It feels like Spring has fully arrived in San Francisco. I am very much enjoying the 60 to 70 degree temperatures with clear skies and have been trying to get outside whenever possible. I painted this small canvas after a walk to the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park. I’ve been very interested in square format compositions and the effect of light and shadow on different colors. It reminds me of my limited training in darkroom photography where one of the challenges was to capture highlights and shadows without losing all of the information behind them. Similarly, I’ve been trying to neutralize colors by mixing compliments to create shadows that are delicate and still show the colors underneath.
I’ve also been experimenting with brushwork. Specifically, I’ve been working towards letting go and finding a way between tight and loose. Brushwork, it seems to me, is like the rhythm of a song. It can vary greatly and change the feeling of a painting from controlled and orderly to chaotic to lyrical and rhythmic. In the painting above, I experimented with using different sized brushes to capture some of the movement of the waves near Land’s End by the entrance to the bay. A light fog was coming in and obscuring the hills in the distance and, in the end, I found this to be the most interesting part of the painting. I’m definitely going to explore the idea of using fog or haze in future paintings.
Again, thank you for reading and your comments are always appreciated!
Over the last month, I’ve spent many hours walking through Golden Gate Park and finding quiet spots to draw and paint. For the painting at left, I had forgotten my pencils so it was started without any drawing as a guide. This is unusual for me, but I’m happy that I forgot them. Making an alteration to the way I work can sometimes feel like waking up. We can become very mechanical in the way we create and in our expectations. Something as simple as forgetting pencils and being forced to solve a problem in a new way can be very helpful at unhitching the past from our consciousness.
It’s constantly difficult to let go of preconceived notions about what I should be doing. Do my paintings look enough like others that have been successful? Am I using color in a way that makes sense? A litany of questions can float up into my mind like bubbles from soapy water, but I think the way forward is to pop them and focus in tightly on exactly what’s in front of me. Painting and life both feel best when I’m tuned in to the present.
During my walks in the park, I like to find quiet spots and practice breathing with intention. I don’t follow a specific meditation practice but have compiled my own experiences and the words of many teachers to find my way into consciousness. It can be very slippery and doesn’t always result in a great calm or flow state but, when it does, it can be very powerful. All the weight of the past and the expectations of the future can be dissolved and I cannot think of a better way to enter into the creative play of painting or anything else that comes from the heart.
I started this painting on a walk through Golden Gate Park when I came across a pond that I had never noticed before. I’ve taken frequent walks through the park over the last 2 years and had walked around the left and to the right without seeing that just over the crest of a small hill there was a quiet and murky pond. Being able to spend time in the park is so valuable to me. It’s the place where I flesh out many of my thoughts about life while walking or stopping to watch and meditate. And this small painting is a memory of that time watching and thinking below the pine and cypress trees.
To start off the new year, here are two watercolor paintings that I finished in the last couple of days. Golden Gate Park and the streets of San Francisco continue to fuel me with inspiration. I’ve also been back to painting in oil and will likely to post some of that work next week. Over the last year, I have been surprised by how important and inspirational other people can be. And, as I look ahead to 2016, one of my major goals is to listen better and spend more time learning from the work and words of others. I hope everyone else’s year is off to a great start and thank you for all of your likes and comments from 2015.