The 30 Day Story of Kenzi and Jessica
So, I'd imagine you've seen one of the million posts this September about the 30 in 30 challenge I did with Keep Jessica Wild. For those of you who haven't seen or just missed what it was, I painted 30 paintings in 30 days. The goal was to paint one painting a day, but travel and a move interfered. But, I am extraordinarily proud to say I painted 30 individual paintings in 30 days. The other part of this challenge was concocted by my amazing friend and creative sounding board, Jessica aka Keep Jessica Wild. She decided that she would take the painting I did each day as inspiration for a short story. So, we embarked in this month long journey together. In a previous post, I discussed some of the unexpected challenges I faced, but this is about our journey together. It reminded two independents how to work together as a team, inspired greater and larger bodies of work, and was a profound blessing to me many days. For me, being accountable to someone else was foreign and nagging. I'm very used to painting whenever and whatever I feel like when inspiration hits me. Having a mandate to paint something new every day forced me out of that comfort zone and into something that felt daunting. Could I sustain this? Would my work somehow be less because I may not feel inspired or in the mood? But, I knew if I didn't really commit and do this everyday, Jessica would not reach her goal. There were plenty of days I didn't feel like it. The funny thing is, the moment I sat down to do the work, I felt engaged and worked through it. I was propelled into finding new techniques, color pallets, and places of inspiration. Another thing having a partner forced me to do was to schedule a time in the morning specifically to paint. Having a new baby made this even more challenging and mandatory. I knew he'd be asleep from 9:30 to 10:30. This was my window of opportunity to paint, photograph, and submit to Jess. I knew if i didn't schedule this, and for early in the day, she'd never get a painting. This was so good for me and was huge in transitioning into a self employed mama. Day 1
"Her eyes were the color of a thousand sunsets. Not in the way that someone's might look more blue or green or gray depending on what they were wearing, but like a prism; her eyes reflected everything she had ever seen in the world. Every green leaf, every purple sky, every drop of blue water and spark of red flame-- it was all there. Some might call that kind of beauty a blessing, but I knew what it really was: her greatest weapon. And she was not afraid to use it."
I remember sending Jessica this first piece of work and thinking " how the hell will she come up with a story for this? Its just a bunch of colors". She sent me her story that day, and I got goose bumps. I felt empowered and like a total BA. That's what she saw? That's what my art said to her? I can not impress upon you just how impactful it is to have the opportunity for the beholder express their interpretation of your work so eloquently. I was blessed with this DAILY for 30 days. Another little nugget from day one, neither of us expected. Jessica ended up creating a more complete story from this first collaboration. She hid 7 parts of one larger story among the 30 days. You can read the complete story with accompanying paintings here. Day 4
"It had just finished raining. The ground still smelled like sweet earth, and the air hung heavy with humidity. Water dripped from the mossy edge of the bridge into the still water below. The bridge had long been neglected; no man or vehicle had passed over it in years. Bursting from the concrete, mosses of all varieties danced, and from within their life, other plants began to bloom. The pride of the bridge was a young willow tree; with every rain, she collected the heaviness she needed to persist, her roots digging wider and deeper, and with every drop of sunshine, her truck grew stronger, higher, embracing the glory destined to be hers."
September first hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt that everything in my life had hit rock bottom. I felt like a ship ravaged in a storm, sunken in the bottom of the ocean. I looked around at my life and recognized none of it. I was not okay, and I realized that I need to quit trying to be. I decided to be present and to sit with the pain, to sit with the discomfort. The only way is through. So, this particular evening, I was trying to cope with my day, with the state of my life. As a yogi, I turned to my daily practice. The only thing I could do was flow through mountain pose and forward fold. I would stand grounded, toes like roots to a tree, and be as present as possible. When I could take no more, I would forward fold and weep until I could return to standing strong. I found myself again, returned to the real world, and picked up my phone to find this story. I was suddenly this willow tree, growing deeper roots with every tear, persisting. It was time to embrace my glory. I get chills writing this and thinking about the serendipity and perfect timing of these words. And all this came from a painting I felt was mediocre and uninspired. But my friend didn't think of it that way, and now, neither do I. Day 14
"Cool, crisp kisses covered her calves where the water met her skin. She watched as tadpoles and small fish swam towards her and darted away when they noticed she didn't belong. It was quiet. Only the sound of the woods surrounded her; chirping birds and insects, the breeze slinking through leaves. She was alone, and that was all she had ever wanted."
So, right smack dab in the middle of this challenge, I took a last minute trip to Denver, CO. This was my first time in the area, the first time taking an uber, the first time renting a car, and the first time leaving my baby for more than a few hours. To say I was anxious is probably an understatement. I painted 5 days worth at once and sent them to Jessica. Day 13 was full of travel and navigating a new city and getting settled. Day 14 was my first full day there and started with the drive from Denver to Boulder. If you've never done this, it needs to be put on your bucket list. I can't use words to describe this experience. Looking around and suddenly being surrounded by mountains is something I will never forget. And its something I did alone. Alone for this first time since May. In that moment of relishing my aloneness, it was all I had ever wanted. I returned from my trip recharged, newly inspired, a better mother and wife. This challenge has given me renewed vigor and passion for my work. I feel like I'm being propelled into something bigger than I could have imagined. Keep Jessica Wild and I already have another collaboration in mind and there are some big new things on the horizon for Kenzi Cox Paintings. Thank you for following along on this creative experiment, and I hope you stay tuned for what's next. All of our collective works can be added yo your collection here