Seven Favorites from World Watercolor Month | Sunflowers, Of Course!

Watercolor 31-2022 wm

World Watercolor Month 2022, Day 31 (July 31, 2022)

In her devotional thought, which started this morning’s work session, my colleague, Dr. Sherine talked about the growth processes of a seed, reminding us about the possibilities in us and the beauty that comes through struggle. In ending that part of her discussion and driving the point of the metaphor [of a tiny, dry seed breaking to begin a transformed life], she cautioned–

Breaking happens in the right environment. Otherwise, it’s abuse.

Sit with that for a moment.  

Until tomorrow…

Sunflowers and Poetry | Meet Me Halfway

Photo_2022-04-25_143631_1

Since we are in the final week of National Poetry Month, I decided to share poetry and sunflowers all week long. This month–with all its busyness–tried to rob me of poetry, but I persisted. I wrote and read poetry daily and even managed to plan and host another successful [annual] poetry event.

This weekend I “rediscovered” Javan, a poet I enjoyed as a teen. I [probably] purchased the two books I own while perusing shops on Canal Street in New Orleans–Meet Me Halfway and Something to Someone. I have not read these books in decades, but thought about them a couple of days ago and luckily found them with ease in my home library.

After reading through selections, I see why I loved his works way back then. His poetry is uncomplicated and speaks to our yearnings and all the things that cause teenage angst.  

Here are two poems from Meet Me Halfway to start you work week. I plan to share another one of his poems Thursday.

By Javan

I’ve learned
That Life offers much more
Than most people take

I’ve learned
That many people live their life
Within small circles
Afraid to go out
Afraid to let others in

And I’ve also learned
That at the end of Life’s game
Most people wish
That somehow
They could have played it differently

By Javan

Many people complain
Life never gave them any chances

We are given Life
We must take the Chances


About the Image: Today’s tiny art is brought to you by none other than Sheila Delgado of Sheila’s Corner Studio. She sent this gem to me in late October and I have been looking forward to sharing it with you. It kicks off “Sunflowers and Poetry Week” perfectly! You can view a better scan of the sunflower and read about her creative process in Smooth the Way. Oh, why sunflowers with poetry? “Just because,” of course!

The Masters | Faith Ringgold’s Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles and “Our Dedication to Change in the World”

Faith Ringgold. The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles. Acrylic on canvas with pieced fabric border. 1991.

The National Sunflower Quilters of America are having quilting bees in sunflower fields all over the world to spread the cause of freedom. Aunt Melissa has written and informed me of this to say: “Go with them to the sunflower fields in Arles. And please take care of them in the foreign country, Willa Marie. These women are our freedom,” she wrote.

For our last sunflower masterpiece we bask in the awesome “presence” of Faith Ringgold’s  The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles. A print of the masterpiece sits in my home office [still] waiting to be framed. I have been trying to get to this post since I purchased it, but put it off many times because I am inclined to approach her work academically. For sanity’s sake, I need to keep my academic work and my blog separate.

Faith Ringgold (b. 1930) is an African American painter, mixed media sculptor, performance artist, writer, teacher and lecturer. Her work often carries strong socio-political messages about the African American experience. 

The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles is the fourth piece in Ringgold’s French Collection, a collection of 12 story quilts, that “uses a combination of painted images, narrative text, and decorative borders to explore the often absent role of African-American women in the art-world, particularly in Paris during the 1920s.” (Ellen C. Caldwell).

The story quilt features “The Sunflower Quilters Society of America” and its March 22, 1922 effort, a quilt bedecked with gorgeous sunflowers. Eight influential African American women hold the edge of the quilt, surrounded by a field of sunflowers in Arles. A “tormented” Vincent van Gogh stands just behind them offering his still life, Fifteen Sunflowers in a Vase, to the queens of change: Madam C.J. Walker, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Ella Baker [In a 1996 print, Ringgold added her fictional character in the lower left beside Madam C.J. Walker].

