Life thru art & art thru life are in progress! I am excited to report that my new abstract project is well under way! (Too many exclamation points?)
Abstract number 1, our first of five to kick this project off, is a landscape of beautiful Bowron Lake, BC, which is a deeply important place to our first collector. There is a muchness to it that is essential to life. The muchy, essential quality of nature is true for people in general, but this scene, for this collector, also has connections to important real-life experiences with loved ones and respite from some above average stressors of everyday life.
And to add a beautiful twist, this painting, and these qualities, are gifts she will give to someone very important to her. I love it.
Earlier this week, I completed first and second drafts of this first abstract painting. It still needs work, but it’s starting to create the intended feeling.
Well, feedback would be really helpful with knowing this for sure, but first let’s have a looksee.
Life thru art: Draft 1
Draft 1 lays down the underpainting, the poured shapes and lines, and some colour blocks.
The underpainting is a warm transparent red oxide. This colour approximates the warm orange highlights on the clouds and will add a richness to the painting overall.
The poured paint is a medium hue blue–a combo of ultramarine and pthalo blue with titanium white. This creates and connects the shapes of the image and will allow a foundation for the range of blues the scene contains. This time I made the shapes deliberately less symmetrical than in the studies because I want the painting to gesture toward a landscape, not recreate it. Also the reflection on the water is somewhat symbolic. It represents how the landscape is recreated in the body and mind of the viewer. The mind’s recreation and body’s renewed experience have definite connection to this very real natural scene, but they also have their own creativity and depth and beauty, and so doing, are just as real in their own way. I suppose this means the painting is a sort of homage to the experience of this sublime place.
The colour blocks here aim to begin to guide the mood of the image, with its rich range of blues, purples, and oranges. It also begins to hint at depth with its full range of mirrored contrast from dark to light.
Art thru life: Draft 2
Draft 2 works to refine the lines of the poured paint, emphasizing the convergence of the clouds in both sky and reflection on the mountains in the center of the painting. It aims to work in the warmth of the sunset and tease out the true range and richness of blues, the subtleties of the purples, and soft vibrancy of the oranges. Finally, it aims to dial up the contrast and detail in key spots to convey that important sense of largeness and depth.
A few components are a bit tricksy, but this is not a bad draft. I’m excited to continue working with it to really hone in on the muchness of this scene for my first client collaborator in this project.
I’m also curious to know what feelings and traveling thoughts people get from this so far. Please feel free to share in the comments or email me directly.
Background: what is this about again?
I began to describe this first painting in my previous post called Work in progress | Abstract landscape.
Remember that this project aims to enhance peoples important life experiences through art, and enhance my art through people’s important life experiences. People send me a picture or two of something that is important to them, and they tell me about what it means to them. I then use these, and further conversation, to create an abstract painting that emphasizes those elements of meaning, their muchness, to the benefit of both the collector/collaborator and me/the artist.
The muchness of a peaceful landscape
The beautiful image of Bowron Lake at sunset represents the senses of peace, beauty, and connection with life in the landscape that reflect in one’s inner life in its presence. Wordy much? You’ll notice that I struggle a bit to describe this sublime experience. Most people do, but it is palpably there; you can feel it in the landscape.
Palpable–regarding a feeling or atmosphere, so strong as to seem almost real to the touch.
This is why I am doing this project, to help people to connect daily, in their homes, to essential experiences in life that escape speech and logic, but visually become almost real to the touch. Through sight, you can feel them in your belly or elsewhere in your body. In this case, a beautiful, peaceful landscape lands inside your body as your body mirrors that peace and depth and feeling of beauty. Your breathing steadies and heart rate slows. Your belly and shoulders relax. Your mind quiets. And you feel connected to the greatness of life overall, a part of the grandness of nature that we often forget, living in cities and even small towns, going through the practical motions of life.
Nature is good for your health: Not just an old wives tale…
…although I’m starting to think old wives have been pretty darn wise. This is a truth most of us have experienced, some already know in their bones, and science is finally catching up to.
…studies have shown that time in nature — as long as people feel safe — is an antidote for stress: It can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduce nervous system arousal, enhance immune system function, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and improve mood. Attention Deficit Disorder and aggression lessen in natural environments, which also help speed the rate of healing. In a recent study, psychiatric unit researchers found that being in nature reduced feelings of isolation, promoted calm, and lifted mood among patients. —Jim Robins, January 9, 2020, “Ecopsychology: How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health”
Life thru art & Art thru life
In the absence of the real thing, a photograph can bring you there, and so can a painting. I like abstract painting because it allows me to study the muchness of an image in relationship to the experiences that people describe for me. Through these interactions I can attempt to interpret it in a way that, to put it quite simply, makes people feel good.
It is my firm belief that people know what they need, and focusing on what is important to them satisfies this need. Certainly a painting cannot replace being in nature or with family IRL, but it can remind us, quite tangibly of the feelings and benefits these give us. A person cannot always be in peaceful, life-giving nature, but one can contemplate it and visit it regularly in a painting, with the eye and in the mind, which moves into the rest of the body.
The power of the mind
No, this is not about bending spoons, but perhaps even better.
The mind is a powerful thing, and through it, through imagined or stimulated experiences that we enrich with focused attention–such as through contemplating a painting–we can have comparable benefits to real experiences. Neuroscientist Rick Hanson, whom I’ve mentioned before in my Thots on Covid 19, has dedicated his career to helping people rewire their brains for healing and happiness. The main mechanism, you may have guessed, is the mind. Scientific research shows that using the mind to create or revisit and enrich important experiences can heal us and enhance our happiness in life.
Because art has been so meaningful, healing, and happiness-enhancing in my life, I wish to share this with others thru this project. According to Rachel Gould,
…whether you choose to self-reflect with Agnes Martin, float amongst Monet’s Water Lillies, melt into one of Salvador Dalí’s dreamscapes, or adventure into the pastoral American wilderness with Thomas Cole, exploring the styles, eras, and artists that evoke the best responses for you may be time well spent. — 17 July 2017, “Can Art Really Make You Happier?”
No small task! But I’ve been told to dream big, and to be honest, I’m tired of dreaming small, so here we go.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that art can make us happier and healthier, even if you’ve never considered yourself an art lover.
As my new abstract project unfolds, I discover happiness and health at its root. I suppose you could say that my project has at its core a somewhat scientific hypothesis.
Art and science used to be considered one and the same, so I’m not entirely breaking the rules here.
My hypothesis: art enhances health and happiness.
This is not a new idea. In fact, studies have shown that art, whether you are creating or viewing it, can recreate powerful experiences that are important to us. Love, connection, those hard to describe but essential experiences.
It is funny. This is all a grand experiment. I literally do not know where it will lead. I am letting the process reveal and develop the art and what is “underneath” it. As I do research to help make sense of it in writing here, I find, thankfully, that once again my intuition leads me true. Phew!
This is how I teach. I know it works there. We’ll see what happens here. I’m super jived to find out!
BTW: Now that I think of it, I’ve talked about this intuitive and informed experimental approach to my teaching before: Creativity for crazy times. Remember, pick and flick, …or swish and flick, if levitation is what you’re going for. A little nerdy Harry Potter reference there for ya. 10 points to whoever can explain the swish and flick 😉 .
Be well. Stay safe. Enjoy life.
Updates: and here is the finished painting.
For a start to finish view, check out this post here.
The project continues…
For more on this latest addition to our abstract conversations in paint —No. 2—click here.