Saturday, February 11, 2012

Some Come Easy and Then There's the Rest

Time is counting down on my sabbatical and each moment spent painting during daylight hours feels precious—especially those in my Rochester studio. It has become my retreat, my personal cathedral, a place where inner reflections rumble and tumble about and gradually take form.

And sometimes they don't.

I never know what to expect.

I enter with a vague image of atmosphere, light, or readings. With a latte in hand, dogs at my feet, I turn up my playlist and browse through photos I've taken and items I've collected. What emerges from my brushes and oils seem by magic of some sort.

Some paintings come easy—exciting me from the very first broad brushes of underpainting—wet and wild. Others don't—the paint being wiped and scraped off, new drawings produced, more paint applied, layers created. These canvases need time apart, consideration, and then rearranging in my head or even on the computer before I can capture what is stirring my soul.
"Where Have You Been" stage 1
"Where Have You Been" stage 2
"Where Have You Been" stage 3
"Where Have You Been" stage 4
This past week was very productive and I hated to leave. Three paintings! The first large painting (48"x36") came hard. The other (36" by 48") came easy. These canvases I held in my head a while. The third is a very tiny, very precious small canvas only 6 inches by 6 inches. It was pure delight.

"Where Have You Been" final
"Where Have You Been" detail
"Where Have You Been" detail

Inspired by Jim and my drives through Vermont, across Lake Champlain, down the Adirondacks and west across the New York State Thruway, this poem has also been in my head:
Learn to Live in Loneliness 
—Carl Sandburg  
 A man must get away 

now and then
to experience loneliness.  
Only those who learn how to live
in loneliness 

can come to know themselves 

and life.  
I go out there and walk 

and look at the trees and sky.

I listen to the sounds of loneliness.

I sit on a rock or stump
and say to myself,  
"Who are you, Sandburg?

Where have you been, 

and where are you going?"

"There is No Rush" stage 1

"There is No Rush" stage 2
"There is No Rush" final

When painting "There Is No Rush" I was virtually walking my Vermont forests. They strike me continually with their ever changing beauty. But upon its completion this quote came back to me and became its title:
There Is No Rush 
Wayne Muller 
"The theology of progress forces us to act before we are ready. We speak before we know what to say. We respond before we feel the truth of what we know. In the process, we inadvertently create suffering, heaping imprecision upon inaccuracy, until we are all buried under a mountain of misperception." 
"But Sabbath says, Be still. Stop. There is no rush to get to the end, because we are never finished. Take time to rest, and eat, and drink, and be refreshed. And in the gentle rhythm of that refreshment, listen to the sound the heart makes as it speaks the quiet truth of what is needed." 
Finally this little painting was inspired by the 6X6 invitational hosted by the gallery below my studio. On a whim I purchased the small canvas and marveled at how preciously small it felt. I have a photo found in my parents' home of this little dove that I've been wanting to bring it to life. This was my chance. I've been thinking about how war-torn we are as a species. How peace is not the large treaties and negotiations. Instead it is built up of what we think and do daily in even the smallest of interactions with each other. We are responsible for peace.
"Dear God where did we leave the gifts?"
 Source: Sabbath, Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest