Tag Archives: productivity

East vs. West

Egret, by Regina Siske

“I am totally captivated by the beautiful, challenging art form of Asian brush painting.

‘The rhythmic ritual of grinding my own ink feels very meditative.  It prepares me to paint with a certain calm and presence, while connecting me to the daunting knowledge of a ritual that was practiced 4000 years ago.

‘The spirituality of Asian painting is an inspiration in its reverence for nature, from the most imposing mountain to the tiniest insect.  It is permeated with a spirit of gratitude– starting with the ink, brushes and hand-made papers.  It is said that an old brush is never thrown away, but reverently buried.

‘Studying with local teachers and international masters has been an evolution for me, as each teacher imparted his/her lessons of essential brush-strokes, which grew out of traditional Chinese calligraphy.  In the beginning, I tried to emulate the style of my teacher, in the old Asian tradition of learning.  Now, I am finding my own way, my own style and my own ‘landscapes’”….  Regina Siske, artist

Reggie is a friend of mine.  In the spirit of this blog, I have been helping her prepare for a solo exhibition of her paintings this summer, providing “technical support for a creative life.”  This took the form of designing her postcard and business card, photographing her work and digitally correcting the photos, uploading her work to a website, providing editorial feedback on her artist’s statement and bio, etc.

As I listened to her read her artist’s statement, I was struck by the dignity and beauty of her words, and how these qualities are mirrored in her paintings.  In an elegant way, she describes the humility and reverence with which one approaches Asian brush painting.  As a Hebrew calligrapher whose work is also tied to an ancient tradition, her words resonated with me.  For years, I refrained from signing my ketubahs (decorated Hebrew marriage contracts).  I felt that I was a link in a long chain of scribes who wrote Torahs and other sacred texts, anonymously.  The ketubah isn’t a sacred text; rather, it is a contract and a work of folk art, and eventually I put my stamp on it, creatively and appellatively.

More significantly, Reggie made me think about the contrast between an artistic tradition based on humility and gratitude, rather than ego and self-promotion.  As I work to make a living as an artist, I need to “get the word out” about my work.  Additionally, one of my professional gigs is art coach, to help others promote their work.

There is nothing wrong with all this horn-tooting, but at times it still makes me cringe.  I keep coming back to the bedrock of all this activity:  it is all about the work.  In other words, if we just put the work out there, it will speak for itself.  And, conversely, no matter how much hoopla we make, if the work isn’t speaking to people, all the noise will fall on deaf ears.

I think you will agree, when you regard Reggie’s work (above), that it speaks with a strong, gentle, lovely voice.  See more of Reggie’s work at her website, and August 5-30 at the Wilmette Public Library, 1242 Wilmette Avenue, Wilmette, Illinois.  Opening reception:  Friday, Aug. 5, 6-8 p.m.

Mom, Dad and Ocotillos

I visited my parents in Tucson, Arizona, where they spend the winter months away from the snowstorms of their home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  As usual, we went hiking.  I told them I wanted “photographic evidence” to document them in their vibrant and active life.

As we took walks and hikes, some leisurely and some more challenging, I savored the time with them.  On a perfect 80- degree day, with a cooling breeze, I spotted a beautiful ocotillo blossom against the cerulean sky.  My mother had commented several times on how dry things were, that the desert was in a drought and the usual spring flowers were dormant. Yet, here was this bright blossom.  It was a rare spot of color against the arid landscape, and I relished it, as I enjoyed a perfect day of weather, a beautiful hike, and the sight of my elderly parents taking their time on the trail, helping each other along, enjoying life together.

In a couple of weeks they will return home.  My father will resume his medical practice, and my mom will continue cranking out quilts and needlepoints “like a factory”, as she puts it.  Although they have retired from the snow, they have hardly retired.