How do you care for our earth? As an individual, I steward a small piece of earth. I’m grateful for this little plot of land with its variety of fruit trees planted by someone else, perhaps over fifty years ago. They probably had no thought of me. But they gave me a gift all these years later.
We are facing a time of global crisis. The way that we’ve been “using” the earth isn’t sustainable. The Native Americans believe that we have a responsibility to consider seven generations to come. They and some others realize that the earth is on loan to us now and to be conserved for future generations. But most of the world hasn’t held this as a value. We’ve taken from the earth’s resources and not given in return. We’ve used and abused our earth, our oceans, our air quality. Now we see disruption across the planet and we wonder how can that be? As if it came out of nowhere. As if scientists hadn’t been warning us.
This painting is inspired by the animals that live along the Rio Grande River, the fourth longest river in the USA. Beside a large portion of this river, there is a “wall” being built to define a boundary between the US and Mexico. This particular area, along the Rio Grande bordering the state of Texas, is considered to be one of those invaluable riparian habitats. Jaguarundi, Pronghorn, Ocelot, Javelina, Mountain Lion, Fox, Birds, Beetles and Butterflies are some of the animals and insects that inhabit this area. The “wall” would disrupt the natural navigation patterns of these animals and insects. Some of these species, like the Ocelot, are already endangered. The Rio Grande River itself is in grave danger.
I call this painting “DREAM IT BETTER.”
We are touched by things that we hear or see. We know that some things, as the disruption of a riparian habitat, are wrong. We feel bad about it. It may even arouse our passion! Instead of stopping at feeling bad or sad, consider, “What is an action step that I can take to make a difference?” One step would be to do some research. To find some legitimate organizations that are opposing such destruction. Get informed. Then see how what you learn can be shared with others. Take the leap from helpless observer to active participant. One small step towards change.
Artists take liberties! Artistic License, like Poetic License, the artist’s choices reign on the canvas. Artists are creators on a substrate. They have the power to paint blue hair and put a cardinal on their subject’s shoulder. And, once again, to capture an expression.
This class was taught by another amazing artist, Sara Burch. With this painting, Sara addresses a common artist’s fear, the looming blank canvas! Believe it or not, there are those of us artists who feel frozen in front of a fresh canvas.
“How or where do I begin?”
Sara Burch’s remedy is to jump right in, laying splotches of paint on the substrate where the facial features might be. She uses a soggy brush that drips paint and it’s all so casual, playful and easy. No predesigned face, neither a pencil-drawn face nor a photo of a face to work from. The artist’s memory of a face begins to lend form to the painting as she crafts the face from the colors she’s laid down. And then, she mixes up new colors finding a skin tone. The background color adds more definition to the portrait, popping it forward. This was a fun and original approach. Some painters desire to be looser in the way that they paint. This isn’t easy to achieve believe it or not.
That idea of perfectionism gets thrown out the window when you paint in this way. Perfect is not the goal. There is art that is precise, realism, and I absolutely admire that. Sara’s approach has to do with letting go in the beginning and then defining and refining the face later. Any artist finds her own style. Sometimes by exposing herself to the style of another artist(s) and/or through experimentation. Being curious is a key element in developing your artistic range.
Were you someone who colored outside the lines as a kid? Did you feel shame in that? Art is an invitation to continually color outside the lines. To discover the land that lies beyond the defined lines. Sometimes it could mean giving your subject blue hair. And other times it could be dripping paint down a blank canvas. And then, you may have discovered another approach that no one has even dreamed of yet.
A new day is sort of like a blank canvas. You begin somewhere.
When I began painting faces, I found it very challenging. What I painted didn’t resemble the image I had in mind at all! How my mind and hand translated a photo portrait onto a canvas was juvenile art. Features–especially matching the eyes–were they the same size, at least close to the same size? The same shape? How much space between them? How far down on the face should they be? Where is the nose in relation to the eyes? And the mouth? Did I mention mixing a realistic skin tone? And then, there is value contrast! Yikes…the map of the face is an art that isn’t easy to master.
Several years of practice has improved my facility to draw a face with some degree of realism. And, I can see that I need years more of practice before I feel accomplished in this area. If ever.
And, so, I allow the whimsy that has been part of my artist’s signature.
I do like the background in this painting. The soft colors and images that sort of arise from the mist. I also think about painting over the whole thing and discovering something else. Remembering that it’s all part of the learning process, I have compassion for my newly formed artist self. Compassion versus criticism. Practice versus procrastination.
Remember the old adage “Patience is a virtue.” It really is. Making art–it can’t be rushed. It can be…but the depth of what an artist gets from the creative process won’t be reached unless she is patient enough to be fully present with the work in process and with herself (himself). Any work of art is always an inquiry. With that, an answer won’t be forced but rather surfaces.
These days, things are very serious. I feel it in my body. It’s easy to forget my body. To relegate it to last place even though I have more time to tend it. Yesterday, I came upon this little video by Elizabeth Gilbert. What I love about it is that there are no words…
And now for something completely different,
This painting went through many transformations, layers, additions, subtractions. An artist friend liked the original design and put my hawk painting on earrings…on guitar picks. Quite creative.
In the Native American tradition, as I understand it, because Hawk flies high above everything below, he has a larger perspective. I can get so caught in my small story that I lose sight of what’s beyond and larger than this small mind and the concerns of the moment.
When I’m out hiking on a mountain trail and I see the hawk gliding overhead, I am reminded to step back for a more expansive view of what I’m calling my reality. There is relief in that.
I don’t remember exactly why I chose to paint the hawk. Perhaps there was a real need to see things from a different perspective.
I appreciated the development of this painting over time. I continually tried to perfect the hawk. And to emphasize him emanating from the background. It’s one of my favorite paintings. The frame of the canvas became warped so that it doesn’t sit flat on the wall. Yet, I have it where I see it daily. It has a meaning to me that I can’t put into words.
Today, in a time when we can get very caught up in our small frame of life, when it’s hard to see beyond the moment or to feel safe, is there some perspective you can take if you look over the whole of your life so far? Imagine yourself hovering over the landscape of your life…can you see a pattern, an abiding theme? Is there something that is apparent that weaves this life of yours together? Can it support you in some way today?