I’ve been showing these images to my friends, and reactions have been mixed. I think that’s great. One friend told me she’s up in the air about this series of paintings, and I said “so are the fish.” I like doing them, and I think they’d be very entertaining in a restaurant setting. You could count fish while you wait for your dinner.
More than ten years ago, I painted a map of Lake Superior on a restaurant wall. Whenever I go in there, I see people staring at it, and it makes me feel good.
I’ve often wondered if there was a way to get people to look at a painting longer than a few seconds. I do it, too. A lot of times, I only give art a quick glance. But I love it when something stops me in my tracks for longer than that. It may be something poignant, or whimsical. It may be something as simple as a color or a brush stroke. I never know what will appeal to another person. Nothing appeals to everyone. I’ve found that trying to paint something that “people will like” is a losing proposition. I’ve tried to express someone else’s vision for a painting before, and the results have been ugly. Both in the image and in the frustration of it all. I have to paint for me. If something is meaningful to me, perhaps it will strike a chord in someone else. Maybe you’ll love this. Maybe you’ll hate it. I’m happy with that.
Down in the Amazonian Flood Plain Forests, there are over a thousand species of trees that have adapted to freshwater flooding for up to 9 months out of the year.
During the high water phase, the water will rise up to 30 or 40 feet above the forest floor, and fish are able to feed on seeds from fruit bearing trees.
1. Back when I had a little coffee shop/art gallery housed in a vintage railway caboose (there was a goldfish pond out back), I had a dream one night where I walked into the caboose, and saw a fish swimming behind the cash register. That image has stuck with me, and I’m fascinated by the thought of fish swimming behind objects in the air.
2. I was hanging a show in a beautiful little cafe one night. There was a couple there taking down their photographs of northern lights. The woman said to me “Don’t you ever get tired of painting fish?” I was puzzled. I had abstracts, paintings of trees, fish, dogs… and EVERY one of their pictures was of northern lights over trees.
No, I don’t get tired of painting trees or fish. When I do, I’ll stop.
It occurs to me that putting these fish in the forest air is similar to, or opposite of (which is it?) the time I put all those corgis under the water…
One advantage to going to school online is that I can paint while I listen to a lecture. That’s what I did this morning. I had started this yesterday, and then had to put it aside. So as I listened to a lesson on IV therapy, I dabbed more color into the image. Some of the dots of color turned into fish. At the end of the lecture, this is what I was looking at.
Near my grandparents’ house in Rhode Island, there was a little creek that ran under the road, on a hill that we would coast down on our bikes. Peering into the water as a little kid, I saw a fish peeking out from under a rock. My cousin said it was a pickerel. But it was tiny. Not like the giant Northern Pike and Muskellunge that live in the lakes up here.
A month or two ago, I did an artist talk and painting demonstration at a gallery. It was really a wonderful experience for me. There was a rather large audience, and they were very attentive and asked a lot of questions. Having that input really helped me to better understand my own process. For years, I have mostly painted alone, or with fellow artists who were also absorbed in their own individual process. What a decadent treat to have so many eyes focused on my creative process!
Unbeknownst to me at the time, my daughter recorded a short clip of my talk on her phone. Watching it, it dawned on me that I had never seen myself paint before. From the outside, I mean. I watched that clip over and over, and for that minute and a half, I was able to be an objective viewer, detached from the process.
Today I had the opportunity to paint for two people, and in that more intimate setting, the demonstration was far more conversational and focused.
When asked a question, one has the chance to verbalize a response, and it causes you to consider something about yourself that is subconscious or simply taken for granted.
I hadn’t really noticed that I use and reuse paper plates as my palate, and that in the process, a quintessentially disposable item is transformed into an impermeable surface.
The simplest acts can be spiritual lessons.
During the process of layering paint on a canvas, stages of beautiful “accidents” occur, only to be painted over as the image progresses. I was asked how I deal with that, and I compared painting to breathing. When we breathe, we oxygenate our blood so we can keep on living. In order to go on, one breath, no matter how fresh or fragrant, must end in order for the next life-giving cycle to begin. Every sentence you read here must have a period at the end so we can move on to the next thought. “It’s about letting go,” I said, admitting that this was a grandiose answer to the question. But it resonated with her, I could tell by her tears, and because later she told me so. Besides. Nothing is lost or “obliterated,” but built upon and/or transformed.
On a larger scale, this applies to our very lives. Why fear the inevitable? Death makes life itself precious. Now there’s a grandiose answer to a simple question about brushstrokes.