Category Archives: Paintings

Decorative Arts

img_4527
Hand-painted knobs

I haven’t posted anything in a long while.  Its been a very busy summer. I will be adding a gallery page to my website for decorative arts.  Featured here are examples of recent work along these lines.

I have worked in decorative arts, handcrafts, and fine art my entire life.  I love the variety this affords me and the opportunity to bring beauty to functional pieces.

I work on commission and can ship anywhere in the US.

W is for Wild

Solar Wind copyright Debra Myers Woodward
Solar Wind
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

There has always been a place in my heart for this word, Wild. I don’t really understand its full meaning or resonance, but it definitely evokes something in me that is primal and vital.

Its not about acting wild. It doesn’t have to do with physicality either.  It’s more of an honoring of the Source of my existence and living out from that with freedom.

If instead we choose to follow a broad path of acquiescence to societal norms and expectations, we may find that our spirit gets tamped down, caged and eventually withers us from the inside out.

We have all seen these withered people. Some are angry all the time (and rightly so). Others are despondent and depressed. And still others drink or drug their anxiety into numbness and oblivion (even prescribed medication can be a form of numbing because we refuse to acknowledge the real source of our ailment.) And we may recognize the withered one in ourselves.

I remember when the Dallas Zoo had all their big cats in small cages (some still are, I think.)  Their life span at that time was 3 years!  Ours might last a little longer because we let our anxiety seep out or drug it.  But its worth noting that we can’t keep our true wildness caged for too long, or we will wither and die as well.

As for how to go about truly honoring what is inside, I can only suggest that we each find stillness and listen to the voice within.  That voice is God, the Wild Original, and is calling to us always.  The path to our expression of it is our own and will be like no one else’s, although we will find encouragement and camaraderie by others who have the courage to venture toward their wildness as well.

Today is a good day to begin or renew the journey.

U is for Unknown

Garden Nebula copyright Debra Myers Woodward
Garden Nebula
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

I like the writings of Pema Chodron.  She taught me how to stop judging others, to just allow people to make mistakes and be human. And she taught me how to be with myself without judging too. This has been particularly helpful.

One of the concepts she teaches about is groundlessness–another word for the unknown.  Many spiritual teachers encourage their students to relax with what is unknown, to stop trying to outline or control the future, to stop pushing away what we are uncomfortable with, and to stay.  After years of practice, I can say that this has been one of the best lessons for me to learn–stillness.

When we are faced with things we can’t control, when faced with the unknown, we often grope for something familiar, something to hold onto to steady us.  And usually, we end up doing the same things over and over and over again. We react in predictable ways. We run away,  we numb ourselves with addictive substances (alcohol, drugs, sex, food, tv, Facebook), we shut down, or we act out (anger, temper tantrums, depression, tears, sarcasm).  No matter how you slice it, it ain’t pretty.

But learning to sit with the discomfort and just to stay, even to move in closer to learn what it is really about, is to learn to be still.  And when we are still, we can see things more clearly than ever before. What seemed so terrifyingly unknown is actually very simple. We may not know what the next moment will bring, but it doesn’t matter, because we aren’t afraid to sit with it. Whether it is light or dark, we know we won’t run. Because we have learned to be still, we aren’t afraid of our reactions.  Even if we choose to react, we soon see it in the reflection of stillness.

Then the unknown becomes a friend and an adventure. Everything is an opportunity to learn more about this amazing Life and our place in it.

T is for Tests

Energy River copyright Debra Myers Woodward
Energy River
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

I have often lamented the battery of standardized tests that my kids have to take every Spring. It isn’t given just to score how well the school is teaching children in my state, it determines whether they can move up to the next grade level. I find it tantamount to treason (and 2 more T words!)

In life though, as we learn new concepts, we are often put to the test. The situation comes up once again, suspiciously similar to the last one that “taught us a lesson.”  And we have the opportunity to put our new-found knowledge to use. Or not.

