Day 26. Both, and.

 

“Mourn and Rejoice” 4×4, oil on canvas

January is the longest month. All the others end as soon as they start. But January brings with it a daily painting, and that alone seems to extend it. 

I looked at my nine year old yesterday, put both my hands on both his cheeks and said, “Will you do me a favor?” “Yes!” he replied. “Will you stay just like this? Forever?” 

He smiled. “Mom, you know I can’t do that.”

I know. 

Every season there seems to be longing for the one that was or hope for the one that will be. January keeps me focused on the day that is, the painting that is now. Maybe it teaches me to properly celebrate and to properly mourn all that passes through. I like to think of my little brass bands as both grieving and celebrating: all that’s gone, all that is, and all that will be.

Day 25. Room for all

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“Surprise Visitor” 4×4, oil on canvas

The tufted titmouse. When I first started getting them in my yard in Covington I was elated. I’d never seen one up close before, and by sheer luck of whatever seed I’d picked at the gardening store down the road, there they were. Like magic or a happy accident. 

Today’s painting is done exclusively with a brush. There’s a real softness to it that I enjoy even though my best advice has been to “relax,” and I’m saying it over and over to the part of me that is having an identity crisis over not having picked up a palette knife at all. There’s room at the supply table for all.

Day 24. Run this run.

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“A lot on my mind”  6×6, oil on canvas

Here’s something that happens a lot on one of those guided runs I do: The coach says, “You may feel like picking up the pace. Sometimes it takes discipline not to go faster even when you you can. This is a recovery run. I want you to run this run and not a different one.” 

Here’s something that happens a lot during my 31 in 31: I want to bust out of the rhythm of small paintings because I’m getting a little tired of them. I want to create something really BIG with a whole lot going on. I want to scratch away at layers and build and re do, add and subtract. But I’m going to run this run, do this practice because I believe that it sets me up for bigger pieces throughout the rest of the year. One month of small, focused and above all else steady. One month where I create absolutely nothing (brand new resolution for 2022 coming at ya, or rather not coming at ya, circa August) and ten months to paint all the things– big, small, simple, elaborate, exploratory, routine. 

So for now, today’s painting, another in the series, this time in profile and this time with a goldfinch I’m trying to decide if I should redo and make smaller. Sometimes what you’ve got on your mind takes up a lot of room? Right? 

I’m slowly but surely getting all the paintings from the month ready for our gallery party which is February 4th from 6-8pm. Live music and other performances + art by other members of the 31 group. 

Day 23. Sheer delight and gratitude

 

“Sheer Delight” 11×14, acrylic on canvas

I was working on my first ever painting assignment in college and as the professor made the rounds in the studio, she stopped at my easel and commented that she could tell I had been painting for quite some time. I was overly quick to tell her it was my first one minus the finger variety we did as kids. “Hmm,” was all she replied, unphased. 

I’ve written about that blessed overconfidence before– when you know so very little that the smallest bit of praise can have you ready to submit your work to the Museum of The Greatest Painters Known. 

The same professor said later that it would take at least a decade to be any good at painting. It turns out that her “I can tell you’ve been painting a while” didn’t mean anything other than I looked pretty comfortable holding that brush. I think she was responding to my lack of reservation. No one had ever really told me what to do or not to do with paint. My great aunt had shown me drawing. This painting thing was entirely new, and I embraced that newness like a toddler trying her first birthday cake–  stained hands, clothes, hair, and all.

But then I knew more, and the strokes became a little more polished but also more self-conscious. I started thinking more about whether what transpired was any good instead of just riding that wave of, to borrow from Mary Oliver, sheer delight and gratitude. 

I’ve not painted with acrylics in quite some time, but it’s what I used on that very first painting (a study of a Van Gogh where we had to divide the image into three different color schemes). 

I bought some acrylic paints recently, just to see, just to remember. Today’s painting is what happened. It has a companion piece that I painted at the same time that didn’t turn out. You win some, you lose some. But this one has the spirit of something in it that I like. So after having stared at it for quite some time, I added the words to Mary Oliver’s “Invitation,” and called it a day. I don’t know that I’ll go back to acrylic painting any time soon. But there was delight there. And there was gratitude.

Day 22. The inside on the outside

“Inside on the Outside” 6×6, oil on canvas

One of the reasons I do the 31 in 31 every year is for the gifts. There are always little unexpected connections, joys and insights that pop up along the way. They come unannounced and without fanfare. They feel like childhood Christimas morning if you were to wake up and have no idea it was Christams morning. I’ll tell you about one.

Last week, one of the writers in the group wrote a poem that references the series of wilderness-haired women I’ve been exploring. I’ve finally added a little brass band to this one as well as scribbled Caroline’s poem into the background. I’ve included a legible version below. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

 

“Half-Shadowed Woman”

by Caroline Dazet Sobolewskit

Today I saw a woman

With wilderness for hair

She startled me

She is me

 

It was as though

Seeing

the inside on the outside

all the wiry synapses

A blink of light or color

here and there

 

There a thought

here a memory

emotion below

drive at the uppermost

corner

 

There is music in that

wilderness

sharp crescendos

soft chords

 

There is prayer

There the whispered petitions

of the beating heart

somewhere beneath all those vines

 

There too is paint

and color

and laughter

a mural of faces

an orchestra of voices

 

Here and there

are flowers

Tendrils that end in leaves

and some that simply taper off

 

Oh that I might

show you inside

that wilderness

that you might know it

As I do

Day 21. Advice Givers


“Let it Soak in” 5×5, oil on canvas

I was painting another one of my wilderness-haired women, trying to decide what kind of bird to put in the brush (still thinking about putting a brass band in there at some point). I usually go for the tiny and cute variety– little whimsical things. But what I wanted this time was something strong and sturdy. Not a flitterer but a stand-your-grounder.

So I picked the great blue heron, the ones I often watch and sometimes see how close I can get to at the beach. They are among my favorite advice givers, exuding patience, confidence, and perseverance. At day 21, all three of those things feel pretty important.

All the paintings from the month will be available February 4th at the gallery (and online soon thereafter). We’ll be celebrating with live music, wine, and the work of other artists who have been participating in the 31. Hope you can make it!