Originals by Synkroniciti: Outgoing Tide

After a few years and two floods, I’m finally painting again. Nothing calms me down better than putting some color on canvas and seeing what crops up.

The section of wall to the left of our fireplace has some damage from whatever hung there in the past. It’s a rather tall footprint, and I didn’t have anything to fill it, so I headed to the craft store and bought a canvas. I hung the bare canvas briefly and realized that I should have bought a taller one, as part of the damage still showed clearly. Instead of returning it, I decided to make this a mixed media piece and attach a fabric skirt to the bottom to extend it.  I went through my fabric stash and, after some deliberation, settled on a gauzy green fabric embroidered with vines. I gathered it in the lower right corner and tied it off with some twine. To make the transition work and help anchor the fabric, I glued pine bark gathered in my back yard across the top of the skirt. Then I applied gesso to give the canvas some personality and texture.

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The next step was to make the piece more cohesive and cut down the contrasts between the canvas, bark, and fabric. I began shading the canvas with tones of yellow with red and pink mixed in. I painted the bark, favoring metallics, yellows, greens and blues that would give the bark more color and some iridescence, exaggerating the edges and patterns that were already present. White gesso, which has more body than paint, created a smokestack effect across the upper third of the painting, while a blue creature with arms appeared in the middle third. At this point I had not yet made a conscious decision as to what this painting was going to present, but the hints were all there.

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With the encouragement of Facebook friends, the painting became a beach scene featuring a starfish. As I began to paint and overpaint the starfish, building a nice layer of impasto (texture achieved by layering paint), I also detailed the foliage of a plant, intending to place a flower between the rocky bark and the creature, who appeared to be stranded on the sand. I worked more pink and red into the sand, which I later toned down.

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I could not leave that beautiful creature to die on the sand, so I began to shade in some water, thinking he was in some inlet or tidal pool. The water grew deeper and more turquoise, then I decided it was deep enough to splash where it hit the starfish. White gesso created the illusion beautifully. The flower had its first incarnation and other plants sprang up on the shore. At some point, I noticed that there were pockets under the bark where I could put items… a bit of pine cone, some fuzzy dried plant matter. Have you ever cut up a pine cone? It’s a daunting task.

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During the next phase I tried out some things that I liked, messed them up and then came up with better things. The only time that painting gets stressful is when I get attached to a particular item… a texture, a line, some shading… and it gets destroyed as I’m working. I’ve learned that, most of the time, the thing that comes next is more well-suited to the piece as a whole. Here are a few nice near misses.

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Here is the final product, Outgoing Tide, my seventh completed painting. The shading on the sand and the plants took me some time, but I am pleased. There’s a painted seedpod added that I find a happy touch. Painting the sides black makes the piece stand out; I went back and did that to 5 of my other 6 paintings. They won’t need framing now. As far as perspective goes, I decided we are on our stomachs looking down over a rocky ridge past some plants in the foreground  toward a tidal inlet surrounded by sand. The tide is going out, and that starfish will be carried back out to sea, far from the yellow flower that reaches out to him. From a damaged wall comes a vibrant new piece of art. I’m going to have to paint more.

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Quote for Today: Ethan Hawke

 

Business people connecting puzzle pieces

If you can channel the best part of you that is bigger than yourself, where it’s not about your ego and not about getting ahead, then you can have fun and you aren’t jealous of others. You see other people’s talent as another branch of your own. You can keep it rooted in joy. Life is long and there are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes. The point of it all is to learn.

Ethan Hawke

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Quote for Today: Norton Juster

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“It has been a long trip,” said Milo, climbing onto the couch where the princesses sat; “but we would have been here much sooner if I hadn’t made so many mistakes. I’m afraid it’s all my fault.”

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

Image © Government of Alberta with CCLicense

Quote for Today: Naomi Jackson

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Sixty-three years on this earth has taught Hyacinth that it wasn’t so much the mistakes that people made but how flexible they were in the aftermath that made all the difference in how their lives turned out. It was the women who held too tightly to the dream of their husband’s fidelity who unraveled, the parents who clasped their children too close who lost them, the men who grieved too deeply the lives they’d wanted and would never have who saw their sadness consume them.

Naomi Jackson, The Star Side of Bird Hill

Image: Grief: Johannesfriedhof, Jüdischer Teil, Cemetery, Osnabrück, Germany ©x1klima with CCLicense

Quote for Today: Ann Brasco

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We readily forget what we once knew as children: our flaws are not only natural but integral to our beings. They are interwoven into our soul’s DNA and yet we continually reject the crooked, wrinkled, mushy parts of our life rather than embrace them as the very essence of our beings.

I once believed that aiming for perfection would land me in the realm of excellence. This, however, may not be the trajectory of how things happen. In fact, the pursuit of perfection may be the biggest obstacle to becoming whole.

It seems essential to value hard work and determination and yet recognize that the road to excellence is littered with mistakes and subsequent lessons. Imperfection and excellence are intertwined. There is joy in our pain, strength in weakness, courage in compassion, and power in forgiveness.
Ann Brasco, “Killing Off Perfectionism”

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Quote for Today: Patti Smith

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When we got to the part where we had to improvise an argument in a poetic language, I got cold feet. “I can’t do this,” I said. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Say anything,” he said. “You can’t make a mistake when you improvise.”

“What if I mess it up? What if I screw up the rhythm?”

“You can’t,” he said. “It’s like drumming. If you miss a beat, you create another.”

In this simple exchange, Sam taught me the secret of improvisation, one that I have accessed my whole life.
Patti Smith, Just Kids

Image: Paul Goyette with CCLicense

Quote for Today: Anaïs Nin

You have a right to experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right too. No, I think there was too rigid a pattern. You came out of an education and are supposed to know your vocation. Your vocation is fixed, and maybe ten years later you find you are not a teacher anymore or you’re not a painter anymore. It may happen. It has happened. I mean Gauguin decided at a certain point he wasn’t a banker anymore; he was a painter. And so he walked away from banking. I think we have a right to change course. But society is the one that keeps demanding that we fit in and not disturb things. They would like you to fit in right away so that things work now.

Anaïs Nin

Quote for Today: Wendell Berry

© Hartwig HKD with CCLicense

© Hartwig HKD with CCLicense

Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led – make of that what you will.
― Wendell BerryJayber Crow