Faith and perseverance

Lessons from the easel: today while working on an alla prima portrait that started really bad I started thinking how in painting as in life there are two neecesary elements in order to achieve something: faith and perseverence. The first one (and I am not talking about religious faith specifically) keeps us going when at first things seem odd (like the first layers of my painting today). Then perseverence keeps us going. They both need each other the same way cars (traditional cars at least) need electricity to start and gas to keep it moving. Thanks to both I did not wipe down the painting, something I am glad I didn't. And then when I got home I found out that a water bottle rolled all through the panel and ruin it, which taught me that even with faith and perseverence sometimes the results may end up being different than what we expected...and that is OK.

originally written 1/17/14


Thinking today that every trip begins with a dream. As with most things in life, even dreaming takes practice. Unfortunately, the people that have to travel the longer distance to make their dreams a reality, are the ones that constant hits and tribulations have deplenished their ability to move forward. Instead of blaming them for not having the focus, the will, the discipline to achieve their goals, we should walk with them until their capacity to dream strenghtens. Every soul deserves to be saved from the catastrophe of a dreamless life.

Originally written 5/11/13


The fox in the backyard

Two days ago I spotted something in the backyard that looked strange. No, it was not a bear but a fox. I kept looking at it in awe: its orange fur, graceful movements, its shifty stroll below the branches,  its long and apparently soft tail, and the snout that open slowly to show big teeth, teeth that could bite. I could not help but think how this fox reminded me of certain humans, truth be told we all know someone who looks and behaves like a fox. He then dissapeared quickly into the forest. Foxes are strange creatures that seem human.

One day later I am at the track field when I spotted semething I had never seen before. A man probably in his late 60s, his slender and shirtless torso, very thin pijama pants that made obvious he was not wearing any underwear. To top the whole ensemble, a straw hat. Just to make it clear, this was a man jogging on the track field of the local high school. No graceful movement, no interesting fur, only a flow of sweat on the naked torso going to the rythm of uncoordinated steps. I could not help but think this is an odd creature, like we all know an odd human. But I would not dare to compare him to an animal, there is nothing like him, plus that would probably be offensive, and animals do not sweat, I do not think so, and animals share universal characteristics, get the point. I was lost in my thoughts and he dissapeared out of my sight without me noticing, no shifty act of going missing, just a magic act as if it was only a work of my imagination. Humans, humans are the weird species...we hide our teeth, we run half-naked, we run for the sake of running and dissapear without warning, and we insist on thinking random thoughts that do not make any sense. Humans are not like animals, well, just some of the time.

Originally written 6/8/2016

Analogies between painting and life

Maybe it is because of the rainy, melancholic day but I have been thinking a lot today about our reasons for quitting either be a painting, a goal, a team, a relationship.

Artists get asked often how do they know a painting is done. In my case, I can put my brushes away the moment I feel the painting breathes on its own, it looks back and me and I change (even if is slightly) every time I look at it. Being that the standard, it is very easy to know when a painting is not done as well.

At the moment I am reworking a picture I made more than two years ago. For a person of my impatient nature, it took a lot of courage to touch something I really enjoyed looking at, one of my favorites. But I knew it did not meet the standard. However I have been fighting with it like we fight with zombies, and then we become friends again before questioning why I had to retouch it in the first place. 

In more than one occasion I have wiped a whole hand, a figure or even started from scratch in a new canvas if I feel the drawing or the composition is completely wrong in order to avoid dragging foundation problems. But sometimes the problems are fixable and I keep working at it until it is no longer a problem but a finished work.

Probably it is the frustration of my hate/love relationship with this painting right now that made me think that even when things are not working at the moment, things are not done until we quit. In life, relationships, or when we are working towards a goal (weight loss, searching a new job, training a dog, raising a kid, among others) we are not done until we abandon the fight. We could always choose to live with that "painting" we like but do not love (or that dog that refuses to get trained, for example) or we can tussle until we get it right. The choice is ours. Sometimes the battles are not only ours and we do not have anything else worthy to fight for. But most of the times, the weapons (or brushes) are in our hands.

Now, I pray tomorrow we get better weather because I am done with non-sense reflections that just keep me away from this painting.

Originally written 6/28/2016

The Cup of Tea

I just heard a receptionist talking about how she reached for a comforting cup of hot tea and she burned her mouth, which kept me thinking....

