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Listening & Grinding Halts

“Our society is almost entirely action oriented. We measure our worth based on what we’ve done, what we are doing and what we plan to accomplish. We carry appointment books, digital organizers, beepers, cell phones, and our heads are filled with the sounds of voices, music and traffic. In the whirlwind of activity that we call our lives, listening has been demoted to a passive “non activity”. Ironically, while all of this is going on, we all long to be listened to by a caring and attentive other.”

Louis Cozolino

I remember the day that I started listening to myself; the day that I assumed the role of attentive care taker for me. I smile now knowing that this also coincided with the start of what was to become life as an artist.


Truly listening to myself, I find to be a brave and courageous act. I like these words because I have heard (and felt) that true bravery does not dismiss the fear associated with the act itself. I say this because listening to myself as an attentive and loving carer often means hearing things that I truly want, believe and feel which are uncomfortable and involve actions that are a little bit scary. On any given day, a statement like Cozolinos' and even my own paragraphs above, feel even more uncomfortable in the face of personal development. For those brave enough to attentively listen to themselves during these times - I send you nothing but warmth and compassion as I understand. Brave souls!


But today Louis’s words - which I have literally just read sitting here with a cup of tea and the morning - feel more relevant this week for me with my art practice. A little story as to why ...


This week I found myself compelled to start a new collection of oil works. The subjects and compositions of this collection flew freely out of me covered in warmth, excitement and love, along with that feeling of creating something that was true, genuine and beautiful to me. As a part of this early conceptualization, I’d also clearly felt the colors associated with this body of work so I felt comfortable moving straight onto the canvas and let it all out.

The first layers of oils felt deliciously yummy and the colors and composition began to emerge as effortlessly as the idea itself did, leaving me with that same delightful feeling.


I emphasis this only because I hope by now you get the picture that I was in one of those glorious flowing creative states, because this is needed to appreciate the striking contrast of the next moment.

A grinding halt!!


Although these early moments of bliss are common in my process, as are halts of sorts when I begin to explore the painting more deeply, my halt this week felt different. More … significant and a little bit scary actually. Because this time, both the new work and my inner desire were telling me to move into a whole new style for painting from how I usually paint these types of works.

My first instinct on realizing this was, "NO! That can’t be! Try a second painting."


So, I brought a second of the six paintings that I’d sketched onto the canvas, began the under painting, felt the magical dance of creation and boom … the same grinding halt emerged again.


You’d think by this point that I had the common sense to just accept a stylistic change. But listening to myself (and the paintings) on this subject had consequences. It would be very different from my other paintings. What will my customers think? I hear that people are really drawn to my other style! What if I can’t pull it off the way that I feel it?... And so the list rolled on. Naturally, listening to these fearful thoughts made me arrive at the conclusion that what I was hearing was wrong and just a whimsical and momentary notion. I walked away on Wednesday deciding that proceeding with the paintings as I normally would, was best.

So that’s exactly what I attempted to do yesterday … attempted because it was unsuccessful. I would love to blame this on lack of artistic control (that every growing skill we artists seek to master) - but I'm afraid at this stage of the process it was because by the end of my painting session, I could still intensely feel and hear the same desire inside of me to make this work differently. Evening though my head could see a classical, typical of Charlotte Marie moody figurative piece, my heart saw this vibrant, fluid and slightly abstract figurative piece.

So who do I listen to? Head? Heart? A combination?


It's Friday morning, and I'm sitting here still undecided. But that's okay. Because as the attentive carer inside of myself says ... maybe I need a little more time to truly understand what I'm saying and why im saying it. So I simply plan on spending the weekend really listening to what I have to say. But don't worry, I'll let you know where I land when I get there.


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