Sunday, November 27, 2011

all colors are in all things

More thoughts about how we are of, not just in, our surroundings...
     Some of my favorite paintings - the ones where I feel I really got it - are the ones where I've kept my focus clear: I am painting sunlight. I'm not painting hair or skin or water or fabric or rocks or hillsides, I'm painting sunlight. I'm painting the stuff that bounces off all those objects and reaches our eyes. When I manage to keep this purpose clear in my mind, my entire composition and the way I approach the image is more unified. 
     In the image, "Mermaid", I started with one cool color flowing through all the shadow areas in the entire painting, and then a single warm tone flowing over all the sunlit areas... and this process works whether the form I'm depicting is water, a figure, a dock, trees, a house - I let the shadow tone flow over all the forms equally, such that the shadows are all connected in the first layer - one big unbroken shadow form. This helps in composition and checking proportions but also illustrates in a concrete manner my constant awareness of how we (or any object) are connected to our surroundings. We are connected via chemistry in the physical realm - we are constantly sharing macro and micro parts of ourselves... esters bring our scent on the wind, we breathe in the air and everything in it, macro particles are constantly floating off and trailing behind us, we are taking in sunlight and giving off heat, there are so many ways that everything, every object or figure, pulsates with everything around it... and this same effect is happening to every surface everywhere. We are also connected to our surroundings via color and light in the visual realm - the set of colors we see in a given moment, a given scene, is completely dependent on earthly conditions: sunlight, clouds, water vapor in the air, land elements and objects absorbing/reflecting light, and how each of these surfaces (sets of molecules) reflect the light streaming from the sun into our eyes. 
Mermaid, watercolor, 5" x 5" 
     Because sunlight is the source of all vision, all color, my thinking is that all colors are in all things. Light is (photons are) bouncing everywhere reflecting, radiating, scintillating - there would be no visual experience without this effect - such that the water behind the girl reflects the sky and the sun, the sun shines down on the girl's hair and shoulders and the water reflects back onto her suit, the shadows in her hair are the same blue as the water... the sunlight flows like water from figure to background, uniting and shimmering over all surfaces. 
     This same thought process can be used for any image, whether it's a dark foggy scene, or an evening scene (the moon still reflects the sunlight) and even for interiors - you can always view a set of image elements as the light they are reflecting, rather than as objects with certain colors. I think it keeps the artist focused on the underlying visual reality and not about pre-conceived particulars, like "what color is a tree?" ... all colors, of course.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

more of 'why...'

Starting with 'why' is sometimes a roundabout trip. For instance, 'why' did I spend all of yesterday hunched over my drafting table alternately squinting at the surface of my paper and a few scattered reference photographs - agonizingly balancing color and value and delineating wisps of hair and tiny facial features? Well, so I can eat next month, of course! But also because I said yes to a customer who's kept in touch with me for years after she had a portrait done of her son at three years old, she now has two other children and wanted another portrait. And also because regardless of how much time it takes to get that darker stroke in exactly the right place to make that half smile look just like the way he smiles, I can do it: I can get the likeness. AND getting it is very satisfying. I have only maybe two more hours of work on that triple portrait to have it completely finished - just the final tweaking of darks in the hair, and one more well placed stroke to get the third figure's mouth just right, finalizing the foreground texture in the sand and the figures' reflections/shadows. Then, even though I still have another commission to start, I'm taking a break and painting what I want for a week. 

A portrait of my daughter - we are of the landscape, not just in it.
Why the blond wisps in the wind? There's something so fragile about it. AND it happens to everyone (having the wind pulling on your hair) and yet who stops to notice the beauty of that event? (which can be perceived as an annoyance - everyone reacts by tugging that wayward strand back behind your ear). The way the wind reacts with wisps of hair, the way the colors of the surroundings filter through the strands... it's worthy of being rendered. (i.e. = it's beautiful.) It also illustrates the concept that we are IN the landscape - the wind reaching and pulling the hair away from the body physically connects us to it. We are not a solid body that just moves through the air, we are of the air. It fills us, we share ourselves with it... it's part of us, we are part of it, and my visual representation of that is the wisps of hair being tugged and tossed by the wind.

Monday, November 7, 2011

big thoughts, little thoughts

So in trying to become evening-ly inspired to write about work, life, inner space, beauty - I find that the competing thoughts of big ideas: the why of my day - and the small things: what I managed to accomplish - are not compatible and keep me from getting started. I guess I was thinking that what and how I paint or accomplish an image would be more interesting than musing about a metaphysical quantum leap (or sidestep, as is often the case). However, it's the metaphysical that I want to share/investigate at the end of my day... thus the quandary.

A dear friend recently shared an inspirational talk with me which focused on "starting with WHY," ... and how always keeping that thought/question in the forefront will give greater meaning to every single thing we do. Soooo. WHY do I paint? here goes...

I can. - I've always been a natural at achieving a likeness/reality - I remember in 1st grade my teacher making a big deal about a paper cut-out project of our pet - in this case, our black lab Fury - and just using scissors I competently shaped his head, paws, body confirmation, the way his ears fell and his collar... I remember thinking I had really captured him, but was mortified by the fuss my teacher made about it and so wrecked it on purpose by making a cartoon out of it: I roughly drew in spikes on his collar and oversized dragon-like claws on his paws - before she could show it to my parents. In middle school I used to earn a quarter at lunch doing pencil portraits of my friends - or drawing horses for the many girls (of that age) that wanted my drawings of stallions rearing or mane blowing in the wind with big warm eyes peeking through, looking into your soul. Everyone is good at something... I can draw. 

It feeds me. I remember one summer day, I was probably 12, Mom told me to draw from what I saw outside (instead of making up more horse pictures) and when she could tell I didn't know how to start, she told me to just start with a small piece of something - like the half-moon window in the peak of the old barn and the broken chimney above it. It was the first serious drawing I did and I'll never forget how I felt looking at my results and the excitement of achieving three-dimensionality on a page. I still feel that excitement: I get a rush when I've captured space on a page; created depth, atmosphere; when I've managed to grasp what it really looked like, what it smelt like; when the figure looks natural and part of the world - it hits some pleasure center for me. Maybe this is bad, but the images that I know I've nailed... i.e. they came out actually looking like I imagined them when I started... I can keep looking at them over and over - because they draw me in every time I see them, pulling me back to that place, that moment I was trying to capture and share, and I can experience it anew.

I want to share the beauty. I guess I figure if I encompass so much beauty and space into such a small area, then people will have to take a closer look, and in doing so, will NOTICE it... will take that moment it takes to really see... to breathe it in and BE there. The earth is filled with amazing scenes everywhere I look, the way the light hits the hills, or shimmers on the water, or falls across that rooftop gable. I drive by the same places everyday but instead of becoming immune to the beauty, I get to re-see it each time. I truly believe that artists actually have more color receptors, or process color/detail/space differently than non-visual artists - because (and this type of event has been shared by all the visual artists I know) if you're driving somewhere with a non-artist, and you come up over a hill and you just have to stop the car to take some photos because the colors are breathtaking (or the farm, the trees, the light...), that non-artist person says, "Wha-a-at?" and can't see the big deal. And doesn't see it, even when you point it out. So if I can capture it on paper, and make it so small they have to dig for the other glasses and then they get their noses right up to it... I'm providing them the opportunity to leave themselves behind and be somewhere else - I'm pulling them through the looking glass. It's like I get to grab them by the shoulders, point them in the right direction and make them be still, just for a moment, to help them see... the world is so beautiful.

(more of "why" will be forthcoming...)