The Road to Self-Compassion

What a winding, unpredictable road it is.

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I’m still basking in the glorious energy of the Self-love, Compassion, and Care art&psychology workshop event from the end of May in Sacramento.  And it got me wondering…

How radical is it to practice self-compassion? 

Talking to all these courageous and open-minded women during the event made me have a greater appreciation for how much of a mind-shift we are creating in our current world. Drawing from my day job of psychotherapy, I cannot help but take notice of how difficult it is for people to just willingly give themselves such self-compassion and love. Like we have to prove that we are worthy of such attention, praise, care, and concern. As if there was more work to do to make us feel okay to give our selves even half of what we so readily give to others.

We hesitate.

We create conditional statements.

We deny ourselves the love and unconditional regard that we so freely give to the significant people in our lives.

Why?

Honestly, I don’t know.

I’ve got lots of ideas why and how each of us gets there at some point, but it is all a big question mark.

To shed some light on such a penumbra, I went at it the only way I knew how.

With a brush and canvas, of course. 😛

I decided to re-work an old painting of mine that I felt was wholly incomplete. It was a painting about a light, airy, and carefree feeling. But it was also titled Pyro because it was about a strong feeling of intuition, desire, and fiery love. It used to be about a more romantic type of love, but now I think this transformation has shifted it to be about self-love. I also didn’t think the final image completely depicted all that I wanted it to, so I revisited this piece and decided to kick it up a notch.

And so this is what happened. Check out those colors and wild movement!

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Like all my other paintings, I created this with intentionality. I made it for me–to be enjoyed by and appreciated by me. I gotta say, most of my paintings are about me gifting myself something I’ve always wanted. A funny remake of this, a rendition of a famous artist’s style, or something that looks b a d a s s on that one empty wall in my room. I mean, why make anything if you don’t like it, right?

This painting has lots of interesting moments within it, and that’s what keeps me curious. To me, this piece conveys how we each spend so many of our moments judging ourselves and thinking and rethinking each moment to the point that we drive ourselves mad with our own thoughts. Sometimes, these patterns of thinking are helpful, other times not. The colors are vibrant and lively to capture the immense energy that our minds are able to produce with each thought; and it can be used for good or bad. In this work, such colorful brushstrokes look as if they are easily swayed in a nonsensical pattern, turning at each bend but never really going anywhere.

Much like how an anxious mind works–trying to “solve” a situation by overthinking and creating “worst-case scenarios.” Pre-planning for what bad thing could happen. And in the end, was it productive?

Our thoughts are so powerful, they can affect how we feel.

Our thoughts can lead us to awe-inspiring journeys that no man has ever set foot. And yet, if we are not careful, such thoughts can lead to our distress. So instead, be still, and find your inner anchor through your breath. Take comfort in the notion that your self-worth is internal and not dependent on what goes on around you. Realize that you, too, deserve your love and care.

And really mean it.

Music on deck: It’s All In Vain by Wet

This whole self-love, compassion, and care is a forever journey that I hope we each find ourselves on at some point in our lifetime. Because we deserve it. We are innately worthy. And that is not something that changes with experience or luck.

To quote my favorite poet on this matter:

Rumi

 

❤ Danessa

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Word of the year 2018

If I could choose a word for the 2018 year, mine would be:

Serendipity: To stumble upon something that is favorable by happenstance or luck

I want this year to be all about me digging deeper into my mindfulness practice and learning to trust my instincts. To reach for the stars and see what I find on my way there. To joyfully breeze through each moment, knowing that with each one that passes, time is leading me to something bigger and greater. You know those Nike ads all over the place?

Yeah, I agree.

I want it all.

And is that so bad?

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Photo by Danessa from Art Market SF 2018

But maybe, like always, life has something else in plan for me. For so long, I have planned and pre-planned my life because it seemed chaotic and unpredictable. Personal tragedies have a way of changing people–you are either broken by it or made more formidable. Me? I hate to say it but sometimes I don’t know. So I paint to get it out of my system. It’s a way for me to process what is happening inside and around me–sometimes even unbeknownst to my conscious self.

I’ve been painting a few new pieces that have been an exploration of this idea of serendipity. This latest set began much like any other–a lot of trial and error, feeling unsatisfied about what is currently on the canvas, and wanting to secure a purpose or direction in my work. It. was. tough. But I did hold on and keep trying until I reached a state of mind that was (close to) calm and even-keeled. It was at this turning point that I was able to unlock something excitingly different in my art.

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OMG. Becky, Look at those waves. 0.0

I haven’t painted like this in a long, long, very long time. And stumbling upon this was so fulfilling. It made me think of the post-impressionist works of Vincent van Gogh, and how he reveled in the sheer beauty of color, impasto, and movement in his paintings. What it must have been like to live being misunderstood, isolated, and destitute but doing what you loved. What was that like for him?

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I gave in to my curiosity and dove right into painting with graceful, slow movement. It was when I stopped fighting the unhelpful comments/judgments in my head (“Don’t do that” or “Why don’t you paint like you’re a real artist”) that I found progress in my artwork. I initially planned to create a triptych. But ended up with a diptych. Ah, well. A chance to practice some mindfulness skill of going with the flow and adapting to changes, I guess.

Even after all the artworks and paintings I have done in my life, I still battle with these negative automatic thoughts (NATs) in my head. Sometimes, the external world isn’t really as helpful, either. Several times, I have received previous feedback from other artists that I should paint BIGGER. And with MORE SPEED. And demonstrate MORE POWER in my works. Here, look at this paintbrush stroke–seems to lack CONFIDENCE.

UGH. I thought they were helpful in my growth and I considered them for a time being, but now I see that I have a certain style that works for me and that is all true to my own. So, thanks, but I got this.

And here’s the progress.

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What do you think?

All in all, I’m pretty happy about where this curious adventure has taken me. I think that art is deeply personal and serendipity takes you where you didn’t know you wanted to be, but am infinitely grateful for. I, like everyone else who has ever tried anything new in their life, will continue to work on my NATs and keep serendipity in mind as I continue to take on those new blank canvases.

And I hope that you will too ❤

 

-Danessa

Art Appreciation

You know what feels awesome?

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When someone looks at your artwork and tells you, “I get it. I LOVE IT!”

Hearing these words immediately trigger a rush of chemicals to my brain’s reward pathway, and I am addicted.

It is SO validating and heart-warming to meet others who accept you for exactly what makes you unique. And it’s quite infrequent that this happens to me since abstract expressionist art is a niche field that attracts a specific kind of soul.

I started painting a new set of works called Metta. This collection falls under the Mind Games series and has been super re f r e s h ing for me.

The Metta paintings are made with gouache on mixed media paper. This was inspired by my recent and more regular practice of yoga and meditation practice. Although I’ve been involved in these for nearly 6 years now, I am now seeing yoga and mindfulness through a different light. They say yoga can be a religion, and I now see what people mean by that. Often times, I leave a yoga session feeling really cleansed and peaceful. I have a clear goal of what I want out of life and how I want to live the rest of my days. I sometimes even feel a bit emotional after a mindfulness meditation practice or find myself weeping while listening to a guided meditation.

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These new paintings are titled Metta for a reason. I want people who know little to nothing about mindfulness and meditation to have an opportunity to learn about Loving Kindness by coming across these artworks. Loving Kindness or Metta meditation was my gateway to practicing deeper over the years, and I believe it can ring true to others as well. The idea that we can share gratitude, compassion, and empathy towards our fellow humankind (and more importantly, with our selves), all simply because we understand that this is our one life. That we are all that we’ve got. And that we are in this life together. Through the vehicle of creative arts pushing this message forward, I believe that we can get there.

I have noticed that people tend to become captivated by my work from the early days when I painted from a place of sadness, anger, and pain. And I know why. I get it. We all find solace in others who we think can understand what we are going through or have experienced. For that reason, I understand why art patron and fans alike have clamored at my doorsteps asking if any of my early works were up for grabs.

Now, I paint from a different space and mindset, which I believe is just as meaningful, captivating, and may even reflect my increased development as a fine artist. I paint from a place of peace, calm, and balance. I have made it a regular practice to not only create art on a regular basis but not let my mood set the tone for whether I will be making something amazing today. I am moving away from glorifying turmoil, the dramatic, and destructive; I seek the possibility of holding a light to the opposing still, quiet, and balanced way of living.

What do I want my viewers to take away from the Metta paintings?

