Monday, June 23, 2014

The Value of the Open Road

reworked piece from last post 24"x24"
There is something about road trips. You are in this compartment like thing, hurtling down a concrete path, the world continually coming at you.  It's kind of like a mini version of life in a strange way.  Here we are, travelers just passing through, why not enjoy the ride?  For some reason as the big prairie sky flattened our strip of highway that analogy parked itself in my brain.

We covered a lot of ground in 10 days for island dwellers. We camped in the mountains, played a Tibetan drum by a green lake, ate out with friends at a place called The High Level Diner, drank strong, dark coffee in Nelson, wandered the only desert in Canada and popped cherries into our mouths straight from the tree.

Life is surprising if you let it be.  Often when I return home I feel a little lost, like "what do I do here again?"  Sometimes I feel like a period at the end of a sentence that wants to keep on going.  But this time was different. I noticed how quiet my piece of earth is; no sounds of air brakes or trains or the hum of refrigeration units.  There was the joy of garden and paint, the air warm like a tepid bath, a deer browsing the weeds in the lawn, a tiny bunny feeding, the quail having a dust bath in the flower bed.

reworked 12"x24"
I must say that at least once while looking at wonderful art on my trip I asked myself "why do I paint?" And I asked this not in the nicest of ways. You know how we can be to ourselves, like the meanest of sisters.  But once I got home an art conversation with a dear friend welcomed me and there was an air of excitement in getting to work.

Our conversation was about simplicity and complexity and how I love work that is simple and spare  but that isn't what comes out of me when I paint.  I realized that I spit out the word "complexity" as if it is an insult.  I don't seek complexity in my work but it finds me.  Her wise comment was something like, "isn't that neat how the painting is so honest?"  News flash: it's not about what I want but it's about something less defined, more ethereal, it's about what's in me that wants to be said.  It's not about someone else's painting I love with my name on it. The painting process bypasses the thinking mind which can be maddening to control freaks who think they know what they want.  You can argue with the canvas and paint if you like.  But be prepared to be frustrated. I speak from experience (the frustrated part, I mean).  So it was freeing to finally be open to what came out on to the canvas without wanting it to be some particular way, to embrace complexity even.  There was an energy to that openness that doesn't come from wanting something in particular.

So the value of hurtling down the highway, heading always towards home in a round about way, is that if you are lucky home will look completely different than you imagined when you get there.  If you're lucky you will have a friend waiting there with some wise words.

Oh yeah and that's the thing that we love about the open road.  It's open.


  1. The conversation with your friend is so illuminating! ' the honest painting' and ' it's not about someone else's painting with my name on it' WOW Lots to think about in that one paragraph.
    Love the 're-work' - reminds me of too many people gathered in a room. Beautiful colors.

  2. I really am drawn to the paintings posted here. And the conversation with your friend was timely for me. Simplicity and complexity....two concepts I will be discussing at length in my Wabi Sabi class that starts tomorrow. Thank you for another welcomed post.

  3. hi Judy, you're right, that's a loaded question. I suspect a lot of artists who admire the work of others get stuck here. Or maybe even in repeating their own work for a variety of reasons (which is different from having your own voice). I think often this flies below the radar and we loose out on an important part of the art experience: exploring the inner landscape. Lots of interesting thoughts emerging for me after this conversation.

    Sharon, I like the sound of your Wabi Sabi class and in my imagination I can see how they'd fit in with that title. For me I discovered these two terms are linked to openness. Art is such a personal journey.

  4. ah carole, your paintings are becoming more and more open it seems to me... i love these. open and honest...

    your thoughts re: road trips - yes!


  5. I love Judy's take on the first painting! And your 'open road' analogy is so good! Your work grows by leaps and bounds. These paintings took a giant step forward! Xo

  6. Lynne: wandering the forest as you do is it's own kind of open road, I think. Open and honest, yes good direction to point the art self (and other selves) in.

    Thanks, Jeane, as always! These do "feel" different to me.

  7. As usual, so much thought and much to ponder here.. love your 're-worked' pieces. After a trip, returning home always seems new and different.. even a small trip can have some sort of change in thinking and awareness...

  8. hello Donna. My guess is you are a home body like me and are grounded and anchored by your beautiful home. happy summer art making!

  9. You are right... I like to stay home.. in my studio and in my gardens for long periods at a time.

  10. Beautiful post and beautiful work. I think we are twins :-). I
    always want my work to be sparse and it never is :-). Each piece starts in my head a certain way and never ever comes out that way, I have grown used to it and I have also grown to love it.
    Road trips are wonderful and it is also wonderful to return home.