A post with no name

I’ve been doing a lot of this lately:

no name post
“The Thinker”, August Rodin, bronze.

If you’ve been reading us for awhile, you know that Laura and I trade off weeks to blog. She needed some time off, so we just posted an old blog last week, which meant this week was my turn. I’d love to tell you that I just sit down one afternoon and dash a few lines down on paper and voila = a new blog post. Sadly, that is not how it usually goes.

I do tried to plan in advance some topics for future posts, I keep a list when ideas strike me. Then the week of writing, I like to jot down an idea, maybe a title on Monday. I do a little research, find some photos to feature, some links to include, sometimes even little outline. I generally block out Tuesday afternoons to write. That way on Wednesday, I can read over it, make some edits and get it all set to post on Thursday morning. But this week my ideas looked a bit like this:

no name post
Robert Rauschenberg, White Painting [three panel], 1951; latex paint on canvas, 72 in. x 108 in. (182.88 cm x 274.32 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis; © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Tuesday, nothing. Wednesday, nothing…..I did for a brief moment, consider doing my own “invisible art” and posting a blank page. You can write your own post! I was concerned that might not be so well received……

The reality is that the creative process takes time. When Laura goes into her studio to paint, a masterpiece doesn’t suddenly appear on the page. There are workshops on techniques, sketches, photographs, color studies. Sometimes, paint even gets scraped off the canvas and the work is begun anew.

Writing for me is a bit like that – I’ve studied, participated in workshops, read articles and sometimes, I start a post and don’t finish it. I might come back to it, I might just hit the delete button and begin again.

No post to write

So what’s a writer to do when she has nothing to write? I don’t know…when I figure that out, I’ll be sure to write a post on it! In the meantime, I’ll wax on about my own creative process and hopefully bring some beauty and encouragement to you.

Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. I really didn’t want to have to post a new blog this week because the writing just wasn’t coming together. But Laura challenged me that maybe that is exactly what I could write about. I’m an organized person. I have a plan and I love it when the plan comes together.

Life is often not so well organized. The dots don’t get connected, sickness intervenes, death disrupts, joy sidetracks and the plan is scrapped and the journey takes a new direction. Maybe the plan isn’t the point. Maybe the Planner is (not the planner – those very disruptions show that I’m not ultimately in charge of my plan). I am often slow to learn. Perhaps now is not the time to force the creative process. Maybe now is the time to just be.

I have no amazing title, no carefully crafted phrases for SEO (search engine optimization), no fabulous wrap up and call to action. I’m going to fix myself a cup of coffee and go for a walk, or maybe I’ll read a good book. The next post will come in time.

no name post
“The Path at La Cavee Pourville”, Claude Monet, oil.

Give a man a fish….paint a man a fish?

There’s an oft-quoted saying that says “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” But what happens if you paint a man a fish?

My daughters attend a classical school where we talk a lot about Truth, Goodness and Beauty. So when Christmas rolls around and I’m thinking about teacher gifts, I try to think along those lines. Food, candles, and lotion seem to be hot teacher gifts every year, and this year I wanted to think “outside the box” and look for gifts that were true, good and beautiful.

My oldest daughter is in fourth grade and this year in science, they are studying sea creatures. Laura’s first acrylic painting was a jellyfish.

© Laura Gabel, “Jellyfish Dance”. Acrylic on canvas, 13.5 x 16.5. Private collection.
© Laura Gabel, “Jellyfish Dance”. Acrylic on canvas, 13.5 x 16.5. Private collection.

I thought it would be fantastic if we were able to purchase that painting for her teacher. I first spoke with my daughter to see if she liked the idea. She was exuberant in her approval. So we contacted the other parents, who were also enthusiastic and quickly donated towards the purchase.

We were all amazed when Laura surprised us by painting a companion painting to our jellyfish. This incredible Austin Blue Crab:

© Laura Gabel, “Austin Blue Crab”. Acrylic on canvas, 13.5 x 16.5. Private collection.
© Laura Gabel, “Austin Blue Crab”. Acrylic on canvas, 13.5 x 16.5. Private collection.

