Sunday, December 22, 2019

I paint in order not to cry.
--Paul Klee

I love to work in series, to choose a subject and see how far I can go with it. Change it, work with it, experiment. This year I have felt pulled to flowers, more than in the past. I love the gardens at the eldercare facility where I work and I walk through them every day I'm there-- smelling, taking pictures, looking at colors, watching transformations. I walk my dog twice a day and observe the changes in nature I see along our paths. A chance opportunity landed in my lap early in 2019 and I have begun a Botanical Illustration certification program. Spring arrived. I feel this strong pull from several directions and am following this instinct.

On April 1 I started a new series, "100 Flowers in 100 Days", similar to my painting-a-day habit of a few years ago. I've relished it and am definitely not done with these paintings. Ideally I would have hit the 100th painting on July 9, but life, work, summer, vacation got in the way and I didn't make my deadline. The beauty of being your own boss and sole employee is that it doesn't matter if I break the rules. So I've continued along past the deadline and working on commissions and other projects that have come about. 

I started out with a "chaos theory" technique with crazy underpainting and then working out flowers and arrangements with the negative space. Other paintings I added paper to. Some paintings were inspired by photos. I have used really bright colors and enjoyed florescent paint. I wondered if my sight was going as I couldn't seem to go bright enough, like when you keep adding more spice to foods when the flavor seems too bland. It's now the end of December and I'm up to about number 73. I've had fun naming them. It was too confusing to call one "Pink Flower" and then do ten more with pink flowers, so I named them according to what was going on while I was painting. One is called "Tastes Like A Combo" because that's what I was snacking on. One is called "Go Away Kelly So I Can Work" after a friend who wanted to chat all day (she is flattered not offended by the title), and so on. They are all posted on my website and listed on Etsy. Here are a few:

I've tried to line the wall of my studio with them but I have run out of room. I am hoping to find a venue to display a lot of them together.

In the spring and summer I couldn't paint them fast enough, was having so much fun, painted during the day and started new ones at night. The ideas kept coming and coming.

And then Fall approached, and naturally I got busy with holiday shows and commissions for clients. But I realize something else was going on, now that I am looking back. In early Fall, our family had Some Trouble that we have been dealing with since. I wanted to continue the flowers but haven't been able to follow through. I am still painting, but I find my colors darker as I work through this thing. The flower paintings seem too happy and upbeat for my mood. Usually color is the very thing that brings me out from under a grey cloud, and it will eventually, but for now I find the florescent paint too bright, the spontaneity of the flowers too tiring, the wonder of the flowers themselves dulled. I've realized that even my wardrobe has turned to mostly black these days, unless I am with people that I am totally comfortable and confident around, and then my usual bright colors appear. Ever since I presented a "spiritual journey" at my church years ago, and looked at the paintings as a whole, I saw everything I had been experiencing in life, right there on the canvas.  Now I am aware of revealing myself in this way. I may hold my cards close verbally but my emotions are still out there to be seen.

I know this time period will pass. I've been through enough downs and difficulties to know that change is constant and we are always in a sort of transformation. My motto is, "I fall down. I get up." I long ago learned to accept these downturns, learn from them, and wait for the upswing. The last 27 flowers paintings will happen, and then some. Maybe in a week, or it may take a few months. I have no doubt the direction will change, and grow, and transform, but never stay the same. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Walking In Sunshine

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.
--John Muir

I'm so lucky to have a big dog that needs to be walked several times a day. He usually chooses our route and he is a creature of habit so we frequently end up walking the same path every day.   When we follow our normal route it's interesting to see little changes in the way things look day after day. As February comes to a close, you start to see tiny little buds show up on trees and think, was that there yesterday? Then something green starts to emerge from the ground. It's like the earth gradually starts to wake up after a deep sleep. And makes you realize that even though it looked like nothing was going on in this spot for several months, behind the curtain there was actually a lot of activity. A good life lesson there.

These walks are of course, good for me, and I get a lot of joy seeing how this little thing that we do several times a day makes my dog so very very happy.

One of the best things about these daily walks is the thinking time. I get so many of my ideas when I'm out free from the distractions of my home and electronics (I usually don't bother to take my phone). A few months ago I saw a friend out walking and said, "If you ever want to walk in the morning, let me know," and I respect her enormously because she said, "I really can't. This is when I collect my thoughts for the day." I also appreciate her honesty.

There's a famous quote by Grant Wood, who painted American Gothic, the painting with the farmer and his wife standing with a pitchfork, in front of their farmhouse. He said, "All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow." Without getting into left brain right brain stuff, when your hands and body are busy with routine tasks, your mind is free to think and imagine. Which is why the coloring book craze is so good for us.

Anyway, while walking with Rufus, I have watched spring approach, which is incredibly beautiful in Virginia. Winter seems to hang on a little too long, and the choking heat and humidity of summer still seem a long way off. One by one, pops of color have appeared -- the yellow of daffodils and forsythia, red of flowering quince, purple from grape hyacinths and crocus. This week the tulips are about to explode, and this morning I saw the first iris in full bloom. Artists never tire of flowers because the challenge of matching some of the real life colors is endless. Some colors can ONLY be found in nature, the most astonishing painting of all.

I've been painting flowers for years, sometimes obsessed with color, sometimes obsessed with shape, other times detail.

 Last summer I started some flower paintings exploring a new technique but found them lacking.

 Not really finished, to my eye. The fermenting and percolating in my brain all winter has helped me realize how I wanted them to look, and what I needed to do. During the past few weeks I have been furiously, obsessively experimenting and practicing. So today, April 1 the flowers in the outdoors as well as those created by me, are exploding. I'm starting a new discipline today, 100 Flowers in 100 Days (similar to my Daily Painting practice). It will run April 1 to July 9, I will post a new painting each day on FB and Instagram, and put up on my Etsy site for sale. We'll see where this goes.

These are a few that have been started but by no means finished. Watch what happens!