Monet’s The Beach at Trouville

This is one of my favorite paintings on earth.

Meet Monet’s The Beach at Trouville, currently hanging in The National Gallery in London. It’s a painting of Monet’s wife and a friend of theirs, sitting on the beach and enjoying a leisurely afternoon.

And you know why I love it? 

One of my favorite things to do here is wander the halls of all the amazing art museums here and live in the past for the briefest of moments. I admire brushstrokes and color choices, the way the light plays across the surface, the texture of the oil paint long since dried.  I wonder if the subject ever imagined that this painting they were sitting for would ever be hung in a museum three centuries later. I laugh at these stunning “unfinished works” and “studies” — these painfully beautiful paintings that the artist dashed off in an hour or two one day, prep work for some bigger and better piece of art — the art they completed in a hurry, the kind that’s still leaps and bounds over anything 99.9% of painters could ever hope to accomplish.

And I wonder how the artist — Monet in this case — got inspired to paint a specific scene… what piece of his life — his dreams, his hopes, his terrors — he decided to save for us. Because life, your real life, in all its weird absurdities, always gets reflected in your art.

Which brings me back to The Beach at Trouville. 

It’s one of my favorite paintings because there are still grains of sand and bits of seashell from that day — so long ago and so far away — embedded in the paint.  Monet was really painting in that moment. It wasn’t a revisiting, it wasn’t a memory.  It was now, this moment, right in front of me. Real life saved in the paint.

Metaphor become real. And our world is all the more beautiful for it.

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Je Suis Charlie

pencils

 

This was supposed to be another blog post.  It really was. It was going to be all about London – and all about next adventures that are coming in my life.

Instead, I’m sitting here staring at my computer… my heart and thoughts and prayers firmly in Paris.

Je suis Charlie.

I’ll be honest. Until a few days ago, I’d never read Charlie Hebdo, with the exception of a few cartoons of theirs that went viral and made the news.  I disagreed with some of them. I thought some of them were hilarious. But every single one of them made me think.

And I think that’s the point of art.  Good art, anyway.  (Bad art is a whole other ballgame… something I’ll talk about in a future post. Stop with the bad art, people.) Sometimes we find ourselves wrapped up in a tiny safe art/life bubble where everyone agrees with us on every point. It’s lighthearted and pretty and fun. It’s nice. But sometimes good art is meant to be subversive. It’s meant to make you think. It’s meant to make you uncomfortable. It’s meant to bring light in the darkness.  It’s meant to bring hope to the oppressed, to draw attention and bring hope to the worst places on earth.

It’s meant to be a voice in the wilderness. 

I write for tv. I write for the theater stage. I am a songwriter and performer. I paint on occasion.

And today, my heart is in Paris. Not because I am a comedic, incisive cartoonist with a seriously political bent.  But because I am an artist.

For good art and good conversation and a better, more full world — and a reminder that we are not alone in our creative endeavors to create a more hopeful place to call home… It may be a completely uphill battle, a Sisyphean task of epic proportions — but that does not mean that we should ever stop trying.

Je suis Charlie. 

(Art credit: Lucille Clerc)

  

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The Streets of LA

– It’s late in the evening as the sun sets over Los Angeles. I’m listening to the city tonight. Living it. Experiencing it. I don’t do this often enough. I wake up, I go to work, I go on to my evening plans.  I’m always insulated.  There’s always a layer between me and my city. 

 But tonight, I’m sitting at the corner of Sunset and Highland, waiting for a friend.  For those of you feeling particularly research-y (or stalkery… take your pick) – Google Maps will tell you that yes, I am at Chick Fil-A.  They’re everywhere in Denver, but gold for us LA people in search of the perfect waffle fry.  It was delightfully whimsical – like my sweet friend –  and I loved it.   Anyway… back to the city. 

There’s an energy and beauty here.  A sense of life.  An organic, earthy, human feel to this city that I miss so often.  Tonight, I heard snippets of conversation as people walked by.  I heard songs on other people’s radios, heard the crunch of tires against the curbs and pavement, heard birds chirping, and heard my own thoughts for a few minutes.  I sat in the open air and took a deep breath. 

I got to stop.  I got to rest.  I was wonderfully inspired by a conversation on creativity and hope and the fact that Los Angeles is not an abandoned city.  

Have I mentioned how much I love living here? 

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Dear Thirteen Year Old Me….

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Dear Lynn,

You’re thirteen right now.  I’m sorry about that. I really am. It’s hard.

