Chance, Memory and Awe
I consider one of the great benefits of being an artist to be the ability to choose my own subject. And if I so desire, incorporate life experiences, synchronicity, and downright awe of nature’s beauty into my work. Everyday I feel it a responsibility of my practice to notice what I notice and then make a choice to connect these sensations to some larger issue that’s been on my mind or in my conversations or to a piece of poetry, and create from nothing a newness surrounding this source material. I know it sounds mystic, but to take what I see, hear, think, feel, imagine and sense and mold it into a unique statement of my relationship to my subject is the reason I keep approaching the canvas. I’m rarely aware of the connections and linkages that are happening in the process of painting, and ever surprised through writing or talking about my work as to how it all comes to be.
I’ve been painting these misty hills since last October. I feel comforted by this “softness touching the earth” and have become quite obsessed, as has the rest of my family, with taking note of the drama that unfolds in front of us daily. I just don’t believe that blue skies could ever measure up with sentiments that exhibit themselves in the clouds of the Pacific Northwest. As I’ve discussed previously in this blog here, I have a particular affinity to the skyscape/cloudscape as subject. Impermanence, mystery, associations with the unknowable are all larger issues that get explored through this subject via the poetry of Rilke.
I have been a studio painter for all time–never en plein air. I–in the words of Joan Mitchell whose paintings I so greatly admire but have little in common with my works–like to say that I paint the landscape that’s inside me. I have always used photographs to begin paintings and then allowed the painting to unfold. Obviously, my experiences with my environment greatly translate these beginnings into a finished work that is sometimes reflective of where I live but more often just the essence of place. Recently, however, my paintings have taken on more local and realistic landscape references. I’m watching this change and will only fight this new desire for a less abstracted reality when the nuances, accidents and my responses to how my paint|medium|surface reacts become overshadowed by a desire to replicate that which I see. Making my own world versus the safety of depicting reality–something Rilke wrote about here.
Whoever you may be, step into the evening Step out of the room where everything is known Whoever you are your house is the last before the far off With your eyes, which are almost too tired to free themselves from the familiar You slowly take one black tree and set it against the sky slender, alone. And you have made a world. It is big and like a word, still ripening in silence And though your mind would fabricate its meaning Your eyes tenderly let go of what they see. Yesterday a chance errand and an accident on the freeway causing a huge backup left me the audience to some spectacular cloud drama in the Skagit Valley and Chuckanut Ridge areas. I did not have a camera to capture nor a driver to take over so that I could fully immerse myself in the spectacle. I did, however, have an underpainting for another work prepped in the studio. Today it became the manifestation of some of my memory from yesterday’s awe.