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Archive for March, 2011

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is toy.

It must have been an American who coined the phrase, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” We of this large western continent are notorious for our passions for pretty much anything that is bigger, newer, stronger, more prestigious or more powerful. Whether it be cars, houses, degrees, bank accounts, lovers, clothes, electronics, Old Master paintings, or the latest technology in bomb-making, Americans as a whole, rank far above the rest of the world’s population in this ego-driven, better than/less than game.

It is a sad state of affairs, and surely not the best use of our human and natural resources? Even if you’ve managed to acquire most of these things, you may have begun to suspect that this “winning” is not all it’s cracked up to be…

Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with a toy, which Merriam-Webster defines as “an amusement, a diversion.” Most of us definitely need our diversions from Life, and we also need the things that bring us pleasure. But it is the wrong use of a toy, of which I write. In our humanness, it is all-too-easy to use our stuff…or even our knowledge…to feel just a wee bit superior, to bolster that frail monster within all of us: the Ego.

Several years ago, I came across an old elementary school report card amongst fading photos that my parents had saved. I don’t recall the many so-quaint categories that a child was judged upon years ago, but one stands out clearly in memory: “Plays well with others.” Was it only a desire for classroom order that we were being graded upon…or something deeper we were being asked to learn? Judging by the state of today’s world, this is not a criteria that seems to have survived very well in the rarified atmosphere of Adult Life.

Play from the heart is important: it connects us to others, and it connects us to ourselves. Play nice.

More toy quotes can be found here.

“Mermaid” (acrylic on multi-media board)

The deadline for the Anniversary Giveaway is April 1st. Read the post and enter the drawing here.

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is cultivate.

Yes, we do all laugh and find solace in that Yiddish saying (made famous by Woody Allen), “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” but Allen’s jokey perspective on Life seems to be quite the opposite of the one presented below by mountaineer W. H. Murray,

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.” (The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951)    (I suspect this quote came from here.)

Can they both be true? Perhaps the real question is not only “Is the Universe friendly?” but in what ways, what directions are we being supported? I am beginning to suspect that a friendly Universe supports that which is most like itself: the spirit, the heart…and discourages that which is least like itself: the ego. Here I could launch into a long essay on the nature of the Universe (“All One”) versus the nature of the ego (“all alone”), but I will give you a field work assignment this week instead…

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

Assignment: Notice if your mental machinations are being thwarted by that laughing God…or if your heart’s desires are being cultivated and encouraged by a friendly Universe. Tip: sometimes it’s pretty hard to tell if our desire is originating in the mind/ego…or if it’s coming from the heart. Be ruthlessly truthful with yourself!

Many more quotes to inspire your experiment here.

(above)   “Garden Vegetables” (gouache on paper)

(right)   “Garden Tools” (gouache on paper)

The first annual Anniversary Giveaway starts today…see the previous post or click here.

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

Well, my dear readers, I can hardly believe that a full year of blogging has come and gone…

Almost 19,000 visitors, 600 comments and numerous subscribers later…who would have thought all of this would come from a simple desire to show my artwork to a wider audience? Blogging has required from this techno-illiterate artist a big jump in computer skills (frequently frustrating), and I definitely would not have pressed forward in this venture if I had not received so much lovely appreciation for my images and musings from all of you!

(I would also like to share my enthusiasm and appreciation for the Illustration Friday blog folks and their vast and artistic community, which inspired my venture into blogging.)

Therefore…in order to express my deep gratitude for these unexpected gifts of ‘fanships’ and friendships, as well as shared artworks and wisdoms, I would like to announce my Anniversary Giveaway!

“Dream & Vision: Life through the eyes of an artist…” was launched March 7, 2010 (read the first post here) and featured the artwork you see above. For the giveaway, I will send one lucky winner a professionally printed, signed giclee print (image area 9.875 x 5.375″) of  this original oil painting, “Inner Wisdom,” plus several other beautiful surprises! The contest will run until April 1, when the winner will be drawn from a hat by the nearest impartial person.

If you would like to have your name tossed into that hat for the drawing, please leave a note or comment on this post. This contest ends April 1st, and the winner will be announced on April 2nd.

Heart-felt thanks to all of you!!

 

“Inner Wisdom” (oil on canvas)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is stir.