I want my paintings to serve as a daily reminder to ground oneself to the present moment. To live in the here and now, no matter what you were doing/thinking/feeling right before you took a glance at the painting. Similar to how meditation teaches us to come back to the breath when the mind becomes distracted during practice, I want the Metta paintings to help the viewer remember to be here now. To breathe deeply and live in the present moment with full intention. To take notice and become curious about the image in front of them, and approach it with a beginner’s mind. To look at it from different perspectives, deconstruct it with their mind, and see the image in a brand new way each and every time.

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No interpretation is false–art is personal, and abstract art is poetry in visual form.

Come read my poetry sometime.

 

❤ Danessa

Light and Bubbly

Started some new paintings recently and had the inescapable craving to splash on a light and bubbly colorful palette for a change.

 

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Maybe it was inspired by my recent art hangout with friends when we made some cute Year of the Dog paintings, or my recent trip to the Museum of Ice Cream, or maybe it’s the recent surge of friends who are on the path to parenthood at the moment (this does not include me lol). OR Maybe it was ALL of it. I am currently inspired and touched by the amazing journey ahead into this weird life phase we now are in. Straight up adulting, guys! From all this happening around me, I wanted to help welcome such new and exciting times by creating new babes of my own (yet still an art reference!). 😛

Check out this time-lapse vid of me getting my mindful art on!

 

Here I am using my calligraphy brush to whisk on some beautiful light strokes of Windsor & Newton and M. Graham watercolor paints on the good ol’ trustworthy Arches watercolor paper. Super fun! What you didn’t see was my new art-making ritual process of doing a brief but grounding mindfulness practice right beforehand, and then an ease towards making the painting.

My goal is to make each into a triptych set. I don’t really make triptych paintings often, but I think this idea lends well to it. Something about the fleeting movement of the puffy, cotton-candy colors that make me want to keep creating and re-creating it, to evoke the feeling of breathing in and out deeply, resembling when I engage in deep breathing during mindfulness meditation.

Inhale,

and breathe in

a big colorful bubble of light.

Exhale,

and breathe out

an airy,

fluffy cloud

that bobs slowly

up,

up,

and away.

Themes of playfulness, sweet, and carefree. Distant memories of childhood not yet tarnished by the realities of adult life. Curiosity and cheerful giggles that radiate a whole room.

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Still a work in progress, I must say. Stay tuned for updates!

Oh HEY! Have you grabbed your copy of my latest FREE art calendar? Get it here and share /print it as much as you want!

An elegant flower lily of delicate hues and a white leaf bumigi for writing lies on a light pink background.

-Danessa

My (Anti) Valentine

Danessa-Denouement

Dénouement (2015), 24″x30″, Acrylic on canvas

 

The (ANTI) Valentine art show featured one of my old artworks circa 2015. Friends who came by for the artist reception show were sure in for a rare treat and witnessed a different side of me that I usually don’t show.

Here are some photos from the event:

 

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They were interested in hearing about my work and its meaning. I was hesitant to open up about all the things I never told anyone. This painting has been one of those that has haunted me after I painted it. It was one of those that after I made it, I didn’t ever want to look at it again. But I couldn’t get rid of it. It was a part of me that I didn’t want to know, to accept, or acknowledge.

There’s an undeniable mood of heaviness, a feeling of sadness, and despair when you first take it all in. This painting was made back in the day when I particularly found it artistically fitting and physically soothing to use palette knives when painting. (Yeah, I know how that sounds. Still.) I found numerous ways to utilize the palette knife and my marks were very intentional with each hit, smear, slice, and drag application on the canvas.

This is one of the paintings that I have cried in front of, not really knowing why, but the rush of the art-making process suddenly brought me to it.

 

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Tears of scarlet red and black are dominant in this painting. The fiery red consumes a big part of this image and has the effect of a roaring flame brewing inside. There’s an incessant energy in the black marks that depict a heavy object falling again and again, in different ways, and shattering to no end.

I hated this painting.

I hated it so much I kept it hidden away in the deepest end of my pile of old paintings. Not only that, I had to have it turned around whenever it was stored anywhere. This was a painting I made into existence but never acknowledged until I had to no choice but to face it.

You leave in wonder, “How does it end?”

I would tell you, but that’s not the point of the artwork.

Not past or future, all that it was about was the present moment when I made it. And when I made it, this was what it felt like inside my heart.

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The thing I love best about this painting?