How many times we do search for comfort in the right things, either be a cup of tea, a conversation with a friend, a prayer, a medicine or a yoga class, to only realize we have being "burnt", exhausted, beaten up or left feeling empty and discouraged. The problem is not the item that was supposed to offer comfort. Most of the times the problem is our timing, sometimes it is the dosage. But swearing not to have a glass of wine ever again because having four the night before made us feel terrible, or ceasing to pray because our prayer has not been answered yet, does not make us stronger or wiser—but blinder. 
I will still take my cup of hot tea—with patience. I will still be burnt from time to time. I will keep returning to it not as an act of rebellion, but as a reminder that even the things that hurt, sometimes, will be the things that will eventually heal us.

Originally written 3/1/2017

Life is just a dance

Dance can be a lot of things: a workout, an art form, a hobby, a career, an entertainment,  a party starter, a way to connect with others, a way to connect with our body. It is also one of the most freeing activities because, among many other things, it requires us to be absolutely present. It is mindfulness; it is heart, head and soul in unison.

That being said, my mind started wondering slightly today while dancing. As I was moving my whole body I realized that dance is the perfect analogy for life. On one hand, and my choreographer friends can tell me if this is true, every dance contains some form of symmetry. If you move your hip to the right, you eventually would need to move your hip to the left. If you move a few steps forward, you eventually have to step backwards to begin somewhere close to where you started. Dance is then, a metaphor for karma,  for “you get what you give” kind of thing, for “we always come back to home.”

On the other hand, besides all of the technicalities of each dance, the main component is intuition. Try thinking on what the next step is going to be and your feet will automatically paralyze. Your body, however, knows where it wants and needs to go. Let your intuition guide you and you might become your own kind of Isadora Duncan.

Just like in life, the most effective bullet to a happy dance is being too self-conscious. When we  accept that we might look terribly ridiculous in the dance floor is when dance gives its biggest gift: freedom. What can be more liberating than taking ourselves as un-seriously as possible, accepting the risk of ridicule and knowing that even then, we will survive? Dance is then a very appropriate silencer for the most dangerous judging mind: our own. 

I am lucky I grew up in a culture where dance was a natural act, not an ability, not even a choice. Once again, I am glad that swinging my body today made me realize how I want my life to be: a happy, sometimes awkward, always liberating dance. 

The teacher who wanted me to fail

The beauty of celebrating New Years Eve lies in the inevitable fact that we need to review our past and imagine what we want in our near future. We would probably benefit from reliving that practice in the following 364 days. However, since I forget to do it as often, I am going to seize the opportunity and put my cards on the table.

2018 was one of those years that take us from the hair and wipe the floor with us. Some kind of personal revolutionary year. The kind that could go on the books for being one of those “tough years.” I have cried so many times while kneeling, I have begged for the blows to stop, I have pleaded to understand why so many things have happened. 2018 was one of those kind of teachers that threaten to make you fail your class with the severity of a dictator. However, not all has been bad, quite the opposite. 2018 has been an incredible year and I am immensely grateful for having had such a demanding instructor. Because the best part of 2018 is that I did not fail, I did not drop. I thrive, I won, I grew, I learned.

I learned, for example, that regardless of the difficulties we need to trust the master plan. I also discovered that we cannot take personal other people's path, even if we walk side by side. We are our most helpful when we understand that being drawn in a spiral along with those we care for do not help them or us, quite the opposite. I have learned to remain strong and hopeful when life screams I do not have reasons to be so. I have practiced how to love openly and deeply even when I am at my lowest and also when I am at highest and those I love are not exactly there. I had remain calmed when the storm surrounded me and also when I have wanted the world to spin at a faster frequency. I have remained vulnerable when all I wanted to was to curl up in a cocoon. I have been very productive, achieving goals I have had for years. I have strengthen relationships, started new and enriching friendships. I have laughed honestly and fiercely. I have danced, I have sung, I have created. I have lived intensely and I have remained hopeful, not because I do not have any other option, but because I have chosen to  do so. I have not been perfect, but I have been committed to learning and remaining as present as possible.

I am very grateful for the past year. I am definitely a wiser, better person than who I was a year ago. 2019 is a year of ripping the fruits of my labor and to keep cultivating ties with my fellow humans and specially my lovely family and friends who have been beyond generous and kind with me the past year. Thank you, 2018! You have made my heart swell with love and I can’t wait to hop on the next wagon and ride through 2019 with a baggage full of learnings. I bow to you with due respect and send you off to your place on memory lane. Now I must keep going, my future is calling!