Monday, August 30, 2010

Drawing The Line

Today, I am racked with uncertainty on what to do next with my play, Prodigal. I’m not blocked, that’s really not the problem because the words are coming out. Rather, I’m too hard judging every single syllable that comes out. That kind of criticism makes my writing contract, makes itself smaller instead of allowing the writing to blossom.

On Sunday afternoon I went to a dance showcase given by The Alvin Ailey Dance School, what I found absolutely amazing was the joy that these dancers had for their performance. Each group had different levels of abilities from beginners to more advanced students, ages ranging from young teens to older adults. There were some dancers who kept missing the beat and were completely off tempo but it just didn’t matter. A smile came up from my belly to my face because they were doing their very best and it was joyful. There was a modern piece with more advanced students they had beautiful lines and graceful movements across the stage. Then I watched my sister’s group do their hip-hop number, Vick was all smiles as she went through her number, I know how hard she had worked at getting this piece down and it flowed beautifully. I’m always amazed at watching my sisters do the thing that they love to do. Go Vicky!!

Having written that, I think to myself, how is that I can watch these novice dancers and find joy in them missing steps and yet be so ruthless with myself with my writing? How can I be so gentle and forgiving with others and be so demanding of my own work? There is this twisted part of me that actually thinks snapping the whip will get better results, when all it really does is close me up. It makes me retreat away from the work, the words, the characters and then I’m fit to be tied.

There is this Zen practice in brush painting where students are told to draw a line across a paper. That is all they are supposed to do, just draw a line across the paper over and over again. It’s part of their practice to develop their skills. I know I’m oversimplifying here but bear with me. Now if the parallel practice of “drawing the line” is to write, write and write when does the judging mind ever rest? I write my lines and they never seem to be very good or “good enough”. What is in my head does not seem to be articulated correctly on paper. It is so frustrating! Please note, I’m not saying this for pity or sympathy-sake. Nor is this a matter of having confidence in my work. Rather I understand this is part of the creative process to some extent but dear oh dear does my judging brain need to make it so damn difficult?

After the dance recital, what keeps popping up for me is this idea of “beginner’s mind”. Shoshin is the Japanese concept of approaching work with an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level. These “beginner” dancers that I watched perform gave me a gift with this reminder. Their eager open hearts showed me what has been missing for me when I approach my playwriting. I am always so bright-eyed and excited when I first write up a new draft of some zygot of an idea but when it’s time for hard revisions I start to flounder. I lose my footing and really find myself doubting the work. I tend to be unbearable to both friends and family when I am working through these moments. After all, how do I explain to them that I’m frustrated because I don’t understand yet the motivations or actions that my characters have taken in the piece? Or that I just need some quiet time alone to work through this difficult scene?

Yes well, here I am. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I’m going to spend the rest of the afternoon working on Prodigal.
Wish me luck. ;-)

All artwork, photos, and text © Copyright 2008-2010 Liliana Almendarez unless indicated otherwise. All Rights Reserved. Any downloading, copying or use of images on this website is strictly prohibited without express written consent by Liliana Almendarez.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gosh, where have I been for the last ten days?  I wish I could say that I was lying on a beach somewhere.  Alas, that has not been the case.  More like hand wringing over lack of a paying job than anything else.  I didn't want to take up too much time on this blog whinging about my worries.  I get to a point where I sincerely want to kick my own ass and can't listen to myself complain one more day.  So I opted to just deal with it.

I had applied to chashama for some studio space and was awarded one.  However, when it came time to sign the lease, my lack of job prospects gave me a serious reality check.  I passed on the space because of the lack of incoming funds.  Wouldn't you know it...four days later I land myself a decent long term temp job in the finance sector.  Are you kidding me?!  I swear, sometimes I think the universe just laughs at me.  If I had just a little more patience and a little bit more faith, I could see the opportunities opening up in my life.  But I am an Almendarez...which means very little patience and a doubting Thomas to boot.  The cup isn't just half empty, but there are microbes in the water too.  

So now my challenge will be to be diligent to schedule time before and after work to spend time on my writing and art. My friend Christine (also a writer) gets to work an hour and a half before her day starts just to get some writing done. How does she do it?  I am SO NOT a morning person.  LOL.  My eyes may be open but my brain doesn't click on until at least 10 am with a couple of cups of earl grey tea.  Hmmm, I wonder if that will help me get past my inner critic....that beotch never shuts up.  

Anyway, I've been warned that this position is a mundane sort of job....which is fine by me.  I'd like to keep some of those brain cells for the creative work.  I get some of my best ideas in office environments.  There is something about the rhythm of repetitive work where my imagination decides to stretch.  I'll just bring my notebook to jot things down.  Also, not worrying about money may help the creative process too.  I've been so up and down that it's a wonder that I get any creative work done.  

