So much violence all over the world. The change of season, summer to fall, seems to make it all the more vivid. Everywhere life is withering and passing away. This nature I can understand. Human nature's appetite for violence is more difficult to fathom.
I'm finding solace in a painting of my garden— another in my series of Hen & Chick mandala paintings. This one is over-the-top with gazillions of tiny images and as I venture into the painting, I'm asking myself why? This is not about some conquest of technique or skill. Though I hold craftsmanship in high regard, lately I tend to think more about the "why" of painting than craft. The gazillions of images making up the whole is about the complexity and interdependence of our life and I feel compelled to try to convey something about this. I'm swimming upstream, against the current of the watercolor milieu, where simplifying is the rule. And being a simple-minded person, who often pesters others in her life to "please simplify", I don't know where this painting is coming from!
But here we are. I'm approaching the complexity of the painting as though each tiny image is a whole painting unto itself. This is requiring new found (and quite fragile) patience with the process. I'm meeting impatience head-on with a tenderness of heart for every petal, leaf or stone. And I'm finding joy in allowing the colors to mix freely on the paper. Well, sort of freely. This is a fairly realistic work.
The series began in the garden. I composed and photographed the plants, rocks and leaves from many angles, under varied conditions of light and season. Though I'm not much of a photographer, my years of advertising design and photo direction have made me comfortable composing with the camera. I use an old projector to pencil in the large shapes from my photo onto watercolor paper and then I sit down to study the overall image and refine the drawing. I continue to draw even as I paint with both pencil and brush. For me painting is drawing and drawing is painting.
Today I worked on the first baby chick. It was tough! With my nose to the paper all day just painting shapes of color, I worried it was turning into a hopeless blob. Then, stepping back for a look at the whole, I could see my baby chick! She had arrived with all her fingers and toes. This painting experience is much like sitting zazen retreat. There is a point when you feel too exhausted to go on. You've thought all your thoughts and spun all your stories ad infinitum. You naturally begin to settle in your breath. Sometimes a clarity dawns. Like seeing your baby chick is there after all!
Sometimes you still see a hopeless blob of paint on the paper. But with patience, you're learning to make peace.