You don’t get to see all that I’ve described unless you’re thisclose to it in person. You don’t get to feel all that I’ve just mentioned unless this is all you see in front of you. You don’t get to appreciate the unity in the marks, the colors and how they come together, the overall choreography of the lines, shapes, and details. And that’s ok. Because this is a part of me that is not for all to see and know.

Just the really special ones.

-Danessa

 

 

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Photo: Henry Chen

 

 

Stranger Things are Strange Indeed

This weekend was so brilliant! The Stranger Things 2 Fan Art Show took place on Saturday at Outlet Coworking in Sacramento. I have patiently waited to see how my newfound interest in fan art would come to be accepted. Seeing as I’ve kind of made a stylistic decision to pursue and keep building on my abstract art-making, this was a personal challenge I assigned to myself to test my abilities. It’s been y e a r s since I painted a portrait of anyone, and I’m glad to say I never lost the magic. 🙂

We dressed up for the Stranger Things costume event–guess who we decided to be?

Check out these pics from the event!

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Man. The Menagerie team did a fantastic job decorating both the indoor and outdoor event. Everything was carefully thought of, from incorporating the Missing: “Mews” posters all over the walls, the Sno-Ball dance decor outdoors, the stringed holiday lights, to oh, the scribbled crayon drawings that Will Byers created to share what the Demogorgon was up to. My friends and I were so blown away by it all, and definitely impressed with the local and national artists that were represented in the show. Some favorites of mine were the two digital artworks to my right and left, the Eleven anime portrait, the mechanical Demogorgon, and the black and white mirrored image digital portraits of Eleven with the numbers “11” aesthetically placed near her nostril to resemble nosebleeds. See here for more event photos.

So happy to have been a part of this big successful art show! It truly warmed my heart to see so many enthusiastic art patrons and attendees, from youngins to young at heart. As for my prints? I think they were completely sold out of the 4″x6″ prints before we left for the evening! Wow! I can’t believe it!

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Sad you missed out on this dope event? Don’t be! Because I’ve got five of those 8.5″x11″ limited edition signed prints left! Check them out on my website if you want one for your collection. The original is up for grabs too.

Best of all, I truly enjoyed working on this art piece and would love to add to it as a new line of work called Strong as Hell.

What is that, you say?

Inspired by your favorite sci-fi shows, the Strong As Hell collection is a tribute to all pop culture characters (of binary or non-binary gender) who embody unwavering emotional strength and resilience.

This is a growing, work-in-progress wing of my artist brand line so I keep checking back in the coming few months for new characters and ideas. If you’ve got a request for a specific pop culture character that you would love for me to paint next, hit me up or comment below! I take requests and am happy to make them a reality!

…And in the small chance that you have yet to watch the Stranger Things show, you should definitely get on it. 😉 I heard Season 3 will be even better!

-Danessa

 

 

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Buddha Nature

Join me for the Mindfulness and Meditation Summit online! It is a FREE global 10-day event beginning 1/22 until 1/31. Looking forward to hearing from all the amazing list of keynote speakers for the event. If there ever was a mindfulness retreat equivalent to Coachella or Burning Man, this is probably what it would look like for me! 😛 I’m particularly keen on hearing Thich Nhat Hanh speak. I’ve grown fond of all his videos, writings, and audio teachings on mindfulness and meditation, and I’m aware that he’s been battling some health problems over the past few years. Leo Babauta was also someone I came across early in my early days of learning about mindfulness and zen living with his ZenHabits online guide to living a more simple and carefree life. One closer step to Buddha nature.

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See, that’s what I love about the teachings of mindfulness and meditation. Like the Buddha, we are taught that we can access this level of enlightenment or growth. The Dalai Lama once said,

” Every sentient being—even insects—have Buddha nature. The seed of Buddha means consciousness, the cognitive power—the seed of enlightenment. That’s from Buddha’s viewpoint. All these destructive things can be removed from the mind, so therefore there’s no reason to believe some sentient beings cannot become Buddha. So every sentient being has that seed.”

To accompany you on this glorious event, here are some of my all-time favorite and highly recommended books on mindfulness and meditation:

  1. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  2. The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living by The Dalai Lama
  3. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  4. NO MUD, NO LOTUS: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh

Check them out on Amazon and get your own copy to fill your 2018 Goodreads bookshelf!

If you prefer the audiobook versions, be sure to check out Audible for the best!

❤️

-Danessa