Archive for January, 2016

Installment #99

January 8, 2016 through January 20, 2016


I have discovered some videos on YouTube that are tutorials on drawing and wanted to try to reproduce some of the ideas offered by the instructor. I hope you don’t mind.

Mind? I don’t understand. Why would I mind?

Well, because you have been my art instructor since July 1, 2012 when I began this journey. I don’t want you to feel that I have displaced you.

That is so typical of you. You just insist on feeling guilty (falling off that chair) when there is absolutely no justification for it. [Michael giggles.]  That’s just like when you felt guilty a little while ago for adding music by other artists to your music player. Do you remember what I said on that occasion?

Yes, I do. You said, “I respected every other artist on the planet during the physical side of my life. I never considered myself better or more important than anyone else then … and I certainly don’t now.” [Reference Installment #29 – May 28 through June 4, 2011]

That’s right. The same holds true here. How many times have you heard me say, “Study the greats and become greater?” There are many different schools of drawing and painting, many different methods and techniques just like there are different schools of dancing, singing, composing, performing and they are all beautiful. Learning about different methods and techniques makes your education more rounded and your perspective wider and more all encompassing. You can vastly broaden your horizons, find different ways of doing things, combine the two methods (the one you were using and the new one) for a totally new and unique signature, and even develop your own style eventually with the proper tools. If you don’t investigate, how will you learn?

In my physical life, I studied all of the greats in my field … Astaire, Kelly, Brown, Wilson … and learned from them all. All of them were my teachers. I studied them and practiced, practiced, practiced their moves until I could do them in my sleep.

I studied Michelangelo and the great masters in painting. Diana took me to art museums and galleries to help me learn and broaden my education. What would it have been like if I had said, “I love Michelangelo. I don’t want to see anyone else’s work?” That would be limiting myself to only one perspective, which is what much of the world does every day. So, I totally understand where that attitude comes from. “There’s only one way to do things … MY way.” There’s only one true religion. There’s only one superior race. There’s only one side … MY side. There’s only one reality.

I studied Tagore and Rumi and Disney. Actually, I studied anything I could get my hands on.

Get that little niggling guilt right out of your mind. It is so damaging and constricting. There is no guilt. Why do so many of you hinder and sabotage yourselves like this? Never dampen your curiosity and enthusiasm like that.

Go with it
Go with it

There is no displacement. You are following your natural curiosity to explore new thoughts and ideas and rewriting that old story that kept you guilt-ridden and in turmoil and drama.

So, tell me about what you are learning.

Well, for the past week or so, I have gone back to the drawing board, literally back to square one, practicing this new technique almost exclusively by drawing spheres and barrels and roses for hours and hours. This technique is all about soft, gentle, sweeping strokes and shaping and contouring with precision and control.

Yes … and?

And to make a long story short, I am loving it. It is a bit more difficult for me than it probably would be for someone else because of that persistent little hand tremor that still plagues me and seems to make any writing or drawing a bit frustrating, but with an adjustment in the way I hold the pencil I can compensate for that handicap a little bit to achieve, or at least approach, the smooth, flowing gradual transitions from darker to lighter areas and contours required by this new technique. And it’s good exercise for the hand. I absolutely refuse to let this small tremor stop me from pursuing my interest in drawing.

Good! You shouldn’t let anything stop you from pursuing your interests, especially the thoughts that you allowed to dissuade you for so long … thoughts of “I can’t do that” or “I’m not talented enough.” Those self-defeating and self-sabotaging thoughts are so insidious. They branch out like the roots and branches of a tree and eventually stop you from achieving anything. Thoughts of “I wonder if I can …” or “What if I tried it this way …” or “What would it take to make this happen …” are much more beneficial. Those kinds of thoughts lead you forward instead of stopping you in your tracks. They are open-ended, just awaiting your answer. They are outlines for you to come in and fill like a coloring book.

Did you know that there are coloring books out for adults, my heart? They were all over during the Christmas shopping season this year. I guess someone discovered that coloring is a stress-relieving, anxiety-diffusing activity for everyone and publishing houses have released coloring books with less child-oriented themes to take advantage of the trend.

