Saturday, July 15, 2017

On practice

I learn a lot about practice through my painting classes--most importantly, without practice, there is no good art--in fact no bad art, for me. And "bad art" is ultra necessary in order to get to the good, to align with my process. There are students in my beginners class that are impressive in their advancement. They're slow, methodical. My painting is brisk, rushing to get the picture down, the exact opposite of how I watercolor.  My teacher, always with the right words at the ready, says, quick is good. You're going to go over this when it dries, define, shade; you had to do this to get to that.

I haven't been practicing at home this summer, save once. All I have to show is the canvas to the right. I attempted to copy in acrylics, a picture of a floral arrangement done in watercolors (Deb Watson painter). I look at my reproduction and say, not too bad. Now comes the real work. Define the flowers, go over the first layer to shade and create dimension. Mimic my teacher, who with a flick of his wrist, a petal appears, a real flower is born! I memorize how he holds the brush, whisks it over the bubble of a flower(?) I've done. I try, but amnesia sets in within seconds How does he do that? Question to self: can I bring a similar attitude of acceptance and grace to my students when classes start? Demo demo demo--and lots of practice.

My teacher is always in beginner's mind. I carry my beginner's mind to yoga practice. In fact, yoga is all about practice for me, but it wasn't always so. My first two years in yoga class I watched my neighboring yogis, became frustrated when I couldn't align my posture, balance, twist my arms and legs as they did. It wasn't until I read Donna Farhi's Bringing Yoga to Everyday Life that I learned, the poses were only 5% of the point. Perfect was only perfect when I could do the pose without pain. Perfect was perfect when I practiced against a wall or with props, or sat it out. The perfect practice--using my inner wisdom about what's right for me, taking that mindset off the mat and into the painting studio and the rest of life. And practicing that every day.

This nonteaching summer has led me to spend many afternoons at my new favorite city hangout--Bryant Park. Specifically the backgammon tables. One of the teachers spent some time explaining  strategy to me and philosophizing about life. On one particular day, my dice were loving me--doubles, almost every throw--lucky, I said, modestly shrugging. The teacher said something like, there is no such thing as luck, unless you show up to receive it. I'm not kidding. My world is filled with Buddhas. They keep me practicing.


  1. So we have to play backgammon together. Challenge given!

  2. I would love to! And I have a travel set.