Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Pursuit of Happiness

Mont St Michele

On a Thursday, as I have told you in an earlier post, I meet my friends. Depending on the weather we walk and then visit the local fishmonger, then relax in each others company, have a chat and an ale. It is a great afternoon, we never seem to run out of conversation, and I always leave feeling happy. It is a simple afternoon and it generates its own happiness. 

I was thinking of this after over-hearing a number of conversations. The first was a mother. She was bemoaning that as hard as she tried she could not longer bring back the happy times they all used to share together. “No matter what I organize it is always the same,” she said. “They always have things to do and places to go.” 

Hankering after the old days she is missing the joy and happiness of watching them become free beings in their own right. 

The second conversation was a friend complaining that he need a new mobile phone. “Why? “ I asked. “This one is out of date. I hope the next one lasts longer.” The phone he had was at least a year younger than mine, but he had to be up date with all the latest gizmos. 

In reality, both of these conversations were about the same thing. Let me explain what I mean.

If we have a scooter we want a cycle, if we have a cycle we want a car. If we have a car we want a bigger or better one. The list is endless. And so is the pursuit.

I remember workmate who, the minute they got promotion began talking about the next step up the ladder. Or when they had been given a pay hike it was not bringing him any closer who his friend who had also had one. Again the list is endless as is the pursuit.

Even on the emotional and relationships front, our relationships are evaluated on the basis of how many visits, how many phone calls, how many invitations one gets and gives. We seek to create a perfect family of always smiling people around us, and are disappointed if things are not picture perfect. Yet again, the list is endless.
And so is the pursuit.

The pursuit of happiness. This is a well-known and well used phrase. Yet it is in fact a strange term. It in fact makes no sense at all. 

Like many oft-repeated phrases, one repeats it mechanically but it makes no sense whatsoever.

Happiness is not an object or person that can be pursued. It just is.

In fact, perhaps it is this very phrase that is often the seed of much discontent and unhappiness.

The new phone, car, are all part of the pursuit of happiness. 

As I ran this morning I was thinking about these conversations and my own pursuit of happiness, and the next better artwork.  As I reached the 6 mile mark it all seemed to fall into place.

When you pursue happiness, it eludes you. However, when you recognise that happiness is the inner beings natural state, all you need to do is eliminate all that comes between your happiness and you.

I think I need to read that again and again in the next few days. Is it complex or complicated? Not really. 

Todays artwork is the finished Pen and Ink of Mont St Michele. I did take a picture of a stage between the first one and this one but decided just to share the finished work. I wondered long and hard about adding the colour. Too late now to change my mind. 

I have some very fond memories of this place and the visits I made here with family and friends. 

Sadly like so many places the little streets leading up to the magnificent cathedral at the top are full of little shops all selling the same things. 

What next? I think maybe back to a canvas. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Wrinkles! What Wrinkles?

This morning I considered whether to run in the open air, to brace the cold and the wind, or to take the alternative and head to the gym in the warmth of the car. At they gym I could run in shorts and running vest in the warmth of the place. Outside I would have to wear thicker heavier running gear.

As I ran I found my heart uplifted almost mile by mile. First I watched the soaring buzzard as it scanned the fields below looking for its breakfast. Then I startled two deer, they stopped to watch me as I ran off in the other direction, no danger to them. Of more danger was the fox that ran alongside me sheltered by the bushes . 

Then sitting on the fencepost I saw the little Red Kite , it seemed maybe he had already had success in the hunting stakes. He looked at peace with the world, and did not flinch a muscle as I ran past. 

Next I watched the fresh pieces of wood drop from the tree and had to stop for a moment to look up and watch the Lesser Speckled Woodpecker at work high in the boughs.

Six and a half miles and I was home, warm from my exertion and ready to face my day.

The alternative, had I chosen to go to the gym would have been to run the same miles , but all I would see was my own face in the mirror in front of me as I pounded out the miles going nowhere. 

The mirror is never a pretty sight at the best of times.  The older we get the more we become conscious of age catching up.  

While out running, I am that 18 year old who loved playing music and dancing. I am the 25 year old minister who was told one day by his dear old organist that he was the boy who would never grow old. I am the  older man who stood at the top of the mountain and rejoiced in managing to run the whole way there without stopping. 

In the mirror I see the wrinkles of age, the pattern I have woven over the years with the life I have lived. 

Now had I ran on the treadmill I might now have been thinking about going for a haircut. Having run outside I am still that young man and I am going off to paint. 

I am what life has made me. I am not at all ashamed of the pattern I have woven. I have not allowed the blind tattooist to set his agenda. I have not let accident shape me or mould me . The wrinkles I see tell there story. 

