Category Archives: emptiness

The Big Squeeze

A windfall

More and more, I am becoming a fan of our shared humanity. The unpredictability of it all. The shadows behind every facade of perfection. The embarrassing truth.

In the beginning of August 2014, I was the recipient of a windfall. An opportunity to make art for a year. This was the first time since art school in 2003, that I have had a chance like this, to delve into art making with some real time. In my own art space, to boot.

Expectations soared, of course. After all, isn’t it the epitome of happiness, to be able to make art, almost full time? (I can hear the universe giggling in the background, while writing this.)

The work of an artist

What I had conveniently forgotten, of course, is the true work of an artist. To feel everything, experience all nuances of what is happening, to knock on inner doors or knock them down and drink deeply of the cup of life. Then, make art about it.

The Big Squeeze, water color 21x29,5cm, 2014 by Marie D. Tiger.
The Big Squeeze, water color 21×29,5cm, 2014 by Marie D. Tiger.

So, instead of feeling happy, suitably grateful, productive and inspired, I found myself resistant, edgy and defensive much more of the time than I thought proper.

All of my ideals of making art, all of the uplifted expectations of the artist’s life crashed head on with the raw loneliness of the studio, the reality of putting paint on canvas in a suffering world. To make art, instead of having a “real job”. There is a reason why we avoid empty space and big reaches of time. It all opens up the door to the question: Why am I here? Does anything I do matter? At all?

I asked myself repeatedly: If I feel like this while making art, what’s the point?

Vision rubbing against reality

What I’m coming to realize – excruciatingly slowly, again and again – is that there is no “there”. No perfection, no people who always succeed, no teachers who always walk their talk, no impeccable work communities, nothing finished. It makes me gag with disappointment, because the mixture of light and dark is so heady, hard to comprehend. But there is some relief, as well. Nothing has gone wrong. I can stay in this discomfort, aware of the temptation to seek solid ground and just hang out with the raw and tender moment.

It is the only place I can arrive at, is this moment. This is where my vision rubs against the reality of what is happening in me and around me. The big squeeze.

Work in progress, Celebrating Myself Home, 100x150cm, mixed media on canvas, 2014, by Marie D. Tiger.
Work in progress, Celebrating Myself Home, 100x150cm, mixed media on canvas, 2014, by Marie D. Tiger.

Onward.

Where do your ideals rub against the reality of what is happening in your everyday life?

 

You Do Not Need to Justify Your Creating

I was out meeting my accountant today. Things are moving in my company and we were crunching the numbers to see  how everything adds up. My book keeper is gentle as a doe, yet I walked away from my encounter both weary and overwhelmed. The urge to make art, create, move hearts and energy, transform creative blocks with freedom and exuberance seems to mix poorly with numbers.

Somewhat later, I talked to a friend. She asked me:

“What would you and your family look like, if you hadn’t been making art all of these years”?

This image immediately popped to mind. My parallel future self, without the presence of transformative art making, would be an obese therapist, listening to everyone else instead of creating herself.

Fat therapist - parallel future self. In the thought book, by Marie D. Tiger
Fat therapist – parallel future self. In the thought book, by Marie D. Tiger

Images of my husband working full time at some nameless company (because when you don’t have time for your art, giving it to someone else becomes verrrry hard), imbalances in my relationships with the kids, all the shopping I would do to make up for the lack of direct creativity flashed through my mind. Then I remembered.

Some years ago I was studying expressive art therapy. During those studies we were required to engage in therapy of our own. At one moment there, painting a sky big and blue, talking to the therapist, I had the clearest flash of insight; studying expressive art therapy was the perfect compromise for the little girl caught in between mommy’s and daddy’s wishes for me. An academic  degree (Dad) that incorporated the arts (Mom).

That moment and insight was a crossroad. I left my therapy studies (for the second time) and went on to pursue art making, for real.

That choice. Making art every day. Has transformed my life experience.

I’ve learned to stand and contain chaos, to let completely opposite feelings or concepts play with each other in the same space. Art has taught me to start where I am and say yes to whatever is born. Creating every day has taught me to trust the void of not knowing, lean into beliefs of uselessness and open up to uncertainty.

Without art my life would be more rational and controlled. And less alive.

It's not a numbers game, in the thought book 2014, by Marie D. Tiger.
It’s not a numbers game – it never was, in the thought book 2014, by Marie D. Tiger.

If you would create something, just for you, today. What would it be? [mental note: the more useless, the better. You do not need to justify creating.]

 

 

 

 

 

Endings and Standing Strong in Emptiness

Endings need time, 29.7 x 21.0 cm drawing, by marie D. Tiger.
Endings need time, 29.7 x 21.0 cm drawing, by Marie D. Tiger.

This June my first ever one year art workshop at my Alma Mater, Inartes ended. It was an amazing process and privilege to be able to support thirteen individuals in coming closer to their artistic core. Rarely have I felt so exactly in the right place while in the presence of other people. The response was amazing.

After the workshop, I walked slowly to the metro, feeling myself arrive at  a huge emptiness. Usually I would have distracted myself, because I dread, loathe and abhor the experience of vacuousness. But, having just heard from my students that I shy away from nothing, no matter how hard, I felt obligated to stay true to myself and hold the same free space for myself.

So I sat there, on the echoing metro station, breathing in wave after wave of harrowing chasms.

Until I felt like giggling. Unpleasant? Definitely. But worse than

childbirth, being a mother each and every day, abandonment, daring to confess my love to the Engineer, overcoming depression, being broke etc ?

I think not.

Just another thing to breathe through.

If you would allow yourself to just feel empty, right now,

and now

and also this breath

and this one

what might you find, on the other side?

 

You can buy the turtle drawing as prints and as cards. 🙂

 

 

Trusting the Process in Summerland

At the studio.
Hello emptiness. At the studio.

For about eight years, every work day in my life, every moment on my own, has been framed by the needs of my children and family.

This summer the boundaries of this framework are wider than every before. While the beaches are filling up with roasting people, our parallel insight stages of our creative processes have  given rise to a new rhythm. One day with the kids, one day at the studio, one day with the whole family. Rinse and repeat.

And I am so grateful for the unyielding restrictions that have surrounded me until now. All this space is pretty terrifying. The need to fill it up with distractions is palpable.

Until I remember,

I don’t need to do anything.

It’s okay to walk from tea cup to tea kettle.

Pour tea.

Sit down.

Breathe.

Listen to silence. Wiggle my toes. Eat a pistachio nut.

Feel my skin.

Breathe.

Surrender to art. Marker drawing 29x cm. By Marie D. Tiger.
Surrender to art. Marker drawing 29,7 x 21,0 cm. By Marie D. Tiger.

The impulse that leads me to the next step in the body of work before me always comes. The emptiness is like cold water that I dive into, head first and the initial shock jars me to my bones. No matter.

Trust the process.

What helps you trust the process today?

Edited to add John Cleese’s brilliant speech about creativity, here. Giggles.

The drawing Surrender to Art can be bought as prints and as cards and posters.