The Ebenezer Stone

The Ebenezer Stone

The Ebenezer Stone

Did Charles Dickens have a deeper meaning in mind when he named his iconic character “Ebenezer” Scrooge?  Its a topic that had never occurred to me until I heard the literal translation of the name, Ebenezer, which is “Stone of Help.”

It was the name given to a stone that was erected after a battle to humble and remind the victors that the help they received was supernatural. It was not by their own hand that they were victorious over a particularly brutal enemy who had waged war on them for years. It was by a power much greater than their own that supplied the vital help that resulted in the final victory. This stone, the Ebenezer, will forever be in this spot as a reminder. We all have our battles and we can all have our own Ebenezer stones. This is mine. It is alabaster from a Colorado quarry.

In working this stone, I preferred using hand tools instead of power tools because of the tactile nature of alabaster.  Many people make beautiful sculptures of alabaster into a variety of wonderful things.  For me, the stone has its own beauty.  I use hammer, chisel, rasp and sandpaper so I can see and feel more closely what the stone is becoming.  The natural color is obscured until the tools chip away the sharp edges and smooth the roughness.  The only power tool was the drill used to make the center hole to show the color goes through the heart of the stone.

As the work on the stone proceeds, so does the battle of the day.  After the battle, the beauty underneath is revealed.  But it is not my hand that made the beauty.  It was there all along.  The stone is that reminder.  For all battles, there is help.  What comes after the battle can be something beautiful.

 

Here is how the revelation progressed:

 

 

Sunday Slideshow–Water Reflections

Water Reflections

As the winter moves on it is a wonder to see the bare branches reflecting in the water.  Spring will soon be here and these leafless winter trees will be forgotten as fresh new green takes over.  But for now they peacefully hang over the water calmly reflecting in the surface and on the ice.

Weekend Inspiration–Gratitude

Do we, as artists, reveal to the world what there is around us to be grateful for?  We see, hear, and feel the beauty that may be missed by others, especially those caught up in the rat race of the busyness of life. For myself, I forget to approach each canvas as an opportunity to express gratitude for the beauty I see.  When searching for inspiration, perhaps the best beginning is to start with an expression of gratitude for the good fortune of artistic creativity.

Word Games

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“Criticism is easy, art is difficult.” Destouches (from The Painter’s Keys)

Why do artists need guidance and assistance to write about their art? It’s a fact for many artists. Creating a painting is one thing, describing the process of how that happened is another. An artist knows, usually, why a subject or theme moves him or her to paint it. There is a spark that must be expressed. It is a drive that comes from inside. But to put that drive into words can stump many artists. Some even panic at the thought of putting it down on paper for others to read. How can an artist write an emotion, a thought, an inspiration? Sometimes there simply are no words.

Once, in an art forum, I put forth the possibility that artists are sensitive people by the very nature of being an artist. Very quickly, I was verbally slapped down for making an assumption. However, I hold to the original suggestion that, perhaps, artists are sensitive and thus are open to seeing beauty, insight, emotion and other things that may have been missed by the average non-artist person. That sensitivity may be a part of the difficulty of writing about a very personal process that comes from a deep inner place.

Silvia Kolbowski writes in her blog that the majority of the art publications of the 1980’s and 90’s published mostly art criticism. Every artist knows putting their art out there for others to criticize can be painful. Adding words that could potentially make that criticism stronger can add to the pain. Sensitive or not, who wants to put themselves out there to be the subject of some witty critic using you as the focus for his or her latest quotable zingers. It’s a tough call. However, having the right words to describe the artistic process can go a long way in solving the problem and increasing confidence in writing the artist’s statement.

Author Vicki Krohn Ambrose has a new blog post on ways artists can come up with words describing their work or process. Following the suggestions Ambrose put forth hit the spot. Once the process is set in motion, the words begin to flow. It actually starts to be a game of sorts. After a bit of practice, the fun begins and words are spotted everywhere and incorporated into the artist’s new rewritten statement. This new statement can become a work of art in itself.

