Sunday, May 22, 2016


“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” ~ Orson Welles

Forced to retreat
I have had an eye infection for the last few weeks that has been healing quite slowly, sometimes seeming stubborn and sullen and uncooperative.  O, the lessons I am learning…

Do you know how important eyesight is to a visual artist?  How it is their bread and butter as well as dessert?  And do you know how at 62 years old, I am kicking and pouting and being a poor example of adulthood to myself and the kids I teach on Sundays? 

Yet the restriction of using my eyes has opened new doors.  I have been thinking about limits and boundaries, about how artists are continually restrained by media, talent, or culture.  About how artists live in a physical body that limits what we can do, how we can express ourselves, how we can create.  About the boundaries of physical reality for all life.

I tell my drawing students that limitations are good for artists because they force us to be creative, to be excellent problem-solvers.  We discover things we may never have tried if left to trundle along in our comfortable wheel-ruts.  We reach a little higher and dig a little deeper, think sideways instead of left-brain linear.  We grow and we evolve, the honorable goal of all living things.  Limitations are vital to growth; the contradiction is that they assist in our unlimited-ness.

Fluffing and freezing - "I am big and invisible."
Because of my forced inaction, I have been tuned to the life-and-death dramas around me in the immediate natural world, dramas I normally miss because I am busy, busy, doing human things in a human world.  Yesterday as I rested my eyes, I heard a change in the drama soundtrack: birdsong had erupted into screeching warfare.  The source turned out to be a blue jay fledgling under the car, guarded by a housecat.  Tiny bird rescued and cat banished.  What to do? 

Ah, Google.

If bird appears unhurt (yes), has some feathers (yes), hop and flap their little-almost-wings (yes), then we are to leave it alone and let mother bird continue to feed and watch over their little one.  It is okay to move the bird to safety (I did).  It is a myth that parents will abandon their young if handled, and yes, mother bird did come back and feed her baby bird.  She also dive-bombed me several times during the move to safety, grabbing my scalp and hair with sharp little claws. 

The drama continues to unfold.  This tiny puff of blue jay fluff and pin feathers has become a kind of pivot point in my life.  Mom stays around and protects and feeds.  Baby hops about half-heartedly, waits for more feathers, and opens wide.  One night was tough, it rained and I worried.  I pace and urge them both to get on with it so I can relax and know that all is well.  I feel constrained by common sense and desire to help.  More limitations.  But then I remember the maxim of doctors, first do no harm.  As hard as it is, I leave things alone to unfold as they will.

Learning lessons
Patience, patience, awareness, and connections deepened are lessons I am learning.  I am attached to a tiny bit of God-life in a bird-body.  I am learning that it’s okay to age and to have the physical parts break down a bit here and there.  It is what it is.  It’s okay that first we live and then we die. To suffer loss.  It is what it is.  Limitations lead to freedom eventually.  Freedom leads to letting go…

Click on image to view larger
Watercolor sketch from photo
Daniel Smith watercolors
Arches cold-press 140 lb. wc paper