Life is so busy. There’s much movement every day. I wake up and find the energy to launch from my home base, going to this place and then the next one. At the end of the day, I return home.
These paths feel like a sort of orbit, circling around my home but always returning to it.
While traveling, I cross over streets and boundaries. My path intersects with many others. Sometimes our paths align and we travel together for a while. When we’re together, we interact in countless ways.
The transportation machines of modern life, like bikes, cars, transit and planes, physically move us around.
Technology enables us travel even further, going to far-away countries, interacting with people around the globe, and connecting in online meeting spaces.
Spacecraft, like NASA’s New Horizons, take us to the far reaches of our known world, circling back to us through images sent through space.
Books transport the reader to real and imagined settings. Spiritual practices help us get to mystical, non-physical states.
About Comings and Goings (aka Orbit Machine #7)
This encaustic art, Comings and Goings (aka Orbit Machine #7), represents the motions of life moving around in a weekly cycle. First going here, then there, then over there, and circling back around to home. I layered colorful pastel-infused papers fused in encaustic media in this three-piece painting, cutting grooves to fill in more colors.
Where do your daily travels take you?
⇒For information about purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.Save
Looking around, I see countless things created by people. Everyday items, clothing, furnishings, vehicles, buildings, highways, technology and so much more… all human made. Starting with an idea or inspiration, people collaborate to develop the materials, tools and processes to translate ideas into physical objects. As a society, we invest much in our human creations.
Likewise on a personal level, I’ve worked hard and invested time, money and energy on the things that enliven my life, experiencing the creative process and learning along the way. For example, I’ve filled many a dream journal, capturing decades of dreamtime stories along with the wake-time reflections from my individual study and within dream groups.
When is it time to let go?
After I finish a creative project, I enjoy the fruits of my labor for some period of time. At some point, though, my focus drifts and shifts to something new. And after a while, I wonder what to do with all of the things I’ve accumulated, especially those things I no longer need?
Many items, like photos, school mementos and art I created back when, I’ve stored away. I rarely look at them but when I do, they help me remember special parts of my life journey. I suppose that is why I’ve found them valuable enough to keep.
With other accumulated things that don’t rise to that level of meaning, I feel that my closets and living space are too crowded. And, no, I don’t want to find a bigger space to grow into.
When I feel too crowded, I sometimes teeter back-and-forth thinking of how much I’ve invested in those things versus my desire to simplify. Do I have the time and energy now to sort through them? How do I prioritize my time? Do I procrastinate or fall into the mode of when something is out-of-sight, it is also out-of-mind.
In my art studio, when it’s too crowded, I have a hard time starting something new.
Cleaning, sorting, reusing, recycling, recreating
Growing up, my mom taught my siblings and me to clean out our dresser drawers, closets and desks several times a year. We often did these house-cleaning rituals over school breaks when seasons changed and as we outgrew our cloths. We didn’t have the luxury of a big house, so we learned to let go of outdated and outgrown things. It usually felt great after the clean-out, as we were also creating space for new things.
I also worked professionally for many years in the recycling field. I thought a lot about ways to reduce, reuse and recycle the materials of daily life. Whenever a new technology became popular, recyclers received the outdated discards to be reused or re-created into something else. Or if there wasn’t a market for the items, they were disposed of.
And how do I manage my personal things? Am I a pack-rack, sentimental, procrastinating or too busy to sort through things I no longer need (or all of the above)? I’ve invested much of my energy creating, but it also takes energy to hold onto things. In a desire to simplify, I know I need to let go of things.
I’ve found joy in giving items to friends and family. I’m thankful to live in a neighborhood with a very active list serve; people daily post items to give away or ask to borrow infrequently used things. I’m also thankful for the many charities that make it super easy to schedule donation pick-ups.
In my art studio, it’s time to go through my stash of dream journals. I’m revisiting especially vivid dreams. Other more ordinary dreams, I turn the page over.
About Turn the Page
My dreams represent a chunk of my life and a bit of my creative energy… first the dream, then the writing of it, then thoughts and discussion. I especially enjoy creating art inspired by my more vivid dreams.
Having studied my dreams for almost 20 years, I’ve accumulated a large shelf full of dream journals. In them, I’ve written many dreams and wake-time reflection from on my own or from others in a dream group.
This 3-dimensional art, Turn the Page, was once a dream journal covering 99 days of my life from back when. I re-read the pages and saved the ones I wanted to work on again. After, I folded in the remaining pages, inserted colorful papers with encaustic, and sewed the folded edges together using my favorite color of embroidery floss. This piece is the first in a series of dream journals I’m letting go of. Somehow, this feels really good to re-create.
How do you part with personal things you no longer need?
⇒For information about purchasing this artwork, contactJanet Fox.
Dreamscape… I’m in a fitness center, walking on a treadmill while a small group gathers on nearby mats for an aerobics class. The instructor begins class and everyone starts moving to the music. I like the music and find myself walking to the beat. I’m having fun and before I realize it, I’m running and jumping. I didn’t know I could move like this any more! So I keep going, dancing and elevating on my toes with perfect balance, thoroughly enjoying that I can, once again, move my body this way.
When I’ve experienced awful things, it can feel like ages drag by as I move through the rawness. But through processing the situation, the intensity of the feelings and details often fade over time. Similar steps unfold for wonderful experiences, although I want the happiness and good feeling to last longer.
With faith, hope, perseverance, hard work and others’ support, I make it through. And at some point, I find a new balance point after integrating the “before” with the “after.”
Sometimes, I rediscover a valuable something that I previously thought was lost forever. When this happens, my heart wants to dance and jump again, up on my toes with elation. But staying up there for even a few seconds requires immense focus and strength. As I come back down, I appreciate even more the mystery of life and its changes.
I hope you might also enjoy these related ideas from others:
As a child, I read “The Little Engine that Could,” by Watty Piper. It’s helpful to remember “I think I can, I think I can, repeat…” Here’s a history of this story by Roy E. Plotnick.
In a medical context, “The Anatomy of Hope” by Dr. Jerome Groopman, explores the role of hope in treating seriously ill people. This summary is in the NYU School of Medicine’s database.
The contemplative song, “Before and After,” by Carrie Newcomer, features Marin Chapin Carpenter.
About Balancing Act and Balancing Act II
I felt so great when I awoke from the dream above that I decided to paint it not once, but twice! I explored the different results I could achieve using mixed media or encaustic. I also turned on some happy dance music while I was painting, to help me capture the energy of sound and movement.
How do you regain balance?
⇒For information about commissioning a similar artwork, contact Janet Fox.
We all must do it to live. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.
From the moment we are born until the moment of death, we repeat this continuous cycle taking in air with the essential oxygen needed to break down food into energy. After, we exhale carbon dioxide and water as waste.
With breathing as a metaphor for life, we continuously take in new things, deciding which to integrate within us and letting go of the rest. What do you keep? What do you let go of?
Focusing on the breath
In many meditation practices, an important way to quiet the mind is to focus on breathing.
Focusing on my breath has helped me calm down and work through pain and difficulties. While belly breathing, I mentally focus on the points between the breaths, too. At the end of the inhale, I gently contract a painful muscle or hold a difficulty in my mind. I then focus on releasing it with the exhale. At the end of the exhale, I envision ratcheting down the original stimulus. After a few minutes, I usually feel better.
About Breathing Meditation
I chose a four-color scheme in this encaustic painting to represent the inhale, exhale and the points in-between. The red represents the inhale, focused on energized and raw pain or difficulty. The violet is the point of maximum inhalation and can be a point of remembering, contracting or holding. The green represents exhalation, letting out waste air and also releasing pain and difficulty. Finally, the white transitions back to the beginning of the breath, a bridge between the ending and a new beginning. The bottom section shows how the strength of each step can change over time.
