Saturday, March 10, 2018

Changing my life with plein air painting. Year one.

About this time last year my life got kind of shaken out. Im not here to tell you about my personal drama, but suffice it to say I ended up having to spend a lot more time by myself and kind of had to decide if I liked myself enough to want to be my own main hang.  I was left with a gaping void in my life that just made me want to curl up and give up and generally turned me into a heaving wet mess of a human being. After a few jagged weeks I realized how much my inner dialogue had been controlling my life, specifically getting in the way of my own happiness. 

You ever forget the radio is on in your house and after a while you cant figure out why your so annoyed and then your like "ugh, Im listening to car ads" and some guy with a growly voice is yelling at you to "get on down here and scoop up this awesome low financing option!!!!!!" That's kind of what had been going on in my head for the last thirty some years of my life. A running commentary track of negative self talk, that I had tuned out suddenly was turned up to full volume and I had the opportunity to deal with it directly. 

I began actively seeking out the things that bring me the most joy in life and of course painting was high on that list. I also ran a ton, and cooked food for myself and enjoyed every minute I could with my kids. I read a lot of books about improving your life and went to conferences on self empathy. I even fucking meditated for a while. Just saying there was a lot going on, a lot of self care, a lot of learning. So all that and also I started really focusing on painting outside. Thats what I really came here to tell you about.

 First off there is a pretentious french sounding art word for painting outside that you have to get over if you want to go down this road. "Plein Aire" painting is fancy talk for sitting your butt down outside and cussing through an afternoon getting sunburned and bitten by bugs just so you can end up with a drippy mess you might have been better off just snapping a photo of. I mean half the time after an hour and a half I realize I wouldn't even want a photo of this dumb lake or whatever. But theres a secret joy to it, I'll explain. I just have to start out being unerringly pessimistic cause thats true to me. Thats really how I feel a lot of the time. Thats the noise in my head.

Those last two nautical scenes are the first two real plein air paintings I feel like I have done. I mean I painted stuff I saw outside before. I have been making art my whole life but somehow this was different. It was like I knew I was just there to learn, that nothing grand may come of the time I spent seeing those trees and waves and boats and trying to interpret the weight of the warm wet air that separated me from everything I was trying so desperately to see that afternoon, as I sat on the edge of the RV park I was camping in, on the coast of Vancouver Island BC.

The old timers walking their dogs out to the otter strewn dock, commented as they walked past and again on the return trip. It was clear people saw this as a good thing. A real and brave attempt at humanity. That was encouraging, and despite what some people say about doing art for yourself, I am totally honest about the fact that I started drawing as a kid to impress other kids. I wanted a super power, something that made me special. I can't separate myself from that core desire to be recognized by others, but what I have started to learn, is that in addition to that there is a person looking at my work from inside of my own eyes and that seeking to make that man proud is maybe worth something too. Ugh, I'm crying, again, another thing I have learned this year is that turning my love inward is about the hardest thing for me to do. I don't understand the riddle of my life well enough to tell you why, but even saying that I deserve to love myself, that I deserve love at all, cuts me so deep, opens me right up. I know I can't be the only person going through this, so I hope it's not totally selfish of me to share it here. You deserve love too. We all do.

My mother in law is a painter as well. She makes beautiful watercolors, and a few years ago she gave me a super cute painting box. A little wooden case with drawers and a pop up easel. Manufactured by Royal Langnickel, oddly enough I didn't realize until much later that art company makes my favorite sketchbooks too.

This little art box sat in my garage for a couple years, but it came with me when I went out to find myself last year. It is about as big as a big ass toaster, and holds paper and paint with room for a jar of water and a book to read if painting isn't going well.

After a year of travel and adventure it is mostly held together with stickers and dried paint, and last week I passed it on to another painter in hopes of building a contingent of friends who might want to sit on our butts under a blue sky and paint what we see all together.

It came with me and the crew to Hawaii over the holidays and I must say some beaches are more fun to paint then others. There was a lot of growth and practice between these two trips, and the road ahead sometimes feels wide open, but it's like exercise, you don't always want to get out there. When you do though, you can feel your soul opening up like a new leaf in the sun.

There is a lot more I want to share about how this little paint box changed my life, opened up my heart and let me feel real peace and joy, and opened up the conversation with the self hating critics in my mind, so I can take them with a grain of salt....all that and a frosty coors time.
Big island, the 69's

My travel buddy.

You cant really see it in the photo above, but that is Mauna Loa up there with snow all over it, while I sit in the sand at 75 degrees. What? 

Embodied cognition, Painting and Heartache.

This last year has brought me all kinds of opportunities for growth. At this ripe old age I would say that heartbreak ...