Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Doberman Dog Portrait - Max and Maya - Under Painting

Pet Portrait beginnings by Lori Levin Under painting for Pet Portrait in Oil

What is so fascinating about art is it can exercise the mind in many ways. Two processes of the mind are the doing mode and the being mode. I will discuss the development of this pet portrait of Max and Maya to illustrate my point. When I was first commissioned to do this piece I had many decisions to make. I was provided different photos and options to create the portrait. My mind busily made decisions and judgments on which photos to work from and sizes to pick. This is the doing mode where the mind actively darts from thought to thought analyzing and comparing everything to evaluate and decide. However, at times I would feel a sense of calm and stop thinking. My eyes would look at these dog faces and just feel them looking back at me and there and then a connection to my subject was born in the being mode. In the being mode I did not decide how to feel about these two but rather I was just aware of the feeling. It is in that frame of mind that my work begins to breathe on its own.

The beginnings, where I sketch and measure with my eyes, I am very much in the doing mode. It is critical to get proportions correct and planes well described. As the piece becomes structurally sound my mind relaxes. When I’m painting for some time and finally become aware that my playlist of songs has gone from Billie Holiday to Bing Crosby without grabbing my attention, I realize I was in being mode. In being mode, my natural instinct takes over and the natural creator in me begins to paint. Later in the doing mode, I will see corrections need to be made, much as I see in this under painting. However, without the being mode, my dear Max and Maya would never live on canvas. No, they would just be painted images representing two Dobermans named Max and Maya.

Painting much like life requires both actions of the brain. Sadly, our culture stresses the goal oriented, doing mode, far more than mindfulness of just being. When we are goal oriented we tend think out ever issue and go over and over a problem in a forced way to solve it. Being mindful allows the body and mind to be aware without judgment and naturally things sort themselves out. I was strongly reminded of this last night while trying to learn to dance. My judging mind kept trying so hard to learn and figure out the steps. The more I did that the worse the result, not to mention the plight of a few toes. Now and then when I relaxed and just absorbed the music, my feet took care of themselves. As soon as an instructor mentioned I was doing well, the magic stopped and my thinking was in charge of my feet again with an obvious bad result. One instructor even said, “Don’t think just dance”. Oh this is very true but much like being told not to think about a pink elephant, once one is told not to think, that is all one can do.

So what is the answer to all these mental gymnastics? Curiosity. Curiosity for life and just enjoying it unfolding trumps all. More on Max, Maya and the art of curiosity in future Soulful Studios posts.

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