Hmmm, so what else?  Ah yes, Prodigal, my work-in-progress.  The play is coming along.  It's always so difficult for me to get started but once I'm in it, I AM SO IN IT. I did some hard edits the last two days.  I spent 5.5 hours writing yesterday. Got rid of the character Carlos.  Deleted Scene 4 altogether and I am now focusing on the three main characters Dylan, Mona and Astrid.   It's tough to get rid of some of the writing but I knew that my focus was tilting towards the wrong characters.  I re-worked Scene 2 between Mona and Dylan and I'm not loving it...but I'm definitely NOT hating it.  That's a good sign.  

Afterwards, I curled up with the novel NADYA by Pat Murphy.  But my head was still working on the play.  I opted for eating sushi and watching a couple of episodes of the Dresden Files.  What a really good show, too bad it was cancelled.  Anyway, I've procrastinated enough with this entry.  I'm going to work on the play for a couple of hours before my sisters come over to BBQ.  

All artwork, photos, and text © Copyright 2008-2010 Liliana Almendarez unless indicated otherwise. All Rights Reserved. Any downloading, copying or use of images on this website is strictly prohibited without express written consent by Liliana Almendarez.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Bit of a Walk

Today I went for a long walk around the neighborhood with my niece Gexy. We stopped off at the bank for some cash so auntie could buy herself an iced coffee to help wake up a bit.  First stop the comic book store.  Yes, this is the part where I fess up to being a bit of geeky fangirl.  I checked the newest issues out and looked around for a good long while.  I picked up an issue of Fables, they retell fairy tales with a modern twist.  Very cool indeed.  I checked out the collectible merchandise and wondered if I should sell my Astonishing X-Men collection written by Joss Whedon for some extra cash.  Mental note to check out market value on them.  I know T would kill me if I sold them before he got a chance to read them.  Hmmm.  Just an idea that popped into my head.

Initially, Gexy and I were going to the library to take out the play The Miracle Worker by William Gibson but the library on 6th and 9th street was closed for renovation.  And neither one of us wanted to go ALL THE WAY to Grand Army Plaza on foot, on such a hot day.

We walked up to the local Barnes and Noble and grabbed a couple of empty chairs with an armful of animation books.  Gexy is really interested in technique so a couple of reference books and some behind the scenes books to some of our favorites like Avatar: The Last Airbender (animation series) and How To Train a Dragon (movie).  They showed some of the concept sketches and how they came up with the story arcs for their projects.  Very interesting to see the first pencil drawings as they developed out each of the characters and how they thought out some of the backstory for the characters.  We sat there for a good long while pouring over the pages.

Finally, we bought a copy of The Miracle Worker and went to find some lunch.  We went to Five Guys to grab a couple of burgers and fries.  Yum!  And off we went walking again.  Stopped off at an office supplies store to soothe my inner organizing diva but for the life of me I completely forgot why I was there.  We looked around, laughed at greeting cards and little toys made in china.  One last stop to the local art supply shop on 7th ave to buy a couple of paintbrushes for me and one sanguine drawing pencil for Gexy and we were out back out walking up the hill to the house.  We kept looking for the tree-lined blocks for a bit of shade 'cause it was HOT out there today.

Now we are lying on my bed (me with my laptop, Gexy with her nose in a book) in front of my fan.  At least it's cooler in the basement. I'm off to write my daily pages and read the Cameron book (part of my daily tasks for each day).

I need a little inspiration....if I could only get out of my own way.  I was up until 3 am last night because my brain keeps mulling over Prodigal.  But every time I meet the page, I go blank. As in. nothing there, no one's home.  Funny but true.

All for now,


All artwork, photos, and text © Copyright 2008-2010 Liliana Almendarez unless indicated otherwise. All Rights Reserved. Any downloading, copying or use of images on this website is strictly prohibited without express written consent by Liliana Almendarez.

Friday, August 6, 2010

My website and more...

I am very pleased to announce that I have finally finished my website.  Hoorah!!  Please check it out when you get a chance: 

Today I could not write. I'm stuck with my play and where it needs to go next because I know it's time to dig in a bit deeper so I decided to paint and work on my website instead.  You see it's too easy for me to stop working altogether when I get frazzled with writing and my inner critic.  A fellow writer suggested a brilliant solution of duct taping the critic.  That totally cracks me up.  That doesn't quite work for me tho'. I've spent too many years believing this critic so I shake her loose when I paint.

