Painting #32

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:

#32 Watercolour, May 2016 (A4 size)

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 gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In 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:
is silent.

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.

12 thoughts on “Painting #32

  1. Your watercolor is beautiful. Yesterday morning I read several articles about landscape composition and how we should sometimes “crop” a scene to create a stronger focal point. I understand the concept and agree that it’s often necessary, but I fail to see the reasoning behind Albala’s heavy-handed cropping in the illustration you provided. I much prefer your version. Your thoughts on humility and silence will now be part of my morning meditation, and I will take those thoughts with me as I begin my painting today. Thank you for a beautiful, inspiring post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks for your comment, it is always great to hear from you! To be fair, I think Albala perhaps only used the photo to illustrate a point, but I would’t want to paint that particular crop! All the best with your creative effort, I will go and have a look at what you are up to.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just found his website and blog. I really like his work, and I’ve signed up for his newsletter. It looks like he has a lot of good articles on the blog. Again, thank you for mentioning Albala.


  2. I like your watercolour, I like how nothing is defined, but all together it becomes a beautiful landscape. Don’t know who Albala is, but he needs to take lessons in cropping from you. 😊 cropping is a Big thing in photography too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the compliment! Actually, Mitchell Albala does some pretty amazing things – maybe you can go and check out his site. Funny, in the Amazon reviews, one person does not like the book because he does not like Albala’s paintings (he said they “suck”!). Then I went over and looked at his paintings and bought the book mainly on that basis. Funny world. Hope you find your tree in good stead today.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks DawnMarie. Yes, that water gave me quite a good fight – I am a bit rusty with W/C as I said in the post, but I am planning to keep a stretched paper ready for when I run into trouble with the Oils.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that is a good idea. I had a rough time painting yesterday as well. Finally by midnight I had something but I had scraped off two other paintings before that. My dogs were barkin! ( slang for my feet hurt).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m guessing, but by selective focus I think that he means the artist is choosing to draw more attention to some section of the picture. In the example above, the painting’s composition would include the entire photograph with that one portion becoming a more prominent feature. It’s probably difficult to illustrate using a rectangle since the edges — if there are edges — might be very subtle.

    Or maybe not –from what I can read of the text — it is kind of ambiguous. Perhaps he’s using a photo to make comments about a thought process one uses when working from nature??

    I never have liked the idea of a “center of interest” or similar ideas because they imply that the artist should know everything he wants to do from the outset and in my experience much of the real content of a picture is discovered along the way (even when working from a photo). There are many ways of thinking about a motif — gazillions of ways — and these different ways are ways of thinking about the things. Since much of one’s thought lies below consciousness I’ve always felt that the “center of interest” actually distracts from a more complex process that can take place if you rely on intuition.

    I’ve been thinking that if I ever write a book — my ideas about these things — I’m going to need to find a way of lobbying for intuition without stepping on the toes of the “center of interest” crowd!

    Nonetheless, when you read someone else’s ideas, you get new ideas for yourself. Even misinterpreting someone’s advice can lead to a new way of thinking about things. It’s win, win — in that respect.


    1. Thanks for your comment, lots for me to think about there and I will watchnout for your book! I think the author of the book I was referring to was mainly using the photo as an example of how we should decide what to focus on, and jot try to paint everything we see in our eyesight. I just happened to disagree about what should be focused on in that particular photo, but who knows? Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, absolutely. What to focus on is everything. It is part of who one is. I don’t think there’s any formula for that — just intuition, exploration, a desire to follow a path a certain direction.


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