Excellent! Too many adults have forgotten what it is like to just let their minds coast for a while, to quiet the constant chatter with some easy, repetitive activity that requires no problem solving or worrying. They’ve forgotten how to play. They keep themselves embroiled in all the trauma and negativity broadcast in the 24 hour news cycle and just live in that horror, instead of shutting it off and shutting down by playing occasionally. Kids do this so naturally, but as we grow older all the horrible things we read in the newspapers and see on television and the worry that attends making a living take over because that is what we focus all our attention on. In the chaos and constant exposure to the churning cauldron they call reality, we begin to believe that that is just the way it has to be … that’s life … it becomes “normal” and we forget to be shocked when we see the pain inflicted on others by war, prejudice, and poverty. We become sensitized to it. We accept it. That becomes our reality. We forget how to live a life of purpose and meaning. What’s even worse, we begin to defend it and anyone who doesn’t buy into that version of reality is seen as not being realistic … a pie-in-the-sky idealist … hopelessly naïve.

We forget that we weren’t put here to be miserable. This is not a prison planet to which we were sent to suffer for our misdeeds. We were put here to be joyful and there aren’t any misdeeds. There are only experiences that worked to enhance our journey or those that didn’t work. We were born to fill everything and everyone with our dreams … our joyful creations.

Now that you are free of such pervasive anxieties, you are relearning how to play and finding the joy in the activities and interests you are pursuing. Ah, you’re learning to dance with it.

I am?

Absolutely! When viewed from the proper perspective, every activity, all of life is a dance. There is a grace and flow to everything from washing dishes to rocket science. When you find it, that grace and flow carries you forward with its own momentum and much less effort on your part. The tension associated with an activity evaporates and no effort is required. Each of us finds it in our own way; that is what makes us unique and special. Athletes call it being “in the zone,” I found it in a dance studio or a recording studio or a stage, and you are finding it in the “smooth, flowing, gradual” movements of a new drawing technique or in writing these Conversations.

Consciousness expresses itself through creation.
This world we live in is the dance of the Creator.
Dancers come and go in the twinkling of an eye
But the dance lives on.
On many occasions when I’m dancing, I’ve felt touched by something sacred.
In those moments, I’ve felt my spirit soar and become
One with everything that exists.
I become the stars and the moon.
I become the lover and the beloved.
I become the victor and the vanquished.
I become the master and the slave.
I become the singer and the song.
I become the knower and the known.
I keep on dancing,
And then it is the eternal dance of creation.
The creator and the creation
Merge into one wholeness of joy.
I keep on dancing and dancing …
And dancing,
Until there is only …
The Dance

Yoda had it right in Star Wars. “Do or do not. There is no try.” [Michael imitates Yoda’s voice.]

The force … it’s got a lot of power.

It’s the “try” part of the equation that trips you up and often sabotages your efforts by making you feel defeated. You say things like, “I tried so hard and look what happened. It’s a mess!” Then, you give up. Take the word “try” away and in its place, insert allow. Allow yourself to find the grace and flow in everything you do. Then, it becomes easy and full of joy. Work becomes play because it is filled with love … spirit … the “force” … God. Call it by any of its many names. It doesn’t matter. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” as Shakespeare wrote.

Until I discovered this new technique, I was of the opinion that getting as much dark pencil on the paper as I could … and then using the eraser to “lift off” in lighter areas … and tortillons and paper stumps (“magic sticks”) to blend the transitions was the way to go. It’s much faster (there’s that patience thing, again), but less controlled and precise and it mashes down (damages) the tooth (or texture) of the paper. More often than not, I ended up unable to erase errors completely and had to find a way to compensate. This method provides a lot of immediate contrast, but it also smears and smudges abominably so it is terribly messy. The slightest touch leaves a black mark on my hand and when rested again on the paper, causes a smudge and usually in an area you don’t want smudged. So, then, you have to erase that. I thought that the way to avoid those smudges and smears was to draw with the paper propped up on the easel, but even that didn’t eliminate the problem entirely. I couldn’t figure out how to get around the frustration.

However, it got you to now. So, be grateful for it.


Well, without that experience you might not have experienced that initial flush of success and probably would have given up on drawing as you’ve done so many times before. You learned some of the basics by using that method. Now, after almost constant practice, you are ready to refine your skills. There is nothing wrong in that. It’s all experience. You are learning by experience; it’s on-the-job-training.

