who play them to see humans as objects, as an other to be eliminated as thoughtlessly as an icon part of some imaginary world where points are earned for killing these imaginary enemies. The US Army uses such games as recruiting tools as well as training tools for impressionable young minds who are already accustomed to seeing people splattered across their media screens. The military knows that those who play such games are learning to get over their aversion to killing their enemies in real life. İ urge you to watch the clip İ have linked to this blog and start talking to the young people around you. Don't let your homes become training salons for massacre like what is glorified in those video games. Killing is not entertainment, it is dehumanization.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Brief Respite

İ was gratified to receive queries when İ missed my normal blog schedule last week. For those of you who missed me, İ am back from vacation, unfortunately. İ live in one of the most interesting places on the planet history-wise and İ am even more fortunate to be married to an archaeologist well-versed in this history. Not to disparage Greece, but İ think a strong case can be made for Turkey's superior collection of Classical monuments. The one İ pictured here, a temple for Zeus at Euremos, is tucked off the beaten path, and is quite a delight to wander through. Countless villages and towns have sites like this, unassuming and humble, waiting for the intrepid traveller to stumble across. İ spent last week with my folks who were visiting from the States in the environs of Bodrum. We spent our time eating some of the best cuisine in the world and getting a glimpse of past glories. My wife treated us to daily tours of choice sites around this peninsula, culminating in Ephesus (EFES), one of the gems in Turkey's archaeological crown. At Efes, İ finally got to see the new villas excavations which are fabulous. My third visit to EFes has truly been the finest. My folks continue to talk to us about getting our own touring concern going, which after this vacation has got me thinking. So, any of you thinking of coming to Turkey should keep us in mind for planning your trip.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pass İt On

Recently, İ came across a colleague at work who answered me quite frankly when I asked how she was doing. Normally, most of us say we are fine when we are really not. İt is understood that such questions are just social niceties and rituals rather than actual inquiries. After confiding in me with how she was hurting, she quickly apologized, perhaps remembering that the normal ritual is to suffer in silence rather than sharing her struggle. Her honesty impressed me and İ was moved to think of some way I could respond in kind. İ came across a book in my bookshelf that seemed like it might be hers now. As it turned out, after giving it to her and hearing that she had proceeded to read it three times, it seems my intuition was right. İ am continually reminded how the small gesture becomes a lever for larger goodness. Or İts opposite.
İ believe that taking to your own path affords you an inner strength that grows as you meet the various characters and situations that help you create the story of your life. İ can recall those that came to my aid and shared a bit of their strength with me when İ needed it.İn addition to being grateful to them, it seems to me that İ have an obligation to pass it on. Years ago, İ read an essay about a Japanese company who required its new hires to go into a village and go door to door asking to be of service. After being turned down over and over, these people discovered that they were grateful when someone actually took them up on their offer and let them rake their lawn or perform some other small task. This story struck me with the notion that if there is no receiver , there can be no giver and vice versa.İt is a symbiosis that İ see all around us. Along these lines, İ am rather fond of the notion that each of the drawings İ do has an owner out there and part of my work is getting that picture to them. İ have found quite a few of them and its a great feeling when İ find the person who a particular piece belongs to. One of my favorite memories of this is when one of my pieces,one of my absolute favorites, was stolen from the church office where it was hanging. İn closing, İ would love to hear from you about when somebody passed it on to you or when you passed it on to someone else.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Journey

My thanks to Chris Guillebeau for sharing this poem in his blog. I am sharing it here, though it seems I am copying his blog entry this week, because its message so totally speaks to what I am thinking about these days that it seems heaven sent. It is by Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets:
The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late enough,
and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world, determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I have been going over the lines in the poem quite a bit. The fact that I can completely see myself in each of these lines gives me comfort, tells me I am on the right track. Though the path is parlous, the risks are the price that must be paid if you want to have any chance at your own life.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Whole Catastrophe

