Saturday, September 20, 2014

Paula, for Julia Kay's Portrait Party

8x10 inches, oil on paper

For the past few years I have been a sometimes participant in an online painting group called Julia Kay's Portrait Party.  I painted this small oil for that group.

It's a large group of people, although a fairly small number of participants are active at any one time. I tend to paint about one portrait a month, although there are people who create one each and every day.  Some paint, some draw, some use collage or mosaics, some use digital media.  All are interesting because it is clear that there are endless ways to approach a portrait, and almost always the result says as much about the artist as it does the subject.

I stay with the group, even though I am often put to shame by other people's skill and unique vision, because I believe that it is good practice to paint lots.  I believe that quantity eventually leads to quality, and in my case I think my portraits have improved since I joined. I know for sure that I enjoy rubbing shoulders with this large and diverse group.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hunting Pictures

Last week my husband and I took an early autumn vacation to Canada.  We flew to Calgary, then boarded a train, traveled thirteen hours to Kamloops, where we spent the night in an old but prettily refurbished hotel.  Then another twelve or so hours on the train through the Rockies, alongside Thompson and Fraser rivers filled with salmon returning to spawn and die, to Vancouver.  We spent a couple days there before flying home to our disgruntled kitty.

The entire time I kept trying to capture a little of the beauty I saw speeding past with my little "point and hope" camera.  It's hard shooting through a window, although sometimes I elbowed my way to the open viewing platform where folks with pricier gear set up shop.  Sticking my head out in the fresh air, I imagined how giddy dogs feel when they push their heads out open truck windows, ears blowing back, tongues flapping in the wind.

Anyway, today I visited my local consignment place and found a little book called Natural Histories: A Bestiary, by Jules Renard.  There are charming pencil drawings by Toulouse Lautrec that accompany word sketches of turkeys, geese, swallows, squirrels and many more animals.  But the first little essay charmed me completely, and spoke to my need to travel, to take photos, and to paint.

The Picture Hunters

He jumps up early from his bed and sets out only if his mind is clear, his heart pure, his body light as a summer garment.  He carries no provisions.  Along the road he will drink fresh air and inhale wholesome smells.  He leaves his firearms at home, content with keeping his eyes open.  His eyes serve as nets in which pictures are caught.

The first one he snares is that of the road, showing its bones of polished stones and broken veins of its ruts, between the hedges laden with blackberries and small wild plums.

Then he catches a picture of the river.  Whitening at the elbows, it sleeps under the gentle stroke of willows.  It glistens when a fish turns up its belly, as though a piece of silver has been thrown in; if a light rain falls, the river has goose flesh.

He picks up the picture of the moving wheat, the toothsome clover, the meadows hemmed in with rivulets.  He seizes in passing the flight of a lark or a goldfinch.

Then he enters the woods.  He did not know that his senses could take in so much.  He is soon impregnated with scents, he misses not a single muffled sound, and his nerves attach themselves to the veins of the leaves so that he may communicate with the trees.

Before long he is vibrating to the point of discomfort, he is in ferment, he is afraid, he leaves the woods and follows from a distance the peasants returning to the village.  

Outside, he stares for a moment, with eyes ready to burst, at the setting sun as, on the horizon, it divests itself of its luminous garments, its scattered clouds.

Home at last, his head full, he puts out his lamp and, before going to sleep, delights in counting up his pictures.

Obediently, they appear again as his memory calls them.  Each one awakens another, and the new ones constantly join he phosphorescent band, like partridges that, all day pursued and divided, come together in the evening, and, safe in the depth of furrows, sing and remember.