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Welcome to the NO-AUTOPILOT ZONE.
Instead, let’s make something interesting happen.

I’m not talking about doing anything dangerous or reckless, careless or thoughtless.
I’m talking about choosing something interesting instead of what you usually do…even if what you usually do works really well.

Making it interesting could mean playing with the way you move in class: stretch further, draw yourself in closer, make sound, shake things you don’t usually shake. Changing your movement patterns trains, conditions and heals your body and it also changes your brain. Making it interesting opens up possibilities that we never even saw before.

But making it interesting isn’t just about movement:
– make a project interesting by bringing someone else in on it (if you usually go it alone) or doing it by yourself (if you usually have help)
– make a chore interesting by doing it a different way or in a different order or whilst listening to Dizzy Gillespie
– make a conversation interesting by asking an unusual question
– make an argument interesting by saying something (or NOT saying something) completely outside your norm (keep it kind, y’all)
– make your thoughts interesting by imagining a scene that you love
– make your emotions interesting by getting curious about what the physical sensation is of each one
– make ANYTHING interesting by going into it by asking yourself, How can I make this interesting?

This week, I’ll be posting art every day along this theme. In the piece above, I’ve started with what I usually do: me and my favorite Bic pens in bright colors. Keep coming back to this space and check out my experiments in making something interesting happen!

Monday, Nov 13 ~

I got out my watercolors, something I occasionally dabble in and have very little confidence with, and played with using them “dry” (the letters in red) and “wet” (the letters in yellow and blue). The wet colors came out kind of muddle but then I wondered what would happen if I used water with my Bic markers. At the top, I painted water over something I drew. At the bottom, I drew on wet paper.

Tuesday, Nov 14 ~

Yesterday’s experiment made me wonder about using washes of water over Bic pen drawing. Here’s what happened:

Wednesday, Nov 15 ~ 

Now for something totally different. I got out a bunch of tissue paper and some Elmer’s glue and went a little Modge Podge-y I even added some 3-D pom-poms which made the scannning a little oddish but that’s all part of the process.

The last piece I made borrows from all that came before: Bic markers made into vivid washes with water, tissue paper stripes.

And this from Pete Kashatus who doesn’t like to color inside the lines!

 

And check out this genius poem by Jay Perry!

Here’s another playful one from Pete Kashatus!

If you want to play along, here is a blank version of the art. Print it out and make something interesting happen. Share what you create (email it to me at sjmnia@gmail.com with how you’d like me to list your name — or not — and any comments you want to share on what you did to make it interesting), and I’ll post it here! (If art isn’t your thing, print it out anyway and post it somewhere to remind you that making it interesting can happen in a zillion ways.)

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integrate sky 040216

When I was a girl, my favorite gifts were art supplies. (Come to think of it, you can still seriously score with me with anything arty.) In my elementary school years (before the pressures of homework and the absorption of teenage friendships), you could usually find me nestled in my neon green beanbag chair, drawing with crayons and markers and pastels.

In first grade, I had the grooviest art teacher ever. It was the early 70s. She wore clothes with embroidery and fringe, her brown hair swirling and big rings with sparkly crystals that clicked as she worked. She was the first person I’d ever known to eat yogurt. I hung on her every word.

One April, we were painting scenes of spring. I carefully brushed a stroke of blue along the top edge of my paper. Of course. The sky is up there, so that’s where I put it.

ecm pear tree with sky

Pear Tree by my sister, Elizabeth, circa 1972. Subsequently rendered in needlepoint by my mother.

My art teacher saw my picture and took me to the window. She pointed out across the playground and said, Look at the sky. It comes all the way down to the ground. This was an utter revelation to me. First, to look at (and draw) what is rather than what I think in my head. And second, to realize that when I’m walking to school and swinging on the swings and sliding down the slide, I’m in the sky.

Seeing the true nature of the sky — coming all the way down to us on the ground – feels enormously spacious. I feel like I’m swimming, even flying, in the sky. When I see it this way, I breathe deeper. I feel the bigness of the space around me and that big space can hold anything I bring to it. No problem, no joy, no grief, no worry is too big for a sky that reaches all the way to where I stand.

That big space makes breathing easier and my inside more spacious. As I inhale, I can stretch open tight and twisted up parts and receive oxygen to fuel my body and mind. As I exhale, I strengthen my body and integrate that nourishment. I breathe in the sky and make it part of me.

There is power in the integration of external and internal space. As I move in the studio, on my mat and through my day, I play with connecting breath to movement. Inhale and reach up, exhale and fold. Inhale and lengthen, exhale contract. Inhale get the salad bowl out of the high cabinet, exhale put in on the counter. Inhale, open my arms; exhale, hug. Connecting breath to movement keeps me in the body. Being in the body keeps me in the present moment …where life is actually happening.

Move in the sky. Breathe in the sky. Integrate the sky.


PLEASE NOTE!

Tuesday & Thursday classes this week:

This week in my classes we will return to my 2013 routine, Airborne. You can read about it here. Classes on Tuesday and Thursday at 840am at acac downtown will happen on the rooftop deck, Lord willin’ and the rains don’t come. At this moment, Tuesday looks clear and cool; Thursday looks like a possibility of showers. Check the forecast, wear an extra layer and light shoes, and if you’re not sure, call Member Services at 434.984.3800 to see if we’re on to dance in the sky (I’ll make a decision by 730am). My Monday and Wednesday classes will be as usual at 1045am and 11am, respectively at acac Albemarle Square and all other acac classes will be held as usual.

A mini mini series about dance. sit. write. draw. ~~ early bird rate ends April 7!

Here are three mini videos about the dance. sit. write. draw retreat on May 7 (for more go here). You can binge-watch this mini series in under 10 minutes!