You must know the adage," Be Careful What You Wish for, You Just Might Get It." Last week, I admitted that in stepping back from my current situation, I could see that significant changes were in order if I wanted to remain true to my words and myself for that matter. Apparently the Universe agreed with me and now those changes are now unmistakeably underway.I have had my Dog or Landlord moment. To be honest, those changes were a long time coming and if I look back to their genesis, the exact moment keeps retreating to another moment before that ad infinitum. These changes bring to mind another of my shibboleths, The Whole Catastrophe.
This phrase comes from Zorba the Greek, one of my favorite characters of all time. For those of you unfamiliar with Zorba, let me introduce him. We meet Zorba in a harbor waiting for our ship to sail to the small Greek island where our relative has bequeathed a small inheritance. We, at this point, are a rather inhibited teacher from the British Isles who spends way too much of his time with his nose in a book, watching and judging from the sidelines rather than living his own life. Zorba erupts into our life and proceeds to turn everything upside down, spilling all sorts of madness and delight on us. He is everything we are not- supremely confident,a lover of life, a con man, a boozer, a ladies man, a feast or famine sort of fellow. Zorba lives on the edge. He lives from risk to risk, sucking all the marrow out of life. Carpe Diem and all that noise. The Whole Catastrophe is his characterization of life, his recognition that real living means being able to surrender to not only the beatific, ecstatic joys but also the shattering pains and losses. Before we met Zorba, we are a play if safe, always in the middle sort. Life is never too high nor too low. After we meet Zorba, we find ecstasy , agony and all the fine gradations between.
So I find myself disentangling myself from the dire miresome middle, veering,cheering and careering back toward the edge of things where I know the center of all things exists. You can trust that I will keep you apprised of the situation.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An Interview with Myself

To begin with, I want to thank those of you who reached out to me after my rant last week. The notes I received touched me and to those who help me have my first sales through Red Bubble, a big thanks. It was a real treat to get notice of those sales. Oddly, Red Bubble did not give me information about who exactly to thank so I don't know who you are, which seems to be an odd quirk of Red Bubble. I receive a blog from Chris Guillebeau, whose Art of Nonconformity has been a source of inspiration for me. His latest blog is about interviewing yourself in order to take stock. Last week I touched on the need to reassess what I have been doing and since Chris's blog addresses this, I am going to proceed with the interview that he suggests.

Dear Tony,
You are 39 years old. What do you have to show for it?

My family here in Turkey, meaning my wife Pinar and son Sinan as well as our relatives here is something that I have to show for my time so far. These relationships as well as the many relationships I have developed and maintained throughout my years are certainly a large part of the bounty of my life. Moving to a new country and starting a new chapter in my life over the last seven years has been full of laughter and tears, hellos and goodbyes. I lament that creating this new story has also meant the conclusion of other tales. When I look at all the people I send this blog to, I always wish I could sit down with each of those people and visit for awhile.

I have lots of memories and experiences to show for my time so far. I have tried to think about my life in terms of what I would want to recollect as a man taking his last breaths. I am have had some success in that regard, but I can do better. I think I have held onto some things in my life longer than I should have and let go of other things much too soon. I guess in the living of things, one hopefully develops the wisdom of discernment for such things. I still need to keep going out on those limbs, cause that's where the fruit is. Now that I am a father, I think about the legacy I want to leave for my son, I want him to see taking risks as a vital part of living fully.

Are you living the dream?

I am really fixated on the dream being living as an artist. I am living as a teacher right now. I love teaching, but I love art more. So, I am not satisfied. Because right now it seems easier to take care of my responsibilities through being a teacher, I am at risk of becoming complacent, of letting Ease take charge.

As you look back on your life, what are you most proud of, what do you regret, and how do you feel about each of those things?

I am most proud of what I have done to maintain my individuality. I have always felt it important to find my own way. As a child, when my parents would tell me how to complete some task, I always insisted on finding my own way to complete the task. Though my parents would often have been correct in suggesting an efficient way, I think that my insistence in making my own way has helped me to navigate the multifarious traps of conformity that this life holds out to us. I am proud of my ability to self-reflect and admit to my follies and course-correct. I am not afraid to be the fool nor am I too proud to admit when I have been. I regret those who have been hurt by my foolishness. Though I think I was generally acting on what I thought was true at the time, on my own best judgment, hindsight shows me that I have made mistakes in judgment and those mistakes have touched the lives of others. I have a range of feelings about those things, ranging from bemusement and delight to anger and shame.

* What's next, self?

Art. I wont be satisfied until I am fully living my dream of being a full time professional artist.

* If you had one year left to live, how would you spend it?

I would leave my current job IMMEDIATELY. I would set up an art studio and divide my time between making art, visiting with the people I love and traveling to the places I have always wanted to see.

