“Lose yourself in nature and find peace.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Jama Ecuador – This week’s work was painted in the serenity of the outdoors. The image below was started in the calm stillness of a late afternoon at Hostal Palo Santo, where I stayed this past Sunday night. I worked until almost dark and was amused when two of the leaves nodded their heads back and forth as if to say, “We know you’re studying us and just wanted to say, ‘Thanks!’” I acknowledged their subtle gestures, smiled and continued painting. They resumed their poses as the silent communication between us remained strong.
Working outdoors presents its problems. The sun and heat dry the pigments a bit too fast, and the wind scatters papers or flips through pages of sketchbooks. Large works, taped or clipped to panels, often attempt to take flight and soar away on strong breezes. Foliage flutters in the wind, so keeping an eye on a moving target presents its own set of problems.
At times I move the materials to a more-convenient location if needed. This ginger study below was painted section by section while I sat at a comfortable table on my friends balcony.
The serenity of working outdoors trumps the frustrations, and there’s a strong sense of being one with Nature – at least for me! My senses become enhanced, and I am aware of the nuances of the winds, of bird sounds, even of subtle changes in temperature. Aside from the nuisance of insects and wind — and sometimes the discomfort from hot or cold temperatures, I lose track of time and realize that I’m working in almost darkness.
Becoming still with an intense focus, I am connected to my subject, which connects me to the rest of the garden, which grounds me in spiritual communication with the earth. Studying nature provides an easy way to meditate through art; a sense of peace and profound calmness washes over me, and I am often aware of the great gift I’ve been given.
When I work until the light grows dim and then later critique my painting in strong light, I usually find lots of sloppy mistakes that are corrected and refined. I then take the painting to a more complete stage. When I start adjusting tiny details that no one would notice (except me), I pull in my reins and pronounce the work, “Finished!” Years later the artwork serves as a biography of the day.
These larger philodendron leaves (below) have demanded more time, and I hope to finish this painting in the next week. The leaves nod almost constantly in the wind, and I try to keep my eye on the target while building more layers of color. It’s the essence of a tropical garden that I want to capture and not portraits of particular leaves! Painting this study beneath the palm-thatched ramada at Casa Loca provides me with complete immersion in nature while having all supplies at a close reach.
When I look back on the small caladium study, I will remember my conversations with Luchi and Fernando Cevallos at their quiet hostal; I will remember their Mother, Nieve, dropping by and visiting until past dark! (We worked on an impromptu painting project that afternoon!) I will remember the thoughtful things they did for me – like bringing coffee, tea, lunch, and then breakfast. That evening we munched on chifles and fresh homemade cheese from their farm while Luchi grilled just-picked field corn! I will also remember that Luchi came down with Dengue the next day! I’m holding my breath, as I’ve had dengue once and don’t ever want to be that sick again.
Heads up to everyone in Manabi Ecuador: “Don’t leave home without your insect repellent!”
Feeling strong and well, I look forward to another week of positive painting in the outdoors. I hope that you take a timeout to communicate with nature; she’s a patient listener.