Archive for the ‘Faith and Spirituality’ Category

A busy week and weekend has all but come to a close and I hadn’t gotten around to this week’s post. Yes, I am revising my goal now to be one per week. I made a commitment to do 2 a week for 30 days as recommended in The Huffington Post Guide to Blogging which inspired my New Year’s resolution. But I knew from the start that I will be a better blogger if I have one a week and have been slowly dropping into that pattern.

So sometime over the weekends I will get one out and can be fairly sure to be consistent that way, which is the most important thing for anyone who may be interested in reading and following.

This is a “quickie” after another weekend of work on the condo project and another week of teaching looming ahead.

I have been working on my spiritual direction as the new year began as well as my blogging. I had a couple of very insightful conversations regarding painting as a prayerful, meditative process and the concept of being co-creators with our Higher Power/God -however one may acknowlege it. (By the way, if you are an atheist, please feel free to ignore or disregard these thoughts but don’t bother to respond to tell me I have no right to them.)

Some of the best work I do comes seemingly without effort on my part and is undoubtably the spirit working through me… when I remember to let it. Below is an example, a figure that I painting last June in a life drawing session. Every time I see it, it stills fills me with excitement and pleases me so much. It came together so much easier than so many of my works do. I can honestly say it is one of my best, and not out of any conceit. In fact most of the time I am rather critical and unsure of my own work. I think many artists share this but it is a painful and perplexing conundrum. Why do we feel compelled to do this and why? Maybe I just need to do more often what I feel I must and “let go and let God” as they say. The best seems to come through me when I relinquish control and open up to the grace within.

I have been reading a new novel (seems I read more than I paint, doesn’t it? That may well be true). I have had a habit for more than a year now of collecting quotes about art that I find inspiring or moving in some way. Here is one from The Miracles of Prato about Fra Filippo Lippi, the Renaissance monk and painter:

God made the world so beautiful. There’s no shame in finding the world beautiful, and celebrating that beauty.”….The holiest of men have known this world is a speculum majus, a mirror of the Lord’s kingdom. The beauty we find here and the beauty we make here pleases God, for it makes our world closer to His.”

Attributed to Fra Filippo Lippi in The Miracles of Prato

"Il Dolce Far Niente", pastel by Bernadette C. Wastack

"Il Dolce Far Niente", pastel by Bernadette C. Wastack


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I have some other non-fiction books that I find very helpful and important to me in some ways but I will save those for another time. Today a quick list of 5 of my favorite books having to do with technical help or otherwise inspirational to the process of making art. Because I have worked primarily in the medium of soft pastels for many years, a majority of them have to do with that type of material.

It is also worthing observing that these are all books that I own. I CB068378have actually gone out and purchased them whereas with non-fiction, “pleasure reading material” I almost never buy but borrow from the library as previously mentioned. I will often get these kinds of non-fiction works from the library first if they are available. It’s a great way to audition something and see if I want to own it. In fact, that’s how I sometimes realize it is a volume I should purchase. When I find myself borrowing it out of the library twice or even 3 or 4 times, it’s clear that I need to have it in my permanent personal library.

So here’s a list of 5 that I have gone to time and again. There are others and I’ll probably make mention of them another time. So it is not a top ten kind of list, nor ranked in any way in order ofbooks02-619x6852 importance. But perhaps you’ll find something you like in one of these for your own artistic purposes – or in a future list to follow.

