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

Never Broken

The Mindfulness and Meditation summit was such a treat. I had a great time tuning in at my own time and at my own pace. At first glance, I didn’t know whether it was worth listening to singer/songwriter Jewel.

Man, I’m so glad I took a leap of faith and did.

All I remember about her in the 90s is that I loved listening to my aunt’s CD of hers and that it always made me feel emotional. Her songs were not bubblegum pop in any way or form, which was what I was heavily into those days. But I truly liked it. Her hauntingly tragic and sweet songs made me contemplate life more deeply. And now, listening to Jewel discuss mindfulness and meditation is another happy surprise. I never knew how committed she was to mindful living, and this discovery alone is such a gift. Here is Jewel in an interview with entrepreneur and internet personality Gary Vee:

In Jewel’s memoir, Never Broken, her discussion about life and how she got through so much pain, trauma, and suffering has made me see her and her work in such a new light. I appreciate her recounting what she wanted out of her new-found fame when she first broke into the music industry. What are my values? It’s refreshing to hear a celebrity with her star power reveal how connected and rooted she is to her true self. She happily declined certain opportunities for amassing unspeakable luxuries and immediate rewards and opted to wait for the lasting, deeper, and more intentional blessings that she trusted would eventually find her. Jewel’s inner compass was her art and her art-making, and it never led her astray from her path.

There was a short clip from her interview with Tami Simon when she said something that stood out to me. That she found solace in the Alaskan outdoors. And that she wanted to be one with nature, just like the hard woods. Because “hard wood grows slowly.” And looking into her book, here’s an excerpt what she meant:

To this day, I calibrate my inner life to what I have observed in nature, and one of the most significant lessons it has taught me is that hard wood grows slowly. I know, not the flashiest phrase, but a profound one. I watched soft wooded trees shoot up in the spring and rot only a few years later. The harder woods became friends of mine …

Great survivors have the ability to yield, adapt, give. This stopped me in my tracks. My life was not teaching me to yield, it was teaching me to cover up, protect, harden. I felt a panic. Hardening was the opposite of yielding. I walked home deep in thought and wrote in my book, things that don’t bend break. …

Slow growth meant thoughtful growth. Thoughtful growth meant conscious choices. It was a ladder of thought that pulled me up over the years until I arrived at one of the mottos I try to live by: hard wood grows slowly. …

If I wanted to grow strong and last, and not be brittle or broken easily, I had a duty to make decisions that were not just good in the moment but good for long-term growth.

-Jewel

I loved every bit of her writing. Reading it felt like listening to a close friend talk about how they’ve been doing for the past X number of years and how they’ve learned to overcome so much. I particularly enjoyed learning more about her songwriting inspirations and what life stories influenced them. For instance, I didn’t know that the song “Foolish Games” was about her bittersweet and tumultuous relationship with her mother. As I re-listen to her songs, I can’t help but feel like I have learned so much more about the multiple layers that people usually have.

How she survived abuse, neglect, homelessness, and not become another “statistic,” I’ll never truly know. But Jewel’s story proves that resilience and grit are inherent qualities in the human spirit that propel us towards healing and equilibrium. Our bodies and minds seek balance and harmony, and even when we don’t consciously understand why we feel anxious, mad, or sad, our bodies and minds want to protect us from harm’s way. That is why we sometimes forget, we disconnect, and sometimes become numb. These are not flaws of the human body, its adaptive nature is to protect us from hurt and pain. Only that sometimes, they get too intense and become troublesome when they take the forms of symptoms and clinical disorders.

Here’s a beautiful bit from her book on pain and suffering:

I loved to observe people. I watched love and life play out in a million ways, but one of the best things I learned was this: You don’t outrun pain. I saw men and women in those bar rooms all trying to outrun something, some pain in their life…

I saw that no one outran their suffering; they only piled new pain upon their original pain. I saw the pain pile up into insurmountable mountains, and I saw the price people paid who buried all that pain, and along with it their hope, joy, and chance at happiness. All because they were trying to outrun the pain rather than walk through it and heal.

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You know it’s a good book when you begin to have moments of self-reflection.

Reading through this book and talking with dear friends has made me look back and assess how far I’ve come from the years that have gone by. Almost four years ago when my dad passed away, it then seemed like I was never going to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I found myself wondering why I was such a magnet for all pitiful and hopeless situations imaginable. I remember thinking to myself… really?? how unfair it was that others probably never had it so difficult. That what I had experienced in a matter of a few months was like a lifetime of horrible events balled up to one that could be shared among a handful of individuals. And yet here I was, with the terrible windfall of luck to win it all B I G. I remember being deeply unhappy and spiteful of happy families. Of happy people and their simple and uneventful lives. Why is this my path? Why am I alone in this grief and sadness? And how come everyone seems to have moved on without me?

It took me so long to get to where I am today. And honestly, sometimes I do still feel like I don’t deserve to be. Things got better when I decided to be my own best advocate. My own protector and caretaker. That grief and loss was not going to stop me from living. That I had lots of dreams and goals that were waiting for me to get started. That I was deserving. And I am grateful for the people who have stuck by me. Who have gone with me through hell and back, and have continued to be my solid ground.

Jewel Never Broken

Jewel’s book was such a heart-warming read. Her life stories have reminded me to come back to where it all started for me, too. To practice gratitude, to learn to be a better friend, to accept and know that pain is temporary, and to never forget that I must yield to life when the storm comes.

-Danessa


Artists Supporting New Artists!
Enjoyed this post or my art? Click below to support me and my art-making adventure.
If you are an artist or an artist-in-the-making, it truly helps me when you use any of my links to get your art materials and other goodies. I’ve personally selected my favorite places to shop for the best quality & affordable art materials and want to share them with you. That’s why I always shop at Blick Art Materials and Amazon for my art supply needs.

You can get Jewel’s Memoir Never Broken: Songs are Only Half the Story here

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