Thoughts on gratitude

img_4959I am glad to be alive today.

We had Thanksgiving dinner with 15 family and friends — and since our house is tiny, we hosted it at our art gallery. What fun! It was an experience I hope everyone there remembers. Thanks everybody.

I am grateful to have had all the experiences of my life, every single moment. Even moments of despair, grief or anger. Gratitude is big enough to hold every thing. Connection. Loneliness. Delight. Full belly. Music.

It begins by being deeply present in each moment. Too often I forget to be present. Then somehow we orchestrate a day like today and I’ve made up for those times I forgot to notice the preciousness. The fleeting sweetness. My treasured family and friends. Remembering is gratitude.

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Look at all of this before us: your eyes and smiles around the table! The bounty of our beautiful earth and of our labors! The beauty and artistry on the walls, on the table, in our bodies. Take it in- the laughter and dancing and goofing and helping and eating and washing and sharing. The sharing!

Thanksgiving 2016 – post feast dancing from Maureen Shaughnessy on Vimeo.

I appreciate you all. Each one. I have no regrets for the difficulties and hard times, though I am sorry if I ever hurt you. We are who we are because of all that. We are who we are because of who loves us and who we love and who has been vulnerable with us and who we have shown our hearts to. And. What we do about it.

Gratitude demands that we do something to bring the emotion to life! That we create a ripple in the surface — simply because we are aware, thankful, changed. That we take some kind of action. So I ask myself tonight, “What do I do, to honor what I love, to advance what I value, to create more of what I long for?”

Bow deeply to the sacred in each person you meet.

Inspired by the Prayer of St. Francis

St Francis of Assisi by Nancy GoughnourAs a child, my favorite saint was St. Francis. I think one of the reasons I was so drawn to his story was his profound connection to all of creation: sun, moon, plants, rivers mountains, animals … somehow that way of living and being has always resonated with me. I continue to gain inspiration from Francis of Assisi.  This is my own version of the Prayer of St. Francis:

Creator, make me a channel of peace,
Where there is hatred, let me plant love;
When I have hurt, let me seek pardon and
Where there is hurt inside me, let me find forgiveness;
Where there is doubt, let me believe;
When I feel despair, let me seek the light;
When the night seems too long, let me remember the morning
Where there is sadness, cultivate joy.

O Loving Creator,
help me open my heart to others before I ask for help;
seek to know the world around me before I expect to be understood;
love with my whole body, heart and spirit
and in doing so, know that I will be loved
help me remember that it is in giving that we receive
it is in forgiving that we are forgiven
and it is in letting go that I am connected forever
to all of Life.

Memory

We start from a dark place before we are born,
reach for the ambiguous lightness
beyond
as if we could see through the window
into lighter places,
through a cloudy film.
It’s always there in winter, for some.

A tiny glass basket pulls me back to
childhood: its’ candy colors, stacks of rings
like playground sing-songs
memories carried as a burden or
a teaching
carried in starts and stops
like drops of water
or shards of crystal glass.

I drink it up.

— Maureen Shaughnessy

Imagined Journey

Imagined Journey by Maureen Shaughnessy

Imagined Journey ©2008 by Maureen Shaughnessy

Every journey begins with imagination. Even the journey of a life … that path we travel from conception to death, even this wandering begins with the imagination of two souls. Sometimes the imagining is born of love. Sometimes desire. Sometimes rage or passion or indifference. Always, we begin with the wanting. The wanting to be here. To go on.

Along my way there have been sidetracks, switchbacks, detours. I have strayed from the path, I have been broken, I have fallen down and thought I could not get up, could not continue. I have run out of gas, lost my mojo, stumbled in the dark.I have , at times, wandered without a map. Too proud to ask for directions. Or embarrassed. Following my nose. Or heart. Or something else: a kind of song. Ancient. Wise. Eloquent. Solemn.

And yet, my way has not been a lonely road. I have had companions. They have been my guides, the threads that held me, my constant guiding stars. Among these companions, are my soulmate and husband, Tim, my sons Mickey and Gabe, our sweet old Sam (and now that Sam is gone, our dear old Charlie.)

In my imagination, I walk the road ahead. Steadied by friendship, by love, by faith in something larger than myself. I am grateful for the blessings of my life.

I originally published this post on my old blog that I don’t update anymore, in 2008. Just decided to ressurect the photo and post because it feels true to me still. Hope you enjoy it.  ~Maureen

Kids Creativity Sesh: printmaking

Monoprint by Ema Terry

Our kids creativity seshes for the last couple of weeks were about making monoprints with some different techniques and a small tabletop press.

The first week, we made monoprint plates with drypoint etching on plexi. After learning how to ink the plates and wipe them (leaving the ink only in the scratched lines) we added other ink colors and made painterly marks in the ink layer.