Butterfly Dawn << This link is one of three pieces I painted today.  One didn't turn out well at all so I'm not going to bother showing that one.  I have an easier time allowing myself to make mistakes in painting.  The critic's claws don't take huge chunks of flesh from me the way writing does.  And Joan Mitchell's abstract work really stayed with me all week.  I tried a different color pallet and looked at fields of color within the piece.  I lost myself in the process and it was quite wonderful.  * happy sigh *

The writing:
Here is my dilemma, I went to see this gorgeous film last week called CAIRO TIME with Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig.  It's a quiet love story that unfolds moment by moment.  It's so beautifully done that it made I realize I'm missing something in my play.  I know the mediums are different, movies are a visual medium so quiet is better tolerated in front of screen. But there must be a way to create a level of intimacy between characters on the stage without it feeling rushed or contrived.  I'm trying to figure out where those stolen moments are.  But I know it means MAJOR rewrites.  And I'm feeling lost right now and I don't quite yet how to break apart this play.

But the website work, which I've been procrastinating for the last three weeks, was a good place to hide myself in for early evening work.  It's a great big puzzle with pieces that I just needed quiet time to figure out.  I've had the house all to myself since 5:30 so work on it I did.  I am relieved that it's finally live.  I know I can go in and tweak it FOREVER but for now it's a good starting point.

All for now, I am maxed out and in need of a cold drink and a cool bed.


P.S.  Forgive the typos, I am too tired to proof this entry.

All artwork, photos, and text © Copyright 2008-2010 Liliana Almendarez unless indicated otherwise. All Rights Reserved. Any downloading, copying or use of images on this website is strictly prohibited without express written consent by Liliana Almendarez.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Today was a productive day.  Yay!  Even with the remnants of a migraine, I still managed to work on my website and finally upload some images of a few paintings.  It took me longer than usual since I was working a bit more slowly today but I'm glad I finally spent some time navigating through FineArtAmerica and iWeb.

Yesterday, I was completely out of commission with a full-on light-sensitivity, queasiness, could-not-function migraine.  I ran one quick errand in the city and got back home in time to lock myself up in a cold dark room.

But today I managed to connect to a few people who I've lost contact with.  Yay!  Life sometimes gets busy and we move forward with our lives and sometimes our friendships go by the wayside.  Today I took a pause and reached out to a few people who I haven't spoken to in quite some time, that made a world of difference.

Let's see, I'm still moving on with my one act play Prodigal.  It's still in the writing and revising stage.  After seeing the movie Cairo Time last week I realized there is something missing from my play.  The movie revealed itself layer by layer in these small quiet moments and my play seems to be speeding it's way through.  So I have to look at the whole story arc and devise a way to slow it down a bit and allow the connection between the characters to happen more organically. Do I try to re-write huge chunks or do I write up new material altogether?  That is the questions that I'm currently mulling over.  I'm also having a hard time writing the monologue for the character Astrid.  You see, I like her the least in this whole piece.  My writing group suggested that I try not to vilify her so I'm trying a different approach with her BUT...the words for her monologue aren't coming through.

Yes, well that's where I'm at on this hot, humid night.  There is plenty of work to be done and I'm just taking each moment as calmly as I can manage.

All artwork, photos, and text © Copyright 2008-2010 Liliana Almendarez unless indicated otherwise. All Rights Reserved. Any downloading, copying or use of images on this website is strictly prohibited without express written consent by Liliana Almendarez.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Joan Mitchell

I went to Grand Army Plaza library to go work on my play for a couple of hours.  I'm not going to complain.  To be quite honest, I'm a little sick and tired of whinging about the creative process.

Instead, I want to tell you about how I started to skim the shelves in the Art Section.  I pulled out some books on Joan Mitchell.  She's this Abstract Expressionist artist from the early 60's and 70's.  A couple of postings ago, I mentioned that I'm interested in learning more about women artists.  It was pure chance that I found her books but when I opened up them up and took a look at the art plates, her work took me by surprise.

I love abstract art.  I mean I get goosebumps when I come across someone's work that I've never seen before.  And I know looking at art plates are NOT the same as looking at the actual piece in life BUT...
She has one named Salut Sally from 1970 oil on canvas.  She has this beautiful hue of dark blue in the upper top of the canvas and then the colors blossom around it.  The brush strokes are thick impasto but her use of white helps lighten the piece.  It adds an effervescence to the middle field.  She uses this dark green and brick red paint but these colors seem to stabilize the overall look of the piece.

Then there is a piece called Mooring from 1971.  A soft pink empty field, a place to rest the eyes, in the upper portion of the canvas. Then the purple lavender and oranges intertwine in the middle field.  I don't usually like that specific color pallet but she managed to make it playful.  I may play with that color scheme just to see where it goes. I think her use of greys and whites helped tamp down the brightness of the overlook of the piece and gave it a moodier feel to it.  It's lovely.

In La Ligne de la Rupture from 1970-1971, she uses a black square and on top of this field a gorgeous yellow hue explodes off.  The black square helps the yellow dance on the canvas.  The rest of the background is done in a neutral soft white pallet.