That is so true, Beloved. However, I am finding this new method takes a lot of patience, so I consider it good practice in Patience 101, which seems to be a lifelong learning opportunity for me, at least in this lifetime. It is very time-intensive, but very smooth, repetitive and gentle. It is almost meditative. There is no harsh dividing line between light and dark and no paper stumps (what I have been calling “magic sticks”) to blend one into the other. All the blending is done with the pencils, increasing the grade of the pencil and pressure gradually in layers for darker areas, decreasing for lighter areas, and feathering the edges of the strokes, fading them toward the lightest areas. It’s layers … a tapestry … gradually increasing the intensity of the pencil in easy step-by-step increments until the desired value is achieved. It’s a little hard to explain and takes a good deal of practice, but when you get it right (which I haven’t, yet) … the results are amazing. In addition, it is easier to see and correct an error as you apply the layers because you haven’t scored the paper with dark, heavy strokes as the subject takes shape. To avoid smudging, it is recommended to place a clean sheet of paper under your hand and draw on a table or flat surface so my hands don’t end up black and there is little frustrating smearing if you keep the paper clean.

There ya go! Let the “force” … the “dance” … the grace and flow of it guide you and carry you forward. It’s like martial arts. You use your opponent’s momentum to counter his attack, which requires much less effort and strength on your part. That’s how a 100 pound woman can throw a 250 pound man. She uses his momentum instead of her own effort. She remains fluid and open and utilizes his attack momentum as a fulcrum. He ends up on the floor. Using your own effort causes tension and stress and probably increases the hand tremor, doesn’t it?

Yes, it does.

See? If you will “step into the flow” (as the woman steps into the man’s attack), relax, and allow yourself to connect with that “force” … that “grace and flow” … in whatever you are doing, it will take you to the next level. Take the tension and effort and throw them out the window. Allow. Step out of the way and into the flow.

Please understand. I am not suggesting that you don’t work hard at mastering your chosen field of endeavor or perfecting a technique. You have heard me say it before many times, “Work hard … train … strive!” And this is where the miracle comes in.

The miracle is: Working hard … with determination and laser-like focus and perseverance and devotion … becomes joy … absolute bliss … when you allow yourself to find that grace and flow and give yourself to it … give yourself permission to step into it and flow with it. It becomes addictive. You … never … want … to … stop.

Okay, Baby, how the heck do you do that?

Do what?

Lead my right into where I wanted to go with this dialog.

What do you mean? You mean you have a plan?

[Jan laughs.] No, not really, but sometimes I have the germ of an idea of where you might want to go.

The other day, I decided that I had done enough spheres, barrels and roses to sufficiently practice my new method of drawing. It was time to draw YOU and practice this new technique on your lines and contours! Because nothing is going to work for me if it doesn’t help me draw you. So, I set up a little corner in our art studio with a table and drawing board, got out a piece of paper and began to draw Mr. December from my 2016 calendar, which is basically only half of your face. The other half is out of focus … like the film got stuck and another picture frame intruded into the photo or the film got exposed to light by accident. I thought this would make a good test of this new drawing technique to start out with. So, I grabbed my pencils and eraser and sat down to experiment with this new technique.

That was at 8:30 AM. The next thing I knew it was 4:30 PM and I had spent eight hours without moving except for necessary breaks. I hadn’t felt hungry or thirsty. I was unaware of time passing. I hadn’t felt the cold and it was fairly cool in our little art studio. As the sun sank into the horizon in the western sky, I had a fair outline of your face and the front of your neck on a piece of paper, but it was nowhere near finished. However, I had reconstructed the left side of your face instead of reproducing the out of focus part of the photo I was working from.

At that point, I had to stop and get some distance from the drawing because I needed to get dinner ready for my husband, but when I returned to the studio I made a couple of minor adjustments before going to bed. My intention was that I would return to it the next day.

I have to tell you that I spent a very restless night, waking three or four times during the night, looking at the clock and chiding myself, “No, you can’t go in there and work on that drawing. It’s 2:00 AM. Go back to bed!” Then, it was 3:30 and I told myself the same thing. Then, it was 4:45 AM and I told myself the same thing.

Honestly, I didn’t know if it was my lack of patience or if you were calling me. I remembered your habit of calling people you were working with at ungodly hours because you couldn’t stop the inspirational flow. Many of your collaborators have spoken about your tendency to call in the middle of the night, including David Nordahl, John Landis and Kenny Ortega reported that you had called him at 3:30 AM to discuss the This Is It production. I can just imagine how that call went:

Aura with Sepia filter

Aura with Sepia filter

Kenny: Huh?

