On Painting

Beyond Conscious Observation

"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone. Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world waits." - from Anam Cara, by John O'Donohue.

oil/panel 9 x 12" Penn State Trial Gardens property 09/16/17

oil/panel 9 x 12" Penn State Trial Gardens property 09/16/17

I painted this last Saturday. I wasn't happy with it. Sometimes, however, once a painting dries and the paint hardens and the distraction of glare on the surface is mostly gone, one can get a better sense of the thing. Now I find the movement of it exciting. It makes me feel a kind of inner buzz that I get from being outside.

Regarding the John O'Donohue statement above... it has given me a different way of looking at things, an invitation to welcome the strangeness of the world. I've been hung up in a search for belonging, of comfort, of understanding and a sense oneness with my surroundings. But it's more comforting to read these words, which lean into the strangeness and the mystery beyond that which can be seen, described, or even consciously thought about.

With it being Saturday again and another beautiful, sunny warm day, I'm about to head out to the trial gardens again. I want to remember to pay attention and not concern myself with pictures. I'm tired of painting what I see, even if it is very beautiful. Mere visual observation has become boring. A resolved picture is not exciting. Losing consciousness is.

I like what Mark Tobey said to Selden Rodman in "Conversations with Artists"...

"I like best to see in nature what I want in my painting. I don't - often enough. To do this, one must be in nature, awake and attentive. Then one must sleep - at least the conscious mind must sleep. Because if the resulting work of art is wholly conscious, it can't be true!"
Stacy Caldwell2 Comments