I had a moody marshland on my mind. Early morning in bed I was looking at some of my old sketches and paintings and I got this idea for a square format painting – somewhat unusual for me. Here is a quick sequence of photos showing how this painting unfolded:
I work directly on a white canvas in gray-blue that is heavily diluted with Gamsol. The paint is thin and I can control the darkness quite easily. I try to set up and keep a rhythm in the brushstrokes and abstract design. Music helps a lot!
When I am satisfied with the abstract design and balance (above), I need to start thinking about key color notes or highlights. Since this is an invented landscape, I am free to do what I want in terms of color and value. I try to find a few strategic spots where I can plonk some color:
With that warm orange red and the complement in the blue sky, I feel happy with where the painting is going. The challenge now is not to get to precious and lose the spontaneity in the brush-strokes and design.
I have introduced some greens and grays. Here and there I knock down the reds and oranges that are too strong. I start bringing the sky to completion, I carefully watch the values and shape of clouds to contribute to my abstract design.
I also work on the edges of some brush-strokes to direct the eye and preserve harmony. This is the hardest part and takes the longest…I can easily overwork the painting or lose the plot somehow.
A hour or two later, and I am calling this one done. The image makes me feel melancholy-sad-happy, so for my purposes it has succeeded.
Today I spent some time looking back at earlier blog posts. Somewhere in December of 2016 I wrote the following in a blog post entry:
I have been revisiting John Gray’s book The Silence of Animals. Beautifully written, full of soul but also utterly breaking down the popular Utopian myth of progress and hope.
From my own sporadic journey into meditation, I know that something exists beyond thought-made meaning, beyond words. Gray discusses this from another angle in his chapter “Beyond the Last Thought”:
Accepting that the world is without meaning, we are liberated from confinement in the meanings we have made. Knowing there is nothing of substance in our world may seem to rob that world of value. But this nothingness may be our most precious possession, since it opens to us the world that exists beyond ourselves.
Gray quotes parts of the poem “Of Mere Being” by Wallace Stevens, which elegantly supports his thesis. Here is the entire poem:
Of Mere Being The palm at the end of the mind, Beyond the last thought, rises In the bronze decor, A gold-feathered bird Sings in the palm, without human meaning, Without human feeling, a foreign song. You know then that it is not the reason That makes us happy or unhappy. The bird sings. Its feathers shine. The palm stands on the edge of space. The wind moves slowly in the branches. The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down. Wallace Stevens (this copy from Poetry Foundation)
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