If not, we can be assured that it will come up again…and again….and again.  Life is very thorough in that way. We will get to keep repeating this grade level until we pass the test. Then we are given more to handle.

I have thought about this in terms of career and relationships and other life responsibilities.  Like many people, I would love a successful career. But have I demonstrated that I can handle the one I have yet?  And I realize I have no idea how I would handle a lot of clients or customers or commissions. I don’t know how to do large-scale business deals. These things I am not even prepared to approach!

Its been a great thing to notice this so that I can watch for what lessons I am learning and what tests I am being given. And great incentive not to fall back on the old ways of doing things but to take what I learn and use it.

P is for Purpose

"The Deep within" copyright Debra Myers Woodward
“The Deep within”
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

I know we hear a lot about purpose these days. We hear that we are supposed to have a purpose, that we need to find our purpose, that we need to live out from our purpose.

I was recently listening to Byron Katie on YouTube talk about purpose. She took it down to the basics.  Her purpose was to sit in that chair in that moment, to breathe, to move her hand in just that way.  This could seem simplistic, but what I came away with is that our purpose is to be in the moment!

Can I live out from this moment and “move at the impulse of Thy Love,” as an old church hymn goes.  Can I take this day as it comes? Can I listen and do what comes to me to do without argument? without resistance? without complaint?

“Do the dishes.” Move to the sink and begin washing the dishes. “Wash the dog.” Gather the towels, soap and take poor pup to the patio.  These are the instructions we hear in our thoughts, not what comes from another person.  They might also tell us to rest, or run, or work, or play.  Instead of justifying our taking a rest and complaining that we have to help someone, lets be with our purpose to live this moment however it comes to us to live it. Own it!

 

O is for Octopus

"Moon-age Dreaming" copyright Debra Myers Woodward
“Moon-age Dreaming”
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

I recently had a dream about going on a train or subway with my son. We had an octopus that we had to put in a plastic box.  It filled the box as we put the lid on.

I have a book on Native American animal imagery and meanings they have for different animals.  Unfortunately, octopus wasn’t included, so I did what any modern-day inquisitor does, I googled it.

It isn’t so hard to discover what associations octopi are likely to yield: creativity, ingenuity, intelligence.  Have you watched videos of their amazing escapes? I read just the other day of an octopus named Inky escaping from the National Aquarium of New Zealand. Now that  requires ingenuity! Swim free Inky!

But this got me to thinking about my dream. Have I boxed in my creativity, my ingenuity and intelligence. I could answer yes, definitely so. I am just beginning to write again, thanks to this April A-to-Z challenge. But I go long stretches without painting. And not because I don’t have ideas!

So one of my intentions this week is to make room for painting.  Are there things you haven’t made time for that you know would be good for you?  Its never too late to create a space of even 10 minutes a day to cherish your well-being by doing what you love. Maybe this small opening will lead to the freedom of the ocean like it did for Inky.

M is for Mess-making

In the studio copyright Debra Myers Woodward
In the studio
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

As an artist, there are many ways to go about painting a painting or creating a sculpture or building a pot, but almost all of them involve the willingness to make a mess.  Even if the process is a fairly neat one like drawing, there is a certain amount of messiness to the process, even if its just in the process of going from idea to finished product.

Life is often messy as well.  And like many if not most people, I tend to think that messes are “bad” and clean and orderly is “good.”  But putting those judgments on any given moment in a process is really self-defeating.  If I am not willing to go through messy to get to a fully realized state, whether talking about art or life, then I will often be frustrated and stressed about what things look like. And then resistance shows up. Creativity does not thrive in this environment.

So I am trying to embrace messiness as just a snapshot in time.  Its merely a stage, not a state of being–a stage that comes around again and again and again.  And in making art, like living life, messiness is necessary.  The more we embrace the process, the more we will stay centered and strong through it. We can even celebrate that we are moving forward and stepping into unknown territory (as if we have a choice!)

Each day is new. We have never done this day before, so there is always a possibility of a mess. Lets try on this idea of accepting it and seeing it as part of our journey to peace with ourselves.

H is for Hallelujah

River series, Autumn NFS Pastel on paper and canvas
River series, Autumn
NFS
Pastel on paper and canvas 30″x40″

When I first heard Jeff Buckley singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, I was so moved tears ran down my face.  He captures such depth and broken-heartedness. His voice, so intimate and personal, gently floats along like a slow-moving wide river carrying all who listen along with him.  It is a slow dance; a gentle rain on tender shoots of grass. He finishes the ballad by holding an impossibly long note, which you will try to hold too the second or third time around.

And having written the above, I found it interesting to go looking for his life story a bit. I knew he died young, but I didn’t know that he drowned in the Mississippi River near Nashville while swimming alone at night.  For several years I lived near the Mississippi River, and it was this very river I was thinking of as I wrote the first paragraph.  Its interesting to me how writing, like life, knows its way and shares it’s wisdom so generously without our even asking.

Hallelujah, indeed.

To listen to Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah, go here.

Note: The above pastel painting was made during the time I lived near the Mississippi near St. Louis just as the water started to recede from the annual flooding.  The small house is on one of the islands. The stacks in the background have been taken down and replaced with a larger single stack for the electric plant that provides for the communities surrounding it.

E is for Elephants

Song of the elephantsThis is one of my favorite animals. I find something so healing and comforting about their large lumbering bodies and soft eyes. They seem to be the definition of peace and steadfastness. It saddens me greatly that they are being poached in such huge numbers and that we may live to see the last of the wild elephants.

I remember reading about elephants on a website devoted to animal communication. I learned that elephants have been found to have very low frequency communication which they “listen” to through their feet and trunks. (Read more about this at NatGeo here.) They also are known to have ancient migratory routes that they travel regardless of fences or other barriers which they may trample rather than walk around.  The explanation by Anna Breytenbach, a well-known animal communicator was that they are singing the earth into balance, along with their counterparts in the ocean, whales.

There is obvious intelligence and emotion in these animals as evidenced in their behavior noted in many articles. Here is one and another. And as the largest mammals on land, there is a compelling reason to protect their place on earth whether you believe they sing the earth into balance or not.

And me, being me, I sometimes sit and contemplate what would it sound like if I were to sing the earth into balance? What might my song be?

D is for Dragons

Lace-wing LandscapeDo you know how sometimes there are things in life that you just don’t want to deal with?  It might be a difficult relationship, or knotty problem, or even a important thing like your health?  It’s too … something… too scary? too uncertain? too hard to deal with, so you don’t.  You just keep pushing the thought of it away, because whenever it comes up, DRAGONS.  That’s what it feels like. Fire-breathing dragons.

My dragon has been the thought of getting a regular full-time job. I’ve worked part-time jobs over the years, and I have sold art, writing, and other things along the way (candles, anyone?) But the whole 9 to 5 thing really has me  flustered.

This morning I took a closer look at why that was so scary to me. And it was clear that I was holding the image of my former full-time jobs from over 20 years ago–sitting at a desk all day, waiting for the weekends, dealing with back and shoulder pain and bosses’ expectations. Or on the flip-side, working in retail or food on my feet all day.

And it hit me. Even though over 20 years has passed, I still believe that all full-time jobs (that I might be able to get) are like that. Talk about being stuck looking in the rearview mirror! Who’s driving the car?!

If we are going to move forward, we really need to look where we are going, and spend much less time looking in the rearview mirror.  It’s helpful to glance back there from time to time, but if we stay focused there, we have to stop the car or have a wreck.

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s around the bend. Can you identify areas in your life where you are focused on the dragons in your past?  Take a look more closely, maybe the fire is just all smoke and mirrors.