18 August 2014

A Painting Apperception

August Pond - 11x14" - Oil on linen


When I've had a bad day at the canvas, or a big royalty cheque comes in the mail, I often ask myself what I'm doing switching gears from a successful photography career to a painting one. There are many answers to that question but the truth came to me while painting this week. 
A friend and I had a quiet plein-air day at my pond. It was a peaceful beautiful day which resulted in the third, of what will likely become many, pond paintings. By afternoon the sun was overhead and the umbrella offered little relief. I could either cover the canvas and palette or myself, not both. So I retreated to the comfort and shade of the forest. 
I did a quick under painting of my impression of the forest, and then got out my sketchbook and charcoals. As I sat in the shade of the trees various birds flitted about singing their songs, chirping, and rustling in the undergrowth. At one point a Gray Jay came and perched on a branch watching me. The serenity was such that I didn't want to let it go. One would think that is what I search for through painting, but it isn't. I often have similar experiences when I am out with my camera. 
Forest Sketch Plein-Air - Unfinished - Oil
With these locations being mere steps from my back door, a person would think I would be out there all the time painting and drawing, yet I'm not. Why? Because I have a painters block of trees, and I am basically afraid to paint them. The forest represents chaos and a confinement from the freedom of wide open spaces to me. 
My struggle exists because I am in too much of a hurry and look at the whole thing in detail.  I see too much and don't understand them. Not all trees mind you; but the trees most common to our area. The poplars, the pines, the spruce. But on that day the forest became a welcoming relief from the heat and busyness of life; a sanctuary that forced me to slow down, focus, and find the beauty in the tree. It allowed me to fall in love with the forest.
Painting forces me to think and find beauty in the things that scare me; to learn to love that which isn't readily loveable, and to convey those passions and emotions to canvas. Some could argue that is what I do with photography, and it's true to a degree, but painting demands so much more from me. With photography the spirit and emotion can be coaxed out of the image after the fact, but with painting it must be there before I even start. Painting requires a quieting of the internal chaos, letting go, and a certain degree of trust in both your abilities, story, and vision. Painting is the language of the soul which can't be spoken.
"The untrained eye does not see beauty in all things - it's our profession to train ourselves to see it and transmit it to the less fortunate."
- Charles Hawthorne