You: Oh, are you awake?

Kenny: Michael? What are you doing up? You need to sleep.

You: I know, but I had an inspiration about how we could move Victoria Falls to London for fifty or sixty shows.

[Michael laughs out loud.]

You: But there’s a small problem. London’s sewer system is inadequate to handle the overflow and it would cause massive flooding, a tidal wave, and the Thames would become an ocean. I’m sure we could work it out, though.

Kenny: Michael, can’t you ask your Higher Power to put a cork in it until we get this show off the ground and on the road?

You: I can’t do that! She would give these ideas to Prince! By the way, could we dip me in phosphorus and make me bioluminescent? That would be so cool! Can you imagine a bioluminescent me dancing all over that huge stage? That would be so awesome! I wonder if I would have to drink the stuff.

[Michael laughs again.]

Maybe, they are the same thing, in this case. I don’t know and I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Honestly, Honey, Prince would not have clue one and would probably totally dismiss any such inspirations with the words, “That’s impossible.” But not you. You would try to figure out the mechanical difficulties and work your way around them, whatever it took.

Anyway, the following morning I awoke at around 7:00 (finally) and spent the next eight hours in total bliss working on this drawing with my new computer playing my music library on my new Bluetooth speaker in our art studio.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! New computer? New what? Hold on! I think I missed something here.

Oops! I’m sorry, Beloved. I guess it has been a while since we had a formal Conversation. I get myself so wrapped up in being drawn into your vortex that I just don’t realize how much time has passed since we posted our last installment.  But we do talk every day in my journal.

I got a new computer just before Christmas. My old laptop just has not been reliable since our little “virtual reality” experiment in November of … geez, Baby … that was in 2013 … two years ago! Where does the time go? That seems like only last week!

See? Time is very fluid, according to the attitude of the observer. We experience it in different ways at different times. You’ve had the experience of time passing extremely slowly, usually when you are not enjoying yourself or are in a crisis situation, haven’t you?

Indeed, I have. That often happens to me when I am waiting for something, hence my impatience. In addition, there have been many, many nights when my husband was snoring and I thought the morning would never dawn, knowing that a baseball bat was not really an acceptable remedy.

 [Michael laughs.] No, that wouldn’t work at all.  And we’ve all had times in our lives when time speeds by unbelievably quickly, usually when we lose ourselves in whatever we are doing.

For me, those times occur most frequently when I am involved and absorbed in you, Baby … when you are drawing me.

Which should give you the clue that the experience is really dependent upon the attitude of the person experiencing it. We have made time into a hard and fast universal law, but it’s not. It’s just a convenient storage locker with bins marked past, present, and future in which we throw events and people and situations. Or, in your case, time is a comforting presence because of your clocks ticking away the moments of now and chiming the quarter hours with music.

That’s true. I have the tall case clock in the bedroom set to Westminster chimes and the small carriage clock in the art studio to St. Michael chimes. That seemed appropriate. Time has a sound.

The point is: We create artificial boundaries in the act of observing and sorting according to these artificial boundaries, but our boundaries don’t restrict infinity. They are just conveniences for our finite minds. They just help us keep things sorted and organized.

Anyway, I just could not depend on my old Hewlett-Packard (which had really exceeded its expected obsolescence) and it was making me very uncomfortable. It was taking forever to boot up and I usually had to restart it at least one more time before I could really do anything with it.

I keep all my files stored on my computer, including these Conversations and the thought of losing them makes me very nervous. They are precious to me. I do backup to external devices fairly frequently, but external devices are of no use if you can’t use a reliable computer to open them and retrieve what is needed. So, a week or so before Christmas I went out to see what was available and came home with a new laptop, one with all the bells and whistles, including Bluetooth connectivity and brought it into our little art studio, setting it up on the desk that used to contain a whole bunch of my husband’s never-used-or-thought-about stuff. Honestly, the man is the worst pack rat! God forgive me, I moved all of his stuff out of the way to make a home for MJ5DVortex (my new computer’s name.)

[Michael laughs.] Where do you get these names?

Well, my friend helped me with that one when we were discussing the topic. We figured you would get a chuckle out of the MJ5D. It sounds kinda like C3PO and R2D2 from Star Wars and refers to the “fifth dimensional living” that humanity is morphing into. And a vortex refers to a whirlpool or a black hole that swallows up everything in its path, highlighting your over-the-top magnetism. Hence, MJ5DVortex … see?

