Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Three Blue Eggs & the Importance of Listening

"Blue One", watercolor, 4"x4".

"As far as I'm concerned there are only three mystical places in the world: the desert just outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Tree of Life in the Arab Emirate of Bahrain, and the restaurant at the corner of Sunset and Crescent,
 because that's where I first met her and that's where I first touched her."~L.A. Story

What you listen to while you paint is very important. Whether it be music, audiobooks or films, what enters your ears as you concentrate on creative output directly effects the result. Now, I'm not saying you need to listen to "Citizen Kane", "Lawrence Of Arabia" or "Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance" to do good work. All that matters is that what you listen to moves you, or keeps you at peace, or inspires you, or fires you up. Whatever makes you do the best work possible is key. I remember many years ago listening to a biography on Ernest Shackleton while I painted a self-portrait, while more recently I listened to "No Country For Old Men" while painting "Figure, Perched", a portrait of my friend Gayle. There are certain films and TV shows which I return to a lot, because of the dialogue, or the soundtrack, or simply the way it makes me feel.

It has been over 15 years since I've watched 'L.A. Story'. I remember loving it when I was younger, laughing at Steve Martin's writing, and of course his acting. He's a terrific writer, and clearly a romantic like myself. Plus he's a Shakespeare fan, and there's lots of 'Hamlet' references in the film, which I had forgotten about. An added bonus. So for a bit of nostalgia and laughter I decided to put on 'L.A. Story' today while I did these last two robin's egg paintings. If you haven't seen the film, see it. It's silly and funny and a terrific satire on L.A. culture. Included in this post are my favourite quotations from the film. 

So, to the robin's egg paintings. I found this little egg while out running along the Millennium Trail here in Whitehorse, Yukon last week. I ran past it at first, but then 20 feet further along the path I stopped, turned back and gently picked it up in my hand, examining it. There was no evidence of a bird around, so that gave me hope for wherever he/she may be now. I marveled at the indescribable ice-warm blue of the egg, and wondered about having the instinct and courage to break free at last from something so small, to emerge from one world into another. I cradled it in my hand and continued my run, knowing if I opened my hand too much it would catch the air and most likely break below on the asphalt. I made it home with the shell and took some photos. These painting are the result. 

"Blue Two", watercolour, 4"x4"

"'Ordinarily I don't like to be around interesting people because it means I have to be interesting too.' 
'Are you saying I'm interesting?'
'All I'm saying is that when I'm around you I find myself showing off, which is the idiot's version of being interesting.'"~L.A. Story

I knew I wanted to do a very simple painting of the egg...so I took out my watercolour set which I had recently taken to The Lake District in England with me. Each watercolour painting took under half an hour, and required a steady hand. Watercolour is hard. It hates being told what to do. It is a fierce taskmaster of a medium. I respect it, and find it a challenge. You can't slap watercolour paint down on paper and push it around like you can with oil paint...the paper would pill and the paint would turn to mud. Instead you have to use water and pigment carefully, set your tone down and WAIT. 

"Blue Three", oil on panel, 4"x4"

"So there I was jabbering at her about my new job as a serious newsman, about anything at all, but all I could think was 'wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful and most wonderful and yet again, wonderful."~L.A. Story

The two watercolors were fun and scary to do...to pick up something you remember yet forget, yet know you will remember once again...it was like reuniting with an old friend: a bit of small talk and then right back to business, back to ease and comfort, back to the familiar patterns which formed your friendship in the first place. 

The oil painting at the end was fun to do. I had a little wood panel and slathered on the gesso yesterday....I MAY have forgotten to sand off the gesso in the excitement to get painting, but so be it. SO BE IT :) I like it for the fact that I didn't see the forest because I couldn't wait to get into the trees. 

With words or music in our ears while we paint, I think different synapses fire, or some sort of alternate neurological reaction happens. I don't know what it is but I know that years later, I can remember the exact programs I listened to while painting. Oliver Sacks would have an answer for why...but I'm content to not know it...to just keep painting and living and dreaming and living the dream. 

"All I know is on the day your plane was to leave if I had the power I would turn the winds around. I would roll in the fog. I would bring in storms. I would change the polarity of the earth so compasses couldn't work, so your plane couldn't take off."~L.A. Story