Since I don't know that I even have that year, none of us does, I think I should give more credence to my answer to this question. This has been a really useful process. Here are some other questions to consider:

# Why do you do the things you do?

# What do you really believe in? (What do you know to be true?)

# Where do you find your security?

# What bothers you, and what are you doing about it?

# What worries you?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Is My Art Career In the Toilet?

I must admit that being naive has continued to be one of my character flaws. While I will allow that it also represents an ability to trust others, life and my experiences, I must confess that it also seems to mean that I can be a complete fool. Perhaps some of you who are reading this, the few that do seem to be reading this, will be readying your "I told you so" or " I knew it" at the very least. So, to get right to it, I must recognise my own naive hopes when I started this blog and my online art efforts. I thought I would find a few people who would want to have some of my art for their very own and pay for it. So far, I have not found them. I have found plenty of people who praise my work, who tell me how much they enjoy it, but none of that has been converted into cash. I have certainly enjoyed the wonderful feedback, but so far I haven't been able to convince my local art supply store to accept that praise for my art supplies.
It is not so much the originals, I can see how that may be a tougher sell online. To be honest, the bee in my bonnet is the lack of print on demand sales. I had thought that between the people I know who like my stuff and the people who visit my print on demand site and look at my art, and there have been over 2700 views of my work on Red to date, that I would have seen some sales happen. Nada. Zip. Nothing. Big Goose eggs. I really don't get it. I mean, the high quality prints and such I have on offer, with greeting cards at $5, I really did think that somebody would pony up. I recognize I am a neophyte when I comes to sales and self-promotion, but come on now. My sales are beyond pathetic. They are embarrassing. I don't think its because my art is crap, I mean I have seen much worse stuff sell for quite a bit. I have had people comment on my art that some piece or another was one of the most amazing that they have ever seen but couldn't be bothered to buy a copy of that amazing piece. What is that about? Is it just poverty? Am I being intolerant here? I have heard it said that art is something that everybody loves but doesn't want to pay for. I think part of the reality of the internet is that we are all used to getting stuff for free so few are willing to pay for anything. I am guilty of this as well so perhaps its karma.
I found this article about the internet the other day that seemed quite germane : The Information Super-Sewer:Will the Internet Be Hijacked by Corporate Interests? by Chris Hedges. Read it. Its good and it makes some cogent points.
The article discusses self-promotion a bit and warns how this part of the internet seems to be pumping up the advertising aspect of internet. I can certainly see how this can turn everything into sales flogging, trying to commercialize every aspect of human interaction. I have no interest in becoming another billboard for corporate interests. I advertised some products that I used (books) and some Internet sites/products I have used to my benefit. I have thought that these endorsements were not problematic since my endorsements were honest, but I did pull the book endorsements because it felt a bit off to me. The jury is still out for me on some of this. In the end, so few people seem to care about what I am doing here that it probably doesn't matter. And no, I am not looking for sympathy here cause I know my concerns are quite high on the Maslow hierarchy; I am lucky to be able to have such concerns. That is,unless that sympathy comes in the form of Franklin, Grant, Jackson or even Lincoln. I know, I am a Cheeky Bastard.
I also know the literature says to have have patience and trust in the process, but I have to say that I have been underwhelmed by my sales. This is not to say that I am giving up, not in the least. I realise that this point represents the need to look at what I have been doing, evaluate and find some new approaches. I just haven't found my paying audience yet. So I shall look into what to do next, but since this is my blog and it is devoted to my process in all of this, I have decided that ranting is part of my process.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Art and Money Interview

Some time back, I did an interview with Zoe Westhof, part of the Unconventional Guide to Art, whose ideas I have been using as part of my personal quest. I wanted to share that interview here this week.

Before, what was stopping you from using the internet to expand your art career? (you can talk about fears, doubts, etc.)

Before I came across Chris's blog last summer, I had been busy with my teaching career here in Turkey and with parenting my young son. I had an acquaintance at my school who I knew had an website where he sold some of his drawings, but I felt pretty overwhelmed with my other responsibilities and I had some misconceptions about what would be required to put my art online such as having advanced computer skills and expensive fees, etc. Such misconceptions kept me from giving it much thought. I returned to this States last summer from my home in Turkey and in the course of this visit, I came across Chris's blog from a friend. His ideas about doing what you love, as you can see from my blog, resonated with me and coupled with some deep seated frustrations about teaching in educational institutions, re-energized my interest in putting more energy into my art that I had been. When I got the Art and Money package, I learned about how easy it was to start showing my art online and dove into those resources. Essentially, my own misconceptions were the main reason I did not start sooner. There is an old adage, when the student is ready, the teacher arrives, that seems quite relevant here.

How have you been using The Unconventional Guide to Art and Money? What were the most useful things you got out of it?

I found the whole thing to be wonderfully accessible. I enjoyed listening to the art interviews for the ideas that people had success with, particularly the photographer who seemed to add some needed counterpoint to all the successes your other interviews brought out. His evident skepticism was actually quite reassuring for me as I have seen a number of marketing systems such as multi-level marketing that always emphasis the ease of their system to gain riches. I appreciate Chris's sober approach which seems genuine. He seems to walk his talk, which I find so refreshing.The suggestions about how to market my art and how to think about one's business through the corporal metaphors( head, heart, voice, etc ) made a lot of sense and was a useful organizer. The suggested websites were extremely useful as I immediately started employing them as you can see. Chris's and your own emphasis on sharing and building community were tremendous draws for me and part of what feel so right and are the reason I want to be involved what you are doing. The whole package leaves one with a sense of "I can do that" and "here are the things I am going to do". Through Chris's blogs, I get inspiration and a model that is quite natural to emulate.

