The photo above is a snippet of an art journal entry. You can see the seam of the journal in the photograph. It is one of my favorite paintings. Why?
This painting was based on a simple afternoon when I was a child. I must have been about 4 or 5 years old. My mother told me that my neighbor was sick. As many youngsters would, I felt compassion for my neighbor…I knew how aweful one felt when sick. So outside I went (back then, and in the area I grew up, that was not uncommon to go out to play without your parents watchful eye), over to the wildflower patch to pick some flowers to give to my sick neighbor.
This was a story that stands out to me because I didn’t give it much thought to do something like that, I didn’t ask permission, and I just did it. If only everything in life were that easy and carefree!
Your assignment: Think about a story from your childhood that stands out in your mind. Use that as inspiration to paint your picture. What was it about that story that stands out? The scenery, the people, the weather, the animals, your feelings? Whatever seems most important about that story, make it stand out. For example, in my story it was the freedom, compassion and flowers (so I made sure I painted wildflowers, and not shown here are the big eyes which represent the compassion).
This painting was created at the peak of Hurricane Irma at the closest point to our home. It was dark and 90 degrees fahrenheit in my studio, a candle burning on the studio table.
Hurricane Irma was predicted to pass directly over us. The shutters were all closed, the cars gassed up, food filled the pantry, ice was in the cooler. We were prepared. Our house had held up during the last major hurricane, Hurricane Wilma, whose center passed directly over our house approximately 10 years earlier. It was a Category 3 storm….pretty powerful. Hurricane Irma was predicted to hit Miami as a Category 5 and roar up the coast. We were nervouse, but prepared as well as we could.
Knowing the powerful winds and energy of the storm would cause nerves to be frazzled, I made a plan that we should paint at the height of the storm. Painting was usually a great way to calm the nerves.
I set up the paints, brushes, water to wash the brushes, canvases, a candle, and 2 chairs. My daughter and I prepared the studio for an afternoon of painting.
One of the first changes are the winds, and bursts of showers (the outer bands), and just as predictable is the power outages. We watched the news of the storm as long as we could on the tv until the power went out. Then we kept an eye on it from our phones.
We were lucky, but others were not. The winds shifted just slightly and the storm went up the west coast of Florida rather than the east. But it was still a very large storm and we got a lot of rain, winds, and worst of all the power outage.
As the storm was directly west of us, my daughter and I headed up to my studio, lit the candle, and painted the storm on our canvases. We could barely see the colors we were using, but used the nervous energy we felt and the powerful sounds of the wind and rain as our inspiration.
By morning, the storms had passed. Although we still did not have power, we were able to open the shutters and let the brilliant light into the house. The contrast from one day to the next was very emotional and we worried about what happened on the west coast of Florida. It can take a few days before we know the full extent of damage.
My daughter and I went upstairs to see the paintings we had created at the peak of the storm. Wow….powerful….and full of energy. Paintings can do that, especially if you are the one creating the painting. All the emotion and energy you felt while creating it comes right back to you when you look at it.
Your assignment: A weather event is a great time to capture the energy of the atmosphere and how it makes you feel. A loss, an argument, a stressful day at the office…..all of these carry powerful energy. Pay attention to the powerful energy around an event and make a little time (15 min to 1/2 hour is enought) to capture that energy into a painting. The painting can be very abstract (which is better). When you are “done” walk away from your painting and do not look at it until the next day. In the comments below, tell me about your experience painting the energy of the event. How did you feel looking at the painting the next day when the energy had changed?
This painting of a Red-Headed Woodpecker is part of a larger painting, however the story behind it is an example of how I typically find inspiration for paintings.
Once or twice a year my husband and I like to go to the mountains and rent a cabin. The peace and quiet, the accessability to wild nature, the exhileration of a good hike, the views, and the fresh air, draw us back year after year. Being in an environment that is different from our day to day life can bring so much inspiration and creative flow.
After our adventure for the day, we would relax (a lot) and take our dog for a leisurely walk. It is on these walks that I take extra time to observe. It is through these observations, focusing on the uninterrupted life of the forest, that I find inspiration.
On one particular walk, the air was cool, and the colorful fall leaves had already fallen from the trees. The seasonal birds had all flown south, including the tourists. So it was QUIET.
Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I saw a large bird swoop by. My first thought was of a wild turkey or a hawk. But it was the red on the bird that caught my attention the most. WOW! I had never seen such a large woodpecker before this.
As we continued on our walk, this Red-Headed Woodpecker kept making an appearance, as if it were following us. Perhaps it was interested in observing us as we were it. Or perhaps it was keeping an eye on the dog, who it may have thought was a predator. Who knows.
When you find yourself feeling “WOW!” pay close attention. That is the fuel for inspiration.
Here is your assignment: Go out somewhere different, do something different, slow down and observe. What makes you say WOW! Now go paint that, write about that, create a melody relating to that, choreograph a dance around that. Create with the feelings of “Wow!” that you experienced. Then come back here and share in the comments about your experience. I would love to hear about your results.
Karen Pruzansky, Multi-Media Artist
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