Patagonia is well known for its condors, but it also has lapwings. These large plovers are seen on mountain pastures and fallow fields. They make a loud, scolding cry when you get too close. I used to see them often when we lived in Spain. At one time I found one with a broken wing and took it to the local “veterinario.” More familiar with fixing horses than birds, he told me I was “loco” but put a splint on the wing anyway. I kept the bird for a week before releasing it to an unknown future.
These South American lapwings migrate. Passages to Bolivia and Brazil cause them no problem. Through the defiles of the Andes they come and go from Chile. Whenever I’m in a lineup for airport security, customs, or immigration, I wish for a similar blessing for humanity.
The borderlessness of our world is most evident in wild places. Nature spreads herself in all manner of variety and helps us to grasp her unity. The tumbling tumbleweed knows no borders.
Artists have a wisdom and a contribution to make that politicians can only dream of. By honouring our world we speak to the universality of our mother earth. Sure, there are differences in fauna and flora, but one side of a leaf is generally lit and the other side’s in shade. The laws of composition are similar whether you’re in the USA or the former USSR. Artists understand that standards of quality transcend the nation states. We can only hope that artistic licence and freedom of expression will eventually find their way to the earth’s dark corners.
Not only nature binds our world but also those among us who inadvertently or on purpose are able to share their magic. Understanding the nature of creative exhibitionism, we artists are hard wired for it. Further, art is not only in us, it’s inevitable. Social scientists tell us our type of work is its own “intrinsic reward.” That is, art can have no need or purpose other than the satisfaction it gives to the maker. Because of this quirk in human nature, art is viral. It has to be. Like the lapwing and the soaring condor, art goes where it pleases.
Esoterica: One of the regrets of my life is that I have not paid enough attention to geology. Argentina has a lot of it. Getting brushes around some of these colours and forms has proved to be a challenge. Sometimes the designs and shapes are hard to believe. Also, I’m learning to put more drama into my work. These ragged peaks seem to be at continual war with their weather. Incidentally, Argentine acrylics, called “Alba acrylico”(Alba also makes “oleo”), flow beautifully and are fully saturated. I’m bringing some of them home — if I can get them through customs.
Mysteries made real
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA
You hit a nerve with me when you said “…our type of work is its own “intrinsic reward.” Art has not only shaped our world, it has brought us into the light of understanding. When cavemen created works they were trying to bring light and understanding to a very hostile and unknown world which threatened their very existence. By drawing the images of the things they feared, they — in a sense — were conquering those fears. Artists since explain the world by representation and duplication. It is not only emotionally satisfying, it makes concrete the world around us. When we make a drawing or painting, we make real those mysteries of nature that often elude us. It’s the same concept as touching is believing. If I can get my mind around it by making it real, I overcome it and make it mine.
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Art is subjective
by Andrea Pottyondy, Fall River, NS, Canada
Art is subjective… I am also a docent at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and have learned not to judge art but to experience it in its many variations. You might want to banish some but I think it would be a shame if we all followed the rules or painted alike. As for politicians, seems you have a thing against them… I know many honourable ones that work hard to make Canada better. Some are even artists!
Lapwings north and south
by Doug Pollard, Victoria, BC, Canada
Thank you for sharing your experiences in Patagonia, especially your observations on lapwings. These handsome birds conjure images of earlier days in England where small clouds of lapwings were a common sight across lush green fields. Your note prompted me to look into the relationship between the European birds and those you describe in Patagonia. These are separate species, the northern and the southern peewit respectively. There are about two dozen species worldwide of the genus whose lovely name, Vanellus, is derived from the Latin for “little fan” — such an apt metaphor for those bits of white tossed about in the breeze.
by John A. Scott, Traverse City, MI, USA
The next time your seven league boots need a workout, head to Iceland. It is entirely volcanic and, while the colors are limited to reds, blacks, tans and greens of vegetation, they are spectacular. Plus, there are more waterfalls than you can count. Add to that geysers and mudpots and steam vents. There are also beautiful friendly people who mostly speak English and fix great food, again limited but very, very tasty. Expensive to get there but not so bad when you are there. The currency is at first an absolute mystery. You can also buy duty free liquor in the airport coming in!
No artist can resist going there
by Brenda Behr, Goldsboro, NC, USA
You exalt art to a place that no artist can resist going, or at least try to go. Is that why, against all odds, I continue to paint? Is it that important that my voice be heard, or is it just me who needs to hear it?
Like the birds you mention, and like you and the myriad of artists fortunate enough to travel, my dream is to travel (and paint). Here is my prayer: Dear Lord, Unburden me from earthly treasures that weigh me down; leave me only my brushes, paint, and transportation, and set me free. Above all, give me the skills to communicate through the Universal language of art.
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The reason to create?
by Betty Billups, Sandpoint, ID, USA
Dealing with your desire to help “a wild thing” …yours dealt with perhaps a “more important” “life” …that of your Lapwing. I, also, connect to nature, but perhaps “lower” than the average. I have a live mouse trap, set in my house… Living in the country, there always seems to be one mouse that gets into my house. A few weeks back, I finally caught one, after trying to for over 3 weeks! Smart little guy!
Well, I have a small aquarium, and tossed in some ponderosa pine needles, have added torn soft rags, a toilet paper roll, a bowl of water, bowl of sunflower seeds, and a mixed blend of other stuff, and a “run wheel.” It is amazing to find how many ways this little guy can rearrange its living area!!
Now, onto the reason I chose to respond: to respond to your “reason” to create: “That is, art can have no need or purpose other than the satisfaction it gives to the maker.” Well, I choose to disagree.
Yes, to the satisfaction of being true to oneself! Yes to creating, to satisfy oneself, through whichever way we choose to respond to this creativity that flows through our veins…
But No, to the idea that this is the only reason to express ourselves! To me, all things in life deal with communication! We can do this through our silence. We can do this through our actions, we can do this through as many means as there are choices.
There is a deeper reason to express ourselves: just as the author’s “journey” is complete when his words are read and possibly taken to heart. For the visual artist, merely creating anything is not the end. Without the creation being enjoyed, shared, observed, it would be like an orator standing in an empty room talking to himself!
We are on this earth to not only discover our own “voice,” but to share what we have discovered with others, and thus enhance what our world has always given to everyone: Awesomeness!!
But Yes, to your statement, “Like the lapwing and the soaring condor, art goes where it pleases.” Yes, it does take an “open soul” to “hear and appreciate the message”!
There are 3 comments for The reason to create? by Betty Billups
A dream come true
by Hope Hebert, Lafayette, LA, USA
Because of your Painter’s Keys web site and allowing me to be one of your premium artists, many doors have opened up for me. This has been a dream come true. As you know, people from all over the world view your site. You do awesome work to help artists and I love reading your twice-weekly letters.
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The value of curiosity
by Andrew Coleman, Sheffield, UK
Robert mentions regretting not paying enough attention to geology. As a university student in the writing and literature disciplines, I have come to realize that an extreme sense of curiosity for all things is a strong basis for future success. I’m sure this applies to the visual arts, as well. One could fill notebooks with noticed items, poses, human interactions and physical objects, but more than anything it’s an acquired habit that one starts to carry around automatically. In this school there are those who take the time — and the delight — to acquire the habit, and others who do not. I cannot predict the future of my fellow students, but it seems to me that what looks like innate curiosity is probably one of the main predictors of future thriving.
Waters Rush, Rocks Stand Firm
oil painting by Dianne Mize, USA
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Clif Dawson who wrote, “Instead of attempting to get those paints through customs, why not mail them to yourself?”
And also Victoria Alexander who wrote, “Tell customs what you have before it goes through the x-ray. I got dragged to one side and grilled at a border crossing. I had a big packet of watercolour paints and in the x-ray they looked just like a round of high caliber bullets.”
Enjoy the past comments below for Wild places…