Monoprint by Ema

Monoprint by Ema

When the inked plates were ready, some of us added flat objects on top, like paper cutouts and pressed leaves or flowers to create collagraphs. The objects we put on top of the inked plates, left white areas on the monoprints (see the grasses on the print below.)

Monoprint "Blue Jay 2" by Maureen

Monoprint “Blue Jay 2” by Maureen

We used really good quality cotton rag paper soaked for a few minutes in water, then pressed dry. Then we ran our printing plates through the small press with the paper on top.

Monoprint by Adia

Monoprint by Adia

Here are some of the different drypoint monoprints we made. You can see that one etching plate is used to make many different designs. That’s why they are called mono prints.

 

Okay, so the next week we made two other kinds of printing plates.

No boring stuff in these kids creativity sessions!

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This time we didn’t scratch the designs into the plates. The first type of plate we made was a collagraph printing plate. You make these by gluing different things to a heavy cardboard surface to create textures. Then we coated the plates (objects and all) with a sealer and waited for them to be totally dry. The sealer keeps the ink from soaking into the cardboard and other objects we used to create out designs. Some kids used corrugated cardboard, stencils, grid fabric and paper cutouts to cover their cardboard almost totally with textures. Other kids left a lot of empty space on their cardboard plates and just made marks on them with ink and different tools such as their fingers, cotton swabs, brushes and rags.

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Monoprint by Lily

Monoprint by Silas

Monoprint by Silas

We tried using corn meal sprinkled onto area where we had painted glue. This worked pretty well to make a very different texture. In the blue monoprint (below) made by Jasmine, you can see the cornmeal in the sky. She wanted to show flower pollen blowing in the wind. In the black and white monoprint (above) by Silas, you can see very lightly sprinkled cornmeal made a cool texture near the top of his composition.

Monoprint by Jasmine

Monoprint by Jasmine

The other kind of plate we made the second week was plexiglass with hot wax applied to it by brushing and dripping. Then we carved designs into the wax with tools. The wax was easier to draw into than last week when we had to scratch with sharp tools into the hard plexiglass. We inked up the wax plates and ran them through the press with paper. Those came out kinda cool. Here are some examples of the waxed monoprints:

We hope you enjoyed seeing the results of our hard work and fun play in Maureen’s art classes. Most of these prints will be framed and on display in October when we have our 2nd Annual Young Voices art exhibit at 1+1=1 Gallery in Helena. Watch for news about that show! We’re all excited about it.

~ The Artful Kids of Kids Creativity Seshes

Threads of Continuity

IMG_1259Every time I begin working on a new series, I have mixed feelings. Being held by what I’ve already started mixed with being impelled by what I want to do next. Melancholy mixed with excitement. Curiosity mixed with worry. Delight mixed with feeling vulnerable.  Do you ever feel that way when you start something new?

I haven’t yet exhausted my last series (The Mother Tree work) but I’m ready to keep growing and moving forward. I think to myself “I’ll go back to the Mother Tree or the Salmon Forest or the Ecology of the Unconscious.” Will I? Probably not — right now I’m exploring a new(ish) medium for me. My current mixed media pieces have a new look — still mine, but I think better. I love experimenting with materials, exploring different ways of putting marks on a surface, and new ways to express what wants to come out of me.

So, one of the questions I ask myself as I embark on a new series is, how does this have anything to do with the work I recently completed? Where is the thread of continuity between those other series and this one?  I’ve been playing with printmaking for several years (in the big picture, that’s not long at all) and have barely started incorporating collagraphs, monoprints and relief printing into my mixed media paintings. Here are a couple of pieces that have some of my prints as part of the composition:

Right now, I’m playing with a small tabletop press (wishing it were alot larger.) I’m trying out techniques that are new to me, but fit my style and objectives perfectly. Chine colle´ is a way to use some of the paper scraps — prints, studies, watercolors, paintings and collage papers I’ve saved. I’m using the old textbooks and readers that have become familiar in my artwork, incorporating childhood motifs along with fish, birds and the occasional nuclear bomb or tree. My personal vocabulary of marks and shapes continues in my new pieces — spirals, circles, spheres, peculiar cross hatching, jabs, roots, geometric shapes and voluptuous strokes. And of course, I’m always passionate about Nature and that’s prominent in my new work: leaves, branches, grasses and other botanical images; water, waves, currents, raindrops; and animals both large and microscopic.

I’m curious to see where I go. That’s a great motivator. I’ll post more when I get something I like enough to say, “This is what I’m doing for the next show.” In the meantime, it’s just a direction.

Our First Snow Changes my Palette

snow on branches

I woke up this morning to a deep quiet outside my window. The window was open a few inches (I like sleeping with cold air on my face.) Most mornings, even as late as yesterday morning, I awake to the chatter of tiny songbirds in the lilacs just outside. This morning all was silent.