In all of these pieces she has paint dripping/flowing down the canvas which gives it a raw quality.  It gives them a sense of paint melting off the canvas which is quite stunning.  Seeing her work has given me a bit of license to play with paint again.  I think I've gotten into a certain frame of mind with the work that I've been doing and I've been so RESTLESS that I wonder if it's my inner artist wanting to stretch beyond the routine way I approach the canvas.  Sorry  I'm not sure if that last sentence makes sense...I re-read it and can't make heads or tails of it.  Let's try that one again.  I wonder if my restlessness has more to do with a part of me wanting to TRY SOMETHING NEW.  Hmmm.  I wonder if this will help me with my stink attitude. Hehehe.


All artwork, photos, and text © Copyright 2008-2010 Liliana Almendarez unless indicated otherwise. All Rights Reserved. Any downloading, copying or use of images on this website is strictly prohibited without express written consent by Liliana Almendarez.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's August 1st, 12:45 am and I can't sleep yet again.  I am physically tired but my brain won't shut off.  Before I get loads of folks telling me to meditate...I get it, I need to quiet the chattering monkeys in my head.  But here's the thing no matter how much I observe these thoughts I get caught up in the whirlwind of emotions.  I am easily swayed by a memory or a thought these days.  The ebb and flow of the moment takes over and then I'm kicking at my sheets, trying to find another comfortable position, turning round and round, chasing after them (the thoughts not the sheets).

Despite a pretty crappy week, today was a good day.  I spent the day cleaning my room.  Yes, I am one of these people who actually gets satisfaction from cleaning every nook and cranny.  It's Pine-Sol clean and it smells yummy.  Then my sister Vick came over and we walked down to JackRabbit where I picked up a pair of running sneakers. Let's see how many miles I can put onto these bad puppies.  We went and had some serious sushi, then hung out with Bleu who always manages to put his big foot in his mouth which is hilarious.  Lots of good loud laughing.  It's been ages since I've laughed this hard.

My sister Ces came over to the house with my three nieces and we hung out in a big old group and just talked and laughed.  My sisters really crack me up and I absolutely LOVE them for it.  It's amazing how we can go on for hours.  We shared some pizza and then her motley crew went home.  Vick left soon after to her place in the Bronx.  I went back to my room and finished folding and putting away laundry then fixing/dusting/organizing my shelves of painting materials which I've really needed to do for quite some time.

So I feel like I've gotten some much needed household chores done and managed to have one or two laughs with my sisters.  So why oh why am I still tossing and turning? Hmmm, I did not write today.  That was the one thing that I managed not to do.  No wonder I am sitting here cross-legged on my bed with my laptop perching on a thigh in the middle of the night wide awake.  *sigh*

I'm looking around my room and the loads of photographs of Spain and Maui tacked onto my wall.  Water fountains and waterfalls, and Gaudi architecture and I've got to say that I really miss traveling.  I  want to look into some traveling grants to get out of nyc, just for a week or even a weekend.  Perhaps a yoga retreat.  I feel so scattered and so not myself lately...and I want to escape that feeling.  Or at least find myself again.  That's such a New Age bullshit statement ...but I guess I just to reconnect and breathe again.  Now if someone can tell me how to shut off my brain that would help matters a great deal as well.

Jumping topics because this is how my brain is working these days: I managed to see the movie INCEPTION on Friday night and I thought it was a fantastic film by Christopher Nolan.  My brain really went to the esoteric element of levels of awareness in dream state.  I'm not really sure if that was the intention of Nolan but it left my brain buzzing for hours afterwards.  Do you ever get the feeling that information that is being imparted is coming from a deeper universal source?  Something almost mystical.  There is a definite paradigm shift happening in our cultural collective and seeing a movie like this one really resonated for me.  Goodness I've been complaining for weeks about all the crappy movies I've been seeing and then I saw CAIRO TIME and INCEPTION in the same week.

I'll write more about CAIRO TIME after it opens.  I'm not allowed to review this film based on my agreement with my screening group but I can't wait to open up that can of worms on August 6th.  All I'm saying about it is, if you want to see a quiet indie flick about Love, then go see this one.  I'll also write about how it's been affecting/influencing the play Prodigal that I'm currently working on.

It's now 1:27 am and I think this little writing stint did the trick.  My apologies for any spelling errors, run-on sentences and goofy's late, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  I have to be up at 7 am for my weekly creative meeting with Tony.


All artwork, photos, and text © Copyright 2008-2010 Liliana Almendarez unless indicated otherwise. All Rights Reserved. Any downloading, copying or use of images on this website is strictly prohibited without express written consent by Liliana Almendarez.