Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lesson Five: Keep Peeling Back the Layers


“It has been too many days since I have written of the sea...” 
-David Whyte
I have found that when you are not writing you are actually still working at it...in your head...thinking about the moment, mulling ideas and reciting sentences. This is also true for painting and I’m sure the same is true for you and your passions. You can step away from it for awhile but you never leave it. During these last few weeks I have now found that once you really jump into the creative zone and start the work it takes you along with it vs the other way around. So where have I been?
First I was on Flagler Beach at a two hour acrylic plein air workshop. Here I was shown, one-on-one, acrylic layering techniques and how not to be afraid to paint the ocean or to be afraid of using bright color and lots of paint on my brush. I had a hard time letting go at first as I tried to capture what I was seeing but soon, looking out over the ocean, I began to see shapes, colors and patterns on the surface and within the waves.  The main take away was again the the need to simplify. To use fewer and more confident strokes, to not fall in love with one color or one mark and repeat it all over the place but instead to build up a painting allowing the history of each layer to become part of the new image. I think this can translate into almost everything we do. Don't over think it. Don't over do it. And trust your instincts.
Then there was the all day watercolor on canvas workshop. The room was filled to capacity and here I learned that canvas (buy the ones for oil not for watercolor) is a really enjoyable surface for watercolor as the paint sits on top and can easily be moved, mixed and removed. We painted flowers (sigh) and during the critique session I found I was the only one that went my own way vs trying to imitate the instructors work. While this painting won’t see the light of day again I was very proud to see a glimmer of personal style showing through. Just before the workshop was to end I started a second canvas where I loosely painted a landscape using bright colors and various shapes to give the impression of the image. Leaving it "unfinished" taught me again the need to walk away from your work and how important white spaces can be, especially with watercolors.
Last but certainly not least is what is going on with my current weekly oil painting class over at Hollingsworth Gallery under the eye of J.J. Graham. Here, here is where the real work is happening. I have seen small, emerging glimmers of the artist within being born again. I am trying to learn patience as I build up the surface. I am seeing that the history of the painting makes for a better story and a better painting. I am learning to stop and walk away from my paintings. And I am learning again how to see. Shapes. Tones. Light. Perspective. And I am practicing how to paint from within, to tap into that spirit and uncover my own layers and see what emerges. Yesterday, for just a few minutes, I arrived at a new, deeper level within the creative zone and it was amazing.
So how best to wrap up theses past few weeks?  Well putting it all together I have found that there is more to the creative life when you start fully living it. It goes even deeper than I thought and takes more work as you peel back the layers. Not that I thought it was going to be easy but when you begin to put yourself out there and start to feel your own vulnerability this is when you actually start getting to it. And to do that you have to look further within yourself and tap into that part of you so that it eventually reveals itself in your work - be it painting, writing, music what ever your passion. And then, truly you will find the joy. 
“I feel that the greatest marks come when I have released my mind and analysis and simply let the immediacy of the moment come through. In the end a great painting emerges almost in spite of the painter and once finished, cannot be repeated.” - Stephen Quiller


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