Really.

But you survive.  That I can promise you.  In fact, I wanted to share a few tips and thoughts in the meantime, just so you make it to 25.

  • Coffee will always, always be awesome.  It will not stunt your growth.  You grow up to be 5’6”, and the world looks pretty good from there.  In fact, when you’re 18, you’re going to follow your love of coffee right into a fantastic job. And then when you’re 20, a really cute boy is going to buy a cup of coffee from you.  Marry him immediately.
  • Superman birthday cake.  No. Just, no…
  • There’s a lot you hate about yourself.  Things you get picked on for.  Things you wish you were better at.  Things you wish were different.  It turns out those things that make you weird in junior high actually make you who you are as an adult.  Hang on to that love of writing, of time travel stories and space operas.  It’s going to come in handy in a few years.
  • Oh yeah… you move to LA.  You’re not crazy for dreaming about it. For reals.
  • I still haven’t met Leonardo DiCaprio.  Sorry about that one.
  • Your parents kind of sort of actually know what they’re talking about.  I know – it just blows your mind.  But listen to them.  They have some good stuff to say.
  • When you grow up – you’re actually going to watch The Sixth Sense. For the love of God, have some perspective.  Don’t let your cousin tell you the ending because “your parents are never gonna let you see it.”  Sigh.
  • Seriously.  That whole perspective thing.  There’s a whole world out there.  There’s a lot of really beautiful things.  A lot of wonderful people who are going join you in life, who are going to shape you into the person you’re going to become.  You haven’t even met most of your life’s most influential people yet.  (Awkwardly worded sentence for the win! But it’s true.)  There’s another world out there as well – one that’s harsh and broken and scary.  Pop that safe little bubble as soon as humanly possible, but understand that there are certain things you can never unknow.  You’re going to have to find that balance between the two worlds – the beautiful and the broken….
  • so don’t be afraid.  Fear is the thing that eats you up from the inside while it’s claiming to protect you.  It will destroy everything you hold dear.  It will destroy everything you wish for and hope for, because it holds you back and makes you doubt everyone and everything.  It comes dressed up as pretty words, words like safety and Are you sure that’s what God’s telling you to do in life? and I stayed, so should you and white picket fence. The first one’s a lie, the second one comes with the very loud answer of YES! and the third one comes with this question – wouldn’t you rather live an adventure? and the fourth one… well, it turns out you still suck at all things gardening, and you’re not going to want a white picket fence front yard anyway.
  • Be bold.  Stop holding back.  You were meant for more than what you can see right now.  And that’s okay.  God has this extremely annoying habit of working through things in process, and you’re just at the beginning of yours.  Hold tight.
  • The day you get your nose pierced – Mom and Dad are both going to come to you separately and say they really like it.  Surprise surprise! You’re also going to have fire-engine red hair, pink hair, black hair, blonde hair and turquoise hair at later points in your life.  Chill out when they tell you not to perm your hair.  When you look back at your yearbook, you’ll appreciate it.  Trust me on this one.
  • Read Pride and Prejudice now.  It’s going to be your favorite book one day. Start early.
  • You don’t have to be perfect.
  • You survive.

I’m sure one day, 40-year-old Lynn is going to be writing a letter to her younger self just like this one.  It turns out I still don’t have things all sorted out, but I’m on my way. You don’t know it yet, but you are too…

Lots of love,

A slightly older and slightly wiser Lynn

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Halfway Good at A Lot of Things – Pt. 2

                         My computer... the index card holder

Last week, I started a blog post.  I didn’t think it was going to be as intense as it was.  But by the end – it was long and awesome.  And I want to keep digging in further, because the responses I got back from people pretty much all said the same thing – I thought I was the only one.  I needed to hear something like that. I think, as an artist, dealing with these questions is a pretty much universal thing.  

And so a short series was born – Halfway Good at a Lot of Things.  

If you missed the first part – check it out here.

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The questions resonate through your artist head… 

What if you don’t like my heart?  Or my voice? Or my color choices? Or my words?  

What if you don’t like me?

These are huge and scary questions.  I know that.  You know that.  

So now what? 

First thing’s first – separate you from your art.  

Not entirely, because without your own experiences, how can you create anything?  Person you makes artist you a possibility.  Own it. Love it. Fight for it.

But you have value and purpose in this crazy world because you are a person, not because you are an artist.  So don’t take it all personally when someone says your art could be better.  It probably could be. Don’t freak out.  Make it better! 