What were the first few things you did to set yourself up online?

I already knew a bit about blogging and had put some art on the web through blogspot, but reading Art and Money gave me the idea to create a blog that had written content as well as my art. I found that writing about what I was doing, following my bliss, seemed to be the most natural way to keep having something to say and since I have had that notion for the last twenty years, I think I have learned enough about that concept to have ideas and experiences worth sharing and reading. I already had some high quality pictures of my work through my earlier foray into brick and mortar galleries and access to a high quality scanner made it easy to start uploading images as I joined red bubble for its print on demand set up, fine art studio online, wix and cartfly all for my originals. I have been adding art to those sites and learning at my own pace about marketing myself. I have appreciated that sense of taking things in my own time and in my own and I appreciated one of Chris's recent blogs about doing things as he sees fit rather than blindly following experts. I found the art community on red bubble quite fun and love getting feedback from other artists there. Because it is so easy to self-publish on the internet as I have now learned, I jumped to it. Now, it seems the next part of the learning curve for me is to how to bring "my people" to the sites, both those who resonate with following their bliss and those who want to have my art. I feel gratified through having the base of these sites to work from and see that I can now tinker and fine tune, perhaps do more with designing my own web pages, use word press, etc.

What approach are you taking with your blog? Was it hard to start blogging?

I am using Chris's approach as a model. He seems to base his work on sharing what he is doing and discussing the ideas, the process and all the things that come into play on the way. I thought that writing about my experiences in following my particular bliss, creating art, would be useful and interesting. I set a goal of writing an entry every week which seems to work to keep me focused on the goals I've set and through writing, the self-reflection helps me to process and evaluate what I am doing. It has been quite easy to stick to this as I keep coming up with things to write about. I also gathered from the artists you interviewed that sharing personally about their art and their life seemed to influence their business positively, that along with a desire to keep my friends and family around the world more informed about what I am about on a regular basis, I felt that a blog would be a really good thing for me on a number of levels. That has been borne out in my own increased level of satisfaction with my life since starting the blog and from the feedback I am getting from friends and family about my blog.

What has changed since you started using these online platforms?
I had felt myself to be a rut creatively for some time and all the energy I have added to my art in the process of creating these online platforms has me feeling quite energized. I feel that this process has been the spearhead for getting me back on track with my deepest desires for my life. I am in other vital stage of transforming my life and feel that you and Chris have been a kind of silent partnership in that, companions on this journey. Even if I never sell enough of my work to live on that alone, what I am experiencing through engaging in these endeavors is invaluable. Truly, the work is its own reward and the money, though wonderful, really a side benefit.

Monday, February 15, 2010

In the meantime...

Last week I shared how gave up drawing over time as a adolescent. This week, I would like to share how my creativity was fed until the time when I determined to study art at university. Part of my family's heritage, on both sides, includes Native Americans. This was shared with me as a child and I think it influenced my interest in Native American cultures and art. When I was 4 or so, I visited my cousin who was at a summer camp and saw a fireside performance of "Indian " dancers and I swore that when I got older that I would become such a dancer as well. When I got older, at age 13, through the Boy Scouts of America in my area, a local Native American dance troupe was started and I was among its founding members. Through this group, I became immersed in creating costumes for dancing. I worked to create my own outfits over the years and wherever I went, I searched for raw materials such as glass beads, macaw feathers, deer hide and so forth to bring into reality the various designs I had in my mind over the years. I spent hundreds of hours over the years of my teens and early twenties on bead work, leather work, sewing and fabricating various elements of my powwow outfits. All of this work reached a climax for me when I finished an outfit I had been designing for years and danced in at a powwow in Portland, OR. Incidentally, I ended up with my picture in the local paper wearing that outfit. Around the time I finished that outfit, I began to get interested in drawing again and started to find some books and local resources to pursue that interest. As drawing started to take up my free time, I did less and less craft work until drawing pretty much took over all together, although from time to time I do some little bead work projects. The drawing with this week's post is from a photo that was taken by a friend as I modeled my then recently finished powwow outfit. The outfit itself is in pieces, some with me in Turkey, the rest on display with my mother's collection of wondrous trinkets and toys.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Still more early art adventures

