Our attention is called to focused on the grand, the absurd and the unbelievable while our everyday ordinary life is often trivialized and overlooked. I mean who hasn’t seen a clip about the predator who lovingly cared for dinner that was still a baby? Or a new discovery of a brilliant someone who was overlooked or found in an unexpected place?
So what is a painter’s life about anyway? Is it stylishly waving a brush across canvases in the studio? Or is it acquiring art collectors, collecting fans, preparing for solo exhibits, wishing for galleries shows and meandering museums? Is it dreaming of having work recognized and valued enough to make a thriving living? Well maybe, in a small part, it is these things. Mostly for this painter though, it is about tending to the ordinary. In my response to a long time blogging friend Laurie Buchanan’s post “A Twist on Impressionism” this morning, I said “I like to think that I am leaving an impression about the value of the ordinary – the things that we have the best chance of giving and receiving freely and in abundance like listening, laughing, kindness, caring, helping, sharing, observing, being present and being thoughtful.” But what does this really mean? As a painter how are these ideals expressed? What is it to tend to the ordinary?
Come for a walk or three with me and then we will come back to the studio and a current solo exhibit. We shall see if we can sort it out together.
First let’s ring the bell in the garden for attending to what is around us.
It could be the heavy mist hiding a view next to the trail.
Or a pair of reading glasses carefully hung in a tree for their owner to come back and find.
It might be a hand-knit mittens that warm small hands left on a picnic table.
Or it could simply be the winter light taking a sideways entrance into a Japanese garden.
Whatever it is that we attend to in our observation is occurring whether we notice or not. It is the ordinary everyday aspects of living. But we see them in fresh and frequently meaningful ways. The mitts reminded me of my childhood and the effort my mother put into making them for us. I desired to see them returned to their owner and placed the photograph above in a local private Facebook group. They were discovered on the post and retrieved by the owner. I have very poor eyesight without my glasses so a pair of reading glasses missing on an island where another pair can not be purchased sparked the inclusion of that image on the same post as the mittens. The image of the mist hiding a familiar view reminds me that no two days or moments are ever exactly the same and different does not mean less intriguing or valuable. This is reinforced by catching the lengths of low sun in the Japanese garden. Only for a very few minutes will it be there and then these tree too will slip into the background shadows.
But what do these experiences have to with being a painter of our natural environment?
Well, sometimes on a walk where this image was captured of the willow tree
I go back with my paints, paintbox and brushes to paint. But remember how I just noted that no two days are ever exactly the same?
Even though the fog is so thick that it settles in damp layers on my skin, I set up anyway and go to work.
In fact, it the humidity is so high that the acrylic paint won’t dry enough to allow me to layer it on painting sketch. So in the end, I know without a moments worry or hesitation that it may be less than an accurate translation of my ordinary everyday experience of the willow tree. But it is still the result we have isn’t it?
“Mayne Island willow tree in winter fog” still wet plein air acrylic sketch 8 x 10 inches
Back in the studio, I may visit the subject again. I will have my photography and my painting sketches for reference. Again, it may or may not lead to a successful final work but this we will both know – I have attended to an aspect of my everyday with observation, appreciation, curiosity and gratitude. It is a good day for this painter when this is so.
These collections of experience and memory are rendered in multiple layers using my full-sensory awareness of an ordinary day. This is what I wish to capture in my work. Here are three of the twenty-two paintings in my current solo exhibition at International Fine Art Collaborative – Zen Gallery curated by Sukhee Kwon that I feel are exemplary in this aspect.
Title: S t o r m . W a t c h i n g
Media: 30 x 40 inch oil on canvas
Title: T h e . R o a d .t o . t h e . W o r l d
Media: 12 x 16 inch oil on canvas
Title: B o w l . o f . W i n t e r . F r u i t
Media: 12 X 16 inch oil on canvas
Many of you know the stories between all of the 22 works in this collection but the sharing of these three here will do for now. My thanks to curator Sukhee Kwon for presenting my work so beautifully. Thank you for coming with me on an ordinary day, in an ordinary life of a painter.
What are you observing today in your ordinary life?
© 2015 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.
Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.
Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch
From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada
For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com
6 thoughts on “The Ordinary and the Painter”
Wonderful post, Terrill! Life is in the little moments and we must not miss them!
I so agree Michelle! And welcome to Creative Potager – my work-in-progress and bits about living blog.
Terrill — Yesterday, because I was intentionally paying attention to the ordinary things around me, I was gifted to see a Great Horned Owl. As your reader Michelle said, “Life is in the little moments and we must not miss them!”
(Thank you for sharing a link to my post)…
Oh I haven’t seen a Great Horned Owl in a few years now. Lucky you! What a treat. And you are most welcome. Your post yesterday was just such a perfect fit with what I had been musing about that it only made sense to share it here so others could wander by for a visit.
It’s so interesting to see how you’ve rendered nature into art. I’m looking especially at the willow. I’ve just taken up painting with pastels–a different medium than oils–trying to move beyond the literal likeness to capture the spirit, hard to do. But you do it so beautifully.
Thank you Deborah and it you are right it is hard to paint the spirit of things rather than just a likeness. I practice using all of my senses to do this. Such as how do I paint the sound of a wave. What is the brushstroke that represents the feel of the bark of an arbutus as I run my hands across it. These kinds of painting questions seem to help some.