Day 31. If you want to go far…

“If You Want to go Far” 24×30 inches, oil on canvas

I started this month with a bike, and I knew I wanted to end with one too. Only this time there’s not just one, but several. All month I’ve been thinking about the African proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” It was several years ago that I decided to stop going at this alone and invited others, anyone, to join me in a practice that had been both life-giving and life-changing. 

Ten years ago, I was certain that making art, whatever the kind, no matter how good or bad it turned out, was as vital to our well-being as eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep, or even friendship. What I didn’t know then was how lonely making art could be, how much the creative spirit would call out for kinship, would beg for validation, would hope to be recognized. I didn’t realize that creating things was as much about self-expression as it was about connection. Are we, in fact, dealing with a similar question to the tree falling in the forest without anyone there to hear it? If we make something and no one ever sees it, is it art? Is art not just something we do but something we share– creator to viewer, hearer, reader? Is it then, a conversation? Does it require more than one person?

Last month I ran a marathon and this month I did a painting a day, and I can’t decide which challenged me the most. In both, I had to do the work alone. No one else ran a single stride or painted a single stroke for me. But in both cases, I was surrounded and supported by family, friends, and even complete strangers who made the effort worth doing. Last month, when I realized I had a late-night, out of town, live wedding painting the night before the marathon I’d been training for and wondered if I should even do the race at all, my husband and I discussed why people don’t just run 26.2 miles on their own. Do people do that? Does it count?

Ultimately, I opted to run the official race because I wanted the fanfare, the ordination so to speak. The “bells and smells” churches use to say, “This matters. This is official. This means something.” 

And year after year I do this 31 day practice in a community that makes all of it feel official. Dear friends, I have only this left to say: No one can run your race or make your art but you. AND. You have only to look to your right or to your left or ahead or behind to see all those who are there, right beside you. They are an endless source of inspiration and motivation. They are an endless source of connection. Your journey is worth taking. Thank you for coming on this one with me.

If you’d like to participate in next year’s 31 in 31, I would love to have you. And why wait until December to decide? Why not sign up now?

Please note: All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.

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Day 31. If you want to go far…

"If You Want to go Far" 24x30 inches, oil on canvas I started this month with a bike, and I knew I wanted to end with one too. Only this time there’s not just one, but several. All month I’ve been thinking about the African proverb that says “If you want to go fast,...

read more

Day 29. Intuition

"Follow Your Intuition" 9x12 inches, oil on paper My art studio is a 300 square foot storage room underneath our raised house. I have an AC unit but no heat, so for a handful of days during the year it’s miserably cold. Those days are almost always in January. Those...

read more

Day 28. Except the Opposite

"The Birds are Circling" 9x12 inches, oil on paper Today’s painting is a companion piece to yesterday’s. As I was painting it, I kept thinking “The vultures are circling…except maybe the opposite.” I used photographs of a white-tailed tropicbird for a reference for...

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Day 30. Reteach a thing its loveliness.

“The Bud Stands for All Things” 24×24 inches, oil on paper

I discovered this poem last week by Galway Kinnell and immediately started planning a painting in my head. Originally, I had intended for this to be my day 31 offering, the finale to this month’s work, but I have another idea for the month’s conclusion and there is now just one day left to see if I can pull it all together. 

When I was a teacher in my twenties, I went to lunch with some coworkers at this place called Martin’s Wine Cellar where they rotated art exhibitions from local artists. I don’t remember who the artist was that I saw that day, but I remember the paintings. The artist used multiple canvases in each piece, having attached smaller canvases to larger ones and letting the painted image flow from the more raised canvas to the base canvas. I loved it so much I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And apparently I’m still thinking about it nearly twenty years later.

And finally, I tried it. The circle portion of this piece is a thin circle canvas attached to a larger square canvas. When the floral borders emerged in my work starting on day 16, I knew this might be the way I would approach a multi-canvas piece. 

All the plants and flowers in this piece are healing flowers. The orange blooms are marigolds, known to relieve pain when applied topically. The grass-like leaves shooting from the reddish stems is rosemary, which is often used as an oil to treat nervous system pathological conditions like anxiety. 

The long skinny leaves are spider plants which give off lots of oxygen, helpful for respiration. And finally, the rounded leaves are Eucalyptus which both cleans the air and is known to have a calming effect.  

“Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness” says the poem that inspired this piece, and it in St. Francis lays hands on a pig. I wonder if it is the laying on of hands– on a canvas or guitar or yarn or paper in pen, that reteaches us our loveliness. 

 

Saint Francis and the Sow

BY GALWAY KINNELL

 

The bud

stands for all things,

even for those things that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;   

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on its brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;   

as Saint Francis

put his hand on the creased forehead

of the sow, and told her in words and in touch   

blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow   

began remembering all down her thick length,   

from the earthen snout all the way

through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,   

from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine   

down through the great broken heart

to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering   

from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:

the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

 

 

Please note: All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.

st joseph painting

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Day 31. If you want to go far…

"If You Want to go Far" 24x30 inches, oil on canvas I started this month with a bike, and I knew I wanted to end with one too. Only this time there’s not just one, but several. All month I’ve been thinking about the African proverb that says “If you want to go fast,...

read more

Day 29. Intuition

"Follow Your Intuition" 9x12 inches, oil on paper My art studio is a 300 square foot storage room underneath our raised house. I have an AC unit but no heat, so for a handful of days during the year it’s miserably cold. Those days are almost always in January. Those...

read more

Day 28. Except the Opposite

"The Birds are Circling" 9x12 inches, oil on paper Today’s painting is a companion piece to yesterday’s. As I was painting it, I kept thinking “The vultures are circling…except maybe the opposite.” I used photographs of a white-tailed tropicbird for a reference for...

read more

Day 29. Intuition

“Follow Your Intuition” 9×12 inches, oil on paper

My art studio is a 300 square foot storage room underneath our raised house. I have an AC unit but no heat, so for a handful of days during the year it’s miserably cold. Those days are almost always in January. Those days have been all the recent ones. 

So I set up a little table easel in the backroom of my gallery. I meant for it to be just for one day or so, but I have enjoyed leaving my house so much to paint, I’ve stayed at that little make-shift workspace for the last two weeks. The lighting isn’t good. It’s cramped, and yet the change of scenery feels exactly right. 

From this space, these images on paper have emerged. They come almost entirely from my imagination, and I don’t know what they are going to look like until they arrive. They are freeing because I do not have to move my eyes back and forth from reference image to painting. I have only to look at the surface in front of me and see what happens. 

These paintings are about trusting my training. Trusting that I know enough about proportions and shapes and lines to use and bend and break the “rules.” 

 

 

Please note: All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.

st joseph painting

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Day 31. If you want to go far…

"If You Want to go Far" 24x30 inches, oil on canvas I started this month with a bike, and I knew I wanted to end with one too. Only this time there’s not just one, but several. All month I’ve been thinking about the African proverb that says “If you want to go fast,...

read more

Day 29. Intuition

"Follow Your Intuition" 9x12 inches, oil on paper My art studio is a 300 square foot storage room underneath our raised house. I have an AC unit but no heat, so for a handful of days during the year it’s miserably cold. Those days are almost always in January. Those...

read more

Day 28. Except the Opposite

"The Birds are Circling" 9x12 inches, oil on paper Today’s painting is a companion piece to yesterday’s. As I was painting it, I kept thinking “The vultures are circling…except maybe the opposite.” I used photographs of a white-tailed tropicbird for a reference for...

read more

Day 28. Except the Opposite

“The Birds are Circling” 9×12 inches, oil on paper

Today’s painting is a companion piece to yesterday’s. As I was painting it, I kept thinking “The vultures are circling…except maybe the opposite.” I used photographs of a white-tailed tropicbird for a reference for these birds although they are only very loosely based on their models.

I think the meaning gets lost to say, “The white-tailed tropicbirds are circling,” but the idea of birds circling, not because they think bloodshed will soon offer them an easy meal, but because they think some new thing, idea, hope, or love might be born, is what I am most after.

This morning I read on Wikipedia that “the tropicbirds’ call is typically a loud, piercing, shrill, but grating whistle, or crackle. These are often given in a rapid series when they are in a display flight at the colony.” I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Geese in Mary Oliver’s poem. Their call is “harsh and exciting” as it announces our place, “over and over, in the family of things.”