When I was in grade school, Ms Cassida was the art teacher that would visit our school from time to time and give us art classes. These visits were my favorite part of school. Her visits represented a break in the ordinary events of the school day and I always looked forward to the time she shared with us. She would start the class with showing us a model/demonstration of the art project we were going to create and then walk around helping us individually as we got started creating our art. I was always so impressed with the work she did and she seemed like a sort of god with all the beautiful things she was able to create. I loved when she would come beside me and guide my hand when doing some drawing or commenting on my work in progress.
Ms Cassida was my art teacher through fifth grade and when I think back into my formative experiences around art, fifth grade was an important time for me.To give a bit of background, my community was a consolidated school district of a few small towns and their surrounding rural areas and for a time, all the fifth grade students were in one school, the old high school.This year was really exciting as it represented a change from being in class with the same students all year every year to mixing with dozens of new faces and moving to different classes for math, literature, art and physical education. My friend Frannie Curtis knew I loved to draw and she told me I should checkout the drawings of another student, Jonah Cagley. Jonah was what could be called a child prodigy. He could draw accurate realistic representations of people and pretty much anything he wanted as far as I could tell.He was often being invited to birthday parties and being asked to draw superheros and such for the host,which I imagine got quite tiresome for him after a time. When I saw his work I was amazed and intimidated, I saw my own as quite pitiful and I think ,having internalized all the messages around me about comparing myself to others in order to place myself along the worst to best continuum that is encouraged by most of society, I gave up the idea of being an artist on some level. I seem to have decided that since there was no way I could be the best at art after seeing Jonah's work, I lost my enthusiasm for drawing little by little. At the same time, art became divorced from my school day in junior high and high school as art became something you signed up for as an elective. That decision about drawing remained until I dropped out of university after my second year, unhappy with the path that I was on and unsure of what I really wanted for my life. Dropping out gave me the time to clean out a lot of the garbage I had taken on in my life and this cleansing left space for my love of art to come back into focus. That was over 16 years ago. I have written a bit about starting off on my journey of learning to draw through some resources such as Cameron's The Artist's Way and Edwards' Drawing on the Right side of the Brain. I also found some local art classes useful until I decided to go back to university and study full time. One thing that remains clear out of this and what I think others can glean from my experience is that it is never too late to start. What have you given up on? What seems like it is too late to start? I encourage you to revisit those dreams you gave up on , dust them off, update them for your life now and make a step toward them.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

More Early Drawing Adventures

As my mother noticed my interest in drawing, she got me a more sophisticated drawing book for young artists, Draw 50 Animals by Lee J. Ames, a former Disney cartoonist. This book was one of the best gifts I ever received. It helped to demystify a skill which seemed like magic to a young person. It made learning to draw so much more possible to me as a young person as I could grasp how to break what seemed impossible into manageable steps. I loved this book and all the books Ames has put out for drawing. He has over a dozen, showing how to draw all sorts of things- people, places, planes, etc. His technique is a good next step after Emberley's. He shows how to draw realistic representations on a step by step basis starting with basic shapes. You can find them used quite easily as they have been around for 30 years now. I have put up a link to one of his latest, a sort of greatest hits book which features examples from many of his other books. As a young person,I would spend hours drawing from these books and include them in my compositions.In recent years, I returned to them as I have found many students interested in learning to draw. When I was teaching English in the Bronx, I found that some who students who were not so interested in the regular classwork responded quite differently to learning to draw and I used Ames' books to reach such students. The drawing I included with this post was one of my sample drawings that I did with some students.
I still use them for my own drawing quite regularly as a sort of warm up exercise for drawing. I find that the process that Ames uses in his drawings is quite useful to take on board as an approach to drawing realistically and I have found his approach similar to other professional artists and instructors. I hope that those of you who are following this blog due to your interest in drawing and learning to draw will find his books as wonderful as I have.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Early Drawing Adventures

