I woke up this morning eager to start a day of painting, but found that – in the cold and wet weather – all the paintings I had primed or applied an imprimatura to over the past two days were still wet! So I spent the day preparing more panels, and in the afternoon I did this watercolour:
The source photo for this painting is not my own, and has a somewhat interesting story:
Just yesterday, I purchased Mitchell Albala’s book excellent book on landscape painting. In one of the first chapters, there is a discussion of how to selectively choose what to focus on in painting. The following photo is shown, with an example of a selected focus area:
Although I understand the need to selectively focus, I felt the example shown in this photo did not make the most of the total scene. So I made a thumbnail sketch of the photo, and later I painted my Painting #32 directly from my thumbnail without further reference to the photo.
I am rusty with watercolour, but I am quite happy with this result. As evening fell, I sat in my studio chair and watched the painting fade into the darkness as it closed in on us. I constantly question my motives for painting, and monitor how I feel after painting.
In the semi-dark, I came to a conclusion that a good reason for painting – for me – is that it may serve as a pointer to silence: internal silence while painting, despite the music; but most important – does viewing the painting take me into silence? Does it remove my certainty and point me into wonder?
I cannot say I have ever completed a painting that succeeded completely by this standard. However, the act of painting – through self-doubt, anxiety, fatigue, crippling perfectionism – has certainly removed my certainty again and again. To me, this is the place where – in the words of Yeats “all ladders start”:
…Now that my ladder’s goneI must lie down where all the ladders startIn the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.last lines of The Circus Animals’ Desertion – William Butler Yeats
I find so often, if my attitude is “just right” and humble, painting takes me to silence. And when it comes to the fruits of silence, I feel few are Rilke’s equal:
…But the grown man
shudders and is silent. The man who
has wandered pathless at night
in the mountain-range of his feelings:
As the old sailor is silent,
and the terrors that he has endured
play inside him as though in quivering cages.
from Rilke’s Poem “We Must Die Because We Have Known Them”
Whenever the topic of humility plays in my mind, I recall the statement by Andreas Angyl, quoted by Ernest Becker n his phenomenal book, The Denial of Death:
The neurotic who experiences psychotherapeutic rebirth through therapy is like a member of Alcoholics Anonymous: he can never take his cure for granted, and the best sign of the genuineness of the cure is that he lives with humility.
A heartfelt thanks to all of you who have supported me with follows, likes and comments. I hope you are happy and content.