How did such a happy, vibrant color end up being the way people describe sadness, as in, “I’m feeling so blue”? For me, blue is peace, calm, cool, heaven, sky, ocean. Blue makes green possible (with the help of yellow). Blue is mystical, a little mysterious, dynamic and makes purple possible (yes, with the help of red). I can never stop loving every subtle shade of blue from cobalt to “Robin’s Egg”–I even love the names of the shades of blue people have given over time. Blue gives me synesthesia sensations, such as, for me the number 5 is blue. It is the color blue in my mind. It triggers the masculine animus within–bold, confident, intelligent yet it triggers the feminine, too–receptive, creative, imaginative. Another synesthesia experience I have though is when I see written, or say the word, “azure” I see the color red in many shades–the word “azure” itself is red to me for some reason, even though it represents a dashing and stunning shade of blue). Blue and getting the blues—maybe ideally blue connects us to a point of spiritual arrival within, and when we feel “blue” we are saying we long for that return to completion, to feeling whole and as though we are where we need to be.
This is one of my sketchbook entries from 1989, when I was teaching at The Paideia School in Atlanta, GA. (a most fantastic progressive, independent school ). I was concerned about a young student who was having a hard time getting going in his creative writing and drawing assignment. Even way, way back then, I was trying to pass on the power of mark-making–drawing as a way to thrive, and it was simple: drawing freely helps break barriers to the self, opens the creative, imaginative flow and unlocks all the potential for discovery, exploration and learning. I know from experience that if this student, Michael, and so many others, did not have that time to create while being relaxed, mindful (that meditative state of the feeling of happy fullness and wellbeing) they would not have blossomed so well as they did. Drawing in an environment that is accepting, enlightening and embraces potential (the unexpected and the innovative) changes young lives.
Now and then, I love to feature the work of other artists and I’m so happy to do that today. In Atlanta, an Uber driver turned out to be the coolest person! We talked and I felt she had a spirit so full of life and promise. She is utterly beautiful, strong and insightful. Hiydaayah Williams, a former college basketball player, has many talents. As she moves forward choosing amongst those to cultivate, one of the things she does is photography.
Of this image, Hiydaayah says, “When I can’t express what I really feel, I practice what I can express, and none of it is equal.” –NG
Hiydaayah’s practice of photography is taking off, and I’m sharing this photograph of hers (which I love for it’s charcoal wintery feel, mixed with a sense of anticipation and a kind of Egyptian magic, the way the building’s windows create a striped motif). You can reach Hiydaayah for photographic work @ 404-518-0362.
Detail of one of my recent paintings Elaine Clayton copyright 2015
Snow changes the acoustics, making a sanctuary of the surroundings. There is a hushed, majestic quality. As I stand on the snow, there is something present within it, spiritually intrinsic and obvious to me–it is an extraordinary something– might be that each flash of light from each crystal snowflake (though we cannot see that beauty without a microscope) reaches the psyche, the heart in winter. After snow has been on the ground for many weeks or months, there is a formidable sense of endurance that comes with each step taken across the cool whiteness. Wanting the bitter cold to subside, the shadows across snowy mounds that have known us for a while whisper that Spring is not too far away.
Detail of a recent painting series Midrash Painting: Eve’s Dreams
Often, memories of the past surface; small or quick scenes of all kinds of past events or experiences flash into the mind’s eye (accompanied with a lot of emotion, too, if we notice). A fun thing to do is to try to flash on future events–it is a mind game in a way, of course, because the future has not happened yet and therefore we have no knowledge of it stored in the subconscious. But what if it were possible to see the future in flickers of awareness just as it is possible to experience the past? It too, is no more–only an illusion. All we have is “now”, but if you feel like seeing yourself in new ways, if you have wishes or dreams you’d like to realize, why not picture them into being? There are all kinds of dreams: dreams we have when we sleep, where we process all we have unconsciously absorbed and dreams that are day dreams, where we imagine what might be.
“Eve in a Shift Dress”, from my new series, Painting Midrash: Eve’s Dreams
This weekend at Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport, CT, we are having an art show. Tomorrow we have a reception and conversation with the artists, if you’re local, please come by around 4:30! Tonight is a Shabbat dinner with special guest, Bella Meyer, the granddaughter of Marc Chagall, one of my absolute favorite artists. I am thrilled about it.