  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron http://theartistsway.com Many folks are familiar with this and the companion volumes such as “Walking in this World” . Being a writer herself, Cameron sometimes seems to speak a little more to the literary arts. And I have never gotten into writing the “morning pages” she swears by but then I have my own morning prayer routine that works for me. For her, naturally writing seems elemental but not for me. However another plus as I see it is if you are familiar with, and appreciate the original “12-step” program this is patterned after, you would find something good in it for helping your creative/spiritual connection. I have read just about all of her others. Some later works, in my humble opinion, are a bit redundant. Or I get a bit sick of hearing how many wonderful, miraculous things have turned out in her very lucky life. I think it can be taken too far and become kind of cultish to form an Artists Way group and all. But to each his own and the original book is a good one.
  • The Pastelist’s Year, painting the 4 seasons in pastel by Elizabeth Mowry http://elizabethmowry.com This is the one that first made me realize there were some books I had to own and used time and time again. She’s a terrific landscape artist and I enjoyed and own a couple of other books of hers. I especially recommend her for landscape painters, not just those who work in pastel.
  • Wolf Kahn’s Pastels and Wolf Kahn’s America http://www.wolfkahn.com Again, I am partial to pastelist and landscapes. These are big “coffee table” art books to enjoy and be inspired by rather than giving technical advice. And Kahn, who was Hans Hofmann’s student and studio assistant, is more abstract than Mowry above. But I find his unique use of color lovely and his work moving.
  • The Oil Painting Book and The Pastel Painting Book, Materials and Techniques for Today’s Artist both by Bill Creevy. These are both good, basic primers on the respective media. Though they are not the only ones, I find his books very thorough on tools, materials and techniques. I was actually well into my work with pastel before coming across him. But I began working seriously with oils only a couple of years back with no prior training from my college years. His book was a very good foundation and reference.
  • The Yin/Yang of Painting by Honqninan Zhang and Lois Woolley This is as much a philosophy book about your approach to painting as a technical reference. If you are partial to strong contrasts in your work in particular, you may really enjoy exploring the way of working outlined here. It is not media specific and I have seen it used effectively in pastel as well as acrylics and oils.

Where a specific website was possible for the artist/author I have supplied a link. And I would always encourage the patronage of small independent bookstores whenever possible. However in these tough times and when speed is of the essence, you should know that all of these volumes are immediately available and can be purchased through Amazon.com .


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On Tuesday we usher in a new president and a new era of hope and change. We also embark on a journey through difficult times with an economy in a death spiral the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression. For many of us who weren’t born during those years we have never experienced such a time in our lives as challenging as this. It is more than a little scary and perhaps hard to start this new year feeling full of hope.

During a tight time such as this, the arts will be taking a big hit and many artists will need to cling to, or go out seeking, alternative work to supplement or replace the income from their creative work. Yet many, myself included, will still opt to donate a portion of what they make to good causes and for the benefit of others who are in need. Some may wonder why.

In a open letter to his daughters published today, President-Elect Obama states

…you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential. Barack Obama

An artist friend of mine, Karen North Wells has put it

As of Jan 1st, 20% of sales are donated to Habitat.
As of Jan 1st, 20% of my sales are donated to Habitat.

this way: “If your hand isn’t open to give, it won’t be open to receive.”

I personally had a sort of epiphany about how and why to justify myself as an artist by using it in this way. I felt very conflicted about the desire to devote myself , my time and my energy – even part time as I am- to the making and selling of art. Let’s face it, making pretty pictures is not a cure for cancer. It can’t feed starving people or put a roof over their head.

BUT, I suddenly realized, it can be a powerful way to do those things indirectly. Just for one example, people are constantly asking artists, among others, to donate to silent auctions and the like when holding fundraisers. By donating work or a portion of profits or proceeds to causes that do feed and shelter and search for cures, I can do the work I feel called to do and make a difference, albeit a small and indirect one. (But enough small drops of water together will still eventually wear away a stone.)

Because affordable housing was an issue of great importance on the Cape and to me personally, I decided years ago to donate a percent of any sales to Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod. As of this January 1st I decided to increase it from 10% to 20%. As they say, “God works in mysterious ways”. Some may say this is poor business practice or even plain crazy. But I am trusting that, as has happened many times before, what I put out there will come back to me in some way tenfold.

Austism has also touched my family and last year I found myself working on raising donations and selling raffle tickets for the first ever benefit on Cape Cod for autism_speaksAutism Speaks. Me, the girl who hated selling Girl Scout cookies as a kid and still am loathe to ask people for money today. But Janet Hart Barbato of the Ocean House in Dennis had jumped in to do it and I found myself jumping in to help, hitting up artists and other friends for donations. Sometimes I didn’t even get to ask before they would offer their goods and services when they heard about the event. Just think of what can happen if every artist , and every person, tries to find just one small way to use their talents to help.


So here’s the challenge to artists and anyone who wants change and hopes for better days ahead: How might you “paint your wagon” and what are you going to hitch it to?

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