Speech, A Watercolour

“My speech is imperfect. Not because I want to shine with words, but out of the impossibility of finding those words, I speak in images. With nothing else to express the words from the depths.”C.G. Jung

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Of Course, A Watercolour

“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.” 
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Look closely and you will see a heart.

This Valentines day, as I contemplate love, fear, risk and all that spring and winter brings me, l’ll take Mr. Saint-Exupéry’s advice and accept (stay open to) them all.

valentine painting

Terribly Understood, A Charcoal

Because with alarming accuracy

she’d been identifying patterns
I was unaware of—this tic, that
tendency, like the way I’ve mastered
the language of intimacy
in order to conceal how I felt—

I knew I was in danger
of being terribly understood.”

– Stephen Dunn

Below is my representation of intimacy. I love charcoals and although I’ve been working more with acrylics and watercolors the last few years, charcoal is my very first love – it was the medium I found at age 12 or so and remains my favorite…like an old friend who understands me..

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Faith, A Watercolor with Leonard Cohen

On three different occasions this week, with three different people, conversations led to thoughts on love, belonging, our past and what we keep from it, as well as the rational and irrational mind (the heart and the head that is.) After considering all the conversations combined and all the different opinions of those I’m close to, I decided that for me personally, it comes down simply to faith.

My own idea of faith doesn’t encompass religion either, and in fact I don’t believe in religion or the church and mostly organizations of any kind worry me. I do however, have a strong faith in humanity, in something greater than myself, in love and even in the irrational mind.

I had had the idea that I would write about the subject, but instead I sat and painted my depiction of faith, both in something greater, and something deeper than the rational mind might allow. The drawers of the chest represent all the little places and files we keep within our minds. Those places that challenge our faith.

And who better to speak of faith, but the great Leonard Cohen, with one of my favorite songs ever, Hallelujah..

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I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

There was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well, really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Exceptionally Quiet, A Charcoal Sketch

“I have often wondered whether especially those days when we are forced to remain idle are not precisely the days spend in the most profound activity. Whether our actions themselves, even if they do not take place until later, are nothing more than the last reverberations of a vast movement that occurs within us during idle days.

In any case, it is very important to be idle with confidence, with devotion, possibly even with joy. The days when even our hands do not stir are so exceptionally quiet that it is hardly possible to raise them without hearing a whole lot.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke

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Lunar Moon Mood, A Painting and Poem with Robert Creeley

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A Form of Women
by Robert Creeley

I have come far enough
from where I was not before
to have seen the things
looking in at me from through the open door

and have walked tonight
by myself
to see the moonlight
and see it as trees

and shapes more fearful
because I feared
what I did not know
but have wanted to know.

My face is my own, I thought.
But you have seen it
turn into a thousand years.
I watched you cry.

I could not touch you.
I wanted very much to
touch you
but could not.

If it is dark
when this is given to you,
have care for its content
when the moon shines.

My face is my own.
My hands are my own.
My mouth is my own
but I am not.

Moon, moon,
when you leave me alone
all the darkness is
an utter blackness,

a pit of fear,
a stench,
hands unreasonable
never to touch.

But I love you.
Do you love me.
What to say
when you see me.

Still, A Watercolor with Pablo Neruda

“Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.”
– Pablo Neruda
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Imperfect, A Painting

“We worship perfection because we can’t have it; if we had it, we would reject it. Perfection is inhuman, because humanity is imperfect.”
― Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

While an art student many years ago my professor told me that none of my pieces were ever quite finished.  That if I wanted them to be perfect, I’d have to finish them. I would explain that I was indeed “finished” and had no more to give to the piece, much to his frustration and dismay. On the occasion that I would return to a piece and try to make it “perfect” for him I would end up disliking it. Although there are some paintings that I take months to work on and continue to go back to, it isn’t to make them “perfect” – on the contrary, it’s just because I’m not done and still have something to contribute to it that is quite real. I have considered that I am simply not a perfectionist, although maybe I just find beauty in the imperfect things.

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Dreams, A Painting

“I’ve dreamed a lot. I’m tired now from dreaming but not tired of dreaming. No one tires of dreaming, because to dream is to forget, and forgetting does not weigh on us, it is a dreamless sleep throughout which we remain awake. In dreams I have achieved everything.”
– Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
Dream, Jennifer Allison

Charcoal #14

Art is not alone in imparting charm and mystery to the most insignificant things; pain is endowed with the same power to bring them into intimate relation with ourselves.”
– Marcel Proust

I’ve spent so much time painting this last year that I’ve neglected to practice what I love best – the quick charcoal sketches.   I give myself only five minutes.  Out of all of the pieces I create, I always look most fondly at the quick charcoals.  I believe it’s due to my disdain for and general lack of detail.  Throughout the years, I’ve had to learn how to add detail to most anything I do.  The beauty of these quick charcoal sketches is that no detail is needed – there’s no time for it.  Essentially the quick sketch is “the big picture.”
sketch #14

Autumn, A Painting

self portrait

Autumn is my favorite time of the year.  Originally this painting was to be my representation of the Red-Light district in Frankfurt, Germany.   Although for some odd reason it morphed into a painting of fall, or autumn, with all of the reds, yellows and browns – which I happened to finish on the first day of Spring.  Odd..

