Five Artsy Outlooks for Fall

Autumn is change manifested.  It's nature's  loudspeaker ..."Retreat...get cozy for things to come" I just love that word "cozy"..I can feel that fuzzy blanket on my skin, that snuggly feeling under crisp clean sheets..the gratitude for the abundance in my life when I see that wooden bowl of fresh rosy apples centered on my kitchen table..

Fall calls us to open our eyes to change. Accept and marvel.  Here are five things I  think about during the autumn season...

1. APPRECIATE ORANGE ..Most of the year, the majority of people I know avoid the color orange.I'm thinkng mostly about clothing, but in general it seems to be an under-appreciated color..To me it's a lively color, vibrating, juicy, it tastes like a popsicle..

From a color psychology standpoint "Orange is probably the most rejected and under-used color of our time.  This seems a bit counter-intuitive given the fact that orange is said to stimulate emotional strength in difficult times and help us bounce back from disappointments and despair, assisting in recovery from grief. Orange is optimistic and uplifting, rejuvenating our spirit. In fact orange is so optimistic and uplifting that we should use it in our everyday life, even if it is just an orange colored pen that we find.

I am loving the brilliant orange hues of the changing autumn leaves.  I'm so grateful I can seel

2.PLAN FOR COZY-  Go get yourself a very soft and fuzzy throw blanket.  You can get two, one for the sofa and one for the bed.  Make one if you want to, or use that ratty blankie from way back in the day....just be prepared to have a soft and snuggly cover-up to wrap yourself in.

3.  FUNKY SOCKS..Always have a pair of wierd funky socks to protect your feet from the chilly floor.  Actually the funky socks can also serve as a protection for your unsuspecting bedfellow, when you sneak into bed and take your uncovered pair of icebergs and shock him upright when you place those frozen feet on his nice warm legs. Of course, the socks don't have to match, but they should be substantial-the kind of thick socks that help you glide on the hardwood floor

4. EMBRACE CLUELESSNESS- Autumn calls for release....the trees let go of the leaves they no longer need.  Sometimes I think letting go is mis-understood.  There is always a time,I think, after a letting go period, when one is absolutly clueless as to what comes next.  For some, the clueless period is brief, for others..we may fear the in-between time will last forever, because when something goes away there is always a space left to be in until something is invited to fill it.  Its that space between the release and the known that can be a bit unnerving...but I think of it like those trees without leaves. They have beauty too, and even the bare trees sway gracefully in the wind naked.  Open, waiting for what comes. 

5.EAT WINTER SQUASH Squash is one of the most fantastic foods there is.  Winter squash, like summer squash, is actually afruit because it contains the seeds of the plant. They are high in nutrients and in water content.  And they are delicious.  I used to think they were time consuming to cook...but thanks to a freind I learned that you can just wash off the squash and throw it in the oven for an hour..Oh, sweet.  Delicious..butter, honey, herbs and spices...try as many varieties as you can.




I Want To Paint Birds (and so do many other people)

So I have been lucky enough to host three creativity workshops at my home studio...I called them  "I want to Paint Birds"..  Amazing students..and amazing work.  We wrote about birds..we related to birds...we became the bird and realized what they mean to us individually....freedom, flight, messenger, mother, protector, spirit or soul...and we used art materials to discover and to play.


"Released" Mental Health

I was reading an exerpt from an article on Brain Blogger   I mis-read a sentence.

"...... Art therapy could be an important avenue toward increased mental health in the..individual. Engaging in art not only allows the  ...individual to express his own emotions to others, but the canvas (whether a poem, song or literal canvas) can reflect back to him his internal state. This dialogue between the artist and his work serves an important therapeutic function.?

I thought it said "released", not "increased..!.Hmm and that got my attention!  I think released mental health is just as important as increased mental health.  The reason?  Because so much of our troubles today are related to resistance...We do not want to accept the fact that life is what it is, and we are, miraculously, what we are.

