Tag Archives: art

When Life happens – and a nod to Pope Joan.

6 Sep

The worst sin is ingratitude, which is a forgetting of the greatness, beauty, truth and goodness of the Source that is constantly creating us – in other terms, a forsaking of Being, and the Good.

My favorite Leloup quote today, from The Gospel of Mary Magdalene.

Today I had my day all planned out, my hours spoken for, so I sat down to my desk to focus on the geometries of the Josephine knot. Which I still haven’t grasped. I found a vesica, but that is a story for another day.

I was deeply in my head, probably frowning with confusion,  when all this carefully arranged bliss was loudly interrupted by Rosie, next door’s 11 week old beagle, escaping her yard,  Ellen and I chasing around like crazy people trying to corner her. Eventually, Rosie was found, the escape route blocked up, and I returned to the drawing table, my perspective blown wide open.

And this leads me to the legend of Pope Joan.  And really, just how often do things lead you there? Well, once upon a time (during the early Middle Ages to be precise), it is told that a woman, disguised as a man, rose through the church hierarchy and was eventually elected Pope. Life went along smoothly, more or less, until during one particularly solemn processional,  all hell broke loose as the Pope went into labor and produced a child on the spot. Whoops.

Forget wasting time arguing whether it’s true or just another urban legend. That’s not the point. It’s never the point.

For me, today, Joan happily reminded me that even with the best laid plans, the most carefully arranged rituals, Life still happens, unplanned, unannounced, unexpected and often showing up at the most inconvenient time.

When the Divine came crashing into my carefully constructed schedule,  disguised as an exuberant beagle wanting to play, I had the opportunity to allow everything-as-it-was to become Life-Happening-In-This-Moment. My attention, my intention, my blood, my body, unified in a way my habitual/’usual’ self has never been fully conscious of before; opening me to an idea of another way of being fully present. It’s like a huge breath of fresh air expanded into my complacent habits, my structured ideas of how things ‘should’ be and reminded me again, that I am alive.

So now when I am here typing, I am also being aware of being alive. Of being animated by a Mystery I will never understand, flowing through me with an agenda that I can only guess at, holding me closely in gratitude and delight.

The take away for me?

Life is not meant to be ‘convenient’, bent and warped to suit us and our crazy made-up lives.

Life is meant to be lived, to be wondered at, to be expressed through us. To be experienced consciously, as a tremendous gift. Life holds us tightly so that we may live wide open, allowing it to flow through us unrestricted, out into the world.

sketch for mary magdalene

 

 

sketches for mary magdalene

Banished

10 Oct Banished janetbalboa
Banished janetbalboa

Banished c.janetbalboa2015

Roberto (my darling husband) posted my finished picture ‘Banished’ -on FB last night. Which has prompted me to write about it a bit sooner than I had intended.

I usually take time to sit with my work after it’s done. In a way, I meet my picture for the first time in this way. Before, it has always showed up to our meetings in a state of incompleteness. This in-the-process-of-being-finished stage of my art always has a lovely feeling of potentiality and possibility. Things can still creep into the drawing, it is still very much in process and dynamic. When I see my work framed and behind glass, it is finished. Complete. An object now, something I can observe in its final state.

I form opinions, observations, see it differently than when it was a work-in-progress. My work starts with a curiosity, a wondering about something and then over the course of months, I literally draw out my answer. It unfolds and reveals itself to me in the forms and colors and images that present themselves while I work. So I never start with a complete picture- I always have an image to get me started. Then I watch it unfold. I suppose it is similar to when characters begin to perform actions and demand scenes that surprise and delight their parent writers.

It’s because of this that I reflect after the picture is done- what was the answer to that question I had so many months ago? Have I changed to accommodate this answer? I believe with Rilke that we must be able to live our answers – and until we can, be content with loving the questions themselves. Often times the answer comes slowly as understanding born of research, insight and conversations are composted and turned over in my mind.

I am often asked what my pictures mean. And as you now know, they are personal answers to my personal questions. My experience and work with the symbols and images gives them meaning. But because my questions are similar to questions that many of us have, they also have a universal answer – and therefore we share meaning. The meaning resides in you, in how active the same symbols and archetypes that activate my questions, are present in you. Your life experience will bring different interpretations – are these any less valid? Anything that stirs the heart, moves the soul, causes us to wonder is a healing balm in our world of concretized dogma and instant answers.

