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Sharing the Awe | The Reason for My Art

A large part of my reason for doing art is that it gives me a means for sharing the awe I feel when I create something. Since I began working with these Ozark pigments, the level of wonder and amazement I experience has increased exponentially. Same when it comes to making sculptures and beads with the native clay.

Some clay test pieces fired in the woods stove. I love sharing the awe of the amazing natural resources around me.
Some test beads and pieces made from our native clay and fired in the woodstove during a past winter.

I’m one of those people who are both earthy AND nerdy, and it also fills me with awe to be able to do techy things like making this blog post. It was a long time ago when I first began plucking the threads on the world wide web – long before platforms like WordPress arrived to make it easier. To have this platform where I can publish my own writing and images available to anyone in the world, is simply an incredible wonder.

How often are you feeling the awe? For me, it’s daily and sometimes multiple times a day. There was a period of time when that didn’t come so easily, though. Stress, depression, or too much busy-ness can easily pull the shades across those awe-receptors. If you want to recover your sense of wonder, I know it’s possible. It’s just not necessarily easy.

What is Awe?

At the most basic, it is a sense of wonder and amazement. The degree of intensity ranges from mild (marveling at a fossil I’ve found on the driveway) to an extreme so intense there are no words to describe it. See the last paragraph on this article to learn more about the history of the word ‘awe’. It’s pretty curious.

What Causes that Feeling?

The opportunities to experience awe are endless, and as individual as you are. Today I’d like to share with you the things bring me that sense of wonder. And I’d like to invite you to partake in sharing the awe – the sources of yours – with me and the readers of this blog by leaving a comment at the end.

I experience frequent encounters on the mild end of awe, lots of little awe-filled moments daily. Sometimes they’re bigger than a moment and lead to a new direction in my life. When I first started experimenting with the Ozark pigments, it was this level of awe. Sometimes the feeling stays with me for a long time. A forever impact. The longer I work to learn how to paint and use these colors, and the more I explore the natural resources I find around me, like the clay, the more impactful that particular awe-source becomes.

A Spiritual Connection

And then there are the extreme encounters. Those are hard to explain, describe or share. They’re personal and spiritual in nature. A mind-meld with Creation, or whatever your idea of what God is. There are no words, no translation I can find to express that level of awe. And so I make art. And my art is my expression of those interactions that cannot be otherwise relayed. Those interactions have trickle down that leads to the other things I experience that I CAN express – like the joy of discovering pigment in rocks cracked open on my driveway. Or the excitement to find out that old bones from a long-dead cow could be used to create paint that I could use to portray a still living cow…

Brahman cow painted in bone pigments by Madison Woods. She loves to share the awe at the possibility of things like this.
The idea that I could make a paint from bones, and then paint a cow with it, astonishes me. I used old cow bones that I found to make this paint.

Creating art, sculptures from clay, or even a wall stacked from rocks always leaves me feeling full of wonder and makes me want to share the awe. It’s a sense of connection to the cycle of life to engage in both destruction and creation in the same process.

Losing the Awe

I think everyone is born with a desire to create and express emotion. Art is one way of doing that and children are so natural at it, it seems they’re born with the sense of awe and wonder. Look at these paintings my grandkids did over the summer recently. One of them didn’t feel like an artist anymore (she’d lost her confidence in herself as an artist) and was reluctant to try. But once she saw what she had done, she was filled with a sense of awe. And it made her so happy. That made me very happy, because I knew she could love her art again.

Not everyone goes on to continue expressing themselves through art, but I think that’s because we start to attach a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ label to what we’ve created. Which I think is a shame.

Artwork created by some of our grandkids when they stayed over a few days this summer. I love their art, and I hope they continue to feel like artists!

We can lose our sense of awe at ourselves, and the world around us. It’s like the little spark of ‘you-ness’ gets snuffed out. But you *can* find it. It’s always been there, just waiting for you to let your passion come to life again.

Relocating the Awe

It’s very important to keep your spark kindled. That’s the part of you that experiences awe in everyday circumstances. Curiosity is important, because it opens up the possibility of feeling wonderment. While the spark that enlivens you can dwindle and seem to disappear, it’s never completely dead. If you think you’ve lost it, you might feel a deep sense of disappointment or boredom with your life, a dread, even.

Shelter the ember, even if it’s dim

While it might be difficult to do, I feel it is possible to breath life back into that flame, even if it is to only keep it glowing and not yet burning. If you’ve lost your spark, you can get it back with baby steps. The trick is in *wanting* it, and then opening yourself to receive it. The part of your body that houses it is in the solar plexus region just below your sternum. If you’ll notice where you feel it, when you feel wonder at something, it’s not in your head so much as it is in your chest area. It feels like a swelling of joy and love while the spark is burning and healthy.

Guard that flame with your life. If it ever dwindles to a cinder, keep it safe until you can rekindle it. And if you think that it’s gone, know that it is not. It’s just smoldering, waiting for you to breathe life back into it.

How does it feel when it’s lost or dim?

It feels like fatigue, anxiety, fear and dread when we lose sight of our spark.

