The courage to play

11

Dear Artist,

In his latest book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, Eckhart Tolle discusses how the human mind is almost constantly engaged in private thoughts. These inner rumblings reflect our personal trials, dreams, needs and obligations. To function properly as a creative person, an artist must divorce himself from some of this clutter and begin a process of rebirth into another mode. “Even though people may travel,” says Eckhart Tolle, “they tend to remain where they have always been — in their head.”

Na Kihapai Nani Lua ʻOle O Edena a Me Elenale (The Beautiful Unequaled Gardens of Eden and of Elenale) Hawaiian cotton quilt, before 1918, from the permanent collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art

Na Kihapai Nani Lua ʻOle O Edena a Me Elenale (The Beautiful Unequaled Gardens of Eden and of Elenale) Hawaiian cotton quilt, before 1918 Honolulu Museum of Art

Early yesterday morning, my daughter Sara and I were painting at the end of the Laniloa Peninsula, Oahu, Hawaii. From a parked car nearby, a young man in a white shirt and tie watched her out of the corner of his eye. As I passed by, he rolled down his window and said, “That girl just took out a canvas and started painting. She hardly drew things out at all.” The fellow and I struck up a conversation. He turned out to be a Teaching Assistant from the nearby Brigham Young University at La’ie. He was “having a quiet read and some meditation.”

I told him the girl was my daughter and that she was working “alla prima — all at once.” Then he said, “It looks quite a lot like play.” Later, when Sara and I were going over our day’s efforts, we agreed the young man had got to the truth of the matter. As far as plein air painting is concerned, play has its own methodology:

Ka'ohu o Halemano (The Mists of Halemano) 20th century Cotton, plain weave, applique of a design cut from a single piece of folded fabric by Ella Victor

Ka’ohu o Halemano (The Mists of Halemano)
20th century
Cotton, plain weave, applique of a design cut from a single piece of folded fabric
by Ella Victor (Honolulu Museum of Art)

Feel and relish the environment.
Get into a “be here now” state of mind.
Start your work anywhere.
Look cleanly and with an uncluttered mind.
Be joyous and unencumbered in your stroke.
Work everywhere at once when you can.
Try to leave your strokes alone.
Do not labour or think too much.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Let the painting tell you what it needs.
Though it may be small, make your picture big.
Without being a wimp, serve your subject.
Don’t verbalize your sight — sense the being.
Surrender to earth’s beauty and wisdom.
If you make errors, fix them in good humour.
Be suspicious of what you’ve been told, how you ought to do things, and what you ought to think.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity.” (Eckhart Tolle)

“Van Gogh didn’t say, ‘That’s just an old chair.’ He looked, and looked, and looked. He sensed the Beingness of the chair.” (Eckhart Tolle)

Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I ka Pono-Halepualani (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness) Hawaiian quilt, silk satin, wool batting, cotton Honolulu Museum of Art

Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I ka Pono-Halepualani (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness)
Hawaiian quilt, silk satin, wool batting, cotton Honolulu Museum of Art

Esoterica: The plein air act requires a mental transformation and a shift in consciousness. Playful looseness is a virtue. Running on old methodologies or rigid game-plans can be detrimental. Sara and I both remarked on the value of amateurism. Amateurism can induce clear sight and creative optimism. At least you are not held in check by a lot of stuff you already know.

This letter was originally published as “The courage to play” on March 4, 2008.

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I wish each and every one of you well during this global health crisis and encourage you to flatten the curve by staying at home with your creative materials. I hope our Painter’s Keys community can be a source of friendship and creative inspiration during this time and always.
In friendship, Sara 

Sara in Oahu, March 2008 Robert Genn photo

Sara in Oahu, March, 2008
photo by Dad

“True creativity flows only from stillness. When stillness becomes conscious, the spiritual dimension enters your life and you begin to be guided by an intelligence far greater than the human mind.” (Eckhart Tolle)

 

 

 


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11 Comments

  1. What a perfect post for today Sara! I am just getting started on a large canvas and still tend to apply this approach of play that comes from working alla prima and plein air.