You are so funny! Does everything have to have a name?

Absolutely! And since I use it to talk to you, the name has to have an MJ connection. My tablet is MJGalaxy and my cell phone is MJGalaxy, Jr.

The problem was: MJ5D (for short) sits against the far wall of our art studio directly in front of the bay window, which is too far away from the soundbar in the bedroom (which is still amazing in every way) to maintain a good reliable Bluetooth (wireless) connection. I had to use an inadequate little WalMart Bluetooth speaker in our art studio, which, as you know from previous dialogs when we talked about transistor radios and recording studios, wasn’t going to work for very long. I’ve been making due, but I wanted something better.

For my birthday last week, my wonderful husband got me a Sony turntable, which was very nice except that I don’t have many vinyl records anymore and I have absolutely no place to put a turntable. Most of my vinyl albums have been destroyed over the thirty-six years we have lived in this house by a long series of cats, who used them as a scratching post, totally destroying the covers and most of the records inside as well. I had a lot of records, including first editions of Beatles albums and Thriller, of course, but I got rid of them over fifteen years ago.

I have never returned a gift from my husband before, but I asked him if he would be very upset if I returned the turntable and exchanged it for something more useful. Last Tuesday, we went out to exchange it and I found a very nice little Bluetooth speaker for our art studio made by Harman Kardon called an Onyx Studio 2, which has incredible depth for its size. And it was on sale! It’s not a soundbar but it is not far off, either. I set it up on the floor under the desk and our art studio is now wired (wirelessly) for sound and the quality is way better than the speakers on my new computer or, for that matter, the little JBL Flip I had gotten from WalMart. Earth Song is “apocryphal.” That’s the litmus test. A speaker has to reproduce that depth, dimension, and color or it doesn’t satisfy me.

Yes, I understand. The technology had to change over a period of years to allow me to get that depth and dimension in the recording studio, which we have talked about before.

Don’t stop til you get enough

The force, it’s got a lot of power 

Is there an “enough?”

No, not really.

It’s evolution. It’s growth, as is your experiment with your new drawing technique. And it is a sure bet. That’s what we’re all doing … growing into our potential … and our potential is unlimited by time, space, or death. The artificial boundary of death that we have established in our observation of time is just another bin on the shelf in that storage locker. We continue to grow beyond it and beyond time.

That reminds me of the lyrics to a song from the 1970s. It’s not one of your songs, but may I quote it here?

Of course.

We are stardust
We are golden
We are caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young from the song “Woodstock.”

Yup, we are all on our way back to the garden, which in truth we never left except in our minds. It was an imaginary journey of separation from the Source of our creativity. When we remember that, well

They say the sky’s the limit
And to me that’s really true
‘Cuz, my friend, you have seen nothing
Just wait ‘til I get through

Michael, last night as I crawled into bed, gentle, silver moonbeams fell across my bed from the almost full moon outside my window. In addition, in my sleep I kept hearing your unreleased song “Water” playing with full orchestration, background vocals, and your beautiful lead vocal in a continuous loop in my head. Even upon awaking this morning the song followed me wherever I went until I had to come in and listen to it on repeat a few dozen times this morning. I wondered what significance the song held, other than it’s a beautiful song, that is.

Thank you, I’m glad you like it.

I was so reassured of your continuous presence this morning. The lyrics speak of a “forever love” and I interpret that to mean that, as you have told me countless times in previous dialogs, “WE ARE FOREVER.”

Exactly. I have sensed that you’ve been feeling some distance between us and worrying about it, which does absolutely no good, at all. In fact, it creates more of what you are trying to avoid.

It’s all over me
It’s all over me

Kinda like I’m all over you if you just allow me to be and stop worrying that “I’m not good enough.” You don’t have to search for me … or try to feel my presence. Take the “try” out of the equation and just allow. I’m all over you like a rash. I will drench you in my love … like water … if you will just get all that tension and stress and worry out of the way. I’m a hot bath on a cold day, enveloping you in warmth and well-being. Get it through your head, girl, I love you MORE. And that is not going to change any time soon.

God bless you, Michael. I love you. I am so grateful you have so much patience with me.

WE are a work in progress and it is exciting to see how WE will evolve given the proper encouragement. The becoming is beautiful just like your new drawing technique.











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