Soaring to the Extraordinary

Sometimes it becomes necessary to get out of the head and into the perseverance of trial and error of letting go, for art to lose the ordinary.

The urge to control what goes onto the canvas is almost overwhelming at times. The image floating around inside must be the one that comes out on the canvas, page, etc. To do otherwise is to make a failing piece of art. Or is that the truth? At least that’s what lots of people assume and get into great mountains of frustration when what’s in the head is not what we’re seeing in the physical. Artwork is scrapped because it’s not measuring up to that ephemeral inner vision. The harder one tries, the worse it gets. Frustration takes over and the work is abandoned.

But what if that work was on the verge of being something really good. What if it was scrapped without giving it a real chance? How can that head vision become that physical vision? It can’t. Therein lies the problem. The only thing to do is give up. But not on the painting. Give up on the frustration of trying to make the head image be the physical image. Easy for me to say! I can say it but can I do it? Not without a conscious effort.

This bird never did become what my head was trying to say it should be. But I couldn’t give up because I had already promised it for an event. There was no choice but to persevere. After scraping off paint and putting it back on only to do it all over again, I finally came to the breaking point. I was tired and time had run out. I stopped scraping and started painting. Too tired to worry, I just let the paint flow, doing its thing. Not really thinking where I was going, I started painting from instinct. Then I went to bed.

When I woke up the next morning, there it was. Not what was in my head at all but something I liked much better. In an article in Professional Artist magazine, Eugene and Diana Avergon wrote, “By learning from trial and error and being patient with the journey, somewhere along this path, we can look for the significant strengthening of prowess in domain building, and perhaps, the releasing of the extraordinary.” I’m not saying this painting is extraordinary, but it is a whole lot better than what was coming out before I became too tired to fight. Maybe it was trial and error. Maybe it was perseverance. Probably both. But the difference came when I finally got out of my head. Both me and this Ring Billed Gull were freed once I was too tired to fight but unable to give up. Perseverance and the trial and error of letting go finally took over. In the end, me and the gull were soaring high.

Streaming Mood

Changing color or texture in a painting can change the whole mood and feel of a painting.

Setting out to change this painting of Reelfoot Lake for me, could mean adding a bit more color or more texture. If I’m channeling Bob Ross, maybe another Happy little tree! Sometimes that’s what I do for change. Other times I dive in and completely redo the whole thing. In this painting, I mostly changed the color choices and it changed the whole mood. It became more somber. Less dramatic. The same basic painting with two completely different moods. That’s part of the fun of being an artist. Changing moods is a good thing. It’s ok to be moody!

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The main reason I changed this one was that I have had it for too long. It was growing moldy! It has been shown a few times with no interest. OK. It needs a change. But what kind of change? One criticism said it had too much purple. Less purple, check! The thing that had always bothered me was how the one cypress knee looked like a shark fin. No sharks in Reelfoot Lake! More cypress knees, check! But what else? Less purple and more cypress knees is not a lot of change.

With no particular direction, I began to paint. I let the mood float over me. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what I was thinking or feeling. I just let the mood flow. I was in my studio space without any distractions that day. It was just me and the paint. We were having some good communication time. The mood was streaming right into the brush and onto the canvas. I was in the zone.

Once the new mood was complete, I stood back and looked. Usually I make frequent pauses to check how things are going. Not this time. What was inside was coming out and moving smoothly. My first thought was that this was a whole new painting. Only it wasn’t. All that was different was new paint and a new color scheme. In spite of that, there was a whole different mood that gave it the feel of a whole new painting.

As I reflected on this whole new painting, I went back in my mind to this scene at the Lake and the inlet known as Lids Pocket. When the road dead ends at the lake, this is the spot of the first glimpse of the lake. I have seen it so many times. Starting from the time I was barely old enough to hang over the front seat of the car to get a better look until now when my memory speaks louder than vision. It was an exciting view. I’d be bouncing up and down on the back seat to get to the pier so we could get a better look out over the water. There might be a heron hiding behind those trees. I was always in a hurry to find out.

The redo of this painting does not reflect the exuberance of a child. It is quiet, somber and thoughtful. As I wondered why, it hit me. This scene no longer exists. It was wiped away in the tornado. At the spot where the road mets the lake there was a quaint motel, docks for fishing and boat rental, a business office with gift shop and across the street, a restaurant. It was all in the direct line of the tornado and now it’s all gone. The trees were uprooted or sheered off. The docks were smashed to pieces. The buildings totally destroyed. And people lost their lives at this spot. I don’t recall thinking that while I was repainting. Somewhere inside I was mourning the loss of life and a beautiful spot with many happy childhood memories. Somewhere inside the feelings lurked, then surfaced into this painting. And with the feelings bubbling out, the mood changed.

A violent weather phenomenon left behind devastation. What was once a beautiful spot lives on in memory as peaceful and serene, a tribute. Proof that sometimes we are not controlling what we paint. It is out of our hands.