I have been working on a series, Painting Midrash: Eve’s Dreams. Dreams and intuitive sensing are such major themes in my life, and I have been learning to chant Jacob’s Ladder in Hebrew. It got me wondering what about the dreams of women, and are there any in Torah? I imagined the first woman, Eve, and thought about what her dreams would be. I had a sudden realization that her dreams are the same as ours: longing for Paradise. We long for something we cannot quite capture, or we do in glimpses, but there is always “trouble in Paradise” in one way or another. We live in a world of shadows and light, it is not perfect, it can be very painful. These paintings in this series represent that longing for harmony, self fulfillment, love and bliss in general, or even just basic safety and comfort.
Daydreams–I think they make the world go ’round, or at least the daydreamer seems to notice the world in a way that being “on task” can block–we are so on task, we forget to sense, to truly see and feel. Stream drawing is one way to slip into your zone of creative, intuitive and empathic sensing. It’s an expressive, active way of “being still” rather than passively waiting for the beingness or stillness to arrive. Daydreams come and go, ideas, thoughts and feelings surface, all while you’re drawing as long as you draw with complete freedom and playfulness. Looking out the window and seeing the shapes and lines in the trees, sensing the mood in the light are also transportive and I think some of the best things happen when we daydream. It is a form of learning, one we don’t nurture in each other very much because we are conditioned to be more “useful”. At least if you’re daydreaming while drawing, you’ll be doing something. Not only the practice of drawing but the impact a simple act can have on our world strikes us all as very evident after the recent massacre of artists in Paris. Stream drawing does not require you, however, to do or be anything but just yourself, in that inner-realm place where the essence of the real you thrives. There are powerfully positive effects stream drawing can have on us. Draw for your sense of peace and creative sprightliness, and know that it is indeed a very, very powerful practice to do so, often in ways that will heal us and delightfully surprise us.
It may be cliche, but it is still true. Butterflies symbolize transformation and remind me of our own necessary transformations through the many stages of life. Even the phases of life we do not wish to change, and the times we cry out for change that will not come. All things do evolve, alter or transform in our material world in time. Change is inevitable, we may as well try to get through it and/or create it the way we would like it to be, as best we can.
A friend of mine recently witnessed several butterflies coming out of the chrysalis they inhabited, there were several all around the area where she lives. That is something I have not yet seen in nature, the butterfly emerging, letting it’s wings dry and then fluttering away. They seem so delicate, yet manage to travel great distances (at least the Monarch does). Like us, I suppose. Maybe someone is watching us transform with the same kind of mesmerized joy, rooting us on as we emerge, anew!
Wishing you the best transformations for 2015!
A recent Spirit Painting Elaine Clayton copyright 2014
It is such a privilege to create these paintings for individuals, because going into meditation and painting for an another person (most of whom I have never met or spoken with) with their wellbeing and soul purpose held in my heart, makes me feel connected to something eternal. I feel sort of pulled in a certain direction as images arrive, kind of like going on an excursion without a map but sensing and feeling my way. No two are the same, of course, as each one of us are unique. Somehow, someway, the paintings and the images they depict connect to the individual’s life or hold meaning for them, it is uncanny. I can’t explain it, I just thoroughly enjoy it. There is something great going on here with life, we’re connected in mysterious ways. No matter how hard life can be, there is a stream within each of us that gives us a knowing and a feeling for others, all we have to do is be willing to “go with the flow” as they say, and we find ourselves in anyone we encounter. We find life, longing, loving, joys and sorrows. These paintings remind me to celebrate others and to remember we are One in that we are made in God’s image as powerful creators.
Pomegranates Picking/ ink and watercolor Elaine Clayton copyright 2014
I remember the era of life when I realized that I was not happy and did not have abundance and it was time to choose to change that. Every moment is one to see the love or see the shadows, see the light or get lost in the dark. I don’t always see the love, I am not always bringing love through myself, but for the most part, I learned the hard way to bask in joy instead of cynicism, anger or negative thoughts. I regret negative words I’ve said in my life, and I still work on this, I think being conscious of it has helped me grow.
Sometimes the world we’re in is so polarized, it seems hell-bent toward destruction. How do I keep positive with so much hatred and extremism? I am not sure, but it really is the only choice I have, I’m not going back to choosing (unconsciously or consciously) shadows and darkness. Maimonides taught that the joys we pass up on in life, the good things we could have received but said no to, those are all instances we will have to apologize for in the after-life. Imagine standing in the presence of God, watching a movie of your life, seeing all the negative words, choices and the good things that flowed to us that we rejected. I know I’ll be having to witness some of those, and probably some great stuff that was coming my way that my negative attitude or actions may have kept from coming fully to me–these are all my responsibility. So, I hope I get to see a life-movie that shows some absolutely glorious days of taking this earth time I’ve got, moment by moment, and being filled with LIGHT, in celebration of the good in life, even in these strange, often painful days.