See, it’s only natural that after I spend a ton of time on a project – a screenplay, a painting, six new recipes that will comprise my next dinner party – I want everyone to just gush over how amazing I am.  I mean, who doesn’t want that? 

You are the most brilliant human to walk the face of the earth.  I have never ever had something so tasty.  I’ve never ever seen someone use color that way.  That is the best story I’ve ever heard in my life.  You’re the greatest. 

(If you actually think any of these things, by all means, tell me!  My email address is…. just kidding.)  

I’ve been an artist my entire life and every piece I’ve ever written, played, painted or dreamed about has never come out of my head fully formed or perfect.  It is always born as a shape that needs molding and coaxing to become what it will finally be.  A little water.  A little love and TLC. It needs rough edges sanded off.  It needs to be buffed to a beautiful sheen.  It needs to be ripped up and thrown out and started all over again. Welcome to the life of an artist.  Notes and critiques are an absolutely integral part of that (painful) process.  Without them, you just end up with a pile of mushy little creative shapes that never go anywhere or do anything.  

Do not fear the notes.  

You are not your notes. 

So stop thinking that. 

If someone doesn’t like your song, that’s a whole different thing than thinking they don’t like you. If someone says your screenplay doesn’t make sense from A to B to C – do not interpret that as You are the stupidest person on the planet, and I can’t even believe someone would sell you a computer, let alone actually let you write something. 

Having the grace and humility to accept notes and work them into your next round of art is brutal.  It’s true.  Every round of notes I get might as well start out with a huge flashing neon sign that announces YOU ARE NOT PERFECT.  It’s a blow to my carefully constructed perfectionism.  Every. Single. Time.  Because I can hide and think that I’m pretty good at what I’m doing. Or, I can step out and be bold and vulnerable all at the same time – Help me be a better artist.  I just have to trust. 

But at the end of the day I’d rather be a better artist than a falsely perfect shell. 

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A Rainy LA Day

                           

It’s a cold and rainy day here in Los Angeles, where memories of a hot sun and breezy “winter” winds of 70 degrees (i.e. the reasons we all moved here) have been relegated to, well, a memory.  

I love days like this, days where the weather is cold and bleary and you just crave comfort food.  (Olive oil and wine grilled mushrooms and asparagus?  Yes please. Just back the truck up to my office and keep ‘em coming.)  I want to curl up with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate or blueberry tea (my latest obsession… thank you Celestial Seasonings True Blueberry*).  I want to run outside and play in the rain like my mom always told me not to do. (Hi Mom! I’d like to point out again that yes, I had vegetables for lunch, and no, I am definitely not going to have Pinkberry for dinner. Of course not.) 

And I think it’s all in the way you look at the rain.  It can either be a sad, cold day (see: the sad-panda looking palm tree) or a slow, dreamy, watercolor-toned day of enjoying the clean air and the scent of rain-washed streets (see: the rest of the photo).  I for one like the slow, dreamy kind of day.  But maybe that’s because it reminds me of Seattle, and today I miss my sister. 

I have lots of new blogs coming – about inspiration and movies and amazing books I’ve read and blogs I’m newly hooked on and the war of choosing the right words for the right phrase in the right script and Season 5 of Eureka starting Monday** and more – but today, I just want to stop for a moment and watch the rain fall down the windowpane.  It’s been forever since I’ve heard thunder in Los Angeles.  I should probably stop and appreciate it, you know?  

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programming.  

*Celestial Seasonings was not a sponsor of this post.  Though they should be.

** Mondays on Syfy beginning April 16th.  Be there.  It’s awesome. For reals. 

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Go Buy Yourself a Coloring Book (Or How I Learned to Stop Taking Myself So Seriously and Love the Whimsical)

            My Creativity Detour

I’ve been all overly serious lately.  It’s Saturday and the sun is shining, and I’m just having one of those days. Today is a decidedly not serious kind of day. 

And with that comes my confession to the internets at large:  I am the very proud owner of a Winnie the Pooh coloring book.  I’ve had it for years.  I’ve gone through three boxes of crayons with it. (I’m weird about my crayon usage – when it’s not sharp anymore, it’s time to move on.  New box! New box! New box!) 

And it’s awesome. 

That too.  

Go buy yourself one.  Just because.  

As a creative, artist-y type, I tend to focus on my areas all the time.  First, I write.  Second, I make music.  Those are my two homes.  My two loves. But those aren’t the only creative outlets (Umm… yeah, Lynn. We know that. Look at that… you’re writing on my blog now too. You’re good. You really are.)  

