Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Watercolor Painting--A Reflection of Life

I've been approaching painting one-hour-at-a-time lately.  This is not my favorite way to paint.  I much prefer to dive in and lose my sense of time, enjoying the painting as it unfolds and remaining in that trance-like state for hours.
Of course, you can create the same effect in a smaller amount of time by making "smaller" decisions.  What you do next is on a smaller scale, covers a smaller area, or simply consists of fewer strokes of paint.  And there is an up side to painting this way.  You have plenty of time to think about what you want to do next, loading your library of options so they'll be ready the next time you sit down to paint..
Besides time, there are a couple of other things that enter into this dance we call painting--mood and inspiration.  My mood has waxed and waned tentative lately.  It is easy for me to identify one reason.  I have been actively participating in a conservation effort over the past few months, one that required many hours of research, writing and consideration--an effort underway to hunt the eastern population of sandhill cranes, a population that was nearly extirpation just 70 years ago.  Conservation controversies are intense, full of conflict and, inevitably, cause us to dig deep into our inner resources.  (See links below for more information on the sandhill crane issue.)
All of the above stimulates changes in mood, from concern to fear and hesitation, to anger, back to tentativeness, and finally to the boldness and determination that leads to decision and action.  Now that's a bouncy ride for any person's mood.  It is hard to paint with all that going on.  But painting can add balance, a quiet introspection and reflection that can be very beneficial.
As the conservation issue was unfolding, the above sandhill crane image that I took in the waste grain corn fields of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico kept coming into my mind.  A male crane was boldly displaying to another male, establishing his family's feeding territory.  It's hard to imagine there are territories with so many cranes in the same field, but once they are established, these carefully claimed boundaries provide order while families feed together.
This behavior and this image gave me inspiration.  It symbolized the attitude that I needed to go forward with conservation efforts.  And partially because it contained that kind of meaning, I've approached it tentatively.  I've said to myself many times, how are you going to do this?  What are you going to say about that background?  (The image has little variation in light and values.)   How are you going to enhance the subject with these colors?  And, as I have observed to myself many times while working on both the painting and the conservation issue, I don't know the answers.  I just know I need to show up.  One decision at a time, one hour at a time, I'll move forward and the painting will happen.  So, also, the conservation.  

Related Links:
About sandhill cranes and conservation:  A New Plan for the Eastern Population of Sandhill Cranes and  An Intimate View of Family Life.
Join the conservation effort.  Visit the petition site and let USFWS know you want to see a New Management Plan for the Eastern Population of sandhill cranes.
More about the sandhill crane behavior seen in this image and painting:  Are We Dancing Yet?
About painting--The Illusive Nature of Confidence and approaching "uncharted territory".

4 comments:

  1. Very interesting parallel in between the painting and the conservation issue. I especially like your comment about the scale of the effort. Most of us can only deal with one stroke at a time as far as the environment is concerned. But in the end it will decide how the world is painted: dark or light. I also think both art and activism have to do with love. Which is the only place involvement can come from... Good luck with both.

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  2. Hello Vickie, I had the opportunity to watch and photograph a pair of Sandhill Cranes with a juvenile this past summer, they have won my heart. I just completed 6 bold paintings of them, of which I have so far posted 4 on my blogs. Sandhills are such attentive parents and a joy to watch. I thank you for sharing information on them.

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  3. It's interesting to read about your process. I've been painting that way...just as much thought as action going into the painting. Your painting looks wonderful!

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  4. Found this post Vickie as I was wandering through your joyful blog. Just wanted to say I live in Central Florida and we have Sandhill Cranes here. Whenever I see them I feel such an honor to be able to view such a wondrous bird.
    Will have to take a photo one day and post them on my blog.. yes, they're such attentive parents. BJ

    ReplyDelete

Welcome! I am glad to hear your comments, questions and feedback! Vickie

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