Friday, January 13, 2012

Getting There

I am transported when I paint. There are two activities going on in my head as I push and dab and smear the paint around on the canvas. One is a running patter about technique and that's too red, this shape is too thick, yes, that's the right value, I need another glaze of blue...

The other is the sensory equivalent to being there. I'm standing on that ridge, my cheeks cold in the pre-dawn air, I smell the campfire, and listen to the ravens calling, "Good morning".

I escape. I've done this since I was about 13, when I would recoil into my room from a world that was nothing like the books, magazines, or television shows. Teenage-dom for me, like a lot of people, was no picnic. One of my escapes was painting. I devoured National Geographic magazines for subject matter, and I'd go to those places when I painted them.

When I was fifteen, a magical thing happened that changed my life. My uncle and aunt arranged a summer job for me in Yosemite. It was like going to heaven for 3 months. When I'd leave, all I could think about was when I was there—and when I was going back. Going home. That’s how I thought of it. In between those summers, the out-of-body travel became more a more frequent occurrence. I retracted like a raw nerve from my surroundings. I had three glorious summers there that got me through high school, kept me from jumping off a roof.

For some reason, when I was working on this image from Domeland it made me think about that time in my life. There was one painting in particular I remember that I worked on for a long time—until it was perfect. It was a beautiful, gnarled tree, stark against an electric blue sky. After each painting session, it was as though I slowly awakened from a vivid dream. Then it struck me why this memory came to the surface: the tree in that painting looked like many of the weathered trees in Domeland.

Painting isn't just about getting there in terms of finishing a piece, it’s also the way I mentally and emotionally return to the source of my inspiration: the wild places, the places I love best.

Now for the update on the painting: I'm getting there, in fact I'm really close. I just need to make the foreground become the same place as the background. The warmth of the sun peeking over the ridge and the light on the grassy hill rolling down into the meadow is not quite where I want it to be.

If the art gods smile down on me, this weekend I'll finish it and start another piece. What next? Maybe back to making monoprints...I have an image of a sinuous sycamore that's been hanging out in my head.

PS. This is my fiftieth blog post. Yay me.

No comments: