Out over the dark sea, near the horizon, whales move steadily northward. People silently gather on the rough black lava and red dirt at Makahuena Point. Cameras ready, braced against the wind and crashing surf, they await the sunrise. These are not sun worshippers or members of some peculiar cult. They are neighbors, tourists, morning joggers, loners, and honeymoon couples up before dawn to witness an event.
It’s not just that we are given our day — it’s what we do with it. Have you ever noticed that some folks keep busy from dawn ’til dusk plugging away at things that need doing? In many ways this is the artist’s mode — a permanent state of repairing. Others among us are dawdling dreamers who rather bump into things as they go. Most of us, creative or not, are somewhere in between. “Keep busy,” I like to tell artists, “while you’re waiting for something to happen.” I figure there’ve been 10,950 sunrises since we first started coming to this part of Hawaii. And just as the sun climbs inexorably in the sky, happiness and fortune rise and fall with what’s to be done with a single day.
To make good things happen, a bit of self-organization may be necessary. To-do lists, card files, day-timers, delivery calendars, alarm watches, radio regularity, interspersed exercise, even inspirational fridge magnets. As always, having the materials ready to go is Job One. If you’re thinking about going out and buying a certain brush, you can be delayed in your progress for weeks, months or years. As the sliver of light blossoms into its full orange mango, I wonder how I might squeeze every drop from its potential.
The now sunlit shore-people are in mild celebration. Like nailing the trade winds to coconut palms, some are trying to catch the meaning with their point-and-shoots. A long-haired, surfboarder-type guy is journaling in a dog-eared Moleskine. “Are you going to paint again today?” he asks. I tell him I am. “Some dudes just do it, natural like,” he says. Walking back toward my second cup of coffee I’m wondering about that. “Seize the day,” I tell myself. I can smell the paint.
PS: “No one expects the days to be gods.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Esoterica: Our friend’s home on Kauai is where I wrote my first book, In Praise of Painting. It’s now out of print and a bit of a collector’s item. Back in 1979 I sort of knew what I wanted to say but I had to motivate myself. Short on self-esteem and unsure I could get started or even complete, I put my ideas on file cards and tacked them to insulation boards. Like one of those mind webs the experts recommend, I spent days just moving things around. Then the cards began to make sense and take over. The sun began to shine on my project. The writing began to flow.
This letter was originally published as “Seizing the day” on January 25, 2011.
The group exhibition “The Intercepting Nature of Colour + Form” opens at Gallery Jones, 1-258 East 1st Avenue, Vancouver, BC this coming Thursday, January 30th from 5-8pm. If you’re in the neighbourhood, I’d love to see you there.
“I have memories of the clearest crystal mountain days imaginable, when we fortunates in the height seemed to be sky people living in light alone…” (J. E. H. MacDonald)
If you live in the cold north like I do, this is the BEST thing you can do with a February – believe me! Join me, Hermann Brandt for my 4th annual PLEIN AIR workshop/retreat on the west coast of sunny Mexico. Casa Buena Art Retreat Center is a beautiful private residence overlooking the ocean. While our vivacious hostess, Jane Romanishko takes care of almost every need, I will guide you through the process of identifying, designing, composing and painting the gorgeous land and seascape that surrounds us. Medium: oil or acrylic.
At the end of each day, we gather on the veranda by the pool and critique our work – it’s a beautiful thing :-)
I endeavour to run a friendly, encouraging, no-pressure workshop so beginners are welcome. Minimum of 6 participants. IMPORTANT: Registration by 1 Dec 2019
I look forward to painting with you
Monique Jarry is a Canadian and a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Montreal.