My friend's life took an unexpected turn when she learned she has a rare form of early dementia. The thief has already taken most of her expressive language and is hard at work impairing her spatial interpretation and decision-making. She is a talented artist and had created some very beautiful paintings a few years back so we thought maybe she could come over and paint with me and see what happens.
At first things looked shaky…she needed my help with organizing and setting up. The moment before putting paint on a blank canvas is unnerving for anyone, all the more so when what you know what you want to do but have no way to do it. She had a beautiful photo of ocean, fjord and glacier from their recent Alaskan cruise, a retirement gift from her husband, and that was what she wanted to paint on her 16x20 canvas.
It became increasingly clear as the minutes went by that this was a mountain she wouldn't be able to climb. But there had to be something within her that could still produce art, maybe even better art! I've watched this same woman, in spite of her condition, cut and style the hair of homeless men and women at the winter Room in the Inn shelter our church provides. Her caring, non-judgmental hands giving value and dignity to hurting souls. "Oh God," I prayed, "let me do the same for her today. Please! make Your art through her."
So we talked about her photo..the water was cold blue, white wild, power, immensity, dangerously beautiful; the snow: white frozen, terrible and wondrous; the sky: huge and blue and covering. Then I went to my own easel and left her to play in the paint. I silently praised God when I heard her brush and then palette knife scraping and slapping the canvas. Her courage inspired my own painting that day, as I painted as wild as she did, loose and expressive, feeling the subject and following instinct. Time is so funny when you are lost in your passion; a hint of eternal timelessness maybe. We both painted on my covered, Southern deck on a sweet summer day and (I think) the world is a little better for it.
Just like almost everyone else "I can't draw" was my motto. My artistic expression was always in the garden or crafting and sewing. For years I admired beautiful paintings, and wonder how in the world? When the subject came up one day with a friend who painted glorious landscapes, her response was "give it a try," along with the caveat that the best step forward was to take lessons.
I sat on that advice for 2 whole years while the pressure of wanting to learn and being afraid to try continued to grow. It just so happened that about halfway down the road to my neighborhood was a small, private art studio. Every time I passed it, nearly every single day, I would feel both the desire and fear about taking the first step. Isn't it so hard to be willing to be a beginner, to take that chance and risk humiliation and failure?
As a woman who aims to walk in step with God, to find my deepest meaning in communion with Spirit, this subject of painting had come up. Many times. Spirit nudges. I decline. "Not yet." "Too busy." "Maybe tomorrow." Until one day, sitting in my morning quiet (sacred) space there was such a strong sense of urgency to make the phone call, to get the ball rolling. Again, up came my excuses but this time I was met with a wall of what I can only call 'resistance.' It was as though the Spirit had nothing more to say to me until I made that phone call! (bear with me here…)
So fine! I'll make the call! Probably no one will answer anyway. But someone DID answer (unusual) and not only did she answer, but she was there with a new art teacher at that very moment. And not only that, but when I stammered ineloquently that I wanted an art class for absolute and total beginners who had never even held a paintbrush except to paint a wall (yes, it was that bad), she said, in fact, at that very moment this was exactly the class they were planning to start and wondered how they were going to find students for it. To say that I was awestruck after that phone call would be an understatement of immense proportions! After we worked out the details I returned to my comfy couch and found an open space of welcome where the wall had so recently been and my heart surprised by the hilarious love God had just shown me.
Like a good student of Plein Air painting, I have literally taken the show on the road…or stream. Whatever. I pack up the bare necessities and find something to paint, not aiming for a masterpiece, but for a quick value study and a small limited palette oil of the scene. The master artists will do this every day for a year, refining the ability to see value, light, color, texture, perspective; on and on the list goes. I will be happy with myself if I do this 2 or 3 times a week this summer.
Yes, you DO see chickens in this photo! My friend and CSA provider, Judy, has the most wonderful chicken yard right next to the creek, over which is a sturdy bridge. I planned to set up on the bridge, but there was just enough water in the creek to catch the sunlight so I made my way down to a lovely rocky area where my feet could stay dry. The chickens were supposed to be the focal point, but the creek was just to dramatic to ignore, so the poor, clucking ladies were a supporting act this day.
I pick up my veggies every Thursday…and I hope I am able to spend a couple hours there with the chickens, too. As you can see, I certainly need the practice! It is hard for me to reproduce the values that my eye sees.
I was honored by Greg Wilson and Actors Point Theatre Company to be invited to show and share my paintings during the two weekends of their awesome performances of "Children of Eden". The play was so great, the music amazing and I enjoyed meeting and talking with art appreciators in the in-between times.
Summer in Tennessee starts with the appearance of sweet little sparks of light known as fireflies. At dusk they begin to rise from the grass, always going up. Trying to see one is like trying to see a shooting star, their flash of fluorescence is so frustratingly brief. My eyes strain to find and follow the track of flight so I can linger on the little bugger's light show. And, still, too quick to really take it in.
Beauty is like that, too. So often it flashes and vanishes before we know what's happening. Even with great focus and concentration, the most we can hope for is the memory of the florescence. Cameras help. snapping the moment into a frame that reminds us of the feelings, of the day.
When I paint, I also am trying to capture the feeling, the moment….when we turned a corner in Venice and were awestruck with the sight: (photo on left, painting in progress on right)
Learning how to create beauty with oil and brush, perseverance and faith, time and commitment has the same characteristics as the lovely insignificance of the tiny, Tennessee lightning bug.
Hello! My name is Wendy and I am passionate about oil painting! Whether in the studio or out in Mother Nature, I get lost in the experience of capturing on canvas the moment and the feel of what I am painting. I pour my love and energy into every single piece of artwork and I hope it shows! This blog is a place where I can use words to talk about art, painting, life, faith, things that make me laugh, and things that inspire. I love every response, so don't be shy about leaving a comment...