When words are hard to come by in describing the process, try the suggestions Ambrose outlines in her blog post and also her book. Make a game of it or see it as a new challenge to be conquered. And you can always follow what Georgia O’Keeffe said, “I never read what the critics write.” Armed with new, exciting words of description and ears closed to the sound of the critics, writing an artist’s statement becomes a fun word game. And who doesn’t love to play games??

Vicki Krohn Ambrose’s book, Art-Write: The Writing Guide for Visual Artists can be found at Amazon (here).

Week End Inspiration–Get Physical

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“Stop talking.  Start walking.”  L.M. Heroux  (from Skinnyartist.com)

New research is proving that the best way to get the creative juices flowing is regular participation in exercise.  Making time for a regular walk may be just the ticket to new inspiration.  Walking clears the head and starts the flow of endorphins.  Everybody loves endorphins.   Endorphins are those hormones that people dream of having more of.  Endorphins are happy hormones!  For more endorphins, get up and get moving.

The Telegraph has the story (here).  Research recently published in Frontiers in Neuroscience reveals people who exercise regularly are able to perform better on cognitive tests.  However, the findings also showed that going for a onetime bout of strenuous exercise won’t do it and may actually make things worse.  The point is to exercise on a regular basis.  The researchers recommend regular exercise at least four times a week.

Taking a look at what other artists are doing for inspiration will likely reveal that many participate in regular exercise.  If not into regular exercise, now is a good time to start.  Just don’t overdo it in the beginning.  Make a plan to get into the habit of walking or running regularly.  If already into walking or running and not finding inspiration it may be time to mix it up a bit.   If the weather doesn’t permit an outdoor walk or run and the treadmill is the only option, go to the beach in the imagination.

Hanging a photo of the beach up in front of the treadmill can enable the mind to go there.  Each step on the treadmill can be imagined as sinking into the sand along the water’s edge. Feel the water on bare feet.  Smell the salt in the air. Hear the waves as they crash bringing fresh inspiration on the tide.  Every crash of the wave is new inspiration flowing into the soul.  With each step along the imagined beach, more endorphins will flow.  As the endorphins flow, so do the creative juices.  So what are you waiting for?  Get walking!

Weekend Inspiration–Looking to Each Other

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“You can look anywhere and find inspiration.”  Frank Gehry  (from The Painter’s Keys)

Dry spells, days without inspiration, lack of incentive can happen at anytime to any artist.  You show up at the studio, sit in front of an empty canvas or paper and nothing happens.  Nothing is working.  You looked to all your usual sources of inspiration and still nothing.  So what now?  You can give up and walk away or you can look to your fellow artists.

Stories are everywhere of artists who worked in groups.  The Impressionists were noted for it.  Monet and Renoir occasionally painted the same subjects.  Picasso and Braque explored cubism together.  The tales of artists gathering together in Paris cafes and bars are well known.  The Abstract Expressionists frequently met in New York at various locations.  Artists are gathering today.  Are you one of them?

Gathering with fellow artists today does not necessarily mean physically meeting in a restaurant or studio.  Artopia Magazine suggests, “Following artists on social media is a great source for finding inspiration on many levels.”  Taking the time to “like” other artists on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, read artist’s blogs and check out artists websites are all ways to gather with other artists in today’s internet world.  Artists are doing amazing things all over the world.  All it takes is a couple of clicks to enter a world of inspiration from fellow artists.

Indiemade.com suggests joining a local art group and if you don’t have one, start one.  Find a group of other artists and make plans to meet together.  You can choose to take a meal together regularly just to discuss art in general.  You could meet together for some Plein Air painting.  Another possibility is potluck once a month rotating at each other’s studios. Find your fellow local artists and make a plan.

When you are blanking out on inspiration, look around at other artists and see what they are up to.  If you find your fellow artist also in a blank place maybe you can inspire each other.  And if not, you can always commiserate with one another until new sources of inspiration can be found.  Nobody stays dry forever.  Companionship during the dry times may help move the dryness on down the road.