I’ve had multiple conversations lately both here on One Street Shy and in private about Rainer Maria Rilke, who happens to be one of my favorite authors of all time.  Sometimes feelings are lost in translation so I have posted Rilkes thoughts on Autumn in both his mother-tongue and in English.  Seems fitting.

“Zu keinem anderen Zeitpunkt (als Herbst) bewegt sich die Erde lassen sich eingeatmet werden in einem Geruch, der Reife Erde; in der Geruch ist in keiner Weise eine Verschlechterung an den Geruch des Meeres, bitter wo grenzt es an Geschmack und vieles mehr süss wie Honig, wo sie das Gefühl haben, dass sie den ersten Tönen. Mit Tiefe in sich, Dunkelheit, etwas von der schweren fast.”

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”  – Rainer Maria Rilke

The Giant Woman of Ibiza

“The cost of oblivious daydreaming was always this moment of return, the realignment with what had been before and now seemed a little worse. ” 
- Ian McEwan

Yesterday I was a giant.

I thought maybe at first I’d be an amazon woman.   An amazon would make more sense for someone like me.  I am short and small but dream of being tall.  When I feel insecure next to tall woman I secretly call them amazons under my breath.  Only because I want to be like them.  Sometimes I am mean and childish.

However, yesterday an amazon was much too short.  Jennifer the giant sounded better on the tongue.

Early in the morning I sat on a rock at the edge of the beach and considered taking a walk into the sea.  My toes dangled near the water and I briefly wondered if the bottoms of my feet would be cut by the small jagged rocks hiding below.

Maybe I could walk to Majorca.

The Mediterranean changes all the time.  The colors move from dark blue to white to green so quickly that I sometimes close my eyes for two whole minutes just so I can open them to a new painting.  It’s like being in an abstract art museum and not having to move at all.  If you sit long enough, the paintings all come to you.

Certainly there must be invisible artists painting the sea.

Yesterday, unlike the last few weeks, the water was calm like glass.  I thought that maybe the invisible artists were taking a siesta or maybe out buying more sea brushes.

If I walked far enough I could meet the artists who painted such beautiful designs.  We would all sit and drink wine and eat pickles and they could tell me their secrets to painting the sea.  They would ask me to be their apprentice.

We would discuss very important things, the artists and I.

Maybe I would walk to Barcelona, I thought.  It would have only taken twenty minutes or so.  But the water might have gotten deep and I would be forced to swim.  Swimming in the deep water scares me.  I always wonder what’s underneath me.  Are there piranhas in the sea?  Would a million of them have eaten me in a big bloody mess?  I would have to fight them with my giant hands.  Would my blood then paint the sea too?  Would the invisible artists be happy to have a new red color to mix with the blues and greens?

I didn’t want to swim.  I wanted only to walk.  But the water would be cold on my skin and if I got to Majorca without being eaten by piranhas I would have giant wet clothes and have to find a shop with giant dry clothes.  Exhausting…

Instead of taking a walk to Barcelona, fighting piranhas or introducing myself to the invisible artists I simply sat on my rock in safety.

Yesterday I was a giant.

Today I’ve been asked by a famous travel magazine to travel to Rajasthan and write about the food, lodging and culture.  What a busy day…this daydreaming takes up so much of my time

Sleep, A Watercolor

“When you go,
if you go,
And I should want to die,
there’s nothing I’d be saved by
more than the time
you fell asleep in my arms
in a trust so gentle
I let the darkening room
drink up the evening, till
rest, or the new rain
lightly roused you awake.
I asked if you heard the rain in your dream
and half dreaming still you only said, I love you.”
– Edwin Morgan, Selected Poems

Sleep, Jennifer Allison
Sleep, Jennifer Allison

 

Janus, A Painting

“Sensual and spiritual are not easy words to use; that there are, perhaps, not two
Aphrodites, but one Aphrodite with a Janus face.” 
– E.M. Forster, The Longest Journey

I am preparing for my first one-woman art exhibit in June at a local gallery.  This particular watercolor painting is rather large in size for me, but was always one of my favorite little sketches.  I tend to paint and draw sensuality as exhibited here in “Janus.” With this show preparation comes an opening of insecurities, moods of every shade and a sweet time of self-reflection.

