Sunday, January 18, 2015

Beginner's Mind

 There's been this longing
to make my mark,
exacerbated by museum visits
where marvelous paintings
trigger the idea
that maybe I could/should/would 
start making art again. 

Claude Monet Water Lilies.

Then my friend Carol started painting lessons.
Talk about inspiring!
When she mentioned
a painting class she'd signed up for this month
I was in.

I had no idea how terrifying 
this would be...
In the beginning
the mind focused on
The right supplies,
the best supplies,
enough supplies.
Where are all my supplies?
You know.

The first class I ended up with a latte
that was NOT decaf.
Wrong move.
Even so, I did manage to follow the instructions.

My teacher Janis Ellison is very good.
Really knows her stuff.
 More importantly, she is able
to explain the process
to an intuitive artist
who never really 'got'
or was able to articulate
all that data about value,
tone, hue, etc.
I'm still not sure I can explain it
but I have a better understanding now.
(I must have missed something major in school.)

When panicked 
the best thing to do is just start.

A photo I took at Giverny in October 2014.

We started by choosing a photo 
we'd taken from nature
that had light, middle and dark values.

Gotta love Photoshop!

Shifted it to black and white.

4" x 5" first sketch in pencil.

Reduced it to just the values and shapes
in a small pencil sketch.

4" x 5" sketch in Tornbow markers.

Sketched it again using graded markers.

9" x 12" sanded paper mounted on foam core.

Then sketched,
attempting to capture the shapes and values,
on our 'good' paper with chalk.

These techniques are new to me.
I feel lost and unsuccessful.

I remember
beginner's mind.

Carol working on her charcoal sketch.
Janis's demonstration and work area. Value underpainting on right.

This photo shows Janis' work area
with her charcoal value sketch
fixed with alcohol
ready for the next step of watercolor underpainting.
(I seem to be missing the photo of my value underpainting.)


Driving to the second class
I watch my mind churning
over philosophical questions about the why of art,
the value of art and art making
(not light/dark but good/bad value).
That why-bother, how-to,
not-good-enough conversation.

Being curious and open to possibility
appears to be the best option.

Second lesson:
Apply a watercolor underpainting.

Use the opposite color
of the pastel that will be applied later in that area.
(The mind boggles here
and nearly shuts down --
it's as if I never heard this before!)

Then finally
its time to apply the pastel.
Janis demonstrates effortlessly.
(At least it appears that way.)
She talks about applying the pastel
like a whisper on the page.
and easier said than done...

I begin.

Naturally the pastels
don't seem to work as fluidly for me
as they did for Janis...
How does she do that?!

I continue,
having no idea what I am actually doing.

Finally, surrendering to the mark
that my hand is making,
I find the flow 
and lose myself in the process.

Stepping back from the easel
reveals something magical.

is why.