Color has always been a sidekick of mine. As a preschooler, the most splendid gift I could receive was a box of crayons, and the bigger the assortment, the better. No wonder I’m now a painter. I still own that same passion for color, but these days, I use significantly pricier paints. I buy only the highest quality of pigments and papers and canvases.
Yet owning good art supplies doesn’t assure good art. Good art, like good anything, comes from practice. Good, thoughtful, quality practice. Painting only becomes effortless when you paint all the time. Even then, there are days where every blessed stroke that goes onto a canvas is a smear of hard-won color. Happily, I’ve never been one to anguish over my art. (It is what it is. And then, on to my next painting.) I have very few frustrating creative moments. Life is too short to get all moody and upset over creating something.
Practice yields painting proficiency, but fine art, art that connects with the viewer and elicits emotion that can’t be expressed in words is about more than proficient technique. I think of any creation that pulls the viewer in and holds them there as “soul-filling art”.
To fill someone else’s soul, an artist must first fill her own. That’s where inspiration comes in. I don’t wait for inspiration. Day after day, I hike down to my studio, mount a piece of paper to my drawing board and I start painting. Something. Anything. I go there to create, not to sit and ponder inspiration for a few precious hours that could be spent creating, so I carry inspiration with me.
Owning the right supplies is useful to the creative process. Owning inspiration is essential to it. I store inspiration like a squirrel stores nuts.
We spend several inspirational winter weeks in and around Big Bend National Park, where the weather is milder than back on our lovely but chilly Davis Mountains mountainside in a canyon where sunset happens at four in the afternoon. Living in our (large and cozy!) fifth-wheel allows us to slow down, to savor a place.
One of our joys when parked in Terlingua is sitting in lawn chairs outside the RV, sipping wine (each of us with an animal in our lap) and watching the sun set on the desert. I’ll snap a few photos, but I don’t paint during our “family time” : I savor it. I absorb the light and color and the silence of the stark Chihuahuan Desert as night approaches. I feel the instant chill that seeps into my bones the moment the sun disappears. I feel the contentment of being with my husband in a lovely place. I add all that to my hoard of inspirational nuts.
I painted “Lighting the Desert Night” at our small dining table inside the RV parked on hard-packed earth so crusted with alkaline mineral deposits, you’d swear the ground was covered with an inch of snow. I used a scrap of Kitty Wallis museum grade pastel paper I found in my plein air easel. (Hence the odd size — 5 1/2″ x 10″ is not a standard size canvas, but what a perfect format for a panoramic sunset in miniature!) The new color-rich Terry Ludwig set of 60 sunrise/sunset pastel sticks I’d ordered and just picked up (c/o General Delivery, Terlingua, Texas) at the local Post Office was sitting on the table, the safest place for it until I return to my studio and organize the fragile, precious sticks in the protective boxes I keep set up on a long table by my easel.
Pastels are horribly messy to work on when done flat, but I didn’t set up my wonderfully useful Soltek travel easel, because it was stored in our “basement” and I didn’t want to step outside in the uncharacteristically dreary damp cold that January morning to get it. (I can be lazy.) Itching to create something, I simply got on with painting, using what I had on hand–an odd scrap of really good paper, a new box of luscious but limited color, a photo on my phone, and a soul filled with inspiration.
Thank you, Jim, Chert, Greystoke, companions in my travels; thank you, Nature, Beauty, God. Thank you, viewers, readers, collectors.
And Happy New Year!
Buy Lindy Cook Severns Original Art at OldSpanishTrailStudio.com