Did you ever have a feeling that today was an “extra day,” one that you could pretty well lay back in, and do what you felt like? Today’s one of those. We’re hanging at anchor in a sunny cove in one of the Mackenzie tributaries. I’m in the forward painting station while Sara sits in the stern passing her sketches from knee to knee, putting her brush here and there. Out of the leisurely holiday feeling I’ve decided to squeeze out and work today with the equivalent of Renoir’s palette.
Here, in this unnamed puddle where the immanence of winter shows in the longer hair of the beaver, we’re also, almost unbelievably, in touch. Some generous artists have seen fit to drop us emails of encouragement or advice. A note written by Philip J Carroll electrifies this holiday: “The freedom is in the paint; one must become the paint, so to speak, feeling it flow through the end of the brush. It’s all about the paint and how one manipulates it.” (The complete note is in today’s clickback) Yes — it’s not about subject matter. The subject matter is really just the excuse to squeeze out. Thanks Phil. What a miracle.
“Holidays” is also a term used to describe those little areas in paintings where strokes are missed, or minor surprise accidents happen. This holiday is full of holidays.
I have the persistent feeling that for artists, every day ought to be a holiday.
“No one expects the days to be gods.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
“Leisure and the cultivation of human capacities are inextricably interdependent.”(Margaret Mead)
Esoterica: In 1879 Renoir scrawled his paint-list in one of his notebooks: Blanc d’Argent, Jaune de Chrome, Jaune de Naples, Ocre Jaune, Terre de Sienne Naturelle, Vermilion, Laque de Garance, Vert Veronese, Vert Emeraude, Bleu de Cobalt, Bleu Outremer. The first is the French term for flake white; Laque de Garance is rose madder. The rest are pretty easy to figure out.
The following are selected correspondence relating to the above letter. If you find value in any of this please feel free to copy to a friend or fellow artist. We have no other motivation than to give creative people an opportunity to share ideas and possibly broaden their capabilities. Thank you for writing.
Not quite yet
by Marina Reed
No, I am sorry to say I have never had that feeling of an “extra day.” The day is coming when I will though. I am a busy mother of 4: oldest 22 years old and youngest 11 years old, and also work as a part time Mechanical Engineer. My plan for this fall is to take an afternoon a week to paint. That will be great. I live in New Orleans and the Garden District is full of beautiful homes that I would love to capture — I’m interested in Architecture.
Keep action alive
by Bev, Fresno, CA, USA
I note that some of your readers are affected by the movement of life that exists as you travel — the fish swimming, the leaves moving, the clouds changing, etc. For instance in stating that photographs are okay but they can only go so far, I believe it is because there is no actual life or movement in the photograph, only the memory of something that has happened. So in order to paint well or draw well or sing well or whatever one is doing, we must remember to keep life and movement in it. Keep the action alive somehow. Often, preparing for a party and anticipating it is more fun than the actual party. This is true in painting, working on the painting, dreaming a bit as we go along, anticipating the next brushstroke, trying to make it better. That may be another reason it is very hard to finally put that brush or pencil down and say it is finished — I think most of us want to just keep putting another stroke down or another line in — thereby keeping the work alive as long as we are still working on it!
by J Jubala, London
Your letter from Philip J Carroll was right on the mark. As a frequent juror I’m tired of seeing tired and innefective stroking everywhere in an attempt to get a likeness of something — when a joyous and confident stroke would have sufficed. One needs only to look at the excellent surfaces of Carroll’s paintings of innocuous subjects such as teacups to see what he’s talking about.
Taking a day off
by Lynn Kenneth Pecknold, Port Alberni, B.C., Canada
Having spent three years as a Principal in Dawson City (1993-1996) and teaching art, I am appreciative of your reflections. I am taking a day off today, and preparing some items for my son-in-law who starts teaching art this September at a school in Abbotsford, B.C.
Here’s a quote by Jeanne Dobie out of Making Color Sing : “Using the human brain more than the brush makes the difference! Although an image is clearly visible to the eye, it takes the mind to develop it into a rich, tangible brilliance, into an outstanding painting. Otherwise we may merely reproduce mechanically what our eyes see.”
Every day’s a holiday
by Linda Timbs, Coquitlam, B.C., Canada
Every day, for all mankind, ought to be a holiday — and can be made into such through positive thinking. More and more, in today’s all too busy world, we need to develop the ability to step outside of ourselves; to ‘take 5’ and imagine how we would like things to be. Samuel Johnson, in The Rambler, stated, “Pleasure is seldom found where it is sought.” People spend all kinds of hard earned money to take the vacation of a lifetime, only to discover that they are none the happier, nor the relaxed, upon returning from same!
How can this be? We often set expectations for ourselves and others that are far beyond the realm of the, ‘here and now.’ Voltaire wrote, “To really enjoy pleasures, you must know how to leave them.”
Every leaving, (remembrance), of a past vacation is the start of a new pleasure, a new writing, a new way to handle the day to day pressures of life. In other words, one never leaves without having someplace to go: whether pre-arranged or otherwise… one is always in the state of ‘arriving.’ It’s what one choses to do as an artist — or otherwise — that determines where one is.
by Cassandra James, Texas, USA
When you refer to holidays, you are also talking of those times when one has somehow been connected with a larger collective consciousness and is transported, one step back from the canvas and made open to the “happy accident.” By this I mean a particularly compelling configuration on the canvas, a surprising mix of colors on the palette, a new form that emerges fully formed — almost while the artist was away.
Holidays were historically “holy days” — a sabbath of sorts — separate, sacred, uncluttered. Indeed, each day in the studio is holy in this sense, and I’m compelled to teach in penance for the unmatched luxury of working in the studio in this manner every day.
by J Leung, Hong Kong
Here’s the reason outdoor work brings blessings. Released from our confining and often poorly designed studios the power comes from all directions. Poorly lined up doors and impinging stairs funnel evil spirits which haunt and weaken creative work. As feng shui practitioners all over the world are teaching — our choices of home and workspace are all important to our success. Through overlooking simple rules we condemn ourselves to unhappiness and failure. The great outdoors relaxes our sensibilities, neutralizes evilness and brings spectacular and new things to the mind that is ready.
(RG note) Right now, on this exposed islet near Norman Wells, NWT, I’m feeling an evil draught from further north.
You may be interested to know that artists from 70 countries have visited these sites since March 30, 2000.
That includes Arnold Dudley who is doing pastels on the piranha-infested Orinoco and who managed to find internet access in Esmeralda, Venezeula, and greeted us while we are doing acrylics on the mosquito infested Mackenzie.
And then Dianne Middleton sent some Antoine de Saint-Exupery quotes to the north: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks; but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”