Learning to trust ourselves fully and allowing our hearts to soar, far out on their strings – or on our sleeves –is letting our vulnerability touch and be touched by the world. We are big enough, encompassing enough, wise enough to enfold ourselves in our own healing embrace. Internally strong we come from our center; our unbreakable connection with the Mystery of our Being as it moves through time and space in the intricate and lovely vehicle called ‘me’.  You. Us. One of a kind magic.

This is what I wrote this morning on the information card I include with all my work. Each card relates to a specific picture. This is the card for ‘Banished’.

banished info card

It says:

banished As a culture, our inner masculine has devoured the action oriented Hero archetype- forgetting that the journey finishes with a return if it is to be a true journey. After the deeds are done, the lessons learned, the actions taken, the hero puts down his weapons, leaves the field of action and returns home- ideally giving back to the world the hard won truths. If everyone is off on this hero quest- who is keeping the metaphorical home fires burning? Who is there to welcome us as we return? We have overlooked- banished- the feminine; the receiving aspect of ourselves. Our inner feminine; the receptive, intuitive, inclusive and mother (an entire half of ourselves) has not been allowed a conscious or empowered place in our bodies or minds for thousands of years. The goal of the hero’s journey is the return – to society, integration, relationship – the world of feminine nature. The achievement of balance between both aspects of our nature allows us to become fully, beautifully, incredibly human.

On leaving a trail

13 Feb

The daughters
of your daughters
of your daughters
are likely to remember you,
And most importantly,
Follow in your tracks.
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I came across this quote yesterday. And whether or not this remembering and following actually happens, it startled me into thinking that it could possibly happen.

Thankfully, I no longer react with fear to information like this. I would have, in the past. But today, in my present incarnation, i feel no pressure to  sit down and write a list of goals, or see my life from the perspective of my funeral, or any of the other suggestions for leaving a legacy and insuring that my life matters.
Because my life here really does matter. It matters most of all, quite appropriately, I think, to me.

Unlike all my years at goal-setting, outward focused energy, I have found that what comes bubbling up from my own inner depths has the truth, elegance and beauty to actually sustain me. Money, accomplishments, notoriety are incredibly delicious and necessary in degrees. We do after all, live in a material world.

But what I would assume my great great grandaughters will find worth following is not to be found in abundance in the business section of the bookstore. I imagine they, like I, will hunger for authenticity and truth. For equality, the ability to love freely and a zest for life that will see them through to the end and beyond. They will need courage to express themselves honestly and compassionately without fear of retribution, derrision or judgement. They will need a hell of a lot of self love in order to love their world and those in it fiercely – exactly as it presents itself.

So I try to be quiet often, to be patient with myself, and to forgive. I try to love myself for my light and my dark, knowing that in my greatest fears are my greatest gifts. I try to be comfortable with myself and my life. I try to let go of the outer results and focus on the inner causes.

This has led me to settle on a way of life that honors my deep inner movement and knowing. A way of life that is not dictated by externals yet encompasses them. A way of life that makes all of my rather ordinary moments potentially extraordinary. Every great mystic and spiritual teacher has stressed the internal life as more ‘real’ than the outer material world. I find this to be the case with my own life. If my inner rhythm is honored, and I see outer events as effects of my inner causes, then whatever presents itself is exactly as it should be. No questions asked. I have the choice always in what action or response I wish to take. How do you do this without freaking out? With absolutely trust? In the face of your initial response being ‘this sucks…’

Enter Tolstoy and The Three Questions.*
What is the right time for every action?
Who is the most important person?
What is the most important thing to do?

(And thankfully, The Three Answers:)

The most important time is now. The present moment is the only place or time in which we have any power.
The most important person is the person in front of you.
The most important thing to do is to do good to that person in front of you.

Most circumstances and situations involve people, so most everything is included. Animals can and often do present themselves. And small children. And inconvenient requests. Death and dis-ease are included and honored. And moments of great clarity and beauty. And a satisfaction and strength in your own convictions and way of living.

It is challenging. It makes me slow down. It forces me to think, to prioritize from the inside out. It makes me smile when I go to bed. It makes me look forward to a day of one-thing-one-moment-at-a-time. It takes getting used to. It makes me sigh with relief. When I focus this way, my internal knowing takes over, I trust and honor myself on the fly. I trust that the next moment will arrive exactly as it should be, and that I will have the courage and strength to allow it.

And there you have it. A simple, elegant formula for living a life that ulimately will bring you great peace of mind, upon which joy will surely follow and voilá – a life worth living – on your own terms. I am leaving the very track that I am also following, left to me by those who came before, who also had the courage and love to honor themselves, their music and their call.

*From Wikipedia -“The Three Questions” is a short story by Russian author Leo Tolstoy first published in 1885[citation needed] as part of the collection What Men Live By, and other tales. The story takes the form of a parable, and it concerns a king who wants to find the answers to what he considers the three most important questions in life.

The Castle

7 Jun
janet balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, c. 20014

janet balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, c. 20014

 

 

janet balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, c. 20014

janet balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, c. 20014

 

Ever forward, but slowly…

Kiss a frog…

5 Jun Janet Balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, 19" x 24" c. 2014
Janet Balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, 19" x 24" c. 2014

Janet Balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, 19″ x 24″ c. 2014

 

Janet Balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, 19" x 24" c. 2014

Janet Balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, 19″ x 24″ c. 2014

 

 

Janet Balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, 19" x 24" c. 2014

Janet Balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, 19″ x 24″ c. 2014

 

Janet Balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, 19" x 24" c. 2014

Janet Balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, 19″ x 24″ c. 2014

 

Janet Balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, 19" x 24" c. 2014

Janet Balboa, Anam Cara detail, marker and colored pencil, 19″ x 24″ c. 2014

 

The work for today. A Northern Leopard frog. And why, exactly, is there a frog in this picture(among other things)?

The water represents the unconscious, and the frog symbolizes that which can move between both realms- the conscious and the unconscious. The unconscious at first may appear as frightening and dangerous, but as we  reconcile this aspect of our self we take another step towards wholeness and self- acceptance. It is exactly our neurosis, our unwanted parts that make us unique and lovely. Remember the frog prince? The princess wants nothing to do with him, but when kissed, he reveals himself to be a handsome prince…so go ahead…kiss a frog  – warts and all.

My Muse wants me.

8 Mar

we-can-do-it

There is a lovely story told of Monet as he sat deep in thought in his garden. His neighbor looked over the fence at him and said “Ah, the life of the artist – all rest and repose.”   Monet looked up in surprise and replied “No, you see, I am hard at work now. It is when you see me finally painting that all the work has been done. This composing, the pulling what I see to the canvas, this is the work my friend.”

I say this because every time I start something new there is a nasty bit of time where frustration and impatience threaten to end my creation even before it begins.

Frustrated by the inevitable loss of something in the translation from feeling/experience to manifest image, I lose my connection.

Frustrated by the fact that I don’t see clearly enough, I lose my connection.

Frustrated that I am ‘wasting time’, I lose my connection.

Meanwhile, my Muse patiently picks at her gel nail tips waiting for my return to the task at hand. It’s  gonna happen. We know each other. We have a dance worked out.

I am greatly relieved to remember Monet and his understanding of the role of the artist in the attitude, preparation and conception of any creation. The necessary hard work which often deteriorates into courting, begging and flat –out threatening of the muse. My Muse, in addition to her traditional role as bringer of inspiration, has also taken on the admirable qualities of any good bartender/bouncer. She listens patiently, nods, encourages, yet will swiftly cut me off if I threaten unconsciousness. 14280-last-judgment-michelangelo-buonarrotiAncient muses were lovely, slender ethereal beings. Looking more like one of Michelangelo’s manly, robust gals, my muse is fully prepared and willing to kick my ass.  At first I was a bit put off by the tattoos and piercings, but I realize why she has had to toughen up.

