Clouds

4

Dear Artist,

These days, the wind blows on this island from the northwest, fluttering hard the worldwide flags of the beach-cottagers. Clouds form over the distant coastal ranges, building among the highest peaks. Then they move out into the great gulf and rise to pass overhead. Effortlessly they form and reform. They have their early character and their late. In the morning: blue-gray, transparent, understated. In the evening: warm, purpled, energetic, dramatic. These clouds present the perennial quandary: Do I redesign them to suit a composition — to add control and solidity to the work? Or do I go with the arbitrary mystery of the vapour — the magic of hiding and transformation?

Study of Sky, circa 1816-18 Watercolour on paper 125 × 247 mm by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)

Study of Sky, circa 1816-18
Watercolour on paper
125 × 247 mm
by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)

Here on this shore there’s shimmering reflection in the rolling seaforms — the sun half in, half out of the clouds. A couple of kayaks knife the water, their paddlers laid back, intermittent, dreaming. I’m having that terrible feeling that I will never be able to do justice to this.

In Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, law number four is of particular interest to artists. It’s called “The Law of Least Effort.” Chopra’s idea is that Nature’s intelligence functions with “effortless ease, carefreeness, harmony and love.” He gets us into this blissful state when we fully accept our world at any moment, by taking personal responsibility for our current situation, and by forgetting about trying to defend a particular point of view.

Study of Sky circa 1816-18 Watercolour on paper 125 × 247 mm by J.M.W. Turner

Study of Sky, circa 1816-18
Watercolour on paper
125 × 247 mm
by J.M.W. Turner

Thinking of my art school days, “least effort” is not a term I’d use. Those days were full of painful attempts at matching colours in sun and shade, fighting to get my pencil or brush around compound shapes, toiling over impossible gradations. Now I’m seeing Chopra’s point. That effortless business kicks in when you put your pain safely into your pocket. Like Chopra’s “Laws” the job requires repetition, practice, private effort. Whether you’re building your character or cutting out some clouds–you have to do the groundwork. You have to be alone with it. To float like a cloud you have to go to the trouble of becoming one.

Study of Sky circa 1816-18 Watercolour on paper 125 × 247 mm by J.M.W. Turner

Study of Sky, circa 1816-18
Watercolour on paper
125 × 247 mm
by J.M.W. Turner

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “When we harness the forces of harmony, joy and love, we create success and good fortune with effortless ease.” (Deepak Chopra)

Esoterica: As we progress in our art-making we find it increasingly easy to fall back on our bag of tricks. Alone under the sky I can free myself of this tendency and happily burn through my expendable supports. Where there are few expectations, expediency wins. Nobody ever said you can’t use a six-inch tar-brush or the scrag-end of a cedar stick. Practical stuff is surprisingly at hand. Here on this mossy rock between flights of turnstones one can float like a cloud. Save for Dorothy, no one is looking.

Red Sky and Crescent Moon circa 1818 Watercolour on paper 125 × 247 mm by J.M.W. Turner

Red Sky and Crescent Moon, circa 1818
Watercolour on paper
125 × 247 mm
by J.M.W. Turner

This letter was originally published as “Clouds” on August 24, 2004.

“It is necessary to mark the greater from the lesser truth: namely the larger and more liberal idea of nature from the comparatively narrow and confined; namely that which addresses itself to the imagination from that which is solely addressed to the eye.” (J. M. W. Turner

 


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4 Comments

  1. The ease that is sought is hard won by persistent efforts to gain the ability to do what you need to to accomplish your goals Turner’s sketchbooks are full of the response to a fleeting moment of nature and done with an economy of means

  2. This makes me want to give “plein air” painting a shot again. Robert makes it seem so natural and easy, don’t know what I do wrong, probably over think and miss out on what I am supposed to see and feel. Perhaps next time I try, I’ll accidentally forget my paints. :)

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https://painterskeys.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Evening-Flight-24-x-18-OC-wpcf_300x300.jpgEvening Flight
oil on canvas
24 x 18 inches

Featured Artist

Essentially I am representational painter, with a real appreciation for the design aspects of abstract art.  By emphasizing strong shape relationships and connecting bands of textural color, I am able to paint the natural world in two dimensional patterns while striving to create interesting three dimensional compositions.  Andrew Wyeth, a realist who has influenced my work, painted very abstract watercolors that helped him explore the possibilities for unusual compositions.  Like him, I value the drama of a strong composition, solid drawing, complex textures, and sumptuous, rich color while attempting to ground the painting’s design in essential, free form shapes.  Past Masters who have shaped my artistic direction are: Joaquin Sorolla, John Singer Sargent, Richard Diebenkorn, and the California impressionists. Richard Schmid is a contemporary painter whose instruction has contributed greatly to my ability to capture the light, intimacy, and subtle textures of the hidden landscapes.
I have found painting landscapes in the field to be an adventure of the mind, spirit, and body. It is a personal record of a distinct moment in time that captures an emotional response to a physical reality. Nature is exciting, unforgiving, yet always spiritually rewarding. I am grateful to be able to share this natural beauty with fellow wanderers hoping to discover those special moments.
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