Sometimes it’s really good to take a creativity detour. 

Not a break. A detour. Are you a writer?  Go paint.  Are you a cellist?  Go buy yourself a box of that air-dry clay and make yourself a totally awkward but totally awesome bowl that will become your weird conversation piece in your living room.  Are you a painter?  Try to write a short story.  Are you a sculptor?  Try making a fancy dessert for dinner tonight. Become fascinated with someone else’s modus creativiti… 

I tried painting and found out I loved it.  I’ll never make my living with oils and canvases, but my house is slightly more decorated for my efforts.  I tried growing an herb garden and flowers.  Everything died.  Total fail.  Luke now takes care of our orchid and bamboo plant. They’re ever so grateful.  And they’ll probably make it all the way to next month because of it.  

The truth is – stretching and growing in any kind of creativity will transfer over to your brand of creative crazy.  And especially for those of us who actually make our living in the creative sphere, sometimes it’s easy to forget that we got into this because we loved it.  Because we did it for fun.  

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some coloring to do… 

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ART – The Pasadena Playhouse

                 Art

I think I’ve had a wee bit of a crush on Bradley Whitford since his Josh Lyman days.  Let’s just get that out of the way.  

Art is in the middle of a short run at The Pasadena Playhouse (this delightful little venue we haven’t had a chance to go to before), starring Bradley Whitford, Michael O’Keefe and Roger Bart.  Yasmina Reza’s play about three friends who find their relationship nearly torn to pieces when one of them purchases a brilliant piece of art/total waste of money/completely pretentious joke masquerading as an actual painting.  (Reza also wrote the stunning God of Carnage, and its themes of humanity and relationships and community are definitely echoed here as well.) These three friends – Serge (he who owns said painting), Marc and Yvan – spend several days arguing, yelling, backstabbing and generally being totally horrible human beings to each other.  But they also spend those several days finally digging into the deep parts of their friendship, the parts that are always there that it’s far to easy to overlook.  It’s the questions we’ve all faced when staring down good friends of ours – Who am I?  Who do you think I am?  Am I honest? Am I loved? Are we really friends?   

Part of culture and community is based on humanity’s ability to overlook parts of our friends’ or family’s lives that we don’t love or don’t agree with.  I think Van Gogh’s paintings are beautiful.  I think the Mona Lisa is ugly. I love being vegan. Try as I might, I am really truly not a fan of French food.   I hate death metal music.  I have friends that love it.  I will totally own up to being the girl with a glass of red wine and a good indie film in my living room, while Luke is much more into the big-budget blockbuster films on opening weekend.  

But there’s a difference between acknowledging our differences and “agreeing to disagree,” and simply burying the truth about what we really think for fear someone else might not agree. And these three friends in Art have spent so long telling each other what they think the other wants to hear that when an enormous 4×5’ painting makes silence or obtuse replies completely obsolete, these three have nothing to do but sit in a room and tear it all to pieces.  

I kept thinking of The Fray’s song “Over My Head” – there’s a line that just says, “We won’t let this go down ‘til we torch it ourselves.”  These three characters are doing a damn good job of lighting the torches.  Why is it that our friends and family can hurt us more deeply than anyone?  Why is it that somehow, in our twisted little human brains of ours, we latch onto all the perfect buttons to push for when we’re ready to wound each other?  And what does that say about us as people? 

Art is brilliantly funny, if you can believe it. It pushes us to look at all the absurdities and wonders and beauty of art and friendship and love.  But there is also brutality as they rip each other to shreds.  I kept looking at Marc, the first instigator of “What the hell were you thinking, buying this white and off-white canvas?” I wondered if that art didn’t tell him more about himself than he really wanted to know.  That maybe he was inelegant, that maybe there was nothing much of substance when other people looked at him. Yvan played the peacemaker, mirroring his friends’ thoughts back to them until they were satisfied, if not honest. Serge looked at the painting and loved it for what it was.  And he seemed to me the sort of man who wouldn’t mind being unwritten on, a free bird in the turmoil of everything.  To him, I think, this painting looked like freedom.  

Different views.  Different people.  Different personalities molded into friendship. I don’t want to spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it – but let it be said that a felt tip pen has never before been used as such a perfect gesture of friendship, in all of it’s funny, beautiful, broken moments.  

All in all, a perfect night at the theater… 

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