Since my last post, I have been thinking a lot about my first joys with drawing when I was a child. One of my earliest memories of drawing bliss was with my friend Daniel Cox. Daniel, like me, loved to draw. I remember that he loved to create little worlds within his drawings. He seemed to particularly like to draw cut-a-way views of forts and underground cities and such.He put an extraordinary amount of information into his drawings which reminded me of looking at museum dioramas crossed with ant colonies. Since he has become a surgeon since then, I can imagine that this obsession with details is still with him. I was quite taken with these little worlds and enjoyed to go to his house when I was 8,9,10 and draw my own little worlds along side him.Many hours of childhood bliss were the result of these drawing sessions. Around this time, I ordered a drawing book, Make A World by Ed Emberley. It is a sort of stick figure drawing book and quite approachable for any beginning artist. I still have my copy of that book that I got some thirty years ago. It is a wonderful drawing book that gives simple instructions for drawing everything including people, animals, buildings, vehicles, etc. All of his drawings are built up step by step with lines and simple shapes. I have included a link to this book at the side. He has lots of other really great drawing books which are loved by every child who has ever seen them. Adults like them too. In fact, quite a few families who live near me have been borrowing my little collection so that I've decided to get a duplicate set. The drawing I included with this week's blog is a pirate ship I did a few years back based on one of his how-to drawings. When I was a child, this was the sort of drawing I would create as I spent a lot of time by myself and drawing was one of the things I did quite often during that alone time. I loved to pour through drawing books like Emberley's and draw pictures from them and populate my imagination with these images. Like the child I was, I still love to spend time by myself drawing and pouring through drawing books. For those of you who have been following this blog and are interested in discovering and following your passions, I have found that mining childhood memories is a great way to reconnect with what excites me about life. Too many of us have put those memories into deep storage as we grew up. Tapping into those childhood joys has always been rejuvenating force for me and as my son Sinan get older, I look forward to sharing and reliving such things with him.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Why Do I Love Drawing?

Last week I told you that I was being featured on a new friend's blog. I am posting that feature here this week after it was posted on Karin Taylor's interesting blog:
1. Why do you love drawing?
I love drawing for a number of reasons- for the challenge, for the joy of expression, for the feeling of pride in work I've done, for the sense of creation that is mine, for the excitement I feel when I get obsessed with a drawing- these are a few of the reasons that come to mind. Many of my favorite drawing have come from finding a image that I want to make my own. This may take the form of an image I've come across that I love or a photo I've taken. Earlier in my career, I was quite fixated on being able to reproduce such things with absolute fidelity. This meant recreating photographic work to the point that people who mistake my drawings for photos at first glance. A few times, I felt that I was able to push the drawing beyond being a mere reproduction to having something that the reference itself did not have. After awhile, I got tired of this approach and looked to tie a more expressive approach to my penchant for realism. In these ways, I gave myself challenges to push myself and my work. I love drawing for the endless challenge it represents. I imagine that I will always feel a sense of restlessness, wanting more of drawing that I currently see in them. One of my current obsessions is learning to draw the figure from my imagination. I have found a great teacher for this and quite pleased with my progress so far. When I reach this goal, I will add it to my personal list of art accomplishments as I seek to continually renew my art.
Aside from the reasons I love drawing from the standpoint of my own work and the experience of drawing, I love drawing as an art form in its own right. Looking at the drawing of other artists is one of my favorite experiences. When I look at a drawing that really grabs me, I feel an engagement with that drawing down to my toes. I feel a sense of wanting to enter that drawing, like someone who loves to swim feels toward a body of water. I really tingle all over in the presence of the right drawing. I think that drawing opens me to the wonder and magic of life. As I have developed my eyes to see for the purposes of drawing, when I look through them, I see beauty everywhere.
2. Has drawing helped to relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress or illness?
Most certainly, drawing helps me when I get the blues. In diffferent times in my life when I wasn't doing much creatively, the introduction or reintroduction of drawing made a huge difference in my life. I think that doing anything you love makes you feel better. In the last year or so, I have started putting a lot more energy into drawing, making it a daily habit rather than one that I got around to every now and then. This decision came in the context of dissatisfaction in some other areas of my life. In the course of sticking to my decisions around drawing every day, the dissatisfaction I felt in other areas of my has shifted and I think that drawing has played a big part in this in some sort of alchemical way. I think it can be said that whatever underlies the experiences of anxiety, depression, stress or illness can become fuel which can stoke your art and creativity. While the tortured artist is not an archetype I resonate with particularly, I think its existence in our consciousness does point to the way that the painful elements of our lives can be turned into gold through the transformative power of art. I call such times and experiences "filling the well". This well becomes one of the sources of inspiration for my work. I think that this has been part of the purpose of art throughout time and across cultures, to help us integrate and grow from such darkness, to bring it into light.
3. Where is your favourite drawing place?
These days, I am enjoying working at home. I have many favorites though. I particularly enjoy life drawing with a model in a studio surrounded by other artists.
I want to bring your attention to a few new elements of the blog. You mave have noticed a share widget on the right side. You can use that to share this blog with others on facebook and twitter, I welcome new readers if you feel so moved. Also, at the very bottom, I have added an email sign in box. Just enter your email and you will get notices on your email automatically. This will help me keep track of my readers.
I also posted one of my latest drawings, Mustafa and Sinan, a drawing of my father-in-law and my son. I would love to hear from you about why you love drawing, as I am assuming you do. Have a good week.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What is your Bliss?