The artist paints. We either paint a thing of beauty or we start again. The pattern of our life we are equally in control of, we do not paint without thought, we should not go through life thoughtlessly , letting accident dictate. No matter our age we are still in control. Whether we produce a an ugly thing or are a joy to be with is our sole responsibility. 

Wrinkles!!!! What wrinkles I no wrinkles. Do you??????

This is the very initial stages of what I hope will be a Pen and Ink of  Mont St Michele  in France. This is a place I love.  This is a complex subject and I may yet have to abandon but I give you this the first stage. 

Today I hope to go over the pencil marks and begin to add some shading. I am already aware that I have a few errors to sort, but having started in pencil I can do that. 

I hope my friends who read this have a lovely day. This is the day I spend time with my friends in the afternoon. We call ourselves, “The Last of the Summer Wine.” Those who live in the UK will know exactly what that means. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Speak Your Mind

The disciples were absorbed in a discussion of Lao-Tzu's dictum:
"Those who know do not say; Those who say do not know."

When the Master entered, they asked him exactly what the words meant.
Said the Master, "Which of you knows the fragrance of a rose?"
All of them knew.
Then he said, "Put it into w rather cutting remarks ords."
All of them were silent.
As an artist we frequently attempt to to something very similar to what Lao-Tzu was asking his disciples to do. We attempt to describe the emotion that a certain scene arouses in the inner depths of a person. To convey that which cannot be conveyed with words.
Often, when in front of a work of art produced by another we feel moved. At moments like this I often ask myself if the emotion I am feeling is the same as the artist had when he or she sat before the blank canvas or piece of paper.
While visiting the art gallery the other day, I watched a number of young artist sit before some works of art with pen and pencil and making their attempts at reproducing the painting or an aspect of this.
I heard two people discuss what they were seeing. They were making rather cutting remarks about copying and having no artistic value.

I used to feel a bit like that myself when I watched other artists copy the work of another, or follow a step by step lesson.
I remember the first time somebody copied one of my abstracts from my website. My first reaction was to scream and make a great deal of noise. Then I stopped and thought. I must have managed to convey something in that painting, that another would wish to make there attempt at producing their version of it.
No one is the supreme authority of how we interpret a certain aspect of life. Nobody has all the answers of how we live our lives. Nobody can know us like we know ourselves. All that we can each gain from a wise person is some initial assurance and some guidance along the way.
If somebody sees some worth in something I have produced, and makes there own attempt and expressing it in their way I am honoured I have given them this initial step along the way.
This is why I have never made it impossible for anybody to take copies of my work from my website.
When I see something very similar to something I have produced before I make no comment if the comment I feel like making would be a negative one.
Yes I am aware that there are laws of copyright, I do have a son who is a lawyer, and I was a magistrate for a long number of years. 
But if art is not about helping others to express that which cannot be expressed in words. If art is not about helping others feel that inner joy. I ask, “What then is art.”
Or as Lao-Tzu said much better than I.
"Those who know do not say; Those who say do not know."

My I thank those people who have come along to my blog for the first time and made comment on it. It always means much that people take the time.

The artwork above is another version of my Edinburgh Castle but on this version I have added some more colour. AS I continue with this medium my desire to add colour keeps pulling at my inner strings.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Finding a Heart

Edinburgh Castle from Castle Street.

The New Year is a time of reflection in so many ways. I found myself thinking of all the old traditions that surrounded New Year in my youth.  How the fireplace had to be cleaned spotless and a new fire laid and made ready to be set alight just after midnight.

Then off we set to visit the neighbours in their homes. We took with us a bottle of whiskey to offer the neighbours a toast, a lump of coal to bring them warmth and a piece of shortbread to symbolise the desire that they ate well in the coming year.

Every year we made new year resolutions, promising to do so many things, of which most were forgotten before January came to an end.

When I became a minister of religion I re-established some traditions that had slipped away. I rang the church bells at midnight.  After the service, which finished just after midnight I invited so many people over to the manse they could hardly all get in.

Now, it comes and goes. No longer to I make resolutions other than to continue as I have been in the year just gone. I hope that my year has been fruitful to others as much as to myself, so why promise to make any changes.

I do like to make a real effort to apologise to anybody I have hurt in any way whatsoever during the year now gone. I do so even now in this blog to anybody I may have offended and not yet been aware and apologised.

All the thinking and promises in the world are meaningless unless they are truly meant.

The old wise sage was talking with his disciples one day.

"Of what use are your learning and your devotions?
 Does a donkey become wise through living in a library or a mouse acquire holiness from living in a church?"
"What is it, then, we need?" asked one disciple.
"A heart."
"How does one get that?"
The Master would not say. What could he say that they wouldn't turn into a subject to be learned or an object of devotion?

Another year in which to get on a do the things we artists do. With all our heart aspire to make people enjoy what they see, touch and feel.

This blog is linked to my other. Edinburgh Castle From George Street.