I have an online friend and fellow artist who lives in New Zealand and paints and illustrates beautifully in watercolor. Hanneke recently posted some paintings of flowers and titled her post, “Practicing Flowers”. One of the things I enjoy about being a fellow WordPress blogger, is that we can chat back and forth with ease, commenting to the comments we make on each other’s blogs. I had commented to Hanneke about how her paintings didn’t seem like practice to me. They are beautifully rendered. Here is her response to my comment:
“Painting a lot lately and looking at other people’s art, like yours, somehow slowly changes the way I look. In flowers there is something magical that’s so beautiful and I’d love to try to find what it is. This painting is more a process of learning in seeing and enjoying what is there.”
I love this. The crazy thing that happens the more we paint is that we realize we are no longer after a finished product that says Tah-Da! Here it is! A flower! A face! A place! But we realize that what we are after when we paint is something inexplicable that comes THROUGH the flower or the face. It is something BEYOND the actual subject matter, something magical or spiritual, that transcends the structural beauty of the flower. THAT’S what we’re trying to capture…and THAT’S why it always feels like practicing. Always searching for how we can harness that “otherness” and express it in paint.
The above is an example. I sit down on Friday’s to draw at the Factory. The Beauty is there for sure. It’s not the flowers themselves. It’s not the dappled light. It’s not even the tranquil setting surrounded by age-old walls, a gurgling fountain, birch trees, picturesque lampposts. There’s something I’m wanting to convey that is coming THROUGH these things to me. I try. I try again and again. Practice.
I think I could practice my whole life. I hope I do.
It reminds me of a wonderful quote by C. S. Lewis:
“…The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
If you’d like to read the whole quote, click here. It would be worth your 2 minutes! As would your few minutes of trying to capture this Beauty in paint, or pens, or words, or music. Practice, practice.
Like Hanneke says, “..it’s a process of learning in seeing and enjoying what is there.”
I’m not sure that Practice makes Perfect. It only gets us a bit closer to expressing what’s behind it all.