Abstract

I looked up at the sky. Gray-blue. Little humps of snow covered the lilacs. Soft. Bare of leaves. And oh — the branches! The black brush stroke branches against a hundred shades of white snow!  I knew my palette was going to change overnight. Just. Like. That. At least for one or two paintings. Black and white. Simple. Distilled to the essence of pattern. Calligraphic strokes against a pale plain sky.

Body of Work

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For the last few months, I’ve been working in my studio on a new painting series with the working title, “Mother Trees.” And in the last 6 weeks or so, my work has become more and more intense. The exhibit I am preparing for opens November 20th and my work must be completed by the week before that. Ack!  Sometimes it’s just really hard to make the time to paint! 

Even though my studio is attached to 1+1=1 Gallery, I have to carve out my studio between running the gallery and mounting two exhibits, doing chores around the house, hanging out with Tim and having somewhat of a social life. I have to make painting a priority and sometimes … it just isn’t. And that’s okay.
I’m enjoying the way the season has turned this week — brilliant sunlight alternates with rainy skies and cold, dark evenings. In my studio the sun is lower through the skylight. On rainy days, I’m forced to use the overhead light. At night, I can see a few stars in the black rectangle above my work table. The colors of the season are turning up on my canvases. Darker colors– blacks, metallics, crimson, blood-red, forest greens. Richer for the changing light.
Some days the studio is quiet and I can hear the sound of rain or ravens on the skylight. Other times I listen to music. Depending on my mood it might be a soul/r&b-funk playlist or soulful cello or 10,000 Maniacs.
I’m a little melancholy. I think that has to do with the shortened days, the gathering dark. But even more — it’s sometimes the way painting makes me feel. It’s hard to explain the contradiction of feeling completely in the flow and soul-filled and satisfied, while also emotionally drained by the act of creating art. I’m working on a body of work that lives in my deep gut. It’s a story that’s part of my own story. I am full of feeling, yet I sometimes struggle to get that feeling out onto my paper or panels. Sometimes I step back and think I’ve just painted a bunch of crap. Like, who’s going to want to look at these? Or who even cares? Or I might finish a brush stroke and be reminded of some dark piece of my past and there it is again — the pull towards self-criticism. 
Other times I am delighted. And I know there are people who will come to the exhibit, who will connect with what I’m trying to express, who will find their own beautiful rich stories in the work. And be delighted in turn.
I work in many layers. I work on multiple pieces in the same day because of the drying time between layers. It’s hard to do this with interruptions, so I usually work when the gallery is closed. Yesterday I was so tired in the middle of the afternoon, I took a nap on the floor in the basement, using shipping blankets for pillows and covers.
Charlie slept beside me. So, sleep definitely helps. I went back up to the studio and worked hard. Dancing. Flow. I didn’t want to go home for dinner. 
IMG_9214-impNow I’m adding layers to the stories of forests. Of what’s beneath the soil surface, of roots and generations, of mother trees and child trees and grandmother trees. Of what First Nation people have always known that ecologists are just discovering. Of the way we are all connected. Of the way knowledge passes from one tree to another to another and how humans betray that story with our destructive ways.
Today I paint between customers. Beneath my feet Charlie lies ever watchful for me to decide to take him for a walk. 
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This afternoon we are listening to Van Morrison sing In the Garden from his album, No Guru, No Method, No Teacher. I paint inside the music. Inside the words, in the garden, I feel the presence of Nature inside my heart. I am trying to say this. I am trying. To. Say. This thing. Ignited in the daylight and the darkness and with all of Creation. In the garden.

The streets are always wet with rain
After a summer shower when I saw you standin’
Standin’ in the garden, in the garden wet with rain

You wiped the teardrops from your eye in sorrow
Yeah we watched the petals fall down to the ground
And as I sat beside you I felt the great sadness that day
In the garden

And then one day you came back home
You were a creature all in rapture
You had the key to your soul and you did open
That day you came back to the garden

The olden summer breeze was blowin’ against your face, alright
The light of God was shinin’ on your countenance divine
And you were a violet colour as you sat beside your father
And your mother in the garden

The summer breeze was blowin’ on your face
Within your violet you treasure your summery words
And as the shiver from my neck down to my spine
Ignited me in daylight and nature in the garden

And you went into a trance, your childlike vision became so fine
And we heard the bells within the church, we loved so much
And felt the presence of the youth of eternal summers in the garden

Alright, and as it touched your cheeks so lightly
Born again you were and blushed
And we touched each other lightly
And we felt the presence of the Christ
Within our hearts in the garden

And I turned to you and I said
“No guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature
And the Father in the garden”

Listen, no guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature
And the Father and the Son
And the Holy Ghost in the garden wet with rain

No guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature
And the Father and the Son
And the Holy Ghost in the garden
In the garden wet with rain

No guru, no method, no teacher
Just you and I and nature
And the Father in the garden.
~Van Morrison

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