Entries Tagged as 'paint'

The Field (in process)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Field

“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”

Rumi

For the past several weeks, I’ve been working on a 4 x 6′ painting of a field. Here’s a picture of it from last week; it has developed a lot since I took this photo and is now almost done.

Why paint a field? Visually, I find them boring and overwhelming–all that information, but little differentiation in form. Too, fields are rarely destinations, especially the tangled fields common in North Central Florida. They exist at the edges of life, with no maintenance, yet somehow sustain themselves. This self-maintaining quality is what drew me to paint a field.

The fields in my imagination are unkempt, scraggly places, where vaguely discernible patterns emerge and recede, and life grows and dies and rises up again without a fuss. When I experience uncertainty and difficulty, it helps me to remember that the field can be a metaphor for living–I can watch and support my life much as the field does–with curiosity, acceptance, and a kind of benevolent detachment for what does and does not naturally sustain itself there.

The Art of Enough

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Art of Enough

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.

Wendell Berry

We live in a world of constant stimulation. Despite our best intentions, many of us struggle to be present for even the most important, meaningful moments. The mainstream culture bombards us with messages that we’re not enough the way we are–not attractive enough, wealthy enough, fashionable enough, fit enough, smart enough, successful enough, popular enough, young enough. Not enough. Shame, the fear that we’re not worthy of love or belonging because we are lacking in some way, thrives on messages of “not enough,” and shame is highly correlated with addictions and mental health problems of all kinds. For creativity, too, these messages can be lethal. Not good enough. Not talented or skilled enough. Not enough time. Not famous enough. Not original enough. Not enough.

The basic need to be “enough”–to be worthy of acceptance and connection the way we are–is both adaptive and prosocial. Yet when chronic and unchecked, fears of not being enough can drive us away from the very sources that can truly fill the void—our own present-moment experience of reality, and our connections with others. Though I try to stay present, I can easily get sucked into the material world and its trap of finally having, indeed finally being, enough–if only I do more, have more, look differently. Nice things are nice, and external approval feels good. But I always return from these endless missions to realize that the material world does not equate to a good life, and external approval lacks the deep salve of self-acceptance and inner contentment.

So how does this apply to painting? Overtly, my paintings are about growth, change, loss, and renewal processes in the natural world, but they are also, more fundamentally, about simplicity. Each painting is a conversation with the question, “What is enough here?” What’s enough detail, color, form, and movement to describe the simple essence of the natural world I love? How much space does each flower and tree and leaf need around it in order for me to actually slow down and see it? How much of an outline indicates that I’ve painted each individual form carefully, to honor its role in the larger whole, and when does the outline make too much noise and detract from the overall harmony? How much empty space do I put in a painting to see the true shapes of things?

These questions lead back to wondering what I need (and don’t need) in my life to really see the beauty and gifts of what I already have, love, and am.

I suspect that rich, creative, and satisfying lives are as much about what we eliminate as about what we include. Too much stuff—too many details, too many options—they distract and scatter us. We rent ourselves out to everything at the risk of experiencing nothing. This emptiness only deepens the void that stimulates such endless seeking.

My paintings are places where I’ve slowed down, wondered about what is enough, and tried to remove what feels like too much. I don’t always get the balance right, but this question is at the heart of my compositional decisions. Waiting to have the right materials, the next art show, the sense of having enough talent or experience or time or vision or inspiration—waiting to have these things blocks my access to what is already here, what and who I already am, my relationship to the natural world as I engage with it now, and my relationship to others just as we are, all of us: Enough.

Summer Bloom

Monday, September 29, 2014

Summer Bloom
36″ x 48″

 I left town for the weekend in despair over this painting, the colors in disharmony. My nine-year old nephew Mason had declared the piece a failure. “I don’t like the petals or the leaves,” he said, in a statement that condemned most of the painting. “The colors are wrong, too,” he added, not at all apologetically.

I agreed, but I didn’t know what to do; I couldn’t see where it needed to go next. The thought of the dumpster occurred, and possibly setting down my brushes for good. When these thoughts come, I usually just need a little space from the work. So I took it, and tried not to worry that I’d lost the touch and would perhaps never paint again.

When I returned from my trip, I approached the painting with fresh energy. As I worked, the flowers changed, and changed some more, and then, like a camera coming into clear focus, I found the right balance and the painting clicked into place.

Rarely is it my instinct to step away and give the important things in my life the time and space to ripen. I’ve been told I was impatient from the start, eager to grow up, eager to get on with it, whatever it was. However, the natural world takes its own time, and cannot be forced. The same is true of healing, and art, and the great unknowns of the long horizons of our lives. So I need the reminders–that life and its natural unfolding can be trusted.

This painting gave me that reminder.

When I give time and space to a process, I just might be met by a bloom.

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