Breaking the Rules


Three unspecified species of birds listening to country songs played on a classical guitar after a long walk where nature induced a spiritual experience that made them want to do some yoga. And color. And doodle. And take selfies with their fancy but slightly outdated cameras.

16×20, oil on canvas Available Here

That second title really only makes sense if you’ve been participating in our 31 in 31 group page where there are a whole lot of creative people doing their very inspiring thing.

Today’s painting used to be a landscape of “my spot” (in fact I think that was its title) on the Tchefuncte river. It’s where I would go to be still, to stop worrying for at least a few minutes and just look at that calm river, the moss on the trees, the birds that would visit.

I had the painting on my site for a while but took it down a year or so ago. I just wasn’t happy with it. I painted over the whole thing before this January challenge started, and I did so in a playful way– I didn’t have any real plans for it, I just knew it needed to be something else. It reminds me so much of what my friend Kama (who is a painter doing the 31 day challenge also) wrote today of her day 10 painting:

What if, instead of looking for subjects, sizes, color schemes that will sell, I just paint what I feel like painting? What if instead of trying to define my style, I just do what comes out? What if the end result is not the thing, but the experience itself?
I want to hit that point during creating where struggle ceases – that flow. That place that makes me want to do more, to try again just to see what might happen. I’ve felt it a little bit over the past week.

This painting kind of slowly turned into three birds. Not herons. Not egrets. Just abstracted, bird shapes really. I always paint from photos of birds, never my imagination. And I liked what started to form, but I left it alone for a few days and when I came back to it today I knew just how to finish it– I painted around the birds to make them stand out.

This painting comes from years of observing birds, sure, but not directly. It’s born of my imagination and is the kind of painting I’ve not allowed myself the pleasure of doing for quite some time.

There’s a principle in painting called “fat over lean” in which you are supposed to layer thicker paint over thinner so as to prevent cracking since you wouldn’t want “fatter” paint that isn’t fully dry to be sealed under “leaner” paint which drys quickly. This painting, in what I think is its spirit, very much broke that rule. I’m pretty sure that the fatter layers were fully dry but the final touches were lean layers on top of some palette knife work. I’m also fairly certain that it already has a “cracked” look, one I am very much okay with.

I might love this painting. I might think it needs to be put back into the closet. I don’t feel indifferent to it. I would love your opinion– both positive and, let’s say “constructive” are welcome!

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