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What I did on my summer vacation

“The paradox of relaxation is the renewal of mind; rekindle of spirit and revitalize of strength.” ― Lailah Gifty Akita

I have been procrastinating as part of the process in writing this particular blog. There has been a lot written about the value of procrastination recently, so there has been a lot for me to read, enabling further procrastination. Of course what they are stating is true. Once you commence working on something and then walk away, you continue to work on whatever it is. It percolates away in the back of your mind. I recognize this as the way I process whatever it is, painting or writing, that I am engaged in. Part of this percolation process, is extended research. You are drawn to resources that will help you resolve what you are working on. My topic was the wonderful experience I had vacationing with friends in August. In addition to the articles on the glories of procrastination, I found many articles on the value of friendship and relaxation. This summer I was lucky enough to be invited by some dear friends to their home on the north shore of Boston. The house I was invited to was the summer vacation home of the wife in the couple, when she was growing up. It is right on the water, a little slice of paradise. This visit was very restorative for me. Very nourishing. Being with long standing friends, allows you to relax. It is a great gift to be invited by friends, to be welcomed with open arms and a broad smile. To be received secure in the knowledge that your actions and words will be accepted. When I am among friends, I can drop the worry that I will be judged and found wanting.You do not have to be on good behavior. These old friends know my peccadilloes and accept me anyway. Being with friends increased my sense of belonging and reminded me of my self-worth, their steady acceptance helped me deal with conflicts I was experiencing in my life at the time. The gift of acceptance is so powerful, and frequently overlooked by both parties. We had lots of time for visiting, we cooked together, ate together, went for walks together and sat about reading or looking at the beauty around us. We also spent time on our individual projects. For me that time was spent each day working on pieces, inspired by the beauty around me. While I was there I continued a “side project” I began last summer. when having photographed the amazing clouds in the summer sky, I decided to make paintings of them. Now my “work” is all abstract, so this feels like treachery to work on pieces that are rooted in direct observation of the world. But I started. the experience of working with some idea of what the end result will look like is a different experience then working on abstract work where every brushstroke has the innate ability to send the painting off in a new direction. In my regular work, the act of painting is similar to a conversation between me and the paints. The color, the lines, the shapes and the textures afforded by oil paint each contribute to the conversation. Lines and colors are where the conversation begins, often the beginning painting is completely obscured by the work that comes after, as the painting evolves into something deeper. The painting is revealed through a process of addition and subtraction. While my inspiration is always rooted in my experiences, I am not setting out to portray any one place or subject directly. Working on the "cloud series" was like constructing a building with an infrastructure in place. The infrastructure does not dictate the outcome, you still make choices in materials, and methods of construction which dictate the final product, but the whole process is shaped by the first decision to use that infrastructure. So starting last year I continued painting largish canvases, "my paintings", exploring and pushing, while pursuing a parallel effort rooted in the observed world. These "cloud series" are smaller pieces worked on paper. When the subject of your work is the painting itself, it leads you to work with color and texture in a self reflexive manner. In the "cloud series" I was concerning myself with local color and texture. I of course related to the color and shapes and lines in the cloud series as I do in the abstract work, As I continued with the “cloud series” I realized that doing this work was giving me the opportunity to work with color and texture as reference to some objective reality, and I was playing with layering of color in a new way, making new choices. Looking through the completed pieces, I considered the ones that stood on their own pictorial merits (that is not looking so much like the original source reference) to be more successful than those that looked just like the clouds at sunset (for example). Gradually this led me to be exploring atmosphere, more than representation of clouds and sky, trees and land. This realization snuck up on me, I only saw this in retrospect.

So here is a painting I did just before I went to join my friends. Looking at this, I clearly saw the emphasis on atmosphere. You can read a landscape there, but the details are swallowed by the "sense" of the locale.

My first day, on vacation, it was raining. The rain and heavy atmosphere flattened the vista. When I sat down to work I tried to capture the feeling of peace and space, the rainy day provided.

The next day was overcast. While the air was thick with moisture the horizon seemed further away this day. Again the atmosphere was wonderful to luxuriate in, as I was looking for respite from my hectic life.

The nest day was a shiny day.

I was creating a painting of warmth and brightness.

The next day there was not one cloud in the sky. The air seemed thin and the vista long.

The last day I decided to locate all the atmosphere in a specific place, I included foreground rocks which frame the water and give it more definition. The water existed in the earlier pieces, as a reflection of the sky and an indication of the difference between air and liquid. Here the turbulence of the water took pride of place as it surged around the rocks.

And then I came home and looked at the sketches I had done and thought a lot. I did some other pieces, exploring shape and color and waited patiently for the fruit of those studies to appear. Then I received a photo from a friend who'd been walking a beach on a rainy day and it inspired me to make this one.

To me this is the culmination of the studies on the North Shore. This one combines the atmosphere, the sense of space the calm and works as an abstract piece. The fruits of the vacation and time with friends continue to flower. And below you will find more images from my vacation... enjoy!

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