During my 5:00 am morning visit to my bench dockside for "Operation Sunrise"... I found an absence of stars in what I expected to be a perfectly clear sky such as yesterday's. Orion was completely veiled from view.... and only a handful of scattered stars could be seen - disappointing. I decided just to take in the view closer to the water up and down the river. Many of the dots of light along the far shore were missing... which meant really that island residents in those spaces had returned south. Amongst those "Summer Folk"... our friend Magsie (Keats) Jenne who came for a dinner ashore at our Islesview on Saturday and bade us farewell yesterday until next summer. That's the way life runs on the river. Life up... and along the river is changed... in just a few days.
Such changes do motivate inner feelings of melancholy or loss and are quite normally felt in Autumn. The loss of light and heat... garden delight... and the freedom from the heaviness of winter clothing and relatively care-free living cause us all to almost "mourn" the loss of summer. Living closely in touch with the Natural World has taught me to accept that life is not "fair".... that is merely a human term. Life quite simply... "is". By that, I mean to say that life changes in a fashion that transcends our thoughts... wishes or actions. In accepting that fact in my personal and artistic lives... I am able to move ahead (most of the time) with little discouragement by using intuition and my imagination to conjure up something more palatable than what reality... and Life has offered me.
Most recently... the unexpected cancellation of our annual paint out... in combination with the foul, rainy and cold weather should have caused me to sulk and remain inside doing something else. However, my friends and I made a time of it together. We enjoyed each other's company... and each of us started or made paintings which made our efforts worth while. My painting of the tug Blue Quail at Anchor found a new home on the past weekend... validating the credibility of this approach to life.
Transcendental meditation has long encouraged those who choose to believe and practise its precepts to think and embrace life based upon a "higher plane"of existing. While I can't say that I fully understand... or believe all of their concepts. I do see the value as an individual... and as an artist in looking past what "is"... to what "might be possible"... beyond the reality that I am experiencing. I will look past the spiritual connotations in this post and apply them to creating art... especially focusing upon making art en plein air.
Transcendence in one's Art
When I first began to paint outdoors, my goal was to copy as faithfully as possible the scene that was before me. My experiences and my reading over the years have taught me that a far superior plane of creation can be reached... and a greater sense of joy and freedom achieved... by aiming at grasping and capturing the essence of structure within the landscape both ahead and around me. I make use of only those elements that "see"... I try to coalesce... or to merge and unify those selected parts into a new reality. This then makes the painting truly a creation... rather than slavishly controlling... and likely less interesting copy.
Distillation in one's Art
Distillation describes the process of extracting the essence from the subject you are painting through interpretation. That process may, or may not be totally completed in a single session... or even at the point of one's initial perception of complete finish. Often... the "Idea" continues to elude a completely acceptable state. Something may be felt to be missing. This is why art should be held back to offer a time for this distillation process to fully take place. Surprising extensions and perceptions... not at first present even in reality may trigger a new and higher level of painting.
Two paintings from my recent posts demonstrate such situations. The first painting... entitled "River Magic" at first had a large Van Gogh influenced sun dominating the rather dark fall river landscape. After much second guessing and encouragement from my wife Deb and daughter Allison... I made some changes to eliminate the sun completely... change the lighting and to adjust textural details in the pines. Those changes certainly must have been factors leading to its sale this past weekend. It will travel to be housed in a London, England collection... with its new title "Requiem".
The jpeg on the left is a picture that I took before beginning to paint. In the middle ground can be seen the actual elements in my chosen composition. One can clearly see that I have extracted the elements that I found interesting... and that I have assumed a higher vantage point looking down on the river to create a deeper sense of space. I have as well been selective and added to the foreground rock formations as well.
"Requiem"... the final painting indicates all of the further changes that I made... a full year after the first stoppage in painting. Distillation... leading to Transcendence - a superior painting. The new owner's immediate decision to purchase clearly amplifies those feelings that Deb, Allison and I myself had... that changes were required to make it a more solid painting.
The 11x 14 inch plein air painting of "The Tug Blue Quail... at Anchor" serves as yet another example of the same process of change. In this case, however... inclement weather conditions forced forced a premature retreat from the setting. The painting was returned to the very next day while the memory was fresh and was completed with some photo reference to complete details to the actual tug. The landscape and water changes were created through responses fueled by pure intuition to the previous structure and the actual setting on location.
These three jpegs clearly point out the changes that I wove together to arrive at the final rendering of this painting. The top one clearly shows what took my attention... the tug against the backdrop of contrasting and varied fall greens. The second shows my intentional elimination of the distracting foreground jumble... replacing that with more interesting reflections... disturbance in the water surface and the introduction of nearby lily pads and reeds. Note too... that I pulled the distant pine-etched point of land and distant shore... minus the tug and barge group right up tight to the tug's bow. To me... the two echoed and visually supported the presence of the other strongly.
"The Tug Blue Quail at Anchor" - oil on gessoed and toned Masonite panel 11x14 inches SOLD
Both paintings were the result of "second goes"... or completion incorporating changes either not seen... or intended in the first run through. The one process was brought about through personal thought... but driven more by the responses to the painting by trusted critics. The latter plein air piece came about only because weather forced a premature halt to the on site painting... and the rest of the process came out of an intuitive response... guided somewhat by photo reference for necessary detail on the tug.
Today... I closed out painting for the month of September with yet another example of such an intervention... which I believe again resulted in a superior result. I will post that journey... start to finish later on in the week. I hope this post encourages my friends to re-evaluate having a "second go"... and perhaps with a new eye... and some luck... be able to breathe some new life and vitality into an ol'..."skipper"... as my pal Frank refers to a scrubber / failure. What's to lose???
Another wonderful quote from Julia Cameron's wonderful "Heart Steps" to end this post. I believe that this short quote summarizes wonderfully our common belief about the role of the artist in creation:
"In Nature, God offers questions. We as artists should seek to create our own answers in gratedful response."
I feel truly blessed to walk and paint in this beautiful Eden our Creator has placed us in. I feel His presence and magnificence... and am grateful for His copious gifts and blessings to "Me" and my family!
Happy Fall... and Good Painting... to ALL!