We don’t take our muses seriously anymore. Only a century ago, Thoreau, Yeats, and Emerson walked endlessly across the countryside courting, pondering; thinking. Einstein takes a menial job so that he has time to think. Monet sits in the sun.

Time is a luxury. I know this. We say we don’t have the time. But time contains within it eternity. It takes only an instant for a sunset to move us to awe, the grateful look of a child can bring us to tears in a heartbeat, and lovers can show us the face of god.

Forget about time. I’m talking about attitude. Being open to the mystery, the awe, the wonder – Muses have always been irresistibly attracted to this type of human. If working out gets you into your creative grove, do it. If volunteering at your kid’s school gets your compassion going, be there. If having a glass of red and staring at a blank canvas gets you in the moment, do that. Cranking up the music on the drive home? Cooking gourmet dinners? Sitting in a garden? Do whatever it takes to show up.

Maybe art isn’t your thing. But if you are human, creativity is your thing. Your Muse is here. Waiting and a little impatient I might add. Tough gals now, appearing with sleeves rolled up and ready for work. Try to be there when she shows up.

So work it. Work the attitude. Spend time doing things that engage you with the mystery that is beyond, around, and within us all. If you can bring just one bit of that wonder and awe down here to earth, you have served us all well. Court the Muses, create space for their whisperings. (Yeah, unfortunately they still whisper. Seriously? Who whispers anymore?)

And if you don’t want to take my word for it, my other Muse whispers this:

It seems to me that it’s the work of poets and artists to know what the world-image of today is, and to render it as the old seers did theirs. The prophets rendered it as a manifestation of the transcendent principle. That’s what we lack today, really. I think poets and artists who speak of the mystery are rare. There’s been so much social criticism of our arts, which is just one facet. But the other function of the poet – that of opening the mystery dimension – has been, with few great exceptions, forgotten. I think that what we lack, really, isn’t science but poetry that reveals what the heart is ready to recognize. ~joseph campbell

We are here. Whatever the reason. Our only real job is to show up and be open to inspiration. We don’t get to choose to be inspired; it’s hard- wired into our nature. It has always chosen us. Let her find you ready to work when she comes.

Newgrange and a little non-action

30 Jul

Working on a still life of sorts, rocks and some local plants. Local as in my garden- which is a lovely mess right now! All the full blooms of summer.

image

image

image

image

image

The rock in the center will hold the design of the entrance stone to Newgrange, an ancient structure on the north side of the river Boyne in Ireland. Older than Stonehenge and the Giza pyramids -built  5000 years ago. Beautiful theory that the 3 spiral/triskele design represents the human gestation period, with each spiral representing 3 months. Nine months of our year, incubating, whether an actual child (or dreams and ideas,) sets the stage for a future birth or harvest…
In this piece I’m wishing to create a feeling of dynamic contemplation, of that place before action, where we create, fine tune and imagine our dreams into being.
I think that this introspective, before-action period is critical- most times our creations stay with us throughout our lives in one way or another.
It’s against my impulsive nature, but I’ve learned that it pays huge dividends to spend time with my imaginations before I let them trot out into the big wide world alone. What is the saying? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Harder to change things once they show up and have a life of their own. So I’m learning to …sit…still…

celebrating woman

13 Mar
aspects of woman

Marker paper with lovely rapidograph pens, (which I didn’t have to clean because I remembered to when I finished the last drawing) colored with prismacolour pencils and markers

Here is the progress on the three aspects of woman; maiden, mother and crone. ‘Wise woman’? Yeah, it nices it up , but there are days(and moods) let’s face it, when ‘crone’ is much more descriptive!  This is one of those projects which is drawing itself- Isis showed up suddenly in the fire fifth- didn’t see her coming. I intended a phoenix. I took the picture with my phone, and cut off a significant amount of the picture. This is why I draw instead of take pictures.

Suicide.

23 Feb

What do you do when a child of 14 ends her life?

What do you do as your daughter, in tears wonders and wished that she could have, might, have done something, anything, if only…if only she would have known, if they had been better friends…or what about the other kids at school, the kids that are well, different, she says kids are really mean to them. She tells me about a boy that was called horrible names that day at school.  ‘Mom?  Kids were teasing him- I could have stuck up for him…mom… I didn’t. Why didn’t I?’