Why dance. sit. write. draw.?
Wait, why dance. sit. write. draw., again? (Or, Why Pablo Picasso and I Want You To Come To The Retreat)
Dance. sit. write. draw. (It’s a thing!)

The early bird rate of $80 (for the whole day! Including amazing food!) ends on April 7. Please join us!

savoring seeing millicent pieceMillicent is a sculptor. She is a serious artist and a serious person. She creates with her hands sunk deep into soil and clay. She reads poetry and makes intricate and mysterious art from horse hair and stones. She is a sculptor and an artist and when I met her I felt intrigued and intimidated. Fascinated and shy.

Millicent’s pieces – whether built of wood or clay or plant – strike me. I don’t fully understand them and that is part of why I love them. It seems that they’ve grown rather than been made. As if they emerge with their own genealogy and history. I love being around the complexity and ambiguity of her work.

Years ago, Millicent created a series of clay globes – some the size of a softball that fit perfectly in a palm, others bigger than a beach ball that could be seen from a distance. Each one perfectly round with imperfectly smoky glaze. Like the eggs of mythical birds, she displayed them in gardens and studios and writer’s desks. Perched in mounds of thyme or on a rough cut slab of pine or on an espresso saucer to keep it from rolling to the floor.

prayer flags and globes 012

I commissioned two of her extraordinary extra-large globes for our garden. One nestled perfectly in a triangle of hostas. Another I kept moving around until it found a home under to a dwarf pine behind some columbine.

She came to visit one summer afternoon near my birthday. She came to the door and we walked around the garden, looking at what was blooming, looking at what was dying back and looking at what needed weeding. She kept wandering back to the front step with a strange smile.

When it was time for her to go, she took my hand and led me to a bed of Solomon’s Seal by the front door. We had walked around it for half an hour, but I hadn’t seen the basketball-sized globe that she had secretly set by the front step.

prayer flags and globes 008

“This is for you,” she said. What she didn’t say, or maybe she did, was that I hadn’t seen it.

There is a hotly disputed story that natives standing on the shore were unable to see Columbus’ ships on the horizon. Their eyes had no expectation of such things. Their brains had no stories for them. So the ships remained invisible until someone pointed them out.

I felt abashed once Millicent pointed out her Columbus globe. I was the mindfulness teacher who had mindlessly walked past the new addition to the garden. Even so, there was magic in her revelation. A gift both literal and figurative. The difference between looking and seeing.

chickens on the ball 3 121612

how to be an artistI say it’s the making,
not the architectural sketch but the feel
of a pencil in the hand, that saves us.
~ Lesley Wheeler

Sometimes, okay often, I get caught in my busy-ness. Forgetting that art is important or even possible. It can be scary and vulnerable to show up and say what only I can say and show what only I can show. (Yikes. What if it isn’t good?) Easier to just fold the laundry. Thank goodness other artists remind me, oh yeah, making art is human. Human beings create. Be an artist and you remind someone else. Oh yeah!

why art paying attention“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
― Mary Oliver

I am a movement teacher. I teach about the body’s structure and design and about listening to sensation, the language of the body. I care deeply about helping people create heathier, happier lives.

So why am I leading a retreat about art? What does living life as an artist have to do with health, wellness and body~mind movement?

It’s a good question. Something about the combination of the Nia principle of Life As Art, and Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception has captured my imagination and is inspiring me to live and teach with a broader perspective. To experiment with living life as an artist.

Think of any work of art that you appreciate. It might be a book or a film, a piece of music, a play, a photograph or a sculpture. Whatever it is, think about why you love it.

What I love about art – say, the movie American Beauty or Ian McEwan’s book Saturday — is that the artist notices something special or interesting or beautiful or insane and shows it to me. Sometimes it is something that I know (or suspect I know) and they make it clear, easy to spot. Other times artists show me something that I never saw before and I am astounded.

In my early twenties, I spent many summers in a small town near Buzzard’s Bay in Massachusetts. One weekend, we invited a photographer friend to visit. He and I walked the same paths, drove on the same roads, went to the same beaches I’d been going to for years, but wherever we went, he saw something I’d never noticed. “Look how that ivy is growing like a blanket under that tree,” he’d say. Or “Check out the contrast of white barnacles and the blue muscles all growing together on the rocks.” This place I would have said I knew well, was suddenly new and even more beautiful than I’d thought. My photographer friend helped me be astonished.

Art encourages me to notice details, to pay attention more keenly. Art is an awareness and awareness is an art. To participate in that art helps me be more present, embodies, more alive.

These bodies, these lives we’ve been given are like being put in the middle of the greatest art museum ever. It’s full of all kinds of extraordinary things to see and experience but only if we open our eyes and minds. If we’re busy texting and fussing with our backpacks, we won’t notice what’s around us and how it affects us. Mindful movement is the art of learning to pay attention, step by step, noticing what is happening. Knowing that sometimes we’ll get distracted, of course we will, it’s a busy, crazy place, the Louvre of our Lives. But the practice is coming back as soon as we can to pay attention again.

I am a movement teacher. I teach about health and wellness… and art. Rebecca George and I will lead a Life As An Artist retreat on March 28-30, 2014 in Madison, Virginia.* In the six months leading up to the retreat, Rebecca and I will be playing with different ways of living life as an artist. We’ll be sharing our experiences, inviting you to join us and share what you discover. Stay tuned for more on a variety of ways that you can be part of the experiment.

As Mary Oliver reminds us, it’s not enough just to notice the world and be amazed by it. We have to tell about it, too. So please tell us: in the comments below, or on the Focus Pocus Facebook page, tell us any work of art that inspires you.

I do so hope you’ll join us. The world needs more people who are paying attention.  The world needs more artists.

* Click here for the details and remember, the Supah Early Bird rate ends October 10!

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