Thinking back on the relatively few years I have been painting, I browsed the photo file, viewing earlier works, and spent some time feeling grateful for this rewarding pursuit. A few favorite early paintings stood out, although each and every piece has some interesting features, and each represents creative learning and growing experiences.
About nine years ago, a week-long painting course at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina awakened a whole new pleasurable undertaking for me. I had expected to relax, stretch my mostly analytical mind beyond its comfort level, have fun making some messes, and come home refreshed. Well, with an excellent teacher, all my expectations were met--except one. The paintings were not total messes at all. Not that they were great art, but they were pleasing to me beyond anything I had ever thought possible.
Since then, I have learned much more and refined my painting skills with occasional local classes, guidance from my painting mentor, Linda Blondheim, and lots of practice. Painting is a whole new, unexpected source of joy.
So, as I looked back, I found three photos to show you, each representing a particularly pleasing achievement for me. Each work has elements I would do differently today, but they were the best I could do at the time, and that's good enough. No need to be overly self-critical about them (or to whine to you about the short-comings I see in them now).
It's interesting how differently artists view their own earlier work. In one painting class, a very good teacher said that she sometimes cringed when she saw some of the paintings she had sold years ago. She was somewhat ashamed of those earlier works. That seems a pity; clearly they appealed to the buyers (and probably to others). Further, regardless of other peoples' opinions, they represent a stage in her creative journey which contributed to where she is now. Linda Blondheim's attitude strikes me as healthier and more self-affirming; she enjoys looking back and values every one of her paintings, convinced that each was the best she could do at the time.
So, without apologies, here are three personal favorites from 2007 and 2008. For each, clicking on the link will pull up an earlier post describing their creation in more detail. "Look to the Hills", an 18" x 24" landscape, interprets a meaningful visit to a retreat center in Warwick, New York. The 12" x 16" marsh scene recalls a delightful day kayaking with my husband and one son (and later became an engagement gift for our son and his fiancee). The 9" x 12" "Magnolia on Purple" was based on photos of magnolia blossoms on some neighbors' trees. Each work brought frustration as I confronted its challenges, and each was a significant learning adventure.
Life's journey is always surprising--what if I had listened to my conviction that I had zero artistic ability?--what if I had never tried painting? By the way, I also value other less successful (or even totally bungled) ventures along my journey for the contribution they have made to the person I am today.
Question of the day: What surprising discovery have you made about your own abilities?