When the paintings arrived, I contacted the parents and we arranged a private art viewing from the back of my car after school one afternoon. It was difficult to tell who was more excited – the parents or the students. I spoke with our art teacher, who has guest blogged for us previously, and she agreed to take some time during the students’s art class to allow the students to sign the backs of the paintings for their teacher. They were thrilled!

give a fish

Finally, the last day of school before Christmas arrived. When I walked in the classroom during the party with a large wrapped present, the students all started jumping up and down in excitement and grabbed their teacher to open the present. They crowded around her so much that it was difficult to get a picture. She was astounded at the gift.

give a fish

The students are so proud our “their” paintings and take great pride in having real art, real personal art in their classroom. Not only do they have something beautiful adorning their classroom, they have a visual representation of the truth of what they are studying in science, and they experience the joy of giving a good gift to their teacher.

paint a fish

What will you give?

I know we are past the gift giving season of the year. How many of us received gifts that were true, good and beautiful? How many of us gave such gifts? Or did we, on occasion, buy a gift because we felt “obligated” or we rushed and grabbed something that was just available in our budget? Did you receive gifts that felt a bit like the giver didn’t really put much effort into the gift?

Let me encourage you to think about truth, goodness and beauty when you give a gift. Give some art! Yes, it can be expensive; can you perhaps give a group gift? What about you and your siblings getting a portrait of the grandchildren painted for your parents?

Let’s give gifts that nourish both the giver and the receiver. Painting a fish may not feed the stomach of my daughter’s teacher, but it is feeding her mind and soul for a lifetime. And her students will be fed as well.

Mindless Scratching

It’s tempting to scratch that itch, isn’t it? What’s more tempting is to keep scratching that itch over and over again, as if it’s going to make it better. In fact, it makes it worse. In my family we call that “picking” at something, which generally leads to an open scab or sore.

At this point you may be thinking that this doesn’t sound like your typical New Year’s resolution blog. It isn’t. But I think it will motivate you none the less.

If you’ve ever watched free range chickens, you may have noticed that they keep their heads down for the most part, looking and foraging for food. In many cases they keep trotting with their heads down, pecking away.

chicken scratch

If you are not familiar with chicken behavior, take a quick look here.

They don’t even look where they are going. Their pecking could lead them right up to the base of the Empire State building as long as a trail of chicken scratch led them to it!

So what is chicken scratch and what does that have to do with you, me and 2017? Ok, scratch is a mix of cracked grains. It usually consists of wheat, corn, oats, sunflower seeds, millet. etc. It is NOT complete nutrition. 

So basically chicken scratch is not all that good for chickens, but they like it. I can tell you they love it and would keep eating all day if we threw it out there all day. It keeps them busy and in motion.

Are you eating chicken scratch?

Chicken scratch comes in many forms for humans: 

  • Worry is tasty treat for all of us; yet has no nutritional value for our minds.
  • Busyness keeps us running in circles, thinking that activity is accomplishment.
  • Pecking, poking and chattering about others deflects the need to work on our own issues.

My latest pallet knife painting “Mad Max with Poppies” encourages us to look at these things with a careful eye:

© Laura Gabel, “Mad Max with Poppies”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. $75.
© Laura Gabel, “Mad Max with Poppies”. Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10. $75.

So what “human chicken scratch” did you entertain last year? I encourage you to write down one area that:

  • Is mindless, but makes you feel better. You love it.
  • Often keeps you busy but isn’t good for you. You love it and hate it.
  • Leads you in circles, keeping you from God’s desire for you.

For me the most damaging thing about “human chicken scratch” is it keeps my head down. It keeps me in the world racing in circles. I don’t have the perspective that God wants me to have. I am learning to step away from my “tasty treats” and frame a new life that keeps me looking up! Framing things God’s way makes things look and work better!  “…while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 NKJV

chicken scratch

So for 2017, I hope you’ll join me in not living like a foolish chicken!

chicken scratch
photo credit www.crossrivermedia.com