The things that bring me the sense of awe may not do a thing for you. But in sharing what kinds of things make me feel that sense of wonder, maybe you’ll discover what does work for you.

I’d like you to meet Weshoyot Alvitre. She recently rekindled her spark for her passion to create, in her own style. I don’t think she’ll let anyone or anything ever get in her way again.

A Constant Sense of Wonder

Some of us are awe-struck in so many ways that the world never ceases to amaze us. I’m easily impressed by Nature, and Nature also includes us humans with our capacity for both good and bad, capable of rendering me speechless. Some of the little things about Nature that fascinates me are maybe not so obvious. One is the mycelium network of fungi. There’s so much about that we don’t understand yet with science. But already, the idea that fungi and other plant life interact with and communicate with each other (even if only on a microscopic and chemical basis) is fascinating to me.

A little woo-woo

The part of me that lives in another realm (see my bio to understand what I mean) also taps into this communication network from time to time. That’s the very woo-woo side of me that I don’t share often. This interaction is also the source of awe-experiences that can reach a spiritual level in intensity.

Experiencing the Awe in All Five Senses

I find a sense of awe everywhere and every day. It’s not so much that I ‘find’ it as the fact that I notice it. And perhaps it is the noticing that is the key to experiencing it. Awe can be experienced with any, or all, of your senses. From the sight of sunbeams filtering down between trees, to the sound of the water rushing over the bridge during a flood, to the incredible smell of humus on the forest floor, or the muscular feel of an ironwood tree trunk, or the taste of a perfectly ripe and sticky raspberry straight from a wild bush.

I want to share my awe with you. One of the ways I do that is through my art.

My Channels for Sharing the Awe

Sometimes it’s not easy to share an experience that brings a sense of wonder to you. It’s not always practical to even try, because the experience is something that maybe only you will relate to. But I’ve found that I really love sharing the awe I’ve experienced when it comes to making art from local pigments. I also like to share the awesome interactions I have with nature. Those two avenues intersect a lot in my life. The following are some of the ways that I am sharing the awe. I’d love it if you’ll share some of your experiences in the comments below.

1. Sharing my connection to nature

Rocks in a pocket - I love sharing the awe I feel about rocks.
Rock in a pocket

I used to write a lot more about my nature exploration out here at Wild Ozark. I used to write a lot more in general. But I got busy with other things (art-making) and the writing fell to the wayside for a little bit. But that’s one of the ways I like to share the awe, and I’m going to try to do it more often going forward.

2. Sharing my love of self-sufficiency (or maybe I’m a control nut?)

It gives me a tremendous sense of pleasure to forage my own pigments and make my own paint. I feel like, if I had to, I could continue to make art no matter what else happens to the world. Of course, I’d have to adapt to not being able to buy paper or frames anymore, ha, but at least I could still make color on cave walls if it came down to that.

This could also be due to my need to control at least *something*. I like to have some sense of self-reliance, and in this department, I have some expertise to work with. So I take full advantage of that.

Except for the choices we make, control of anything else is almost always an illusion we trick ourselves with. But as long as I’m physically able, I can make art – and make it with colors I’ve gathered from right here around my own house.

Anyway, when I make tutorials or posts about how I’ve done something, it’s an attempt at sharing the awe I’ve found in that activity.

3. Sharing the local color

It’s incredibly exciting to me that so much color exists beneath my feet almost everywhere I step. It’s so fascinating to me that I’m unable to avoid sharing the awe. Look at the color in the picture above. That’s a pocket in a rock, a small boulder, really. That beautiful shade of red is an iron oxide called hematite. It’s naturally gathering in that pocket, seeping out of the surrounding rock. I don’t know ‘how’ it’s doing it, but the fact that it is there is amazing. If I wanted to, I could scrape it out and use it for paint. If it were a fuller pocket, I might do that, but this one is shallow and there isn’t much accumulated yet. It might take another thousand years to fill up.

A pocket of hematite in a rock. Using these pigments is another way of me sharing the awe. Can you believe that color?!
Pocket in a rock – this is hematite and it makes a very rich pigment for paints!

Or maybe it’ll be full by next year – I don’t know. But I’m going to keep checking that little pocket to see. Every time it rains, and the pocket fills with water, it probably extracts a little more of the pigment into the water. And then when the water evaporates, it leaves behind the insoluble iron oxide. That’s my guess, anyway.

So, The Reason Behind my Art? To Share the Awe.

The driving motivation behind my art is a desire for sharing the awe through the Ozark pigments and the paintings I make with them. The same goes for working with the clay.

I’d love to know: What kinds of things put you in a state of wonder or awe?

A Curious Thing

I’ll leave you with a Curiosity prompt. Have you ever wondered why ‘awful’ is a word we usually consider a negative thing? I found that odd, because awe-full seems like it would be a good thing, right? This puzzle is due to the convoluted ways words are used in the English language. One of the archaic definitions, according to the Google dictionary, is ‘something that inspires reverential wonder or fear.’ (If you click on that link, you have to click the ‘more’ button to see that one.)

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