Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Thoughts- Nature, Beauty...a Healing Balm...

My friends know I spend a good deal of time outdoors...living in the national forest of NE Wisconsin...surrounded by 1200 lakes, rivers and streams, and lush forests, waterfalls.  Ironically (I see it as an irony now anyway) I spent near 17 years of my artistic early profession couped up in my studio putting in 16 hour days/nights.  It then hit me, about the time I was questioning why working for and maintaining a reputation in wildlife art should matter so much to me.  I was spending so much time inside, painting about all that I loved about being outside.

Read that last line a couple times...and you should see the dichotomy that suddenly then hit me like a ton of bricks.

I focused more on the business of art, reputation, having agents/reps, galleries, self-promotion in my studio...but when I started painting outdoors roughly the early to mid 90's my mind was captured, my soul taken over...where the longing but for the joy of painting saw so much of my past simply walked away from.

I like good books.  I talked about Richard Louv's book, "Last Child in the Woods- Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder" a good one, and much to say to thinking painters.  I am re-reading another goody, which encouraged me to put down some thoughts today...Christmas day actually, by John O'Donohue... "The Invisible Embrace- Beauty Rediscovering The True sources of Compassion, Serenity, and Hope"

Let me share a few comments of O'Donohue, which I find significant for myself as a painter, also...as one that celebrates faith in our Heavenly Father, Creator God...and though O'Donohue's statements are not necessarily geared as such inclusive of faith, we all have our colored lenses thru which we look.  You'll find some meaning I am sure for yourself...

"When the mind is festering with trouble or the heart torn, we can find healing among the silence of the mountains or fields, or listen to the simple, steadying rhythm of the waves.  The slowness and stillness gradually take us over.  Our breathing deepens, and our hearts calm and our hungers relent.  When serenity is restored, new perspectives open to us and difficulty can begin to seem like an invitation to new growth.  This is also the experience of prayer."

"Rather than taking us out of ourselves, nature coaxes us deeper inwards, teaches us to rest in the serenity of our elemental nature.  When we go out among nature, clay is returning to clay."

"Solitude gradually clarifies the heart until a true tranquillity is reached."

This is a great passage for whatever forms of recreation calls us to time outdoors, for painting it has transformed all that I grew to believe important working in studio.  In retrospect, the ego was catered to much instudio...working all about "me"...to advance, prove something, be respected, gain acceptance.  Much of that...has come to mean very little the past 15-17 years painting predominantly outdoors.

I like what O'Donohue gets into in the very next discourses on "To Beautify the Gaze" and I am taking excerpts...

"The human gaze is not the closed, fixed view of a camera but is creative and constructive.  Both the gaze that sees, and the object that is seen construct themselves simultaneously in the one act of vision.  So much depends then on how we see things. More often than not the style of gaze determines what we see.  There are many things near us that we never notice simply because of the way we see.  The way we look at things has a huge influence on what becomes visible for us."

"If one has become stuck in a certain narrow or predictable way of seeing, the outside light cannot bring color into one's life.  Eventually the windows of the mind become blinded by an imperceptible film of dead thought and old feeling so that the air becomes stale, life lessens and the outside world loses its invitation and challenge.  When no fresh light can come into the mind, the colour and beauty fade from life."

Over the years, I am mindful of the many arguments and jabs back and forth on discussion forums, studio paintings not understand the big whoop of those painting outdoors set up on location, and outdoor painters ignoring the many benefits of painting in studio as well.  I think though...that O'Donohue touches on a good many reasons why I am most content painting outdoors.

I have my friends, and family that would like to see some of my drive...some of the ole fire return to me that motivated my entering more competitions, seeing the potential I yet have to build on what name I had or have...(that is for others to decide), but...so much of the "me" existing in that drive was clueless on a good many things.  The quiet speaks so much more to me now.  I too think there is something of this "beauty" O'Donohue touches on that call to the inner self experienced when I lose myself playing my guitar.  The same calm, clarity of heart...rest.

1 comment:

Carol Reynolds said...

Wonderful post! It expresses what I have been feeling for a long time; I am a studio artist and a wannabe plein air artist. Thank you for inspiring me to change things in 2013.
I appreciate your insightful thoughts and the excellent quotes.