Sometimes to get myself going, I'll paint "blow-out" pieces - I put a canvas on the wall or huge paper on the floor, and just do whatever comes to me. Last Saturday Chris helped me clean up the studio and staple a huge piece of canvas to the wall - 6'x10'. Saturday night I became aware that I wanted to paint a lily, a Stargazer Lily, to be exact. I don't question it when I get ideas like that. I just feel grateful.
After a busy few days, Wednesday evening I went to the store and bought some lilies. Thursday morning I woke up excited for the first time in a while and went out to the studio after meditating and doing my Morning Pages. I jumped right in. First thing I did was put on Sanjay Mishra's album Meditation. I picked up an Alizarin Crimson paint stick and danced with it on the canvas. A reminder, "FAT, JUICY, LOOSE" scrawled itself across the top of the canvas. Curves danced across the canvas as I moved my hips in time to the music, eyes closed. I picked up the lily and drew it loosely on the canvas. White paint stick. More drawing. Turpentine on large brush. Smear/spread the paint. Dance the rhythm of the flower. Blend, smear, green/yellow in the center, crisp white edges rippling up and down. Delicate soft leaves took form on canvas.
Wanting more, I went out to our garden to see if anything was blooming. I discovered a tender yellow Columbine. I broke it off its stem and brought it into the studio. Trying not to follow the same procedure, wanting to keep things fresh, I want and meditated for a few moments to allow first thoughts to arise again. Then I put charcoal to canvas, cadmium yellow paint stick, titanium white, turpentine. Multicolor shadows to create the pockets in the petals. I remind myself "FAT, JUICY, LOOSE". I dance somemore. I see the Columbine like I've never noticed it before. I scrawl around the flower to change the outline and give myself more crispness. I remind myself "LOOSE."
At a loss, but wanting more, I remember our hydrangea bush which has inexplicably blossomed profusely this year without interference from the deer. I rush out to pick one, finding one with barely open flowers, still greenish yellow in the center. I have no idea how I'll draw this complicated flower - so many little parts - how to keep them all straight? I draw first with charcoal, realize soon I've lost my place completely. I pick up a paint stick and draw the same series of blooms. Lose my place again. Pick up the brush and paint each little flower before moving on to the next one. Mostly I'm true to the bloom, though I imagine I faked it a little bit!
My stomach calls me into the house for lunch. When I return, I plan to put another hydrangea in the other corner. When I get back, the hydrangea has faded too much to use it again. I pick another one, this one more developed, more purple. I work on it til it's finished, again, trying to stay loose, trying not to copy what I did before, trying to keep it fresh and new.
Yesterday I had writer's group in the studio. My writing felt quite uninspired and trite. After group, I had some lunch then got caught up watching Doc Martin and Downton Abbey - there's a VERY good reason we don't have cable TV! It's addictive! Finally around four I made it into the studio. I needed another flower. I got our one Sweet William from the garden. Mom gave me the plant when we moved in here nine years ago. She also gave me the hydrangea. I like the idea of painting flowers from her garden which most likely came from my grandmother's garden too. Not sure why, but I give these a bright yellow background. I want to do more on the canvas, but it's dinner time. I'm tired.
I was wondering what else to include since we have no other flowers in our yard - the deer are voracious plant-eaters, and we have almost no sun, so we're very limited in what will grow here! I remember the Periwinkle vine on the side of the studio. The blooms are long-since past, but the vine is lovely. I let it thread through the whole canvas. Finally I connect the background, spreading color that is already there, adding others, blending, intuitively deciding what should go where - yellow here to balance yellow there, dark purple to offset the light or to create a shadow, alizarin crimson to tie it all together.
Just as Chris arrives home from a Saturday at work, I notice one of the petals on the first lily I did is the wrong size. I have to correct it. He heads out to run an errand so I can finish. I appreciate his understanding. I correct the petal, add more background, take some pictures. Feel finished - for now. Tomorrow when I come back out, I'll take a look and see what might need to be tweaked. It feels great for now! I must remember to let myself PLAY. It makes all the difference.
Chris suggested when I was feeling stuck that I think about what brings me joy. That I remember to live LARGE. To play. To do what feels exciting and compelling. That I forget about "should" and just ask, "I wonder what would happen if..." I like the answer to those questions this time around. I do believe it's the way to live. And paint. Now if only I can remember!