Janus - Jennifer Allison
Janus – Jennifer Allison

Grace, A Charcoal

“The light of love, the purity of grace,
The mind, the Music breathing from her face, 
The heart whose softness harmonised the whole —
And, oh! That eye was in itself a Soul!” 
– George Gordon Byron

I have very few regrets in life, although I have had many blunders.  The one I do have is related to a purchase of all things.  A purchase I put off, thinking I would return and find it still….

For a few years I would visit Rome every three or four months or so.  I didn’t stay in the touristy places, but outside of them, in a neighborhood in which I often found myself lost – the only English speaker.  Near this neighborhood (I wish I could remember the exact area name) there was a flea market.  The gypsy’s and bric-a-brac vendors would sell their wears.  Three times I visited the same antique booth and three times I coveted a large alabaster statue of The Three Graces.  It was beautiful.  The woman selling the piece wanted 120 Euros for it and I never had the funds to spare.  All of my money was spent either on travel or on entertainment while I was there and even then, entertainment often consisted of low-budget stuff.

Each time I saw it I’d tell myself that it was overpriced and the next time I’d return to Rome, have the money, and maybe, just maybe, the woman would lower the price.  The very last time I visited Rome over a year and a half ago my intuition told me to just buy the damn thing…although it would have taken all of my money for the week…so again I told myself, “Next time.”

There was never a next time as it turns out.  I’ve come across many statues since then of the three graces, but none as lovely as the one in Rome.  I’d like to think I’ll find it again someday, if not in Rome, then another flea market somewhere far away…

Three Graces - Jennifer Allison
Three Graces – Jennifer Allison

Woman Guest, A Watercolor Muse

“This being human is a guest house,
Every morning a new arrival….

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”

Rumi – The Guest House

Rumi’s poem, The Guest House, is one of my favorites of his.  For many years I would read it to my yoga students while they rested in Sivasana.  This morning, after a cold, wet and windy brisk walk I settled inside of my warm studio to paint. Today my studio also became my Guest House. You see, I woke this morning with a lump in my throat; a lump of expression and emotion that as it always is with me, would only be sated by means of writing, painting or drawing. Otherwise that lump only grows until I metaphorically choke on it, unable to breathe.

When I first began painting the piece below I knew it would be a lesson; an experimental work.  I’m trying some new techniques with watercolor and synthetic paper and had this idea that I would make a black and white watercolor look almost like one of my charcoals.  The piece morphed at least a dozen times and in the end, looked nothing like what I intended it to be.  This happens all the time, but today – today my emotions morphed right along with my painting.  I had so many guests appear at the door of my mind, so many emotions, that I could scarcely keep up with all of them.  I’d stop for a cup of tea or a glass of wine and sit on the stool in front of my easel and stare at her – the painting.

In the end I was grateful for each of my guests as they were able to appear within each stroke and I worked some stored up stress out from my insides.  Also with my lump now gone from my throat I can breathe once more and although frustrating, I’ve decided to continue my self-study on watercolor techniques……and emotions.

Woman Guest - Jennifer Allison
Woman Guest – Jennifer Allison

Woman Dream, A Watercolor

“Sometimes by a woodland stream he watched the water rush over the pebbled bed, its tiny modulations of bounce and flow. A woman’s body was like that. If you watched it carefully enough you could see how it moved to the rhythm of the world, the deep rhythm, the music below the music, the truth below the truth. He believed in this hidden truth the way other men believed in God or love, believed that truth was in fact always hidden, that the apparent, the overt, was invariably a kind of lie.”
– Salman Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence 

Woman Dream – Jennifer Allison, watercolor

Man, A Charcoal

“Was it necessary to tell me that you wanted nothing in the world but me?’
The corners of his mouth drooped peevishly.
‘Oh, my dear, it’s rather hard to take quite literally the things a man says when he’s in love with you.’
‘Didn’t you mean them?’
At the moment.”
-W.Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

Man – Jennifer Allison, charcoal


Ode to Daphne

“I stand here on the summit of the mountain. I lift my head and I spread my arms. This, my body and spirit, this is the end of the quest. I wished to know the meaning of all things. I am the meaning. I wished to find a warrant for being. I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction. Neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish. I am not a tool for their use. I am not a servant of their needs. I am not a sacrifice on their alters.”
Ayn Rand

Daphne, Hermes and The Storm of Lake Garda,  “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”― Rumi  – Jennifer Allison, graphite