We are human.  We have feelings that we interpret as good or bad.  We have situations that also we experience as positive or negative, the negative most surely being affiiated with real or anticipated pain. And we resist.  I do too.

For some reason (many reasons) we do not want to feel our feelings.  So we resist.  We eat a whole pie. Kick the cat.  Act like a jerk.  We do wierd and puzzleing behaviors, even to ourselves, to avoid experiencing our emotions.  And we do simialr bafflling things when we do not want to accept life on life terms.  Stalking after a break up...spending money don't have, buying clothes that are too small...all because we resist the conditions that we have created in our lives.

So art? Art Therapy?  Where does this fit in?  I think, at least in the work I do, art therapy is a safe and very effective method to not only confront resistance but to actually play with it, and then eventually break through.  And in addition, it feels good.  Actually I could simplify that sentence and just place a period after the word "feels".  Art therapy "feels". It's my experience that engaging in a guided creative act is a fantastic way to gain access and actually experience,in a visceral  and visual way..freedom from our unnecessary resistances that can hold us back.






                  "No Resistance"

                    Encaustic Mixed Media, 2010


What's the Point?

I'm middle aged.  That means that part of me wants to explore everything, from Japanese quiting to playing clasical ukulele to living in a trailer (a fancy one though) because I have an aged-base visceral knowing that the clock is ticking and evernually I will not only be old but REALLY old!

At the same time, I hear this cracking voice, a raggity guy drinking under the stairs, my mother in law "expert opinion"...someone  barking..."  Its too expensive.  Stay home. . Spend your savings on a sprikler system", downsize, find some guy on-line.."  "Im too old, to tired too burdened too smart too too too.." and each croak is followed by the musical phrase   "Whats the point"?

I used to detest that phrase "what's the point?"  Most of the time it was, understandably, from a man, trying to weed through all the fuffy language and hemming and hawing I diished out .He was probably  honestly attmpting  to understand what I was trying to say.  Today,  I honor and appreciate the sincere ability  to "cut to the chase" but in earlier years I honestly didn't have a clue how to "cut to the chase", and only wanted "to be heard".  I used to read ""Whats the point? " as a brush off. Now I see it as a way to eliminate the unnecessary to get to the necessary.

In fact, the minimalist/color field painter Hans Hoffman said just that.."To get to the necessary you have to eliminate the unnecessary."  That line has always inspired me, but has also caused me difficulties.  There are two parts to Mr. Hoffman's notion...the first is the assumption that one actually knows the difference between the necessary and the un-needed.  The second part implies that one is able to eliminate the unnecessary..that is a hard thing to erase, to let go.

You see, all of life's lessons can be learned through the act of painting. Paint over everythig you don't like (ouch?"), add what you think is needed, then paint over it again because you realize it is unimportant, and then you do that fifty times.  You may be back where you started but you are now warmed up and you have many past experiences caked in the memory bank of your seeminly pointless picture..You have who -knows -how many layers that have been painted over.  Start here.  You can't "do-over" or  eliminate the past, just use it to make your painting richer, deeper, more mysterious.

Life's continual lessons.  Learn about life by picking up a brush. That's the point


"Eliminate the Unnecessary"    Encaustic on Panel    10 10"     cynthia schilhauer



"I Want toPaint Birds "Workshop was for the Birds!

I am always honored to be a an observer of the creative process in action, as a particiant and as an observer.  This is one of the reasons I offer my watch students, sometimes hastily, line up at the starting line (the empty canvas) then commence to "let-it-flow...".    I see myself as the distributor of what I call "creative permission slips"...somehow I have been blessed with the interest and ability to inspire poeple, and take adavntge of the creative resources we already have..

May 12, 2013,a group assembled in a colorful, spring- filled back yard and stayed with me for the day, painting birds..but not just any bird, that represented something important, something calling, something real.  Birds are messengers..and our workshop easily widened the pathway for the messengers to appear..