Suspect figures and footages aside…life on Planet Earth does seem to be getting more and more surreal. Even for those not habitually sensitized by the evening news, the headlines can be alarming. Political, geological and man-made catastrophes press in. Wars, economic threats and increasing moral, heath and food issues are evident everywhere we turn. Specters walk the land. Dragons stir and come too close to home. Old ways are crumbling.

You may think, at first, that what I write next is unrelated to the previous paragraph, but if the following thoughts do not immediately resonate with you, at least let them lie as a seed in the back of your mind…

A while back, I became aware of a quiet, insistent voice which whispered (often in the middle of the night), “Remember who you are.” I took this as a personal nudge and made some external changes, but the voice continued. Recently this inner directive was joined by the whispered question, “Is this Real?” I interpret this inner question…and then also the first directive…to be referring to A Course in Miracles’s definition of what is Real. This question of what reality really is remains–to my mind–far more pressing than black and white headlines. To the casual observer, it might look like burying one’s head in the sand, but I am encouraged by these words from A Course in Miracles:

“Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”

Three lines, no big words. Almost poetry… or a koan. But I am beginning to feel that the answer to every dark thing in life lies behind these fourteen words…

On the same subject, but with humor, I leave you with this tale by the late Dutch novelist, Janwillem van de Wetering, who was strongly influenced by an interest in Zen Buddhism

“You are eight years old. It is Sunday evening. You have been granted an extra hour before bed. The family is playing Monopoly. You have been told that you are big enough to join them. You lose. You are losing continuously. Your stomach cramps with fear. Nearly all your possessions are gone. The money pile in front of you is almost gone. Your brothers are snatching all the houses from your streets. The last street is being sold. You have to give in. You have lost. And suddenly you know that it is only a game. You jump up with joy and you knock the big lamp over. It falls on the floor and drags the teapot with it. The others are angry with you, but you laugh when you go upstairs. You know you are nothing and know you have nothing. And you know that not-to-be and not-to-have give immeasurable freedom.

Next week the Anniversary Giveaway contest begins.

“Night Guidance” (oil on canvas)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is warning.

Sometimes in moments of acute frustration, I find myself wishing fervently for an external, clear path to follow. I wish for a path or a system that could tell me exactly what choices to make and how to achieve that elusive goal, success. That path would have road signs that point, “You are here. This is how you get there.” It might even be handy to have a red warning light on my forehead that could predict, “Danger! Danger!” in a no-fooling, mechanical voice.

Usually, though, I am counting on the belief that trusting my Inner Guidance is an art that can be learned and depended upon for all of my life choices. It is the art of Listening, augmented by the ability to pay attention to, and learn from, the outcomes of my choices. When I am not in a fearful (or frustrated) state, I remember that human beings are bodies and souls. Such a dual journey may well be more about the Soul’s journey than it is about the status, resume, or bank account growth. It may be that the acquisition of property, success and external perfection are not what we are really here for…not the Purpose of a life. If it’s not for external achievement, then what are we here for?

Surely Leonard Cohen was alluding to the true purpose when he wrote, “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” (“Anthem” lyrics from the album, “The Future”)

Mary Oliver, in her poem, “Wild Geese”, said this another way,

“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Let us remind ourselves: we are already the goal. There is nowhere to get to, nothing to achieve that will make us more perfect, more successful than the miracle that we already are. When we realize this, we bring the joy and peace of that understanding to everything external that we do. “Success” takes on a whole new meaning…

 

“Danger” (watercolor, gouache, pencil, pen & ink)

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Thanks, friends!

A while back, several generous friends blessed me with the Stylish Blogger Award, in appreciation of my blog’s images and words. Part of the requirements for this award are to share seven things about myself (read them here), and then to pass the Award on to ten other great bloggers.

It’s a bit of work, to be honest! And so, in appreciation of that fact, I would like to direct my reader’s attention to all of the very stylish blogs and websites that I have posted in my Links sidebar, where you may peruse them at your leisure, and the bloggers and webbers (?) themselves have no obligation to post, pass on or otherwise respond to my appreciation of them. It’s a win-win situation!! (Note: if you find a link to your site here, and would like to link back to my site, it would be much appreciated…)

I would also like to take this opportunity to share a new exhibition opportunity that one of the hard-working bloggers on my list is promoting right now. (You may remember that Susanna at Trade Your Talent interviewed me a few weeks back here.) Visit Trade Your Talent to view the exhibition information…it’s worth checking out if you’d like a chance to have your work seen by an international audience.

Blog Exhibition Spring 2011—at TradeYourTalent

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