First, a recapitulation or three:
St. Johns Bridge from Cathedral Park, Panels 1,2,3,4. 24 x48″, oil on masonite, 2010.
THE PANORAMA: ST. JOHNS BRIDGE FROM CATHEDRAL PARK: Click on the image to enlarge it.
St. Johns Bridge from Cathedral Park, 24 x 96″, oil on masonite, 2010.
And some text:
There’s always a tale attached to my plein air work: While I was perched on my stool, painting, a fellow came up beside me and watched. This happens a lot, and I don’t normally turn around to talk to people. I said hello and kept working, without actually looking at him. He made some pleasant remarks about the scene and then said something like “you’ve been around a while.”
I then turned and looked up at him, thinking that I didn’t remember having talked with him before. While I was mentally decrying my bad memory, he bent over a bit and ruffled his thinning hair: “Mine’s not gray yet,” he said, “but my beard is getting white.”
Ah –recognition dawned: “being around” was not a matter of the weeks I’d been painting but rather the years I’d been living.
I have now reduced the use of the phrase “at my age,” substituting with a bit of a sniff: “those of us who’ve been around a while….”
The other bit that I want to write out (and thus share) is what this process meant to me. The post-post surgery recovery wasn’t as easy as I had expected. I lacked stamina. I lacked ambition. I lacked vision. Everything was, as my daughter and I sometimes wail, “tooooo haaaard.” But I knew that I had to have a project that would get me back into action, something big enough to carry me through to September, when I could start getting ready for an artist residency in northern Arizona. And I felt that if I just lay about waiting for stamina, ambition, vision — it wasn’t going to happen. I felt a certain rising panic, combined with a lack of vitality, that I wouldn’t be able to sustain a “real” painting adventure.
So I took on the panorama project, primarily to discipline myself to do the work. I had to take days off, when I didn’t do any work. I started somewhat slowly and tried to use photos (without success) to cut down on the stamina required. The bridge is about 10 miles from our house and Jer had to drive me there and either wait for me to paint a bit or arrange a time to return and pick me up. It became clear that waiting wasn’t working, so we agreed, after some debate, that I would keep my phone in my paint box in case I needed to go home, but that he would come back for me, first, we said, in 3 hours, then in 4, and finally in 5. The first couple of five-hour days were a bit truncated; I found myself loaded up and ready to quit long before his appointed arrival time; this allowed me to sit about in the lovely park breeze, watching the boats, until the little red Honda appeared. But the last 4-5 days, when he appeared after five hours, I was still painting. I had regained the stamina. And the determination to get the whole bridge, recorded, on my painting surfaces. I finished the project.
It seemed — and still seems — essential to my artistic well-being, my artistic recovery, that I take on what in retrospect seems like a largish project. And finish it.
Was it worth while? For the art part of my existence, most definitely. I now feel pretty good about going off for an extended art expedition. For the art it produced, I’m less sure. Time is the only thing that will let me know about that. But I’m content to have done the work, regained the stamina needed to do it, regained some of the vision I need to continue, and still have ambition to go off and see what happens next.
So there’s the personal confession — more wry than brag, or at least that’s how I feel about it. But I’m also proud that I finished those blasted panels and that they came out good enough to blog (if not brag) about –June