A Shift In Course (Finding My Own Style, Part II)
Summer seemed short this year with snow squalls and cold temperatures running well into July. It is being made even shorter with the kids already returning to school this week, and I feel the need to dig out my long sleeves and flannel jammies. The weather and work schedules barely left enough time to squeeze in a vacation, but my husband and I did manage to get away for a week to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.
Not only did we vacation from the normal calendar events, but this summer I decided to vacation from my list of commissions for a time and play with palette knives. I stepped past the boundaries of painting what others requested and let my own creativity come to life, spreading the oils on the canvas in undiluted pigments straight from the tube and blending them there in impasto (the laying on of paint thickly). It was exhilarating, and I found myself punching out a painting a day on average and redefining my work in a way that commanded attention (my own at least, if no one else’s). At the same time, as is my lack of self-esteemed tendency, I began questioning: What is it, and why am I painting it? Who will want it? Will anyone understand it? Am I brave enough to go bolder? Do I have the courage to change?
I have always been drawn to the impressionistic works of Monet and Van Gogh, in the beginning mainly because they were names I knew. Everyone knew them, even if they didn’t like them. But then, during a visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC (many moons ago), I stood before several of Claude Monet’s paintings and realized his work with colour and temperature more than detail, and I was hooked even though I still tried to “copy the photograph” in my own paintings. I was especially drawn to Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son, one of Monet’s more famous pieces. It just seemed so….alive. It was beautiful in a way that was haphazard, yet controlled. It evoked a feeling of being in that moment as opposed to the scene being dictated to me in a drawing. I could physically imagine the breeze in her dress, the sun on their backs, the sweet aroma of the flowers that popped off the canvas in layers of painted chroma.
When I ditched the brush and started painting with the palette knife in my own studio this summer, I began experiencing that same excitement, the scenes on my easel coming to life like never before. By George, I had found it; and it didn’t matter if anyone else understood. I did. I had become a Modern-Day Impressionist. And man, did it feel good.
I began seeing creation in a new way. There was more to the landscape than trees and hills and grass and buildings. There were bold lines and textures and colours. There was light and shadow and depth, sharp contrasts and soft complements that I could see myself sculpting on the canvas. All these things I saw dimly before and tried to incorporate into my compositions, but with the pencil and brush out of the equation, the design was no longer technical – it was emotional. It was spiritual in that I was responding to God’s initial work without letting my own inhibitions get in the way. It was ART.
1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
So it seems that I’ve been brought to that inevitable fork in the road on this creative journey. I confess that I sat wondering for some time, which way should I go? Certainly not backwards, nor did I want to flounder in one spot, one idea. Then it dawned on me: Forget the road and charge straight ahead through the grassy and snake-infested fields of uncertainty. Rid yourself of fear and trust in the One Who made the landscape, the One Who made you and did not give you a spirit of fear. I pray you stay tuned for what is to come in this aspiring artist’s story. There are many chapters left to write as I still have much to learn, both at life and the easel. I have an idea of what may unfold, the pages filled with dreams and possibilities (after all, you have to have a goal), but only God knows where my purpose and palette knives will lead me. I’m simply hanging on for the ride....and trying not to cut myself.