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Insights Into Art

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein

Dawson China Cove Beach_edited.jpg

Why Am I a Painter?

To Wander and Wonder – live fully and deeply in nature.  To really know a place.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein

Go find miracles – all the little ones.  Like a new flower or the twist of a vine.  The chatter of a squirrel or the call of the hawk.  The ripples on the water made by a fish.  The cool of the evening.  The sun burning off the dew.  The fragrance of spring lilacs.  The soul of a cow’s eyes.  The chomp of the pig’s snout.  The bluebird on his house. The chipmunk busy for fall.  Drips of rain from the trees. 

The pattern of light and shadow through the trees.  The cool note against the warmth of the surface lit by the sun.  The soft edges of clouds.  The color harmonies that exist in nature. 

All of this and more – for those who seek.

Read from a good book.  Drink deeply from the stream of love.  Play or listen to music.  Grab the paintbox and get outside.

Armed with a paint-box, one cannot be bored, one cannot be left at a loose end, one cannot 'have several days on one's hands.' (Winston Churchill)

"Paint a hundred studies: keep any number of clean canvases ready, of all shapes and sizes so that you are never held back by the sudden need of one. You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.” - John Singer Sargent

Robert Henri said “There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual.  Such are the moments of our greatest happiness.  Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom.  If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign.  It was in this hope that the arts were invented.  Sign-posts on the way to what may be.  Sign-posts toward greater knowledge.”

This makes me want to load up the Jeep and head out in any direction on the compass and follow the roads to wherever the day may lead.

Stopping here or there, discovering the little out of the way places that seem to be the perfect place at the perfect time.  A sunny spot or a moody sky.  Old barns, rivers, towns, bridges, a café.  A brew pub or picnic spot to enjoy wine. 

If none of this sounds like Art, it is the beauty and character of these places and the connection to the soul that matters.  The Art is opening the mind.  Opening the senses.  Opening the heart.  Opening the soul.  Connecting in a deeper way with the world.  Connecting with the past – through memories and connecting with the future as one contemplates everything that has led you to this exact place at this exact moment – and starts to ponder where the next chapters lead.

Your record could be a sketch, painting, a journal entry, a keepsake from your trip, photos, fish caught, or mud on your boots.

Leonardo da Vinci said “Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”

“The lover of art is one, and the lover of nature another, though true art is but the expression of our love of nature” – Thoreau

This is why I am a painter of the landscape.  It is the confluence of my love of nature and my need to represent it.  To draw attention to the beauty.

Sometimes the beauty goes overlooked – many times it does. Jason Sacran addresses this concept in his Artist Statement:

“In general my work is about the process of creating by painting subjects that evoke a mood or feeling introspectively. 

I am interested in documenting things of today, mostly with overlooked or even forgotten aspects of everyday life – scenes we pass by every day, objects we often use, people we know well, but hardly ever think twice about.

In the chaos of everyday life, I believe we take the simple and familiar things for granted.

Sometimes they are the very things we come to miss.”

From Lessons in Classical Painting by Juliette Aristides:

“By slowing down and learning to see as an artist, we experience the great pleasure to be had from simple things in our own lives.  Learning to see what has been there all along is the straw that artists, from generation to generation, have always spun into gold.”

Go explore!  Sketch.  Photograph and write.  Live.  Let the sun be on your face, wind at your back, and mind open to the little overlooked places of the world.

“The sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city, going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes-no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests.  He moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook, a box of oils with a few small panels, the fit of his pocket, or on his drawing pad.  Like any hunter he hits or misses.  He is looking for what he loves, he tries to capture it.  It’s found anywhere, everywhere.  Those who are not hunters do not see these things.  The hunter is learning to see and to understand-to enjoy.

       There are memories of days of this sort, of wonderful driftings in and out of the crowd, of seeing and thinking.  Where are the sketches that were made? Some of them are in dusty piles, some turned out to be so good they got frames, some became motives for big pictures, which were either better or worse than the sketches, but they, or rather the states of being and understandings we had at the time of doing them all, are sifting through and leaving their impress on our whole work and life.” Robert Henri, The Art Spirit, 1923

Henri goes on to say “Painting is the expression of ideas in their permanent form.  It is the giving of evidence.  It is the study of our lives, our environment.  The American who is useful as an artist is one who studies his own life and records his experiences; in this way he gives evidence.  If a man has something to say he will find a way of saying it.”

He also notes “the value of repeated studies of beginnings of a painting cannot be over estimated.  Those who do not begin do not finish.”

This practice of good beginnings is similar to Sargent’s idea.  And CW later stated it as “work, work, work, work, work!”  The miles of canvas of MacPherson.  The Christensen studies. 

In these sketches and studies, try to get the big masses correct in relation and value and general color.  Pay some attention to their edges.  By getting these main masses of 4 or 5 shapes so arranged for beauty on the canvas, the sketch can be strong from the start. 