How does it feel when you focus on your breath?
⇒For information about purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.
These are two primal questions… Where did I come from? Where am I going? Answers are infinitely varied but could be here or there; forward or backward; up, down, right or left; north, south, east or west. I could go on, but what if, instead of going a specific direction in the external world, we turned things around 180 degrees and head inward? How do “the seeking” and “the path” depend on each other?
A clear or foggy path?
Whether traveling from the inside out or the outside in, the path can be clearly marked, foggy with low visibility or somewhere in-between. When the external world is overwhelming, turning inward can bring relief and calm. If the internal world is chaotic, turning outward can bring connection with others and help to see new perspectives.
Yes’ song “Endless Dream” seems to fit with this theme, especially the internal travels.
About Seeking My Path
This encaustic painting simultaneously shows a path in and a path out. While the yellow bricks can go in many different directions, the undefined area exemplifies the realm of the unknown. Which direction to go? North, south, east, west, up, down, forward, backward, inside? Are multiple directions possible at the same time?
In which direction(s) are you going?
⇒For information about commissioning a similar piece, contact Janet Fox.
When the cold, ice and snow of winter come, I sometimes daydream of being in a place where I can feel the sun’s warmth. The southwestern U.S. is such a place. From past travels, I recall open landscapes, layered canyons, desert sands, red rocks, turquoise and the dry heat of the sun.
I also recall a field of brightly flowering Goldenrod. The intense color overwhelmed me, calling me to stop right then and there. So I pulled over, got out of my car and walked slowly through the field. I touched the yellow blooms, breathing in the dry aroma and feeling the captivating energy of the place. These precious moments of connecting deeply with nature left a huge impression on me. I left with a greater appreciation of the natural world and its mystery.
I’ve walked by thick patches of Siberian Squill in the springtime, feeling similar energy. The vibrant blues were like shiny things pulling me in.
How do others encounter nature?
Many who are passionate about nature have their own personal encounters. You might like to explore this more in a TED talk by George Monbiot, titled “For more wonder, rewild the world,” part of his journey to re-engage with nature.
About Southwestern Sentiment
This encaustic painting is inspired by my southwestern travels and dreams of stacking different colored shapes, like a cairn on an important landmark. While painting, I was flooded by memories of the warmth of Arizona and New Mexico.
Where in nature have you found connection?
⇒ For information about commissioning a similar artwork, contact Janet Fox.
Awarding precious bronze, silver and gold metal medals
In a competition or race, people challenge each other to test who is the fastest, can score the most points, endure the longest, outwit the others, is the most popular, has the most followers, gets the most votes, or is the best ___ (fill in the blank). These popular competitions assume that only one person or team can be the best at whatever contest is at hand.
After the race, the good contender receives the bronze medal, the better gets the silver medal, and the best is awarded the most precious gold medal. In rare situations there is a tie, resulting in two winners sharing the same ranking and each receiving that rank’s medal.
But what if one person or team could win first, second and third place? Is this possible?
Good, better and best
“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.” I first recall this famous quote as an elementary school student in Sister Mary Lamont’s second or third grade English class. I had fun learning and repeating it with my friends because of the sing-song rhyme. It was also a positive motivator. And one of those sayings that gets stuck in your head so that years later, like now, I still recall it.
The quote is attributed to St. Jerome, born in 347 A.D., who is best known for translating the Bible from Hebrew to Latin and for his many other writings. And in case you didn’t know this (I didn’t), he is also recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as the patron saint of translators, librarians and encyclopedists.
Somewhere over the years, I learned another version with a twist: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is [your] best.”
So although competitions with others are important and help us to grow and improve, you can win all of the most precious prizes by competing with yourself and truly aiming and doing your very best.