For more on the horrific Quad-State Tornado:

The Tornado Photo

The Tornado Story

The Art of Nature Immersion Weekend at Reelfoot Lake

The Art of Nature Immersion Weekend at Reelfoot Lake is a great opportunity to get away from it all and join other artists and nature lovers for a weekend filled with nature, food, fun and fellowship as we make art together in the midst of a beautiful Wildlife Refuge.

Here’s a great opportunity to experience the healing power of art:

Join us for

The Art of Nature Immersion weekend at Reelfoot Lake

June 23,24 and 25th. Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tiptonville, TN and Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge

Not only is art healing, but nature is as well. Combining the two makes for a double whammy!!

Who is this week end for:

  • anybody who wants to get away and just paint
  • anyone who loves painting beautiful places and beautiful flowers
  • anyone who wants a time to destress with nature and art
  • beginners, mid-level and experienced artists will all be able to enjoy this time to create without pressure

Reelfoot Lake is a special place. It became a healing place for me during a tough time in my life. That’s why I return to Reelfoot in my painting over and over. Maybe it will do the same for you!

Get a way from life for a weekend and enjoy creating art in the beauty of nature. You could make some new friends too!

Space is limited so sign up now! Discount for early signers!

We will be staying in the Cabins run by Tennessee State Parks. Check out these beautiful cabins on the water.

Included is a pontoon boat excursion to the inlets where the unique Reelfoot Lake Lotus Flower blooms. We’ll get instructed in smart phone flower photography on the boat. We’ll return to the Pavilion at Bluebank park for watercolor painting of the Lotus Flower.

Friday the 23rd will kick off our art immersion with wildflower colored pencil painting of the flowers that grow along the shore. Maybe you’ll paint a wild water iris!

All meals are included! Friday night supper will be at Bluebank Restaurant on the water where we’ll follow supper with watercolor pencil painting of the legendary Reelfoot Sunsets from the dock at Bluebank.

Sunday morning we’ll paint the birds, herons, egrets, osprey and more that are abundant through out the state park and wildlife refuge.

Price includes all meals and double occupancy room with two queen beds.

email me with questions:

The Season of Love in Art

How is love portrayed in art? Love in art is as varied as the artists creating the works.

February must be the season of love. It’s Valentine’s Day and everybody is thinking of love. Does it show up in art too? Yes! Maybe not in all artist’s work but lots of us think about painting subjects that denote love to us. When love is in the air, it’s in everything. Even in the cold February weather, people still think love. Or maybe the cold brings that on.

ArtsPer magazine did an expose on love depicted in art covering the many variations of love such as friendship, parent and child, brothers and sisters, marriage. However love is portrayed it seems to be a favorite subject for artists. Speculation abounds from viewers of love in art. Love covers so many emotions and feelings, behaviors, all kinds of meanings. It could get very complicated. It could get crazy.

In Renee Phillips excellent article covering Love in Art, she examines two famous artworks depicting a kiss. As there are numerous variations on love, there are numerous variations on a kiss. The two works she examines here are of passionate kisses between lovers. That is probably what we most often think of with a kiss but there is also the kiss on the cheek as a greeting, the kiss of a parent for child and child for parent. The list could go on and on.

Does love in art have to be deep or filled with angst or some other passionate emotion? That is probably an unanswered question. Maybe somebody answered it. The sweet simplicity of two little birds says all I want to say about love. Two little birds out on a branch sharing a look at each other. Do they have a passionate relationship? Beats me! I just like love things to be sweet, simple and straightforward. Saving the angst for another day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Seeing More Clearly?

Artists do see more clearly than others but it has nothing to do with eyesight.

Do artists see more clearly than other people? My aunt asked me years ago what I saw when I looked at a particular lake. I couldn’t really say verbally but I could with paint. Paint is a language I can speak better than words. But does that mean I am “seeing more clearly” than the average person? People ask why did you put that bit of red somewhere. Or that little bit of orange. I don’t have an answer to that. It just needed that bit of orange or blue or whatever. That leads me to believe I see something other people don’t but does it mean I see more clearly?

Visual Artists tend to see:

  • Fine detail
  • Vivid color
  • Color interactions, sometimes subtle, sometimes blantant
  • Shapes missed by the casual observer
  • Emotions
  • Movements
  • And lots more

A similar statement on musicians would be do they hear more clearly? And writers. Do they verbalize more clearly. Poets? Dancers?

Our physical vision, hearing, etc. is not better than any one else’s. Our heart’s vision is different. This might explain why Monet and Georgia O’Keeffe kept right on painting after their vision started dimming. Beethoven was composing after losing his hearing. Their hearts were still talking.

Do visual artists see more clearly? With their eyes, no. But with their hearts? Yes! The secret is to keep the eyes of the heart open! Listen to what the heart is saying!

The heart always sees clearly.

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