Robert Henri said “Determine to get in these larger masses all that is possible of completion, all the drawing, color, design, character, construction, effect.  Remember that the greatest beauty can be expressed through these masses, that the distinction of the whole canvas depends on them.

Insist then, on the beauty and 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 above all things have fine shapes, have fine colors.  Let  them be as meaningful of your subject as they possibly can be.  It is wonderful how much real finish can be obtained through them, how much of gesture and modeling can be obtained through their contours, what satisfactions can be obtained from their fine measures in area, color and value. 

There is an orchestration throughout the whole canvas.”

To really know something, stop and sketch it.  Paint it.  Fish in the stream and then you will know it.  And you will remember it.  More than if your visit was in casual observance.  One cannot sense the river by standing on its edge at the overlook.  Step into it.  Feel its force.  Feel how cold it is against your legs. Smell the sage brush and the willows.  See the hatch.  Catch the glint of the sun across the ripples.  Write about this and paint with words.  Or paint this and speak with color.

“Before I leave you I hope you’ll consider one recommendation: enjoy the work, but more importantly, get yourself out into the world which inspired it.  Get out every day if you can, and remember this: north of where we live in Jackson Hole, just outside the tiny outpost of Moose, Wyoming in Grand Teton National Park, you’ll find the historic residence of wilderness advocates Olaus and Margaret Murie.  For years, the Muries displayed a saying over their fireplace mantel and kept it there for visitors from around the world to ponder.  Why do I paint? The answer is found in these words borrowed from the Muries who in turn borrowed them from a tombstone in Cumberland, England:

“The wonder of the world, the beauty and power, the shape of things, their colours, lights and shades; these I saw.  Look ye also while life lasts.” – From Scott Christensen The Nature of Light.

Look ye also while life lasts.

Life is a blank canvas – throw all the paint on it that you can.

My Artist Statement:

“I am seeking truth in the landscape – truth in light, value, heart and soul.”


Seek - Explore - Understand
A List of Items To Explore and Experience

Here is a list of essential supplies to always have packed and ready so on a moment’s notice or for when that special day that is marked on your calendar – you will be ready to go.  Seek.  Search.  Experience.  Find.  Record this through your work.  Know.

Plan to fit this into a backpack so when you reach your destination you will be more mobile from there:

  • Backpack

  • Hiking shoes

  • Jacket or more for colder weather

  • Sunglasses for fishing

  • Fly rod and reel and flies and pliers

  • Sunscreen

  • Hat or cap

  • Chapstick

  • Pocket knife

  • Cell phone and charger

  • iPod and small battery powered speaker (I love music)

  • First aid kit (leave in the Jeep)

  • Hiking Sticks (leave in Jeep in case you find a great trail)

  • Binocs if you might find yourself watching wildlife or birds

  • Cooler for snacks and picnic items (leave in Jeep)

  • Blanket (leave in Jeep) can come in handy if you stay later than planned or find an outdoor concert

  • A bottle of wine

  • A Flask of bourbon (in the backpack)

  • Journal to write in and also holds keepsakes (stickers, napkin, ticket stub etc)

  • Ink Pen for the Journal

  • Sketch book for Art Sketching – all sizes shapes and kinds depending on what you are in the mood for.  A multi media journal works well for wet media

  • Watercolor pan set – I use a 12 half pan set from Schmincke

  • Watercolor brushes – I carry a 5,6,7,or 8 round and a mop brush

  • Water bottle

  • Camera and lenses if you are in the mood for more serious photography – or a simple point and shoot camera for small work (or the iphone)

  • Paintbox with panel holder

  • Oil paint tubes – limited palette

  • Gamsol in brush washer

  • Oil Brushes

  • Paper Towels

  • Small plastic trash bag

  • Tripod if more serious easel paining

  • Pastel travel box

  • Oil painting panels – small wooden panels (5x7, 6x8)

  • Pastel Panels – small ampersand boards (5x7, 6x8, 8x10 at most)

  • Panel carrier (leave in Jeep to get your sketches back home)

  • Or maybe a few tubes of guache for quick color sketches

  • A book if a good read in a sunny field is in order

  • Small things to leave in the backpack pocket are matches or a lighter, wine opener, leatherman type multi tool, a deck of cards,

Most of the items above can be arranged in a box or plastic tote that remains in the Jeep to be pulled and placed in the backpack at your location.  The cooler, Box of misc items above, and backpack are the only things in the back of the Jeep and they fit nicely side by side in the back compartment area.

It is good to dress in layers with multi functioning clothing to be ready for any adventure that comes your way.

Traveling like this you are ready for painting, sketching, fishing, adventuring, hiking, or a visit to wineries, antique stores, State Parks, concerts, café’s and restaurants. 

Seek - Explore - Understand

Musings & Thoughts: Musings & Thoughts
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