Archive for March, 2010

c. 2005 Susan Sorrell Hill

Yes… it really could be New Year’s Day!

Although there are numerous theories for the origin of April Fool’s Day, my personal favorite is the one which says that before the adoption of the Gregorian (modern) calendar, April 1st marked the beginning of the new year. Those who still celebrated on this day (according to the previous Julian calendar) were unkindly referred to as ‘April Fools.’ Humans and their traditions were much more nature-oriented back then… and indeed, it does seem more natural that a new year would officially ‘begin’ in Spring. But then, maybe we all need a reason to celebrate and look forward while still in the grips of a dark, cold and long winter…

(I myself am the lucky recipient of an April Fool’s Day birthday and therefore am entitled to celebrate the New Year twice as joyfully.)

“Leap” (oil on canvas)

Don’t forget to celebrate April Fool’s Day in your own unique fashion!

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

This week’s Illustration Friday word is rescue.

Best known for his book Being and Time, the controversial German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) wrote, ” A Person is not a thing or a process but an opening through which the Absolute can manifest.” (Yes, I know I’ve mentioned this before…)

The ultimate rescue, to my artist’s mind, is the intervention of the creative Muse… who drops in unexpectedly (or not) as her whim dictates, and maybe also to the degree that I have prepared myself to receive the Muse’s gifts. Preparation is used here to mean… getting out of the way.

The Little Me does not like getting out of the way one bit… puts up quite a fight… then is happy to take all of the credit when something wonderful actually does happen. It’s a constant battle, referred to as The War of Art, by author Steven Pressfield in his excellent little book on creativity and Resistance.

Ultimately, what can an artist (or any person) do, but get up every morning and do her best to loosen that white-knuckle grip on creativity… and on the flow of Life??

(Martin Heidegger quoted in Angeles Arrien’s The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols)

“The Blessing” (watercolor, pen & ink)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

Continuing with the theme paintings… This week’s Illustration Friday word is expired. “A New Life” (watercolor, pen & ink, pencil) is the first illustration for a children’s picture book that I’ve been working on intermittently. “The Journey of Mr. Tweet” begins with these words, “On the day that Mr. Tweet’s keeper disappeared, he found his cage door open…”

Is your first association with the word ‘expire’… death?? Mine was. But then I remembered that most ancient traditions see Life as a circle, and believe that “the wheel of Life turns and returns.” Therefore, what we call death will always, inevitably, be followed by a rebirth… and new life. This seems a very appropriate theme for the last day of winter and the arrival of the Spring Equinox, the official first day of Spring. In California, this season’s tradition is the changing of the clocks for Daylight Savings Time, and although this modern ‘ritual’ is commerce-inspired, it still shifts my focus from wintery inward-ness to looking outward as days warm and lengthen, and trees once again put on their green clothes. Hooray!

I will be writing more about new beginnings and the original New Year’s Day next week…

While you’re waiting, more of my work can be seen at www.susansorrellhill.com

More artist’s works inspired by the word extinct (and many other words) can be seen at Illustration Friday.

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

Illustration Friday is a large group of artists who make images inspired by the new ‘topic of the week,’ announced on the Illustration Friday’s site each (how did you guess?) Friday. Participating artists post thumbnails of their finished works, with links to larger images at their blog or website.

Here’s how Illustration Friday describes itself…

“Illustration Friday is a weekly creative outlet/participatory art exhibit for illustrators and artists of all skill levels. It was designed to challenge participants creatively. We believe that every person has a little creative bone in their body. Illustration Friday just gives a no-pressure, fun excuse to use it. No clients looking for a particular thing. No one judging the outcome of the work. It’s a chance to experiment and explore and play with visual art. So welcome, novices and pros alike.”

This week’s topic is subterranean.Cloud Head” (watercolor, pencil) is very much under her dark cloud… (I’m sure you know the feeling.)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

I heard this morning that a dear friend had died…

Paul was a passionate scientist, active outdoorsman, open-minded philosopher and deeply spiritual man—a rare combination, in my experience. While he lived in my town, I saw him often: at the cafe where I worked, out for brisk walks through our tiny foothills town, reading his daily paper at the ancient library. We took a few mountain hiking and camping trips together, shared some excellent trout and pancakes, and once, on the back of his BMW, I was treated to his surprising enthusiasm for the sharp, fast curves on a motorcycle trip to a tiny cafe two hours away for a piece of “the world’s best pie.” Even then, he never let his ‘advancing years’ slow him down. When he moved to Alaska to be part of a spiritual community, and later on to Eugene for a scientific collaboration, it was harder for both of us to stay in touch. We were both very good at expressing our appreciation and love for each other in person, but our very busy lives usually superseded the demonstration of our friendship. Nevertheless, when we did connect, it was always as if no time or distance at all had passed. A special friend indeed. In his presence, I felt more ‘heard’ and respected than I think I had ever felt up to that point. And I noticed that it was not just me that he had this effect on… Perhaps his was the demonstration of what would these days be called ‘totally Present.’ In retrospect, I am realizing what a powerful gift it was.