Those of you who have been following this blog are hopefully aware that part of the purpose of this blog is to connect with others who are following their bliss and to provide mutual support and appreciation for such endeavors. Toward this end, I have joined an online artist's community called red bubble where I also exhibit and sell prints of my work. I think of this website as similar to facebook, except, on this facebook, everyone is also an artist. I have had the chance to make many new comrades on my art quest. One of them, Karin Taylor, invited me to write for her blog and after doing so and thinking it was a great idea, I invited her to write for my blog in the form of answering some questions. In addition to that interview which follows, this blog's image is also Karin's. I hope you will enjoy this new element to my blog as much as I have. PLease visit Karin's website for a look at more of her work: Karin's Work. Next week, after she has posted my feature on her blog, I will feature it here as well. Pay a visit to her blog, which is also great.

THe Interview:

1) What is your bliss?

I researched the definition for ‘bliss’ and came up with ‘supreme happiness; utter joy or contentment and the opposite is just plain and simple ‘misery’…..hmmmm, so what is my bliss….. that’s such an intriguing question and not easy for me to answer….

There are some things that contribute to a state of bliss in my life and these would be the sunshine on my face, the wind blowing through my hair, the sea before my eyes, the feeling of warm sand beneath my feet, touching my pencil to paper and drawing the first circle on the page, that contact which is a hug, stroking the cat, patting the dog, watching children play in the water and hearing their echoes of laughter, daydreaming under a tree where I can feel soft grass under me and a warm scented flow of air passing by, catching a glimpse of something beautiful in nature’s wonderful wonderland and being so drawn to it as to explore it further, researching a topic that is close to my heart, or close to another’s heart, letting go and letting God, releasing my bitterness and experiencing humility, meditating on words of wisdom and time spent in prayer with my higher power, visiting rockpools and fossicking around in them, fishing.

These things all contribute to my state of bliss.

2) How did you find your bliss?

Wow, another great question… well….I found out that I am usually in a state of bliss when all the above are covered and how I found out, was through moments of ‘misery’ the antonym of ‘bliss’. I have had some very down times, during which it was necessary for me to commit myself to time spent pondering the things I am most grateful for, and the things which I would need to gravitate towards, in order to be whole and healthy again… for ‘misery’ leads to my ‘madness’… and ‘bliss’ leads to great goodness, for myself and others. You see I feel that ‘bliss’ is not a selfish pursuit, even tho it may seem that way, for to be happy in life, we must first shower ourselves with respect and love, nurture our health…. And when we are well (following our bliss) we are able to be of service to others, ‘otherly’ without ulterior motives… our giving therefore, is unselfish giving, the best kind of love.

3) What are some of the things/people/books/resources/etc that have helped you?

One of the best books I ever read which helped me enormously was “Further down the Road Less Travelled” by Scott Peck… and the book “Hawaii” by James Michener…one is a sort of self help book by a psychologist and the other is a novel about life from the very beginning in Hawaii and traces the lives and deeds of the islanders and white settlers and I learned a wealth of things about human nature, through studying these two very different texts.

Another thing which I only recently realised has made a big impact on me were these little books from my childhood by Joan Walsh Anglund with beautiful little illustrations, there were a few… ones I remember are “Love is a Special Way of Feeling”, “A Friend is Someone who Likes You”, “Childhood is a Time of Innocence”, and these little books carry in them, some very special messages which were imparted to me as a child…it is only very recently that I’ve realised as an adult, that I appear to have retained my great fondness for the childlike naivety and strive for the very same ideals contained within the pages of these dear little books… one special thing that happened this week, was that my friend Christine, surprised me with two of these vintage books all wrapped up in a delightful package…. She’d ordered them for me through eBay because she saw how much the books meant to me from childhood….what kind of wonderful thoughtful friend I have in her…it just brings me to tears that someone would listen and act upon the things that are dearest to my heart, to bring me closer to my bliss.

As for people that have helped me, hmmm that’s so hard…there’ve been many, I’d have to say my partner Scott first of all, as he is always there helping, encouraging and spurring me on, he’s a great comfort in down times and so happy for me when I feel successful and happy…he only wants for my happiness…then there are my parents, who I feel have helped me enormously in many varied ways, but they are first and foremost my biggest supporters and art admirers…they help me too by listening to me when I’m down, and spoiling me a bit. Then there are 2 special friends I’d like to mention, they are Christine and Fa…Frozenfa is an artist friend of mine from Singapore and she’s the type to come running when you’re in a bind and be supportive no matter what I say or whinge about…. She’s also done me many, many favours and sells my work overseas…she is the most loyal friend and a really funny person who makes me happy and makes me laugh a lot, I hope to meet her some day!

