“Life is just a long succession of small epiphanies.  You need to stop and seize them.  By making art, you will be recording what you are living through and what you are learning about.  A drawing and a sentence or two in a sketchbook turns those everyday moments into something significant.  Your art will set a frame around it and give you perspective on what really matters.  Over time you will build up a book of memories — a true record of what’s important in your life.”
— Danny Gregory, Art Before Breakfast

This is indeed what drawing and painting does for me — turns everyday moments into something more.  (And creating blog posts about these ordinary moments does the same.)

Watercolor sketch of a bucket of sweet peas

Watercolor sketch of a bucket of sweet peas

Another watercolor painting of sweet peas

Another watercolor painting of sweet peas

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More from Frederick Franck’s The Awakened Eye:

“Instead of the pleasures of so-called ‘self-expression,’ you will discover a greater one:  the joy of letting a leaf, a branch, express itself, its being, through you.”

An iris so purple, it's black.

An iris so purple, it’s black.

Watercolor sketch of iris using paper from France (Moulin a Papier de Provence)

Watercolor sketch of iris using paper from France (Moulin a Papier de Provence)

” . . . seeing — for instance — what it is to be a blade of grass.  Or rather: that a blade of grass does not exist — that only this particular blade of grass exists; and that ‘a’ man, ‘a’ woman are figments of the imagination, only this particular man or woman is real.  Drawing the Ten Thousand Things is a way of loving, of being in love with life by seeing each thing in its singularity.”

Kitty's iris garden on Samish Island

Kitty’s iris garden on Samish Island

Imagine drawing ten thousand things, starting with each of these irises in Kitty’s garden.  This reminds me of the so-called 10,000 hour rule for mastery.  I agree that in order to become a better painter, I need to work more regularly, even daily.  But with my choppy “paid” work schedule, I seem to repeatedly grind to a halt.  I am constantly starting again.  This is my particular challenge these days.

I am always happier when my day includes some drawing or painting.  Here is a good way to look at my efforts:  “Measure your life in the number of times you do things.  When you die: are you 2 writing sessions old?  Or are you 50,000?”  —  James Altucher, from “The Only Technique to Learn Something New”

The singularity of this particular iris

The singularity of this particular iris

 

 

Painting as Research

November 9, 2014

“Paintings are but research and experiment.  I never do a painting as a work of art.  All of them are researches.  I search constantly and there is a logical sequence in all this research.”  — Pablo Picasso, from The Artist in His Studio by Alexander Liberman

Watercolor sketch of squirrel

Watercolor sketch of squirrel

Watercolor sketch of squirrel

Watercolor sketch of squirrel

Watercolor sketch of squirrel

Watercolor sketch of squirrel

I believe these are my sixth, seventh, and eighth watercolor paintings of a squirrel made in the last couple of weeks.  After making botanical-themed sketches for so long, I find myself drawn these days to animal portraits.  Can I learn to be more expressive in my work?  Will these latest experiments be a precursor to human portraits?  (Oh, how I would love to become good at painting people!  But at the moment I am intimidated by people portraits and landscapes.)

For now, I am not on any deliberate path of lessons and improvement.  I’m just following my urges.  And having fun.  I am pondering the advice of Julia Cameron, writer and artist coach, who says, “When we are fixated on getting better, we miss what it is we already are — and this is dangerous because we — as we are — are the origins of our art.  ‘We’ are what makes our art original.”  (from Walking in This World)

 

“Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul.”
— W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up

My tubes of watercolor paints and brushes

My tubes of watercolor paints and brushes

A couple of my watercolor sketches in frames

A couple of my watercolor sketches in frames

“The question of what art is for has far too long been needlessly treated as obscure: it is to help us live and die.”
— Alain de Botton

After telling the story of my life in 10 objects, I realized that this mini-series was missing something important to me — an aspirational object, my watercolor paints, brushes and supplies.  These are the objects I hope to grow into.  I am prepared to spend hours with my brush in hand, palette at my side, paper in front of me — to play and practice and experiment.

Drawing and painting are more skills to help me slow down, pay attention, create beauty, play, and express myself.  So they are a natural extension of my other interests.  I aspire to become a better artist.

So now that I am truly finished with the story of my life in 10 objects, I invite you to share your stories — your 10 objects — in the comments.  I’m so curious about what your chosen objects will say about you.

 

The ladies under a tulip tree

The ladies under a tulip tree

This was my second painting en plein air outing with my lady friends from Bow, Washington.  We met under a tulip tree on Bonnie’s little 40-acre farm in the Skagit Valley.  I am still intimidated by landscapes and focused my work on a broken window rather than on the whole barn.  Maybe someday I’ll feel brave enough to paint a whole composition with buildings in a landscape — and even with people!!

The lovely old barn on Bonnie's farm

The lovely old barn on Bonnie’s farm

Barn interior

Barn interior

Old door in horse barn

Old door in horse barn

Weathered windows

Weathered windows

My ink and watercolor sketch of barn window

My ink and watercolor sketch of barn window

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painting in Kitty's iris garden

Painting in Kitty’s iris garden

One of the best things about my blog is the connection it helped forge with a group of ladies from  Bow, Washington.  I first met them at last year’s exhibit of my watercolor paintings at the Miller Horticultural Library.  Since then I have had the privilege of accompanying them on a couple of outings.  Last week, we met on Samish Island to paint the irises that were in bloom in Kitty’s garden.  She had planted ever 60 varieties and knew the name of each one!

The irises were a riotous assemblage of color and frills, so fancy and varied.  It had been too long since I last held a paintbrush in my hand, so it felt good to be working with watercolors again.  Painting for me has been a solitary activity, so this outing was a new experience for me.  I was pleased to get something on paper, even though I felt rusty and not quite in the flow.  I loved being with this supportive group of creative women and regret that I live so far away that I can’t see them more often.

Here are some photos from our afternoon in the garden:

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Watercolor sketch of irises from Kitty's garden

Watercolor sketch of irises from Kitty’s garden

Another watercolor sketch of irises from Kitty's garden

Another watercolor sketch of irises from Kitty’s garden

A Joy Ride in a Paintbox

March 13, 2013

“Painting is a companion with whom one may hope to walk a great part of life’s journey.”
— Winston Churchill, Painting as Pastime

The current state of my work table -- watercolors and brushes, a stack of books, and found objects from nature

The current state of my work table — watercolors and brushes, a stack of books, and found objects from nature

” . . . painting is a friend who makes no undue demands, excites to no exhausting pursuits, keeps faithful pace even with feeble steps, and holds her canvas as a screen between us and the envious eyes of Time or the surly advance of Decrepitude.”
— Winston Churchill, Painting as Pastime

I enjoyed reading Winston Churchill’s Painting as Pastime, a short book, a single essay about the virtues of hobbies and especially painting.  Churchill took up painting in his 40s, and he encourages those of us in middle or advanced age to forget about lessons and simply have the audacity to pick up a paintbox and have a try:  ” . . . the first quality that is needed is Audacity.  There is no time for the deliberate approach.  Two years of drawing-lessons, three years of copying woodcuts, five years of plaster casts — these are for the young. . . We must not be too ambitious.  We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paintbox.  And for this Audacity is the only ticket.”

Isn’t he great with words?  I will leave you with one more quote:  “Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely.  Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end, or almost to the end, of the day.”