Sea and Shore – Strong Finish

As a painter, I must “hold space” for a work from the first moments of standing before my subject, gathering information and feeling my way into the painting, right up until the final brushstroke that says – done! It is not a linear process but rather a series of sparse markers that move in and out of my awareness. The large “Sea and Shore” landscape oil painting is a good example of this.

Yes, there are methods and tools, that are picked up and put down as needed, but much of the work of painting is done without what we understand as “knowing.” For me, it is more of an exploration or a trying out of things until something “seems and feels right”.

How do you DO that!? This is a question that is frequently asked in relation to viewers finding themselves inside one of my paintings – such as smelling the sea or feeling the warmth of the sun on their back. So, I will try to explain….

At this point, the process of painting is kind of like driving a race car for me. You know  how you don’t usually need to think about driving to the corner store unless there is something really unusual, like a fallen tree on the road or you have sprained your wrist and you must be careful when you are shifting gears? When we have been driving for years, we can usually just navigate to where we want to go and not think too much about steering, breaking, obeying the speed limit or putting on our turn signal and such. We have become accustom to monitoring all the various aspects of  being able to drive successfully from one place to another. Well, painting wet-into-wet is a little like developing the skills of an endurance race car driver. One must plan ahead, be quick, precise, accurate and have extensive training while practice regularly… and the painting still might crash and burn! The painter must be courageous, step into the risk of failure, and use her split-second decision-making skills to save the painting and possibly even herself. And when it works, then it is magic! Then you can hear the waves, smell the sea or feel the breeze coming across the landscape.

As you may guess, the intention for a work must be clear and yet held lightly as I pick up the brushes and proceeds into the unexpected. The unknowns can parallelize painters or have them work safely so that they make no mistakes or only use approaches that are already familiar. The results when this happens are often dismal. To successfully paint a vibrant work, using all of our sensory information, that then comes alive on a canvas, means being willing to risk – everything! I must confront what is raw and uncomfortable within myself before the inner beauty of the landscape can become visible on the canvas. There are no shortcuts. There are no easy wins or formulas. But there are practices, intentions and mark-making that will start us out in the right direction. From there, we must be willing to step beyond what we already know. Painters must be ready to figuratively die on a canvas before the painting can fully live.

That said, and out of the way, let’s have a look and see what happened with “Sea and Shore” since the last post. Sometimes it is easier to see in black and white.

Sometimes, we just want to look at the work from a different angle.  Yes, it was dinner on the deck for several days while the painted edges are left to dry. 😉

Sometimes, we just want to explore and trace the lines of movement. Though I was visually aware of my composition choice and I had knowingly chose the structure of the spiral, it was only after the painting was completed that I roughly traced it out over top of an image – revealing one of its secrets.

Then comes the final test. The painting is hung on the gallery wall for the viewer to scrutinize and ponder.

The painting must now stand on its own. It is separated from the painter and has its own relationships to build, its own stories to tell and its own journeys to take. The painter, after all, is only a temporary custodian once the work is completed. The painter’s efforts tend to dissolve somehow once the work is seen through the eyes of the viewer. It is the viewer who is now in first-relationship with the work – not, the painter. If there is a connection at all, after this, to the painter, it is only by curiosity and the invitation of the viewer. Maybe we can understand it better this way – the painting itself believes it was born of its own freewill and is unaware of the painter, the paint, the brush marks, the canvas or even its supporting frame. It is not that the painting is unappreciative of its reason for existing, it is just that the painting has know way of knowing. The painting just trusts that it has always existed. Therefore, the painter has a sacred obligation to never break this trust by inserting themselves prominently into the work – because if they do, the magic of the painting might be broken. The work itself must always lead.

The large “Sea and Shore” landscape painting hangs for one-day-only in the gallery before it is scooped up by an art collector.

SOLD! Sea and Shore – 36 x 48 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch.

And there it goes…. off on an adventure of its own, hopefully keeping its magic for several hundred years to come.

Thank you for sharing its journey into the world that has been captured in these three recent posts.

What risks do you take so that your creations can fully live?

PART 1 “Sea and Shore – A beginning” can be viewed HERE.

PART 2 “Sea and Shore – Building Up Paint” can be viewed HERE.

© 2018 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

Achival record or mindfulness practice: painting the southwest coast of Canada

Am I archiving our southwest coast of Canada in my paintings?

The very idea has my hands go clammy and a coolness run from tailbone up to the very crown of my head. What a strange assumption I at first thought! But then it came up a couple of more times. But the concept is no longer presented as a question.

“You are creating archival records of these beautiful trees and seascapes!”

Northeasterly Morning Strait of Georgia Mayne Island BC 20 x 40 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch

It is a concerning accusation, at least by definition…

“In general, archives consist of records that have been selected for permanent or long-term preservation on grounds of their enduring cultural, historical, or evidentiary value.” (Wikipedia)

I am more than a bit squeamish about the idea that my paintings might be considered historical evidence collected to preserve something that no longer exists. I have held higher hopes than this for the influence of these works! I have had no intention of creating historical records with my brush. Instead, I have wanted to create a desire to preserve and protect the land, the sea and our humanity that knowingly or unknowingly rely on them. I want to strengthen our direct relationship and connection with our natural environment, pure and yet not so simple it seems.

Have I failed if the paintings, even before I am dead, even before this fragile environment is damaged beyond repair, are being considered as important historical archival documents?

As our Canadian federal government agrees to buy an obsolete, yet-to-be-built twinning pipeline from big oil stakeholders for a whopping 4.5 billion of taxpayer dollars while the Provinces and First Nations head for the courts, I am going to go paint!

I am going to drive to my location in my 2012 Subaru Outback with my water-mixable, vegetable oil, paints that use no solvents. Yes, as you can see, I find this sustainability and transition to clean energy complicated. Yet, I trust we will get there or parish trying. (These are the only two options really.)

I am going it go paint, not as an act of creating a historical record but as a meditation, an act of mindfulness in appreciation of what is.

Therefore, I beg of you – experience these paintings as reminders of what we need to protect rather than coveted records of something that will likely disappear, through oil spills, through climate change, through our collective lack of regard! A painting is nothing, absolutely nothing, in comparison to the real thing – in comparison to you experiencing the ordinary moments in an ordinary day somewhere on the southwest coast of Canada. This I am sure of!

Summer Lowtide Morning 16 x 20 inch oil on canvas plein air by Terrill Welch Aug 17 2017 IMG_0461

May the Salish sea breeze ruffle your hair as starfish wink in the low tide, speckled with seagulls, seals, leaping orcas and children playing in the pools of warm water while grandparents watch from under the shade of an old arbutus tree.

We can do this hard thing! In this I believe.

What about you? 🙂

© 2018 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