This painting, Precious Metals, uses gold, silver and bronze pigmented wax and was inspired by a dream – close to the time of the Sochi Winter Olympics – in which one person in a race impossibly finished first, second and third! Now how on Earth could this be? Now you know.
Unlike some of my other work, this painting was not inspired by a dream. One reason I enjoy creating art is that I can drift into a focused realm that is “in the moment of doing.” During this process, I somehow turn down the volume of outside distractions and on-going mind chatter and enter a sort of creative, healing meditation.
I painted this encaustic image on top of an earlier painting on canvas that I had also previously collaged over with bits of incomplete paintings and writing snippets. While building up the layers, including the top ones of melted pigmented wax, I decided to let the title words poke through. Do you see them?
Other words on the under paintings, which I blurred or covered over, can be forgotten. I felt enlightened by the words that poked through clearly; they looked right and made me feel good.
In a literal sense, “healing” means to “make whole.” My energy and intentions while painting come from somewhere inside. Perhaps painting this art allowed me to become more whole. The words poked through from a deeper source of knowledge, like writing myself a reminder note so I wouldn’t forget.
The multiple layers also remind me of the complexity of life and how the experiences of today layer on top of those from many yesterdays. In some way, my life IS my artwork, since I add new layers of experiences every day while deciding what to focus on or forget.
After I finished this painting, I photographed and exhibited it at the Montgomery Art Association Gallery. Several months later, I decided to scrape off all of the wax and other layers, down to the base canvas surface. As a result, the painting no longer exists in its original physical form. Now, it exists only as a combination of zeros and ones in the digital realm. I make prints of it for art greeting cards.
Through this painting, I explored how healing energy is present deep within. I can help it break through the layers of time to the awareness of daily life. Now that I know this, I can not un-know it.
Contemplation: Have you found healing energy from somewhere deep within? Did you do something intentional to release it?
⇒ Feel free to add your note about this post or view others’ thoughts by clicking “Leave a Comment / Comments,” below.
⇒ For information about purchasing art cards, contact Janet Fox.
How are the seeds of creative energy sown? Where does creativity come from?
I think it is our essential life force, energy or spirit flowing through us that we somehow direct. Creativity comes in countless forms. When I look around, every human-made thing I see began as someone’s creative idea. The same goes for human actions and performances.
While studying energy and the body, I learned about chakras, a concept from Easter religions. Chakras describe the energy channels of our non-physical body. Our life force moves through these channels. In Western thought, seven colors represent the seven primary chakras. I generally think of the chakras associated with these colors and areas of the body.
Magenta is the color of the chakra focused in the area of the crown of the head. Its focus is on a state of pure consciousness.
Violet is the color focused in the region of the third eye (forehead area). This chakra is focused on intuitive abilities.
Blue is the color of the chakra focused in the throat; it concerns communication abilities.
Green is the color of the chakra focused in the region of the heart. It concerns strong emotions and the intersection of feminine and masculine energy.
Yellow is the color focused in the naval area and focuses internally and on one’s sense of self.
Orange is the color of the chakra focused in the sacrum and reproductive organs. It focuses on family relationships.
Red is the color focused at the base of spine and pelvic floor. This chakra concerns one’s security and survival in the world.
I also love organic vegetable gardening and am fascinated by the mysterious way tiny seeds, given water, nutrients, light, warmth and protection, can sprout and grow into incredible plants with the ability to capture the energy of the sun. We, in turn, must eat the plants to release their energy so we can live. Our survival depends on the energy in green plants.
My encaustic painting, “Seeds of Creative Energy,” weaves together these two energy concepts. I began with all seven colors of pigmented wax on a wooden art board. During my creative process, I began to focus on the lower four and the highest chakras and glazed over the blue. I really liked the result, perhaps because I have also been enjoying paging through many colorful seed catalogs and planning my vegetable garden now that warmer weather is here.
A Color and Energy Experiment:
Draw, color or paint to see what your energy can create.
⇒For information about commissioning a similar artwork, contact Janet Fox.