Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Easel on Down the Road - Roadtripping with Angela, Part Two

I don't know how to write this blog entry.  I have started in my head many times but I am a week from the actual experience, and so - somewhat stymied. However, I am determined to soldier on; here goes.

The 2nd Leg of Easel on Down the Road was completely different from the first. (Remember that Florida did not qualify as a Leg.) Most disparate was having a traveling companion. Angela is not only a fellow plein-air-based painter but also a very good, old friend.  We drank wine together in Chicago when Gallo sold Hearty Burgundy for $5 a half gallon. I feel as normal as ever when I'm with her.  We forget things in equal amounts, we get muddled over numbers, we crave: more time to paint, good novels and gatherings of friends. Over the course of the week we discussed things like how to represent the weird-ass shapes of the mountains, what the heck color were they and how do you mix it? We talked about family and future, money and meals. We laughed, sometimes uncontrollably, and we painted, drove back roads and painted some more.

The only downside of having a companion was that the trip was too safe. We stayed in lovely guest houses and ate home cooked food. We were comfortable. There are advantages to this but, somehow, there is not as much to write about. I did not meet many strangers or interact much with local culture. The only occasion that brought me fear was eating ribs that were not fully cooked at a roadside stand. I did not find time to write and I realize now that I enjoyed writing so much the first Leg because I was lonely. Writing provided me companionship. 


I am not complaining! I would not change this trip one little bit. I cherish the time spent with such a dear friend. Priceless, also, was the hashing out of artistic quandaries with someone else crazy enough to pursue painting as a lifestyle. 

We painted in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky. I have 8 or 9 small paintings and have already been at work in the studio on prepping for the large versions. I'll put up pictures of the 3 when they're finished. My next small trip is unknown but I'll travel alone again and perhaps seek out a bit of edginess. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Easel on Down the Road - 1st half of 2nd Leg, Road Tripping with Angela

This past Tuesday we drove all day and by 9pm found ourselves on a windy mountain road on the western side of Virginia. All day the GPS and the printed Google map were in conflict with each other and we thought we might never get there. We arrived in the dark; just down a steep hill was a little red building - a gallery that represents Angela - with a little guest cottage snugged into a hill at the back.

In the morning we drove east on 39, a narrow two-lane with switchback turns and electrifying drop-offs, worthy of a Hitchcock film. We painted in two locations, both with gentle mountains sleeping in the distance. We returned "home" by six and could barely stay awake long enough to eat dinner - homemade meatballs that came all the way from my freezer in Saugatuck.

Thursday we drove to Charlottesville and pulled into the drive of a lovely home with another lovely guesthouse. Barbara Buhr, the owner of Warm Springs Gallery, again found us beautiful accommodations. The temperature is much warmer here at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains and trees of all kinds are in bloom.We have painted the last two days at local wineries. "Le Blue Ridge" was small and intimate and there were cows in the nearby fields that became small black smudges in my landscapes. The owners are from Quebec and very friendly. 

Yesterday we found "The King Family Winery". We were challenged in finding a spot that would both welcome (or tolerate) our presence and provide shelter from the potential rain. The winery has a broad covered walk, running the length of the building, and a very nice staff that kept track of our progress throughout the day. We were privy to sweeping views with horses, cows and a sprawling colonial home in the distance. Unfortunately, the animals could not survive my paintbrush. 

Today we are heading to a nearby farm that is owned by an artist who paints cows. I want to paint cows! We will clean up, pack and head back to Warm Springs tonight. Tomorrow I may make my way into West Virginia to paint in that state, leaving Angela to find a landscape on foot in the little town, population 123, where Thomas Jefferson once imbibed in the healing powers of the naturally warm water.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

More thoughts on painting; there are no mistakes in art.

Painting is a lonely sport. I was in the studio all day and enjoying myself but by 5 I was sick of it. Sick of the sludge that had mixed up - all by itself, of course - on the canvas. What happened to that fresh color, the unpredictable brush strokes, the perfect balance of control and freedom? Argh.

There are days when I connect to a universal energy that seems to swing my brush for me. Painting becomes a place to take chances, to take chances and win! There are no mistakes. There is only me, acting with clear focus and not thinking too hard. Just painting.

Then there are days when all I do is waste paint. I say to myself, "There are no mistakes in art. There are no rules." This is supposed to free my inhibitions. But it is too late.  The painting is already precious. The marks get smaller and more repetitive. The piece winds tighter and tighter till I have no choice but to scrape it all off. I think two things: I may only ever be an average painter. (Is that so bad? Does anyone care besides me?) And - tomorrow is another day.

Thank God I have wonderful friends who ask me over for beer and pizza and to meet their new boyfriend (cute!) because that took my mind off the swirling black hole of my artistic abilities. Now I am too tired to over-analyze any longer. It is clearly time for bed.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Some Thoughts on Painting

Art does not have rules.  This is nice. This is also odd at times. Regardless, I painted straight through today. It's all a song, a story, an energy. Really good painting is much more about the moment than anything else.  And, the moment encompasses all.

Recently, someone asked me why I would still be working at something that I had not been able to master in four years.  I have thought a lot about this. Oil painting is exciting because it is so allusive. I am frustrated and delightfully enticed at the same time. (Four years? That is no time!)