The other one is very special too and I call her Chris….she is a quiet person, who works with textiles and also draws beautifully, she has a great eye, and a great ear for listening… she is a gentle person, with a great deal of wisdom and I respect her opinions and ideas.

4) What difference has this made in your life?

The books I read and the friends and family I have make such a difference in my life…I was watching ‘The Soloist’ (movie) last night and it’s about a schizophrenic musician who is very down and out… a reporter befriends him looking for a story, but in the end, the story is more about how both the reporter and the musician find a certain something in one another that goes to enrich their inner life and their lives in general, albeit… both parties must come to compromise certain things, in order to understand the other and participate on the friendship… they must learn about one another… it is a wonderful story…

The point I wanted to make without any further waffling, is that there is a line in the movie, where the reporter states that psychologists said he is making a difference in the schizophrenic musicians life, purely by being his friend, as this has the ability to alter brain chemistry!! Wow!! That just blew me away….. now I know that’s true…because that’s how I feel after encounters with my uplifting books, research material, friends, partner and family…… like my brain chemistry is altered…. A flow of good hormones happening there, and all is well with the world…to much aloneness and ‘on my own-ness’ is not good, simply not good at all’… too much ‘staying in the house-ness’ not good either…encounters with nature are almost as good as with a friend….

5) What do you do if ever you find yourself “off course”?

Well, that’s very hard… normally I go into a cave for sometime, before I realise I’ve become very silent, or shedding to many tears a day…once I’ve grasped that I’m down, I look at the reasons why, often I feel sorry for myself, or embittered or hurt by someone, I have high expectations of people, and then I feel let down…. So I reason through those thoughts and feelings and I talk about them with a trusted friend, usually my partner Scott… or Chris or Fa… and afterwards I feel I’ve found my way again…. But it’s hard being lost in the sea without a boat or a compass… it is scary and I fear the sharks are all out to get me….in those moments I’ll often seek my bible and read passages such as Psalm 91 which calm and soothe my soul…and I will pray and I will wait in prayerful state until I feel a sense of being heard and answered…it makes a large difference…. Better than reassurance from friends even… as I take it as a special privilege in life, that we are considered friends of God… and I believe there is a real sense of companionship there…I’ll imagine God to be with me, or holding my hand through difficult circumstances, using visualisation.

I also often use goal setting as a way of assisting myself to retain my course through life, and try to set short term goals, as they help me to take the little steps in achieving the ultimate perfect bliss, my long term goal.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

You Don't Pull No Punches But You Don't Push the River

Since my last brief post last week and along with the spirit of review that comes around the beginning of a new year and now a new decade, I have been thinking about art, my life, my mission and what I want to see for myself this new year. I chose as a theme a line from a song by one of my enduring favorites, Van Morrison. While it is difficult to find a few words to convey all the nuances we live with, I think this line from Van Morrison covers a lot of what I want to be in this coming year, and my life for that matter. I think that following your bliss requires that you develop the discernment to know when you need stand firm and when you need to bend. My great friend Bob commissioned the illustration that I included with this blog to illustrated this very point for the word he coined, wolflow, a palindrome that expresses the same point I am addressing here. Bob is a master for finding imagery to express such points, here suggesting one sometimes needs the active, aggressive qualities we can associate with wolves and at other times one need to go with the flow, like a river which leaves its indelible mark over the ages.
In the course of following dreams, it can be easy to get too obsessed, letting the rest of the bounty of life that appears outside of your dream fall by the wayside, all in the name of keeping your eyes on the prize. I recall an old Twilight Zone episode that ends with a man sitting alone in a cavernous library, the last man alive on Earth, saying, " At last, time enough to read." While I certainly love to create and draw, I think that my earlier decision years ago to make my entire life a work of art remains the correct one. I would hate to leave this life remembered for beautiful pictures but miserable in all other aspects on my life. Again, the juggler metaphor seems appropriate here as I review all the balls I have in the air- artist, teacher, husband, father, friend, son, human. I have at times lost track of some of these really important things trying to 'catch' another of these these things. Sometimes the wolf in me takes over and I can be a beast and sometimes, the flow in me drowns me. I can see I am at my best when I am balanced between the two. So, in my review of the past year and my plans for the next, I have no great course corrections planned, I will just keep to the work I have set in motion and continue to show up to the work I have created for myself to achieve, working to keep a healthy balance. I am grateful for all of you who are sharing this adventure with me and I look forward for new adventures and companions along the road. I would love to hear from you about how you will life your dreams in this coming year.