|Living in Paradise, 28x36|
It seems that recently I have been in the middle of many conversations about "finding beauty;" what makes something "beautiful;" can a painting with a subject that is too "beautiful" still be good art? Having just come back from the gorgeous island of St. Lucia, I think I can talk pretty honestly about this topic. There is certainly no lack of beauty to paint there. It is, for the most part, like a postcard with its phthalo colored water, magenta clouds, and tropical green foliage.
|Balenbouche Beach, 8x10 field sketch|
|Waiting for the Tide, 8x10, field sketch|
I was doing it, perhaps, because somewhere in my life I have been brainwashed into believing that certain things have beauty and certain things do not. Or perhaps I was doing it because I thought that these subjects would be what my students would want to paint, and I needed to be able to help them do so. Yet, when I take a look at my last few years' inventory of work, more than half of my paintings are of seemingly ordinary things like alley ways, dying fish, old shrimp boats, dead trees, or rainy days. All of these subjects became beautiful to me because of their shapes, the light play, the shadows, the color harmony, or some other abstract idea or deeper artistic pull. I'd also like to think that when I do choose a "pretty" subject, it is not because of the subject itself, but is for all of these same reasons.
|Day Off, 11x14, field sketch|
This last sketch is of a small beach situated between the two Piton. We all rode in the back of a pick-up truck driven by the husband of one of the students, down a steep "almost" road to spend an afternoon. Most of the students chose to enjoy a little relaxation on a beach towel. For me, that meant, I had an afternoon off! At first I tried the resting on a beach towel thing. Soon I was lured by my paint box and so began to sketch this little piece. It was drizzling so the colors in the water were a little grayer and the palm trees sat together like a big mass against the sky. I simply liked the shapes and muted colors -- that is all it took to get me up off my towel and romance me interpret to this scene. As I painted this (as opposed to painting one of the Piton again or the beautiful sail boats) many of the local families gathered around. Parents explained to their children what I was painting, commented on how it was so beautiful, and what a lovely day they were having. This, is what the locals see as beautiful... a drizzly day on a small beach... their "every day" life.
I have read and heard many times over, that when John Singer Sargent went out in the field with his pals to paint, he would do many quick field sketches of the most ordinary things. All the while, his peers were still walking around looking for some beautiful thing to paint. This time of study from nature surely played a role in why he became so accomplished. It makes one think. How many miles have I driven, looking for the perfect spot to paint? How many times I have missed an opportunity, because I had to see what was around the next curve?
So here is my big advice. Seek the beauty in any and every thing. There are already plenty of lovely postcards on the racks out there. So stop some place or find some thing that screams ordinary and examine it more fully. Paint the unexpected beauty around you. It is there, if only you will look.