 

Please note: All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.

st joseph painting

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Day 31. If you want to go far…

"If You Want to go Far" 24x30 inches, oil on canvas I started this month with a bike, and I knew I wanted to end with one too. Only this time there’s not just one, but several. All month I’ve been thinking about the African proverb that says “If you want to go fast,...

read more

Day 29. Intuition

"Follow Your Intuition" 9x12 inches, oil on paper My art studio is a 300 square foot storage room underneath our raised house. I have an AC unit but no heat, so for a handful of days during the year it’s miserably cold. Those days are almost always in January. Those...

read more

Day 28. Except the Opposite

"The Birds are Circling" 9x12 inches, oil on paper Today’s painting is a companion piece to yesterday’s. As I was painting it, I kept thinking “The vultures are circling…except maybe the opposite.” I used photographs of a white-tailed tropicbird for a reference for...

read more

Day 27. One day at a time.

“Look at the Birds of the Air” 9×12 inches, oil on paper

Every 31 takes me on a different trail through the same forest. One year I discovered the magic of watercolor. Another, my ideas and hopes started to grow as plants and flowers from the heads of human figures, a concept I’ve been playing with ever since. One year I created images based on stories of bravery people had sent in to me. 

This year, my big discovery is working on paper which seems to change everything in a way I’m not yet able to describe clearly. 

Today’s painting is still about my birds. And maybe some of the blue sky I referenced on Day 15. The thing I love about this month’s practice is that it forces me to take it one day at a time. I can neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns. I go to sleep at night not knowing if inspiration will visit the next day, and if it does what it will look like. 

And even though I’ve done several paintings this month I’ll never show, they are as much a part of this one-day-at-a-time practice as anything else.

Her timing isn’t always great. She runs late, forgets her keys or Stanley cup or sunglasses and has to go back to get them a few times. But inspiration always comes, eventually. She’s a pain in the ass. But she’s never, not yet, been a no show. 

 

Please note: All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.

st joseph painting

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Day 31. If you want to go far…

"If You Want to go Far" 24x30 inches, oil on canvas I started this month with a bike, and I knew I wanted to end with one too. Only this time there’s not just one, but several. All month I’ve been thinking about the African proverb that says “If you want to go fast,...

read more

Day 29. Intuition

"Follow Your Intuition" 9x12 inches, oil on paper My art studio is a 300 square foot storage room underneath our raised house. I have an AC unit but no heat, so for a handful of days during the year it’s miserably cold. Those days are almost always in January. Those...

read more

Day 28. Except the Opposite

"The Birds are Circling" 9x12 inches, oil on paper Today’s painting is a companion piece to yesterday’s. As I was painting it, I kept thinking “The vultures are circling…except maybe the opposite.” I used photographs of a white-tailed tropicbird for a reference for...

read more

Day 26. Who is watching whom?

“Bird Watcher” 6×6 inches, oil on canvas

I saw a post on instagram recently that I shared. “One day you’re young and carefree; the next you’re like, “Is that a tufted titmouse at my bird feeder?!” 

I don’t think I much noticed birds when I was younger and could probably name as many as I could count on one hand. I can’t pinpoint when that changed precisely. Even still, when people come to the gallery and of my Great Blue Herons say something like “Oh! Look at the Pelican” I die a little inside.

This painting started as a tufted titmouse, a bird people often mistake for a Blue Jay in my paintings, which admittedly has more to do with how I paint them than any deficiency on the viewer’s part. 

Funny then, that I actually painted over the Tufted Titmouse and replaced it with a jay in today’s painting. The title of this painting does not refer to the human viewer, but to the bird– a bird doing the watching, eyeing you, making sure you don’t mistype her. And you wouldn’t. Everyone gets the Blue Jays right.

Please note: All 31 paintings will be on display at our gallery celebration February 24th from 5-8pm. The show will also feature other artists who have been part of a 31 in 31 community.

st joseph painting

Comments

Subscribe to Blog via Email

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More From The Blog

Day 31. If you want to go far…

"If You Want to go Far" 24x30 inches, oil on canvas I started this month with a bike, and I knew I wanted to end with one too. Only this time there’s not just one, but several. All month I’ve been thinking about the African proverb that says “If you want to go fast,...

read more

Day 29. Intuition

"Follow Your Intuition" 9x12 inches, oil on paper My art studio is a 300 square foot storage room underneath our raised house. I have an AC unit but no heat, so for a handful of days during the year it’s miserably cold. Those days are almost always in January. Those...

read more

Day 28. Except the Opposite

"The Birds are Circling" 9x12 inches, oil on paper Today’s painting is a companion piece to yesterday’s. As I was painting it, I kept thinking “The vultures are circling…except maybe the opposite.” I used photographs of a white-tailed tropicbird for a reference for...

read more