Saturday, May 30, 2009

Savoring--Truly Seeing Our Surroundings

Slovenia, one of my painter friends commented a couple of posts ago, looks like a painter's paradise. So it is, but there are interesting scenes to paint close to home as well--near to my home, and, I am certain, near to yours. These photos may seem unremarkable to you, but to me they depict simple natural elements agreeably posing for landscape painting.
On Friday, I stopped in to spend some time with my good friend, Dee. Knowing that I am always on the lookout for North Florida landscape subjects to paint, she had told me to bring my camera when I came. 
She then treated me to a short ride to see two of her favorite everyday places. These are not tourist destinations like those I wrote about several weeks ago, just everyday delights. Near her suburban home, she has noticed that a number of water birds are nesting not far from a busy highway. Now, every time she passes, she looks over to see dozens of egrets, cormorants, and other birds happily congregating in the scrubby trees above a marshy stretch set a short distance back from the road. It is a magical scene in an unlikely location. I hope to return soon and to have photos to show you.
Next we stopped at a subdivision entrance bordered by a woodsy area with a number of sculptural dead trees, looking like standing driftwood among all the green. As landscaping "beautification" seems inevitable, Dee wanted me to enjoy the unique sight while it is here--surely the developers will send in their bulldozers to take these beauties down at some point. They will be replaced by more civilized, controlled vegetation, which we feel will be a loss.
My photos are not great because it was near noon, but they are still helpful reference photos for my painting. One of my "works in progress" was inspired by a scene at Hanna Park, on the northern edge of the Jacksonville area--a grey heron stood with his head turned to the side at the edge of a small inlet on a lake. Across the inlet is a riot of vegetation--lots of green in various shades, reflected in the shimmering water. It's a bit too much green for an interesting composition. There were dead trees very much like those we saw Friday near the water, but they were outside the frame of my reference photos.
Now, thanks to Dee, I have some good models for the skeletal tree or two I need as a contrast in my painting. This will yield a better result than "making it up." And, I have two new places to visit again, just to take in the beauty and to discover new painting subjects. 
Dee is one of those inherently creative people who truly sees what is around her, who loves birds in particular, and who is willing to pause and appreciate, even as she hurries to work or on errands. She credits this capacity for everyday appreciation with helping her get through some of the harder times in her life.
Question of the day: What sights, near home or on your usual routes here and there, have lifted your spirits in recent days?

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