Sorting out the tangleSeptember 23, 2008 at 4:00 pm | Posted in art, country life, country living, faith, family, flowers, gardening, health, knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography | 7 Comments
Tags: art, family, knitting, Life, love, personal, photography, Photos, thoughts
In early October there is an open studio art trail in our area, and I have been invited to be one of the participating artists. Michael Zambito, the chef and owner of Zambistro Restaurant where some of my paintings are on display, has graciously agreed to use his restaurant as my “open studio”. It is on a Sunday (October 5), and he does not normally serve lunch or dinner on Sundays so the entire floor of the restaurant will be available for me to set up as many paintings as I wish.
Of course, the paintings that already hanging at the restaurant will be on display but I will also be able to show my collection of watercolor paintings from when I was living and painting in Los Angeles along with any oils I have on hand from my days painting here in New York. I have sold most of the oil paintings I have created since living on the farm, so I am busy creating some new ones hopefully in time for the event.
Needless to say, these are very busy and productive days. I’m working on two large paintings of sunflowers (20″ x 24″ and 15″ x 30″) and one large painting of a field of hay bales (approximately 15″ x 30″), along with a smaller painting of hay bales in a field (I think it is 14″ x 18″ or so), and a small painting (8″ x 10″) of an old blue door on an abandoned building.
With all of these paintings going on simultaneously I have the concept of sorting out tangles very much on my mind these days.
A sunflower might seem to be a very simple thing, but truly when you are attempting to paint a very closeup detail shot of one single sunflower you realize all of the shapes and flows and lines and spots and wrinkles are quite a tangle of information. The problem I set out to solve each time I approach a new painting is, “How do I sort out the confusion and communicate as simply as possible the beauty that I see?”
As a painting develops I get to know that subject and I continually analyze it as to what is the simplicity regardless how complicated it might seem. What is the simplicity of the slight and shadow, the form and flow of lines, the brightest highlights and the deepest darkest recessess of shadow? What are the very most important details to communicate, and how do I communicate them simply and clearly, always keeping in mind that with art less is more.
With each painting I go through a period of uncertainty — how am I going to do this? Am I on the right track, am I floundering. I have faith and confidence in each case that I will come out the other end having created a painting that I am happy with, because that is what manages to manifest. Still, I feel myself confounded by the tangle each time just as I am on my way through it.
Sometimes — often, really — I take a break to rest my eyes, my arms and back … myself spiritually. At those times it is nice to go out in the yard and walk around, look around, observe the tangle of life out there in the trees, the wild plants and flowers, the fields, the clouds, life.
Isn’t this thing of sorting out the tangles really what life itself boils down to? That is the question I posed to myself while standing out by the barn on a painting break last week, wrestling with some grape vines I wanted to make into a wreath.
And, just as with a painting, sometimes while I am in the middle of a tangle in life I feel as if I am floundering, uncertain if I am approaching it clearly and working out the simplicity of the problem or making things more complex. As I am in the midst of a tangle it can be very difficult to know if I am on the right track or not.
So, in life just as with a painting, sometimes I have to take a break. Back off from the tangle, the problem I am attempting to solve and stop trying to solve it. If I relax myself away from a problem and am willing to experience the problem being there without my having to think of something or do anything about it, I find I can later approach it again and perceive it more clearly.
A couple of days ago I was working on the larger of the hay bale paintings. There are several hay bales out in a field, and I was working out the problem of how to paint the field with the terrible tangle of grasses and wild flowers mixed in with cut hay or wheat. I mixed various colors, and tried this and that with various brush strokes and techniques and color mixes … and arrgghh. I started to get that feeling that I was floundering. I had to stop painting, and just work on some other things.
Yesterday when I went back to that same painting after a break of two days, I looked at it newly and realized that I was doing just fine. As I picked up my brushes and began to work on it again, I could see that my previous actions had a natural rightness to them. Of course, I begin each painting with a conscious decision that my actions will be naturally right.
I try to remember to make that conscious decision about life on a daily basis as well — at least once a day. It is a point of faith and self-confidence that I purposely decide on and reinforce with a purposeful decision often in life. Even during times of confusion or difficulty, even when life seems to be demonstrating for the moment that I don’t know what to do or where to turn, even then I try to remind myself that there can be a natural rightness to my actions. That faith in myself and in life seems to help more often than not.
So last week one day when I needed a break from painting I headed out toward the barn with a pair of pruning shears in my hand. I began finding and taking cuttings of wild grapes vines to use for wreaths. Wild grape vines, now there is a tangle for you if ever there was a tangle. The little grabby feely things on the vines are all tangled up on other plants and vines, holding on for dear life. I grab a vine and pull on it and all kinds of other things come along with it. Even after cutting the vine off and dragging it out in a clear spot in the yard, still there is quite a tangle to deal with.
I snip off all the leaves and bits and pieces of other plants that are caught up in the vine. As I begin coiling it into a circle for a wreath-to-be, the little feelers grab onto each other, my clothes and hair, parts of the vine I don’t want them grabbing on to.
Patiently I go, knowing these little tangles and attempted tangles will happen. I just don’t get thrown off by it. Perhaps that is what constitutes patience–not getting thrown off by the tangles that come along or try to come along. You know it will happen, so you just stand your grown and keep on building whatever it is you were working on.
Life. What a trip. I keep learning more and more about life each and every day. It is funny how very wise you can think you are when you are young and full of yourself. I remember feeling very wise indeed, proudly so. Certainly I did exhibit intelligent thought at times for my age. I am not one to put myself down, and I don’t say these things now about the blissful ignorance of my younger years with any inclination toward self-deprecation.
No. I just happen to relish the things I have come to know now that I have quite a lot of life and previous tangles behind me. Knowledge and experience casts a golden glow on life, much as the golden glow of golden hour light toward the end of the day. Beautiful, rich, full of experience.
And I am just getting started on this time of my life.
Hmm. I do like it. Strike that, I meant to say, I do love it. I cherish life, and this life including every little scrappy tangle I have ever had the pleasure or anguish at sorting out. From each tangle I have grown and figured out a thing or two about a thing or two.
I suppose now I should be getting back down to that easel so I can continue with the task of sorting out the tangle on my canvas.
P.S. For the knitters among you, I published both the printed version and online download version of my Cuppa Joe pattern featuring a scarflet, fingerless gloves, and a matching gift bag. Find it in my Etsy store, on my website, and in my Ravelry store.