Around the edges of the quilt is the story–in 12 parts–of the Sunflower Quilters, as told by Ringgold’s fictional character, Willa Marie Simone. Van Gogh is a troublesome presence to some, like Harriet Tubman, who demands, “Make him leave. He reminds me of the slavers.” But Van Gogh is firmly planted: “Like one of the sunflowers, he appeared to be growing out of the ground.” And when the sun went down and it was time for the women to leave, “the tormented little man just settled inside himself and took on the look of the sunflowers in the field as if he was one of them” [Part 7].

I got to get back to the railroad, Harriet said. “Ain’t all of us free yet, no matter how many them laws they pass. Sojourner fighting for women’s rights. Fannie for voter registration. Ella and Rosa working on civil rights. Ida looking out for mens getting lynch. Mary Bethune getting younguns education, and Madam making money fixing hair and giving us jobs. Lord we’re sure busy.” [Part 11]

Through The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles Ringgold pays homage to and celebrates African American women and their contributions to education, freedom, and justice. She also honors the fine artistry of African American quilt making. Through the piece she acknowledges van Gogh’s contribution to the art world, but she calls on us to also recognize the equal contribution of African American women artists.

Want more information? Be sure to click the links in this posts and check out these additional links:

Until next time…Shine on!

 

Sunflowers and Truth | #truthbombs

Martha Slavin Sunflower

Are you familiar with Danielle LaPorte’s #truthbombs? On 4×4 white cards–in beautiful black script–LaPorte offers pithy bits of wisdom, encouragement, and in-your-face truth. Every now and then, I pull a random card out the elegant encasement, and think, “Whew! Now, that’s a word!” The cards offer perfect journaling prompts and discussion starters. [Click the link above for more information, see sample #truthbombs, and download the app. For the record, this is not an ad]. 

Before heading to work yesterday, I grabbed a handful of random #truthbombs from their box and dropped them on my bag. I thought they would complement the sunflowers I’d planned to share on the blog, but yesterday did not turn out as I planned: By 9:00 a.m., I was annoyed with no less than three people. By 10:00, the number had increased to five. By 1:00, I had a searing headache that made me want to pack up and go home. When I finally arrived home just after 5:00, I wanted only my bed and a good book. When today began to feel like yesterday, a couple of short walks and three of the #truthbombs became the medicine I needed:

  • Notice how you feel
  • Defend your tenderness
  • Compassion is so often the solution

Those three sentences “can preach,” as they say. For me, they were a call to pay attention to my responses.

Yesterday, I was extremely disturbed by individuals who acted selfishly and lacked compassion. When it comes down to it, this was no different than any other day. Almost every day I encounter people who look out for themselves and show little regard for others unless they can benefit in some way. Of course, by the end of the day, I’d pretty much gotten over it and pushed the experience out of my mind. I realized I had to cut those folk some slack. They are human after all, and like me, they deserve room to be just that–human–and perhaps there were good reasons for what I considered their not acting with the decency I expected under the circumstances. 

But I was still bothered by my own reaction: Why was my response so different? Why did I allow myself to become so uncharacteristically entangled with other individuals’ attitudes and behavior? And why am I again feeling out of sorts and bothered?

Annoying people, gloomy weather, frustration over lecture notes I can’t find. All of that is superficial, the easy things to focus on because the real thing–the underlying thing–is big and scary and too much to handle at the beginning of a packed work week. The #truthbombs were a reminder to pay attention to my feelings and not just stop there. I had to get to the root. And I did.

I miss my sister. Her birthday is tomorrow. There will be no celebration. 

Thankfully, the sunflower provides light…in the darkness of the cave in which I have to dwell for a moment. 


About the Image: The watercolor sunflower is the work of my Love Notes friend, Martha S. She was one of my exchange partners in Louise Gale’s Global heART exchange. It was a pleasant surprise to find a postcard from one of my snail mail regulars in my mailbox. Thanks for this gorg sunflower, Martha! It has brightened my days and will soon find its place my the sunflower wall. 

When You See Me Standing…

may i grow
so tall and bright,
so free and wild,
so brave and vibrant
that when you see me
standing
you think i am
a sunflower.