My heart breaks, my heart aches for this girl that I didn’t know, breaks for her parents, for her family… they have nothing today but pain and unfathomable loss…my rage at the kids who bullied her because she was ‘different’. Really? Aren’t we all striving to be individuals? To make our mark by being different? Unique? Isn’t that a big message from our culture?

And yet, I have compassion for the pain, the suffering that these ‘bullies’ have- the no-inside, the lack of sacred space, of any kind of belief that life is precious, sacred. That they themselves are acting out of terrible pain. As my daughter points out- ‘we have all these anti-bullying talks and pep rallies. But they don’t work…’  She looks back over her brief 17 years and cites examples that she feels regret about, people that she could have been far nicer to, people she could have advocated for. I’m proud of her. I think this might be a choice point for her. For her life.

The one thing this other girl hasn’t got.

Life.

I’m angry, sad, confused.

I want to agree with my daughter, that this could have, should have been avoidable. When you think of people that die for their beliefs, I don’t typically think of 14 year old girls. But I can imagine some of those beliefs: I’m different. I don’t fit in. It isn’t worth it. Did she think any of these thoughts? I don’t know for sure.

But I am ashamed that this can, and does happen. In her obituary it states that she was a student, artist, singer, and master of the ukulele. Sounds like someone I would have liked to have known.

I have another website- The Journey. Art for Healing. www.journeyartforhealing.com It sits unattended. My husband asked me a couple weeks ago what I was doing with it. He wanted to post some picture of my art class’ artwork at Le Petit Marche where I staged a gallery display –opening and all for my class, a group of 7 – 11 year old budding artists. We had a huge turn out on opening night- much to the amazement and delight of these kids. These kids come to my house after school on Thursdays and we do art. This is the sign that is still up on the wall for that art display.

art class description.indd

 I do not want to fall into the knee-jerk reaction of “I have to DO something’. But I am already here. And I think I see a way to help. But I’d like to add practicality to my initial gut reaction.

I want to form a group. An Art for Healing group. At the high school level, where these kids need an advocate, a mentor, someone to encourage them in their uniqueness and someone to just be a friend.

As an artist, I believe that I can reach this group of kids who feel different, outside. I get them. I know what that feels like. I already teach, already had the intention of this business, Art for Healing, and now have an opportunity. Two years ago, I intentionally decided to not set up The Journey: Art for Healing as a nonprofit. But it is registered as a business.

 Where your talents and the need of the world intersect…there is your vocation.

-Aristotle

So here I am. I’d really appreciate your comments/ideas/thoughts. I honestly don’t know what this could look like, or how it will practically come about. All I know is that there is a need here. And I am here.

Sacred Ground

20 Jul

I will be at Gallery in the Garden next weekend. It’s my first outdoor show.

I’m excited about this. A lot of my friends will be there-

I have no idea what to expect.

I think I have everything I need…business cards, tent, table, all the bits and pieces that make these things come together nicely. Rob, my husband is (thankfully) the organized one and has created a great display out of our blue camping canopy. It looks very nice. I’ll get pictures…

summer.

11 Jun

My finished work! I have a great deal of my work hanging at Le Petit Marche. We had a little celebratory party on Saturday -(thank you to everyone that stopped by!) Sarah Landon sang for us with her wonderful, lilting voice- it was a fabulous evening!

And A BIG SIGH OF RELIEF – I have no more unfinished artwork. Anywhere.

I shamelessly used this show as a big incentive to finish all my unfinished works- which not surprisingly for moi – master procrastinator – amounted to quite a few pieces of work. It is sooo nice having a clean slate (and house.) Frees my mind to focus on other things, like getting into the summer schedule again, more kids, more beach, less alone time. This is a hard adjustment for me for the first couple of weeks, but then it seems to open up and my creativity returns, infused with a curious newness. Everyone settles into a comfortable routine and life carries on more or less peacefully.

We are moving too, so living among, in and out of  boxes adds an aura of temporariness. It’s a short sale, so we will find out (hopefully) any day that we are up and out. Viewing this as an adventure. Repressed excitement kinda thing. Like trying to walk normally on quicksand or thin ice.

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