I don’t know exactly what goes into a painting. Whatever my “process” is, it’s as mysterious to me as to anyone else. I do know that since July, painting has been all but impossible for me. Covid brain is a real thing. I found it very difficult to hold an idea. It was as if parts of my brain just wouldn’t connect to other parts. I did do a painting in there somewhere, sunflowers with acrylic using a palette knife. I did that painting to try out the knife (I only have one) and to have something to hang in the show at the museum. I liked it a lot, and it seemed to prevision something changed in Martha the Painter. I wasn’t sure I could paint at all which is why I used the knife. I knew I didn’t know how to use a palette knife. It’s a simple painting of a common scene; nothing fancy but friendly and likable. I could also paint this in a very short time so there wasn’t the challenge of maintaining the image in my mind.
What makes a painting, for the painter, anyway, might be more than the result. For me it is.
I love painting more than anything else I do. It’s just a wonderful thing to me, engrossing, intriguing. All of my paintings have been experiments because each one changes me and moves me to a different place along whatever might be my personal painting trajectory. I like that journey. Paint is part of it — just that, paint itself — and the image in my mind is another part. Doing the work is a pathway I’ve never traveled. I’m not sure I can explain this clearly because it’s not a word thing.
I think of the painters in the past, and I’m sure some of them must have loved painting. I think Turner must have. Kandinsky. Georgia O’Keefe definitely loved it. The jubilation in van Gogh’s work says to me he probably loved it, too. Back in the days when painting was a trade more than an ‘art’ those guys must have loved it, too, even though it meant a lot of hard work and the development of far more skills than painters today need to know.
I have an amazing book, On Divers Arts. That’s “diverse” not divers, but anyway. It’s by a guy, a priest, who’s writing under the name “Theophilus,” friend of God. His friendship with God is real. It’s not just that he is a priest, but also because of the way he regards all the material he works with. It would be a different blog post to go into that, so I won’t. But I share his feelings. Paint itself is a miracle.
Theophilus’ mission in writing the book was to pass down to the future all the things he knew about making art for a church and it’s practically everything — from pigments for the wall and manuscripts to the lead that holds stained glass in windows and the glass itself. It was written in the 13th century. I have found it very inspiring even though I don’t understand most of the technical instruction. The most inspiring part to me is the dedication where Theophilus explains to the person reading his instruction that the act of creating something is partaking in a little shred of the divine through physical gifts that have been passed to him through time. It feels that way to me.
For the past few days I’ve been really painting. It’s been the good stuff where I didn’t know where I was going and had to completely let go. All I had was a day week before last when Bear and I rushed out to the Refuge to catch the snow before it quit falling. We walked into a day unlike any I had ever seen. Bear and I wandered through a mystery.
Yesterday, when I finished this, I felt I’d painted that beautiful snowy afternoon.
FYI this is really just a painting of snow, fog and sedges. It’s not symbolic of anything. You’re welcome to see anything you want in the image, just don’t tell me 😀
It’s oil on acrylic primed linen canvas. The paint is Gamblin’s Flake White Replacement, a titanium based white designed to mimic lead white. Indian yellow, lapis ultramarine, and Gamblin Portland Gray. Gamblin is a paint company in Oregon. Most of their paint uses safflower oil rather than linseed oil because it doesn’t yellow over time but to make it true to the original paint, the flake white replacement uses linseed oil. The lapis ultramarine is from Daniel Smith. Indian yellow is very luminous, truly, and I chose it because there was no other color that day so the sedges seemed lit from the inside which, in a way, they were, holding summer’s sunlight in their persistent stems.