Monday, March 23, 2015

The Journey

A Poem by Mary Oliver:
The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Early Morning on the Lake

(This photo is not from this morning, but is as close as I have on file.)

I sit at the large windows overlooking the lake and marvel at the harmony of the water, land and sky: it is early morning and the water is still, a glassy reflection of the ridge of firs and maples on the opposite shore.  I ponder how I might capture the ever-changing color of the water, so different each day, and I have made a few quick studies on other days: the lake in fog, winter lake, nocturne on the lake.  Today the water is deep in value, cool in temperature, a steely green with hints of blue, Hookers green, but more neutral and transparent, and where it meets the brighter reflection of the overcast sky, the ripples cause the light to shimmer, a scintillation where the two colors meet, a dancing blend.  The ridge of trees and homes is dark and moody, and the peach and cream sky above it is almost superfluous, and yet when the eyes take it all in, the heart flutters and the exquisite beauty of the scene is almost unbearable, made more unbearable by the certainty that I will never be able to find a mixture of paints that will come close to sharing this moment with others, or fix it in Time, craft a hold on it.  No, this moment is as ephemeral as the V-wake of the wood duck as he paddles in circles, lasting only the moment itself and then it is gone, taken back into the random dance on the water surface.  The light changes even as I watch it; I imagine myself madly mixing piles of paint, chasing the elusive, and I am helpless to do anything about it.  The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

I resign myself to the moment, to being a witness to the day, to being in it and yet apart from it, riding the current of the gray/green mood of early morning spring.  A bald eagle swoops low, skims the surface of the water, loops back lazily to swoop again in the same place and then retreats to a shoreline tree to eat his catch.  Another eagle glides down from overhead, joins his or her mate as they wing back and forth across my view.  A fawn tenderly one-steps its way up from the brush on the hillside, finds the feed we leave beneath the cedar tree and munches quietly, its little tongue darting around the lips, the jaw working side to side.  Down in the dark cove below, the Canada geese splash in short bursts as they chase each other, honking and fussing.  Life is so abundant and so present, I am filled with a thrill that becomes almost a nausea; it is overwhelming, my eyes tear up, the music in my earbuds, made by musicians far away in another time still somehow perfectly fits this moment, too, and Time slows down, crowds out the rest of the day: I realize that this is all I need, to be here now, living this moment which I know will not last, as it will be slowly abraded by the rising sun, the changing of the light - even now there are hints of cerulean working their way into the patterns on the water.

My desire to try to paint this scene seems puny in the presence of such beauty, and I am embarrassed to think I would dare to assume that any effort on my part could ever replicate even a portion of this.  But isn’t the point of painting to translate the emotional reaction to an event or to a place, frame it in two dimensions, share it with the world?  I need to reassess the purpose and the scope of my artistic intentions, find something less daunting, some motif more simple and direct.  This here outside my window, this I can witness on my own, my own private romance with the Light, and that must certainly be enough.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Retro Auto

This 7x7 acrylic painting was done from an old black and white photo.  I was trying to break through my reluctance to put down bold brushstrokes and leave them alone, and I failed in that goal, still allowing myself to fiddle and fuss and mess it up, though I intend to keep working at this approach in hopes that old dogs can learn new tricks.

Thinking that maybe a tight time limit might induce me to leave things alone, I tried this next one of my grandfather from an old harsh black and white:

It was slightly more successful, if only as a caricature, and it did capture an essence of Papa, who tended to look like an angry old Scot most of the time (but maybe not as scary as this ax-murderer!)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Spring Forward

La Contessa

The above is not necessarily of a contessa, but the old black and white photo reference had no information about who she was, probably from around 1900, and I need to call her something, so...

With this unexpected week of clear skies and bright sunshine, I am yearning to get outside and paint, but the one time I did load up my pack and set up for a quick plein air session, I found that it was simply too cold; my hands were shaking so much I might as well have been trying to paint while riding on a hay wagon.  So I resign myself to painting whatever I can see through the windows, from the comfort of central heating.

I try to paint or draw something every day, but I don't have a master plan, and sometimes I surprise myself with what pops into my head.  Yesterday, for some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to sketch something out of thin air based on the old expression "Eating Crow."  I was aiming for a look of resentment, but I think it missed that mark and hit sinister instead.