The warm rays of the sun are peeking through the leaves. A new day has begun. The early morning fog has burned off exposing some tall, brown grasses. The last remnants of a cold winter are being taken over by lush, green grasses in the field across the road from our home. All is very quiet this morning, not a leaf is moving. The scene out my front window is as still as a photograph.
After a week of almost continuous rain, the sun is a welcome sight, but the temperature is 37 degrees outside, a bit cold for this time of spring. The real question is will I go out to paint today or not. I hope so, even a slight chill should be welcomed. I have some 8-by-10 canvases that are asking to be painted on. It’s their life purpose to display something creative, something beautiful, but they have to wait for me to complete their destiny. Think of it. If we had to wait for someone else to fulfill our destiny. Most of us would be angry, or would we? We would have an excuse not to fulfill who we know we should be. Many of us are in the mindset of I would rather blame someone else than to take hold of my own future.
I have many paintings yet to be done. Some are already sketched on canvas, yet their progress has stopped. I hope that this is a temporary condition but our lives are full of distractions. Modern life offers too much of too much, and it’s hard to keep track of what our objectives are.
Over the years I have painted many beautiful paintings, yet in truth, the ugly ones have had more meaning, more psychological content. But painting deep subjects all the time pulls me down psychologically even when the subject is of religious or spiritual content. When they start to pull me down, I take my paints outside and try to capture something beautiful, something simple, something non-heavy. I have a tendency to slip into depression so I need to make my life balanced. If I take on a heavy subject, I have to balance it out with something light using light colors and not depressing colors or the dark side of paint.
When I paint outside, I don’t have to think about what I am painting. It is right there in front of me. All I really have to do is react to what I see and how I feel about it. There are middle ground painting subjects for me and they are portraits. They are heavy and light. It is not only what I see but very much how I feel about what I see. I try to draw out the essence of those I am painting. Not all these paintings are successful. I may miss the person’s essence entirely. I may capture a good likeness but miss the real them. This often creates a great challenge. Other times, the brush flows across the canvas almost like being led by a spirit. Sometimes I believe it is.
All too often, we think we are in control of ourselves, but as many artists know, that is not entirely true. A secular person may call it inspiration, some even call it their creative muse. I call it the still, small voice inside us that spiritually guides us. Of course, to link up with that still, small voice you must quiet yourself to hear it. Quiet is a relevant factor, freedom from noise and distraction, but more than that, one must quiet themselves inside and unclutter their mind so it is open and receptive. Some refer to this as a prayerful or meditative state. Whatever it is, it demands quiet attention then prayerful communication can begin.
I often refer to St. Luke, Chapter 11, verses 9 and 10, which starts out, “And I say unto you, ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” I am not bashful about asking or knocking especially when I have reached the end of my perceived capability. Notice I said perceived capability. I do not know what doors in my mind can be opened, maybe where great treasures of creativity are hidden from my conscious thoughts. I will be first to admit that even inside of me is a vast land that I have not yet explored.
Almost every day new windows are opened and I see more of me as I am, as I want to be and as God may want me to be. I feel I am blest being an artist. I see more than I would have otherwise. I notice more, I feel more, my senses are very acute and I enjoy more of this world’s beauty than I would have if I hadn’t become an artist.
Harry Croghan is an artist, photographer, writer and teacher. He can be reached at (740) 852-4906 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.