sun struck

            I ‘ve been silent longer than intended and here’s why. I’ve been off these past few weekends teaching landscape painting. En plein air has been much misunderstood – in my book it is one of many ways to face the process of painting, not the one holy path to truth.

 

But en plein air is a healthy correction to studio perceptions, and forces the painter to face the fact that the job of painting landscape is impossible. You will only, at best, seize an abstraction of the world where you place your feet. How do you humbly distill, how do you take some powerful essential from the amazing extravagance the outdoors offers? How do you pick your time – because the world changes as you stand and breathe, the shadows flicker in and out of existence. There is no single truth ever. Instead, each movement of your eye, each shift of a nanosecond, reveals another.

Time is often likened to a wind in restless motion, tugging at us and thrusting us off our feet. The world itself is changing and we don’t approve, not one little bit. It means the loss of a friend, a question about who and what we are that we thought was settled long ago. En plein air puts us in the way of such thoughts and such disturbing currents.

 For this course we run brutal painting marathons in the Sedgwick Reserve of the University of California. http://sedgwick.nrs.ucsb.edu We get up at six AM (and I am no morning person,) paint and teach until nine before I take breakfast then go back to the painting, come in for the critique around eleven, eat lunch, go back out by around three depending on whether it’s a really brutal temperature, paint until eight or nine, come in to eat dinner and critique and fall into the tent around midnight. The coyotes can usually be counted on for matins before dawn.

Fridays and Sundays are, thank God, long half-days, but Saturdays are always a thing. Husband teaches the geology and ecology of the landscape, giving lectures about the nature of the plants and earth, I teach painting with Hank Pitcher, a marvelous fellow artist whose work can be seen at http://www.sullivangoss.com/HANK_PITCHER/ . I usually come back with at least eight paintings each weekend, sometimes really big ones — those eight-footers you can see on the Sullivan Goss gallery’s website under my painting name of Robin Gowen at http://www.sullivangoss.com/Robin_Gowen/

 

So we’re estimating that temperatures the first of the weekends at Sedgwick hovered around 105 F. Roasted and toasted and blasted as well. The second was balmy by contrast – merely in the nineties. But I’m happy with the paintings.

 I’m even happier with the students. I love seeing people testing assumptions and techniques in order to add to their tools and skills, and the only way to do that, is to take risks. I’ve deliberately stretched and taken many a pratfall in public to prove the point that if you do what is safe, stay upon the lines of what you already know, you cannot grow. Indeed, if you play safe within your mastery, you die.

We all move back from change, eye it with suspicion, with something that can even become fear if we don’t step into it, don’t seize upon it. But change has another meaning, and you’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again, because it’s true. Turned on its head change is opportunity. Out there under a blazing sun, or in the chill fog, lies opportunity.

A bird must move into the changing surge of wind; there’s a point when hesitation means destruction, where hovering is not an option. To turn back into the power of the wind is to fall.

Do I think this way when painting? You may be sure of it. The work that earns immortality doesn’t know about repetition, nor safety. It doesn’t depend upon old solutions and comfort zones. There is no ceiling and no end to it, because the work goes on forever, like the sky itself.Image

Advertisements

30 Comments

Filed under camping, education, painting

30 responses to “sun struck

  1. I have no artistic talent, but thought today as I walked through the meadow, how nice it would be to sit and paint the landscape; to take the time to sit and really look at it. I like the colors in your painting.

  2. Thank you Janet… I think you’d find it funny how frantic catching a painting is. I paint like one possessed and sometimes break my brushes. It’s around 6:20 AM in this painting… my husband has just brought me a cup of heavily sugared and milked coffee, and with every second the light changes drastically. By the time I finish the cup there will be no shadows left at all. On my http://www.robinwinter.net blog I have two painting images instead of just this one.

  3. Jill Wallerstedt

    Robin, I needed to read this today To remember that the world and life change moment by moment, we want to predict it and control it, to be safe – but that’s stalling in the air.

    • Jill, I took part of this sentiment from the commencement speech Bruce gave at CCS a couple of years ago when we were facing some serious changes at the College. I’ll send you the full text if I can find it.

  4. Reblogged this on chocokitty27 and commented:
    intresting…

  5. Dr. Fuzz

    I wish I could paint like you! To depict a moment in time, and capture the essence of it must be so difficult; especially when that moment passes and another one – equally pleasant, yet different – arrives.

  6. Amazing!
    ‘How do you pick your time – because the world changes as you stand and breathe, the shadows flicker in and out of existence. There is no single truth ever. Instead, each movement of your eye, each shift of a nanosecond, reveals another.’…
    ‘A bird must move into the changing surge of wind; there’s a point when hesitation means destruction, where hovering is not an option. To turn back into the power of the wind is to fall.’
    You not only are an artist of colors, but you have the skills of beautifying words! Congrats for being freshly pressed! Gonna follow your blog to know more of your awesome works and words!
    Best wishes.
    -Maria.

  7. That’s why En plein air is so beautiful. Like Monnet…

  8. cloudhiker

    I really never thought before of a way to watch the world as you do. I’m a bit ashamed I never thought about breaking the rules in order to reach new levels. Thank you. You reassurred me that there is something.

  9. What a gift you have to paint like this, Wow!

  10. What a beautiful painting! I feel like I am part of this scene! Nice use of colors!

  11. Absolutely fascinating. Great piece. My wife and I loved it.

  12. You’re so right–hard to put a frame around an experience of nature’s grandeur. But the artist, that skilled storyteller, can usually evoke the feeling of all that wonder in one glance: the glance that suspends a person in mid-thought, mid-stride through the gallery. When I gaze at a painting and begin to feel the sun and smell the wind and have an overwhelming desire to climb into the image, I know the artist has done it.

  13. I love your point about taking chances when it comes to art. I’m not a painter, but as a photographer and someone with experience in film and video, I can relate. No risks means no growth.

  14. It sounds like a great time! I might have to do some more painting now then I have in the past!
    Hannah

  15. crazyleseratte

    Isn’t abstracting things special for humans. The world changes, that is a great thing. We change the world, this can be good or bad unfortunately. But then again, art is pretty amazing, and I think the best ability for humans is to create something so beautiful. Isn’t this the art in itself putting something in one picture that normally is eternal? And can’t a picture be a part of eternity? Sure, they fade throughout the time, and they can be destroyed, but everytime you visit a museum don’t you feel the eternity and the past!

  16. Wonderful post! “…if you do what is safe, stay upon the lines of what you already know, you cannot grow.” Definitely humble words of wisdom. My mom is a painter so I can somewhat relate to the painting aspect but the life lessons are very valuable. Lovely painting.

  17. AV

    Reblogged this on Anne Viggiano Fine Art and commented:
    This painter is very inspiring!! Enjoy-

  18. i just feel so amazed with your talent.. great job..

  19. Wonderful!!! I also appreciate your comment about learning to do more!

  20. Sounds like a class I would love to take! I love the light in that painting.

  21. It’s yellow dominance.
    Beauty painting !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s