Gratitude and the Frequency of Light

Lauren Mantecon, Mingle, mixed media and oil on panels, 42x37, 2019

Lauren Mantecon, Mingle, mixed media and oil on panels, 42x37, 2019

My partner Steve is a man of few words. He is practical, grounded and laconic by nature.

So, when he leaned in close at 4:00 am one morning to whisper his advice- I listened.

It was if he could hear what I was thinking as I stared into the shadows moving along the wall. As I watched a deep indigo float to subtle grey- the thoughts grew louder.  They were ping ponging with bleakness, despair and drama, overwhelming me with what if’s and stories of a raveled, tangled past undone.

He said:

“If you find yourself in the dark, go light a candle.”

Since he whispered those words, I have come to discover they have their roots in an

old Chinese proverb: 

"Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

In following the wisdom of my beloved and the Chinese ancients, I did just that. I fumbled my way to the kitchen, and in ritualistic style placed a single candle on an empty kitchen table and lit a match.

I could not help but to laugh out loud at the simplicity, absurdity and brilliance of the moment.

The achromatic shadows began to transform - a slow pull towards a warm shimmer. A plume of smoke - grey, purple, white with an effervescent glow.

A synthesis of light.

Suddenly I was overcome with tremendous gratitude.

I did not want the feeling to dissipate. I wanted it to stay with me like a wave over shore line - humbled by the complexity of the land. 

Gratitude. In large or small doses it does not matter - gratitude can alleviate the looming shadows.

Here is my short gratitude list -the places where the flickering light in the darkness reminds me of who and what I am.

What is on your list?

pink clouds

organic cotton

my two legs that can take me down my stairs and out my door

the aroma of coffee

monsoons where wet meets dry, electrifying land and air

my studio overflowing with boxes of uncapped paint- beckoning

musings on the mysterious unknown universe

dappling sunlight on the bottom of an outdoor pool while swimming

summer gardens

horizon line ascending into midnight blue as day turns to night

trees large and small

rocking chairs

The magnetic pull  of “place”


golden light

the infectious resonance of emotional grace

And the soft spoken words from a partner when coming out of the dark:

“You have an eye and you have a heart and those are two really good places to start.”

I am thrilled to be hosting writer Pam Houston author of Cowboys are my Weakness and Deep Creek- Finding Hope in the High Country for a writing workshop  “Turning the Physical into Life Story.”  At the heart of the workshop will be an examination of the physical stuff of your life and how you can use it to gain access to the emotional stuff.  Come join us to learn how to access your rich interior creative landscape.

Also, I will be hosting two -one year-long “Dive Deep” programs that start in January and April 2020. These programs are an enriched study for those that have either taken workshops from me in the past or are serious about the act of creating. I have 3 spots left so message me for an application. Over fourteen months, the programs will consist of zoom sessions and three in-person workshops in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Thank you for your reading,

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For private and long distance local mentoring sessions- click here.


That “Third Thing” In Between


I recently took a vacation from all work, including painting. I camped, watched light and shadow dance on the leaves of trees, and read a very thick book to completion. All the while I felt a gnawing underbelly of pressure. 

Guilt, things I could and should be doing for life and an awareness of needing empty spaces inside to recharge. I was torn between two ways of being. Often we are caught between two things, writes Natalie Goldberg in her book, The True Secret of Writing. Pulled into a fray of right or wrong—should I do this, should I do that?—Natalie says that within a struggle, a third thing can be birthed, fueled by the extremes and fertilized into something that is unique to you and very real.

The Third Thing

I have experienced this very real phenomenon in the act of making an abstract painting. We don’t think our way to resolution, we find the space between. I’m not trying to “make“ it into anything, but I am wanting my emotions to lead the way. It’s a form of getting to the truth, our own truth.

I have found existentialist writer John Graham to be a wonderful resource in describing just those spaces in proclaiming what is art is in his manifesto from 1939 titled, Systems and Dialectics of Art.

He claims that the purpose of art is to re-establish relationship with the unconscious. He states that the “conscious mind is incapable of creating; and is only a clearing house for the powers of the unconscious and the best way to our unconscious is through our emotions.”

For me, I work with shadows, externally and internally. If I linger and not squint too hard, the shadows might come into focus or dissipate altogether.

John Graham has left me with questions. For instance, I usually talk about abstract works of art as creating movement that moves the eye just so. He makes a different statement claiming:

“A great work of art is always static. A dynamic state is the natural state of things and there is no accomplishment in falling in with eternal motion, the heroic feat is to arrest motion by stupendous effort  and to contemplate. An abstract painting is an argument drawn to a conclusion.”

Contemplation, a calm in a storm, the static within movement, all in search of our unique point of view.

Thank you for reading,


Sunday - July 14th
One Day Only Collectors Sale- 11:00 - 5:00 pm

A variety of small and large pieces will be made available at studio prices for purchase. I will give a talk at 2:00 pm.

September 26 & 27 in Santa Fe
I am teaching The Space Between Painting and Intuition with Stacy Philips. Just a few spots left!

Wrangling Paint

While lunching recently with girlfriends and discussing the actual functionality of what we do as artists with the substance of paint, I said that I mostly push and wrestle colored liquid and have been for a very long time. I have clocked in many days in the studio ending with paint covered fingertips to elbows and splatters down to my toes.

Chaos can be messy. The birth of a personalized order out of the unknown or the luscious shadows of existence are what keep me coming back for more.

I was then asked at the lunch table if I might be interested in offering a one-time workshop in just that: the actual pushing paint presented as the techniques I have honed over time.

The maneuvering of brush over surface, layering without brush strokes, transparent veiling, lifting, blending. What might I call that? We all agreed: Wrangling Paint.

Wrangle: to round up, herd, or take charge of. Another synonym: engaging in a long dispute.

But, the definition on wrangling I found of most interest has to do with technical information.

It is called “Data Wrangling” or “Data Munging.” It’s a way of transforming and mapping data. Making “raw" data form into another format with the intent of making it more valuable for downstream purposes.

Is that not a near perfect example of what we do as artists? It’s alchemy; manipulating materials and translating it into a more valuable experience for all.

“I want to turn chaotic colors into veils of light, purify the surface, and touch my soul.”

Wrangling Paint + More

A three-day workshop July 18-20, 2019, in my large, well-lit Santa Fe Studio. Three spots left. Come join us.