Check them out...and join me for BIRDS-PART 2 in September 2013  (Saturday Sept 21) and BIRDS PART 3 in October...(Sat. October 19)..Of course, you are allowed to have little or absolutly no talent or experience making art...and you are welcome, too, as a seasoned professional just wanting to do something new.  Or if you just love birds...or anything else!  Let me use my talent, experience, trials and tribulations to encourage you to create a meaningful, colorful, and surprising work of art. 

Just look at some of the results from the can do it too!



Old as in Aging Artists

 I'm hearing the word "retirement" around alot the outdoor cafe when we were celebrating a friends birthday...on billboards with the smiling programs about memory and diseases...driving around looking for a new house that is "affordable" and ending up checking out an incredible manufactured home in ...yes...a "retirement" community.  Really, it was a bunch of fancy big ol doublewide traiers where many OLD people live.  Do you believe I am searching around my beautiful small town for a fancy trailer???  Do I believe it?

Well I believe it.  What choice is there but to put on those new, hip and cool tri-focals I just bought and check really check aging face in the mirror.  Wrinkles.  Brown spots.  Shiny platinum hair.Grown children who are moving towards total  self support.  A big house that seems to get more expensive as my desire to chase money diminishes...I didn't realize it but I am in retirement.

Age wise, apperance wise, family wise..I'm a member of the baby boomer cultural wave that apparantly wants to downsize (ie. "retire)  I do want to downsize, meaning I want  to get rid of stuff.  I want to do less yardwork, pay less money for PGE, and eat ligher..doesn't that sound like a retired person?

Im wondering what does "retire " actually mean? 

 1 to withdraw from action or danger, to retreat      Sometimes I do

  2 to withdraw especially for privacy                        Often I do

3  to move back, to recede                                      If I have to                              

4 to go to bed                                                        Every Night
5 to withdraw from one's position or occupation or
conclude one's working or professional care            As an Artist, I don't think so

I spoke with  a talented man on New Years Day who is a painter who told me he retired.  I thought it meant that he was going to travel more, or put in a garden .  "No" he said "I stopped painting.  I've painted enough and now I'm done."  I can't see it.  If you paint, can you retire?


Something from Nothing

In the studio, I make something from nothing.  I am not afraid. I honestly do not care whether or not I have an idea or a plan, though sometimes I do.  Do I  tell myself "Why start if you don't have a clue about what is going to happen"  "What if I start and it doesn't work out?'  "I should be doing something else more productive"...No..I just begin.

I pick up a brush.  I choose the color I am most attracted to.  Do I ask "Is this the right color to pick?"  "Are you sure this is going to work out?'  "I probably should use blue instead.."  NO.  I just let myself  be drawn to what attracts me.  And  I start to work.

I glue things down.  I rearrange.  I turn the palate in different directions.  My hand moves the brush.  I add. I subtract.  I use my other hand.  As I work, do I say "  You don't have a plan so it's not going to work , especially like other people who have everything already planned out..""  You aren't doing it right.  "" You should have a real job"  "What if this ends up a disaster?"..No,  I just keep working.

And then at some point... minutes, hours,  days..I am finished.  The painting is complete.  I back up then move closer sometimes, or make an adjustment here or there.  The painting is done.  I am finished.  I am complete.  Then I basque in the completeness.  I feel good.  I honestly do.  I have made something, I have participated in the creative process fully, I made something...something from nothing and it is truly amazing. Do I, after finishing a work, wonder "Oh, this was a waste of time...". "Who do you think you are to even try to make something personal or or original or artistic in any way?"  " I can't let anybody see this because its either too personal or too weird or too immature or too anything ?" No, I basque in the completeness, however short or long the moment may last. I feel good.