Gaby Comprés


About the image: I received such beautiful cards and messages for International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month that I decided to share some on the blog this week. The sunflower above is from Diane W, one of my Love Notes friends. Her card was the first to arrive, and it was such a pleasure to open her sunflower-adorned envelope and find the sunflower inside with other goodies–the poem above, a “Horned Poppy Fairy” postcard, and positive affirmations neatly penned on daisy-shaped cutouts. Diane enjoys making cards using postage stamps, but this was her first time making sunflower cards. This unique beauty is on its way to my sunflower wall!

Sunflowers and Copycats

“Sunflowers in a Vase.” Watercolor by Sheila D.

Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery. –Charles Caleb Colton

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, my artist/blogging friend Sheila Delgado should be tickled pink over the art Christine B and I created in the style of one of her specialities–“sunflowers in a vase.”

Last year, Christine B sent me a sunflower watercolor she “borrowed” Sheila’s style to complete. I included it in a blog post last November with many other sunflower postcards, but here it is again:

“Sunflowers in a Vase.” Watercolor by Christine B.

Days after the post, I received a Sheila D original watercolor of sunflowers in a vase [above]! Needless to say I was thrilled! I was so pleased to have another sunflower watercolor that it remained [with Christine’s] in my prayer and mediation space. So, a few months ago, when I began to include art/doodling as part of my daily routine and after seeing it every day, I played around with imitating Sheila’s sunflowers in a vase. This is one result:

“Sunflowers in a Vase.” Pen and Pencil by Me!

Thankfully, my sunflowers have improved a bit since my summer doodle [I’ll share some next month]. Like all my drawings, I used ink and colored pencils. I haven’t been brave enough to attempt this with the watercolor pencils, but I will make an effort over the longer holiday break.

I read somewhere that beginning artists learn by imitating the styles of other artists. Even though I’m a long way from being that kind of artist, I enjoy testing my [minimal] skills from time to time by “copying” the artwork of others.

So…thank you, Sheila, for giving me sunflowers…and another subject to doodle. 😉

Only Kindness: “It Is I You Have Been Looking For”

“Sister Sunflowers,” Card made by Debra D.

I had a hurtful unkindness earlier this week, a cruel one if I look at it closely. Emotionally exhausted and just plain weary of all the unkindnesses of life,  I was on the verge of giving in to the hurt and letting it win. But the God who heals me reminded me of all the beautiful people who shower me with love and kindness every.single.day.

My kindness jar truly overflows.

It’s strange, I guess, but I should be grateful for the unkindness. Such seemingly unnecessary hurts are indeed necessary because they reinforce the importance of compassion and deepen the experience with kindness. 

One of my favorite “kindness” poems, written by Naomi Shihab Nye, underscores the work that must be done before we “know what kindness really is.”  Though the initial landscape is bleak, eventually, we’ll learn to recognize in kindness the friend or shadow who accompanies us everywhere.

 

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye
.
Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.
.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.
.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Note about the image: One of my Love Notes friends, Debra D, kindly sent the card above to me as a “just because.” She filled the card with sheets of bright sunflower stickers. Through the card she honors my love for sunflowers and my relationship with my sister Lori. Isn’t there a purple sunflower somewhere? Debra makes the sweetest cards with markers, stickers, stamps, and various types of paper. You can find more of her “creative doings” on her blog, Meticulosity.

You can read about Nye’s experience which led to the poem in an interview here: The Incomparable Naomi Shihab Nye on Kindness.

“You Will Love Again the Stranger Who Was Your Self”

Love After Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life. 

We take a lot of abuse as we try to get through this thing called life, especially if we want to live with as little “drama” as possible. Little by little we give bits of ourselves away and suppress the best parts for the acceptance of others, until there’s little trace of our beautiful, natural self.

We can’t quite love this crafted version of ourselves, but we struggle to recall who we really are. All is not lost. Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love” offers hope for the journey to self-recovery.

If your true self has lain dormant, but you’re constantly at odds with this alien self, I hope you will take the hard road of self-love. Stand up. Advocate for you. Fight for you. Unearth your true self. Find her in the mirror and learn to love her again.


Postcard note: The absolutely gorgeous sunflower woman came from Geraldine (Nannydino on swap-bot).  She has been supplying me with some of the most unique sunflower postcards lately. “The Sunflower” was created by Canadian artist, Gabiioartist. Her inspiration was, of course, the sunflower.