Consciously Unconscious


“If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” Edward Hopper (from


An eagle in flight, the newly opened bud of a spring flower, the crashing waves on a white sandy beach are sights that can momentarily take the breath away. For many artists the feeling cannot be put into words. Only paint can express the depth of emotion attached to magnificent sights in our world. But there are times when frustration can set in over the difficulty of expressing that emotion followed by feelings of failure. Why is it not happening?


Perhaps the beauty seems more than mere mortals can express. The great C.S. Lewis said, “We do not want to see merely beauty…we want something else which can hardly be put into words- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” Father Shane Tucker of Four Winds Anglican Mission and spoke of this quote and encouraged artists to search for those places that inspire awe and to breathe them in. Father Shane suggests getting still and thinking of when one has last seen awe.


Taking time to be in that place of awe, to breathe it in, absorb it, dwell in it then turn back to canvas and paint with fresh feelings intact can break the logjam of frustration. Getting out of the way of feelings when they are trying to express themselves may be just the ticket. Letting go of control takes the physical act of shaking out arms and hands. It takes a conscious act to let the unconscious take over. So start shaking, breathe deep and get out of the way.  The logs are breaking!



Shady Grays

The autumn addition of a home décor catalog arrived last week.  Flipping through the pages revealed the new product lines to be in pale grayed down colors.  The bold headlines proclaimed color as the topic of each product line but the photographs portrayed a totally different scenario.  Linens were in dusky grayish blues and greens with subdued grayish red violets and toned down yellows.  The likely goal was to create serene spaces with pale hues.  The effect to me was one of complete depression.  These rooms all made me want to cry.  If I needed a good long cleansing cry, I would choose a grayed room.

A grayed room is not to be confused with a gray room.  A gray room can be quite striking if warm or rich grays are used, with touches of pure white or black.  Accenting the walls of a gray room with graphite drawings or artwork in silverpoint would further add to the charm.  This type of gray room could actually be serene and comforting.

But a room in which everything has been grayed down gives the impression of being stuck at dusk in neither day nor night.  A constant drizzling rain is compounding the dusk adding to the depressing feeling.  It makes sense why an author would name a book about sadomasochism after the color gray.  Living in dusky, drizzly grayed down surroundings might make someone think about pain in some form or other.

The great C. S. Lewis wrote a book titled, “The Great Divorce.”  The characters in the book are stuck in a town where it is always dusk in a drizzling rain.  It is not yet dark enough to turn on the lights but not bright enough to see well.  There is never any sun or moonlight, just the constant dusky drizzling rain.  The book deals with the key to escaping from this gray world of never having either night or day.

Perhaps I am being hard on the catalog and its products but what about those grayed linens would make me want to buy them? The entire color line gave the impression of having been washed in old dishwater.  Why would I want to put those colors in my home?  And why on earth would I want to put them in my art???

A delightful blog called Art-is-fun examines how color creates different effects in abstract painting making the profound point that, “color is a powerfully expressive tool!”  The blog goes on to examine the work of Joseph Albers and Mark Rothko in their groundbreaking, “color field painting.”  Albers and Rothko showed how a subtle change in color application is able to make a profound change in a painting.

For further proof of the emotional impact of color, do a simple experiment.  Go to any home décor store and check the feeling you get when seeing all the fall grayed down linens and other home furnishings.   Then check the bright and colorful Art-is-fun blog.  What feelings do you get?  Me?  I get happy just looking at the bold colors of the blog.  I will choose happy over depressed any day!  Bring on the Color and do it NOW!!!  The same goes for my art.


Cypresses, 2001  oil on canvas, marygwynbowen, copyright, all rights reserved

%d bloggers like this: