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Week 10: Day - To - Day Painting On Paying Attention

The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention. Julia Cameron

I have a good friend who had a long career as a physician. If you speak to his devoted, former patients they will tell you what a great doctor he was. As you listen to them speak you realize that the quality that made him so good, was attentiveness. He listened and observed, and then drew on his extensive knowledge base, (that he was always expanding), to diagnose and prescribe. He was present to their condition even as he listened to their history and used his knowledge to envision their future health. Upon retiring from medicine, he took up painting. He now tells me that because of "art" he sees the world, in a way he never did before. He is amazed by what he sees. He is tuned in to his surroundings. He has brought that highly developed ability to pay attention, to his art, which means to his everyday life. In my life, there have been times when I had to put aside art-making, because I was working full time and raising a son. When I would resume working, I would always be amazed at the clarity of my vision as I would drive to work and go about my day. It was as if the world was suddenly in technicolor. When I am going about my life, I too, am particularly focused on the colors, the shapes, the shadows and light. I am of the opinion that it is critical that an artist pay observant attention while in the world and when at work. When you are paying attention to your surroundings, you are building up a bank of images, colors, shapes, and lines which will emerge in your work. When you are working it is vital that you withdraw that attention from the world and focus all your attention on your work. In today's blog I will show you three completed paintings and the work in progress for two of the three. In the painting below I continued the exploration of the ring form on canvas. In this first painting, there are multiple ring forms that float in an illuminated environment. The figure/ground relationship is key to the composition and luminous color is key to the paintings impact. The tooth of the canvas requires me to use the paint differently. The painted surface becomes an element of the composition. I can not scrape the paint down to a stain as I can when working on paper without revealing the texture of the canvas. Conversely, I am able to build the paint up in a tactile fashion, because the canvas will support that.

Art is born in attention. It's midwife is detail. Julia Cameron

​Another effect of paying close attention is that time folds in on itself. I often write about the intersection of spirituality and art. Here is another intersection. When I meditate I withdraw from sight, sound, smell and sit in stillness, awaiting the movement of the Divine within me. The first time I meditated, using the modality I still use, I noticed the similarity to the inner experience I have when I am painting and "in the flow" (as others have called it). In both practices I enter into a type of awareness where regular "thinking" is interrupted. I enter into an alternative state of consciousness where thoughts and emotions, while present, pass through without attachment. The sense of time passing is suspended. During the time I am meditating or painting, my attention is on the present moment and the stillness. When I start a painting, my attention is withdrawn from the simultaneous experience of all that is around me, I limit my focus to that painting. I return my attention to everything else that is happening in the world when I finish. Here, I am showing the development over two days of this painting. The first state features very loose brushwork, it seems to be a study. ​In this painting the forms tip and turn and fight for the top position.

In the final version, only one ring form seems to float. The form that was spinning in space has fallen behind the bottom two, which jump up off the picture plane. The predominantlyyellow form reads like a daisy shining its face in the sun, but is stepped on by the bottom-most form whose dark colors tie back to the background colors. In this way the surface is reasserted.

You will learn to enjoy the process... and to surrender your need to control the result. You will discover the joy of practising your creativity. The process, not the product, will become your focus. Julia Cameron

This next painting was developed over 4 days, beginning on 8/30 and continuing through 9/2/19. This one with multiple forms which tilt and bump against each other, is all about spatial relationship. These relationships are defined by color, line and drawing. The first day the underpainting was an acidy green, which was eventually all but obliterated by a pinky rose color. The ground colors, green and rose, are incorporated into the rings. This handling of the paint and color create a shallow depth. By the time it was completed, all of the rings had a base, and they bob along, on or above the surface, which tilts up at the top.

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