Then why???  Why then, if I am such a confident painter,  do I spend so much of my time in general wondering just how everything is going to work out?  Why do I have  self doubt and fear about the choices I have made?  Is a life "following your passion" over-rated, I wonder?  Should I have chosen nursing or accounting,  more "stable" occupations ? (A resounding NO)  If I can trust to process of painting why can't I trust the process of life itself?

These moments of doubt must be necessary to put me back on track, to get down to basics and to be honest with myself.  This is the path I have chosen, and like all paths it comes with hardships and challenges.  And I know for sure that the source of the creative urge that drives me in the studio is the same Source that animates us all, with all things all the time.  We are cared for.   

Releasing Resistance







Wine Country

Recently I agreed to join  Emma DiPadova in her new gallery location, which is in the beautiful  tasting room of the Somerston Winery in picturesque Yountville, CA.  She is an incredible enthusiast for my work and is gung ho on getting my textured landscapes out there for the world to see...and most collect!  So far so good...hence my new Napa/St.Helena/Wine Country Series...

I drove to St Helena last weekend in the height of the mustard season..where the earth is carpeted with lush, yellow beyond yellow fields of wild mustard...partnered with the neat, calculated rows upon rows of luscious vineyards..and the clouds and the fancy wine castles and the French bakeries...Its a visual smorgasboard. 



What Is Hip

So on December 1 2011...I recieved a total hip replacement .  Its been 22 days and I am still homebound. With walking restrictions,   I get to shuffle along on a walker with neon green tennis balls on its legs. I can not yet negotiate the stairs up to the studio so I have been just hanging around downstairs , accepting the love and grace from friends and family ...and RESTING

So a few days ago I asked a freind to go into the studio and forage for my watercolors (which I don't know how to use), bright colorful inks and some flimsy watercolor brushes that I havent used in twenty years.?  I took over the kitchen table like I used to do back in the day...And I swear, out of boredom, maybe desperation because I am in pain and frankly a lonley temporarily crippled person...I STARTED TO PAINT FOR NO REASON.


So far I have five or six bad paintings about pain and legs and faces and aching and throbbing and who knows what..I want to do 50 more but I think I have to do one or two at a time then collapse in exaustion. 

Who would have guessed that this major surgery to ultimatly fix my sweet sore hip would provide me with the opportunity to create lousy art, prompted by no one, commissioned by no one, not intended to sell or to display..Just for me ...for my own sake..for my own expression, to release some of the frustration and swirlly physical and spiritual pain that is part of the healing process.

One more time I find myself blessed after I admit total defeat.  Can't walk (yet), can't dance (yet).don't have much to give bercause I am tired, resting, healing...I give up..can't do anything...yet as a resultI  find myself making ridiculous paintings I never planned on  simply for myself  ? 


Nine Eleven Ten Years After

So in September 2001 I was working on my final exhibition for my Masters Degree in Fine Arts...I was on a roll..painting one picture after another about my colorful and conflicted life using symbols and colors and everthing I could  find  to help portray life as I know it in ameaningful visual way.

Then on that Tuesday morning I watched the towers horror, in disbelief, almost numb...I dropped the kids off, as usual, drove to the studio, as usual and set out to continue my colorful encaustic narrative about the amazingly beautiful contradictions in my everybody's life...

I remember trying hard to lift my spirits with the yellows and golds...but shortly I  found m;yself on the studio patio lighting the sensational newspapers about the tragedy on fire..Then I took a small abandaoned slab of concrete laying in the dirt  and pounded the hell out of it,  sweating and pounding it on the ground with all my might until most of it turned to dust..

I gathered u a pile of those ashes and another handful of that concrete dust.  Then I added the fine gray concrete dust and the jet black ashes to my beeswax base and I started to paint.

My Paintings to the World on September 11 and September 12, 2001: 

Nine Eleven

Encaustic mixed media with ashes and concrete dust



The Sky Fell

Encaustic Mixed Media with ashes and concrete dust



May God Bless Us All