Friday, February 5, 2010

Paint A Starry Night Again

Does this look familiar? No it's not another slothful, shameless repost of recycled art. It actually is half of a new painting. It's a custom piece for someone who liked the colours and sentiments of the first, similar, but smaller work. This one is done on a 9"x12" cradled panel with more texture than the first work. I'll have to post the right hand side of the Buddha next time! I find myself drawn to work on board these days because I like how it can hold rough texturing of products like sludge and spackle and other mediums.

I feel a metaphor lurking in the sludgey shadows here. Somehow I am finding it is the roughness,craggy lines and bits of pattern that lend a texture to my work, a texture that adds character and richness, something extra to play with. Perhaps life's textured and rough spots do that too on a grander scale. (Forget the botox, kids, those lines add character!)

We often imagine how we'd like things to turn out, just to our liking; every day sunny, everyone agrees with us, we accomplish each challenge we face with ease. But life often has different plans and sometimes that's where we really develop vision and grow. We can become more compassionate, kinder humans sometimes, after we hit a few rough spots in the road. I heard an executive say one time that he never hires any upper management people that haven't had some sort of rough spot or failure in their life.

When I sit down with the empty board I never really know how a painting will work out, how one colour might show through another, how a rubbed off bit will add some interesting shading, how unexpected outcomes can improve the work (or how sometimes I have to wipe off and repeat and repeat, until things seem done). Life is like that too, good at showing us that ultimately we are not in control, that much is left to serendipity, karma and a bigger picture than our little self can imagine. It's process centred as opposed to results oriented. And sometimes it all takes practice, over and over and over.

So in the same flowing creek of thought that says, you can't stand in the same stream twice, so you can't paint the same painting twice. Working on a piece like this reminds me that we can't go backward, that the flow of life is always onward, and I get nervous when someone requests a specific piece. I have concerns about their expectations. And of course my little self worries that they won't like it. But there it is, practice in a nutshell. Just paint. It always makes me think of the Joni Mitchell quip when people are shouting out song requests to her on the live album "Miles of Aisles", "you know no one ever asked Van Gogh to paint "A Starry Night" again. I'm not so sure of that given the nature of our human tendency to go with the familiar, the known! And of course it is a compliment.

So that's what this little painting reminded me of as I worked away at it. It reminded me that it's all good, that I'm not in control and that I just need to do what needs to be done.


  1. I heard a woman at an AA meeting say that getting sober was a process, not an event. In the same vein we are all becoming unbefuddled a little bit at a time, so in life, so in art. The Buddha sat in meditation for his whole life, so he continued a process after, what we presume was, a pretty big event. Which came first?
    But, that is how we are, event and result oriented. Events and results give us a sense of motion. Process is sooo dull. Thanks.

  2. Delightful post and art as always. Good timing for me to hear this - "we are not in control. Life has different plans. Much is left to serendipity." Yes, I definitely need some! And as always remembering to "just do what needs to be done..." It reminds me of how humbling life is too... C

  3. Your words "It's process centred as opposed to results oriented" really hits home.

    This piece works well on it's own as well as with it's mate.

  4. Hello, kindred spirit! I was just listening to Miles of Aisles yesterday, and heard Joni say that again (say it again, man!). I'm also a Buddhist and an artist. your work is lovely.

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