His passing reminds me that friendships… and indeed all relationships… are not just a way to pass time, to keep out the dark or the loneliness. Friendships are an opportunity to witness the life of a fellow traveler, to affirm to each other the infinite value of our existence, replete with both struggle and triumph. They are most especially ‘food for the Soul’ when we ourselves fall prey to doubt and fear. Friendship is one of the opportunities to be fully Present with life, in all of its manifestations… now, before the moment has passed.

To my friend Paul… who gave the gift of his presence.

“In the hollows of quiet places, we will meet again. The quiet places where there is neither moon nor sun, but only the light of amber and pale gold from the hills of the heart. ”        Celtic blessing, Fiona MacLeod (William Sharp 1855–1905)

“Lisbeth’s Angel” (watercolor, pen & ink)

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Mother Nature turned the outdoors white as I slept last night, blanketing the landscape in four inches of new snow. In one fell swoop, she hides the other colors’ attempts to announce themselves: the showy green and yellow of Spring daffodil, the blushing scarlet of quince blossom and the hopeful blue-violet of periwinkle. Not being a winter sports enthusiast… and rather uninsulated by body type… my first response to this whiteness is “Oh, no!”

As I grow older, I am getting better at watching my thoughts… and I realize that this response is uncomfortably similar to my response to the proverbial white paper or white canvas (a well-documented phenomenon among artists and writers alike). My own fear of the white page feels like a fear of nothingness, of a void… as if I will never make another good painting again. But if scientists and color theorists are correct, white is not ‘nothing’ at all, but the presence of ‘everything.’ Light shining through the clear, color-less prisms of crystal pendant in my studio window reminds me of this. On every sunny day, rainbows bounce off the wall in a splendid, soul-satisfying array of colors.

The story of Noah’s Ark illustrates this potential beautifully: from nothing (the result of rain and flood) can come everything (renewed life). When the rains have stopped and floods receded, the Creator sets a beautiful rainbow in the sky as a promise that this emptiness will never happen again.

Perhaps this promise is inherent in a prism, inherent in the color white? All of the colors are there, all of the colors are waiting for expression. Every possibility for creativity is dormant in white, whether white snow or white paper… it’s not a void at all. The fear is really more a fear of ‘over-choice,’ a fear of making the wrong choice, as if one could be wrong and another right. I suspect that this fear is a fear belonging to the ‘Little Me,’ to use an Eckhart Tolle expression… and will fade away as I become more comfortable with simply being the willing channel for whatever creativity wants to be born next.

The German philosopher, Martin Heidegger (1889 – 1976) put this idea quite nicely: “A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the Absolute can manifest.”

Visit Susan’s website.

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Inner Wisdom

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

I have been thinking lately about the similarities between humans and their computers. Now, I suppose this should come as no surprise at all because humans invented computers… and “like father, like son” or, as in the ancient expression… “the prune does not fall far from the tree…” Nevertheless, I find some of the similarities a little unsettling. Take, for example, the concept of ‘external hard drive.’ Even a non-technical person like myself can recognize the value of a ‘back up’ for all of one’s precious information, photos and sources. But if viewed from the perspective of similarity between computer and human, the analogy becomes a disturbing reflection of a common human behavior.

‘External hard drive’ when viewed from the human perspective might reflect that we, as humans, tend to look for our value, our worth, and the meaning and directions for our lives… outside of ourselves. At first glance, most of us would say that “No, of course I don’t do that!” But how many of us are influenced–if only unconsciously–by fashion, polls, gossip, diets, styles-in-whatever-category, newspapers, magazines, the News, TV, peers, friends and family?

I am taking the long way around to make a point, I know…

The point I wish to make is that, for humans, this tendency toward ‘external hard drive’ can be a habitual denial of one’s own valuable uniqueness. (And for those of us who are artists, it is a rejection of the Muse from whence our creativity comes.) The world does not need one more person (or artist) who is just like so-and-so…. The world needs more people (and more artists) who are willing to turn towards his or her own Inner Wisdom for  guidance about how to live, what to do (and what to make). The world needs as many unique perspectives on Life as it can get. We need the full three hundred and sixty degree view of what Life is… or can be…

To quote Dane Rudhyar, “When you don’t follow your nature, there is a hole in the universe where you were supposed to be.”

“Inner Wisdom” (oil on canvas)

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