    PS: “If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity.” (Eckhart Tolle)

    This quote goes on a piece of paper to tack up in the home studio today and to be shared in my next newsletter. Now I am off to work on that large canvas and check in on the more than 80 new students (and growing) who signed up for my free independent study skill building online oil painting class. For those in the Facebook group, I think I will direct them here for a read. It is the perfect orientation for painting from life with oils. Take good care everyone!

  2. Staying at home, we recently returned from the Algarve, perticularly Albufeira, just finished the fourth pastel painting from that area, guess I’ll have lots of time to do more, I hope, keep well everyone.

  3. Thanks Sara! I’m self-quarantining and so happy to be home and have some cohesive time, not just to get my scattered thoughts together but to practice and revive old skill sets. I was working 27 hours a week, but the times were so chopped up, 4 and 5 hour days, really hard to give anything the attention it needed. Income will be cut but there will be some. It’s take about 4 days just to get on some kind of track. Playing with calligraphy, new pens. Found a stash of lovely old British handmade papers. Maybe I need to do some drawings. Maybe scrape off the dried oil paint on my palette and get back to the 5 paintings I have started. Maybe pull out the pastels.
    Everyone stay healthy!

  4. Thank you for the reminder to play :)
    I’ve always loved your dad’s lists, and this is no exception – it is perfect for plein air painting AND life!
    “Be suspicious of what you’ve been told, how you ought to do things, and what you ought to think.” I’m tacking this one to my computer ;)

  5. That is a nice spot in Hawaii. An outcropping of rock just out of the ocean with unknown waters on all sides. And, I imagine it is not quiet out there. Great. Thanks

  6. Interesting choice of visuals to accompany this post. The painstaking planning of a quilt might be considered play, but it certainly isn’t executed in “plein air” without concern for proper placement of subject matter. To slosh about with a paint brush on canvas/paper is very liberating, but to hand stitch fabric to fabric in an attempt to depict an idea requires an entirely different set of rules….and lots of thought!
    I get the Hawaii connection though….how nice to be able to travel so extensively to idyllic surroundings in pursuit of pleasure….and how fortunate to have such a talented and caring mentor as your father. I truly enjoy your posts Sara, and yes, this is the perfect time to “play” with creativity whether it be plein air or studio focused! Be well….

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5-Day Art Retreat in Kawartha Highlands July 31 to August 5, 2020
July 31, 2020 to August 5, 2020

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park, Wolf Lake, Site 301This retreat is an homage to early pioneers of plein air painting. We canoe-in and camp, paddling every day to our painting locations. This is a self-catered trip. We provide the canoes, life jackets and instruction. You bring your own provisions, tents, etc. The scenery in Kawartha Highlands is fantastic. Bald rock faces, sparkling lakes, majestic trees. Every direction you turn is another painting. Your instructor, Keith Thirgood, has been camping and canoeing all his life, and teaching artists his own unique approach to painting for over 12 years. Learn how to find order in the chaos, control your colours and create paintings that work. Learn modern colour theory, values, shapes and lines, what makes for a good painting.
If you need advice on the camping portion of the retreat, we have you supported. Even brand new canoeists have no trouble with this gentle adventure. This retreat is suitable for beginners wanting to learn to paint in a fun, outdoor location, as well as more experienced studio artists who want to try plein air, plus artists who are looking to loosen up and paint in a more post-impressionist style. To find out more and register, please visit www.wilsonstreetstudios.com
http://painterskeys.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Midwinter-chill-wpcf_297x300.jpgMidwinter Chill

Featured Artist

Los Angeles-based artist Lisa Chakrabarti works in a variety of media: oils, acrylics, pastels, watercolors, graphite and colored pencils. Focusing on a style she calls “romantic naturalism” – impressionism based largely on subjects in the natural world – her works have found their way into galleries in Los Angeles, Florida, Colorado and New York. In 1995, after being introduced to sumi-e and Chinese ink painting by Asian friends, Lisa became captivated by the apparent freedom and subtlety of this ancient medium.  This shift in focus has informed her work ever since.

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