From Inside the Stillness that Is a Rose

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I’ve been painting roses like the one pictured here for the past three weeks as homework for a class, “Finding Inner Peace through Painting Roses” that Dennis Perrin offers online. I’ve felt many things while standing in front of my easel and working really hard to paint roses, but feeling peaceful has not been my state of mind. Dennis has offered many demonstrations throughout this time and I’m still not getting it. I’ve felt frustrated, impatient, inept, disappointed, and not close to understanding how to find peace or paint roses.

Every time I try to paint them I’ve wondered What is their secret? To be fair to myself, I’ve learned many other things as I’ve painted. I’m more confident today about mixing paint, seeing values, and I have a new “palette discipline,” which simply means keeping color values together rather than being indiscriminate and haphazard about where I mix a pile of paint. The color value piles on the palette match the color and values in the painting.

I’m acutely aware that I’m still missing the simplicity of the act of painting roses, which are by their nature full of complex details. I’m making it too hard. So this morning, I decided I need to take a break, to step back and look elsewhere for guidance.

While going through a drawer in my bedroom this morning, I found a small notebook. The first entry was made in September 1994. The last entry was made in October 1998. On one of the pages, I’d written the following quote:

Deep within each of you, you will find real beauty, virtue, and goodness. It may be hidden very deep inside of you, but have faith that it is there. You can find it when you are willing to search within with real determination. For you draw to yourself what you hold in your thoughts. Think the very best and you will draw the very best to yourself…Realize how much you have to be grateful for. Surround yourself with beautiful things and beautiful people. See the light in everything and everyone. Let your light shine brightly from deep within you and know that nothing from without can extinguish your flame. So keep your lights burning brightly so you can blaze forth, pushing back the darkness. Be light and let it shine forth from you.
~Author Unknown

I think I’ve found a thread that if I follow it, I will be able to paint the rose. I’ll post it when it’s done!

 

Insist on the Beauty of Form

Insist on the beauty of form and color to be obtained from the composition of the largest masses, the four or five large masses which cover your canvas. Let these things above all things have fine shapes…Let them be as meaningful of your subject as they possibly can be. ..Remember that the greatest beauty can be expressed through these masses, that the distinction of the whole canvas depends on them.
~ Robert Henri in The Art Spirit

I passed by this stand of tall, slender pines while driving on a back road in Wisconsin a couple of summers ago. I stopped and took a couple of photos and had every intention of painting them—until tonight.

Every composition is an arrangement of shapes, but the shapes aren’t always obvious. In the photo above, the trees are full of interesting details, and those details disguise the big shapes. That’s when making a notan (the process of reducing everything to two values—black and white—can be a best first step before diving right into a painting. The notan eliminates details and leaves only large shapes.

When the 30-minute notan study was done, I felt less than thrilled with the four large shapes that remained. There is nothing outstanding or beautiful about any of the shapes and I decided not to do the painting

I still love the scene and the memory attached to the photo, but creating a painting requires a significant block of time and effort. So, I’m not disappointed about letting go of the notion. The 30 minutes it took to do the notan drawing was a good use of my time.

 

There’s an easier way to be

To be, or not to be, that is the question.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is contemplating death and the unfairness of life when he says that. He goes on to say:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
that Flesh is heir to?

Hamlet is thinking about his father’s murder and the expectation that he will seek revenge, but he hesitates. For far less dramatic reasons than Hamlet’s, we have to make decisions every day about “being” in this world. We experience heartache and shocks to our being—who we are—because we live, and like Hamlet, we often wonder if it’s worth it to “take up arms against a sea of troubles.”

I told my parents I wanted to be an artist when I was in my early teens. My mom was silent on the subject, but my dad let me know what he thought. He was against the notion because, he said, “You can’t earn a living as an artist.”

It was easier then, as it is now, to earn a living wage by working for someone else. Some part of me abandoned the artist who lived inside and got on the merry-go-round that’s life. I went to college and then went on to earn a master’s degree in education. The question that fueled my desire to learn was: When most people hate what they do and often dislike who they work for, why do they tolerate a system that requires them to do what they’re told to do, what is expected, every day of their working lives? I paid $35,000 for the answer. But why do you think we learn to be other than we are? Because _________ (fill in the blank).

It often seems easier to do what is expected of us, to ride the merry-go-round, but is it? What did, or do, you want to create? Is there time in your life for you to do whatever it is that you need to do? Who do you think you are? Does the last question irritate you? Why?