Monday, February 1, 2016

Embarking on an adventure

 I spent my weekend working on this painting, which is an out-of-proportion attempt to copy a truly beautiful painting by a Santa Fe artist named Jennifer Davenport; you can see the original here. (I'm not displaying it here because... well, it's gorgeous, and my painting really doesn't do it justice :).  Why, you might ask, would I waste my time painting something I could never sell?  Three reasons:

1) I learn a lot from trying to duplicate others' works ... and I also learn what I need help with.

     2) I think this woman's work is gorgeous, and would love to be able to create work that has the depth hers has.  (And trust me: there's a LOT of depth here -- there must be at least 10 layers to this piece, if not more)

     3) (And here's the most important reason) I'm heading off in May to a Cynthia Bourgeault retreat where we'll be studying the work of Teilhard de Chardin, so I've been doing a lot of reading about him in preparation.  It feels to me like what he has to say about the world is exactly what I would most like to communicate through my paintings. It's kind of like what I wrote in a post a couple of days ago, the one about the underlying unity and the over-arching vision, that together unite the complexity of the parts?  Somewhere in his work he states that if we understand that ultimate unity, we appreciate that much more the diversity of all the individual contributions.  And somehow Jennifer Davenport's work conveys that to me -- not that her artist statement indicates that she operates out of that perspective, but that's what I see.

My theory is that if I can learn a diverse collection of techniques -- and there are lots of elements in this piece that I've not used before, so I feel that in attempting to recreate it I've greatly expanded my artistic toolbox --  then perhaps I can expand the complexity of my own work while still somehow managing to convey that sense of underlying unity.  And even if I can't, if that turns out to be beyond my compositional capabilities, I will at least have tried.

So this is a further step out into the unknown: I will still have no plan for what I paint before I paint it, but I will actually have an underlying theology that drives the work, where before I just followed wherever the paint lead me.  Again -- it's entirely possible I won't be able to pull this off: I do know that my work already has a number of characteristics that guarantee it won't look like Jennifer's.  And it could turn out to be incredibly frustrating, as it will no longer be just play; it will also be work, and hopefully conscious work.  But after months of trying to paint in colors I find it hard to love, this seems a relatively easy task in comparison: at least I can work with colors I enjoy; I just need to keep finding new ways to apply them to the canvas and build connections between design elements.

I like that.  The left brain part of me's been feeling a bit left out of the painting process; I'm hoping this will be a way for it to participate more fully.  And I'm not putting a time limit on it, or going out and buying a pile of new canvas to experiment on; my plan is just to paint over all the old work I'm tired of.  So -- it's an adventure; we'll see where it goes...


Unknown said...

As a non-artist, I love hearing about the process- the depth, the unity, the layers. Thanks for sharing this process!

Sheila Pritchard said...

Having just completed a retreat (here in New Zealand) with Cynthia on Teilhard de Chardin I love the way your thoughts about art correspond with his vision. I think your painting is just as lovely as Jennifer's and probably wouldn't cost $8,000 to buy! I'm not an artist of course so I have no idea of the intricacy involved in either of them! I always enjoy this Blog and you comments with your photos or paintings. Thank you!

kathy k said...

I just had the pleasure of being introduced and deeply enjoying an Advent online program by Cynthia Bourgeault.....your blog has similar components: creativity/gleaning lessons and meaning from ordinary life that calls us to our extraordinary. Thank you always for your posts........they are my balm at the end of my day.