“Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed — chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. .” — John Muir
Sometimes a work of art ‘just happens’ as if some invisible hand guides the process. Everything aligns as if magically orchestrated.
Othertimes a work of art requires preparation and homework, which starts as a spacial gathering of information and honing that data until clarity guides the artist forward.
The Muir quote has always fired my imagination, and I pictured trees frowning in disgust or wide-eyed with fear of being felled or even timidly hiding and peering from behind rocky facades. While pondering ways to illustrate the quote, I began seeking out and studying the twisted growth of mature guava trees – cousins to crepe myrtles – to merge the illusion of limbs and antlers.
To refresh my memory of antlers, a Google search for ‘Mule Deer’ provided ample material for a crash course. My personal files provided hundreds of photos ofceibo trees, perfect models for the torso …
The idea incubated, and the end result took form in my mind’s eye. After a vague pencil drawing on canvas mapped the idea, the tree with antlers was ready for my undivided attention. I placed the canvas on the floor, where I work best on larger paintings. Like a basketball player about to attempt the winning or losing ‘Free Throw,’ I was about to enter a ‘Do Not Disturb under ANY Circumstance’ mode! This is why, over my painting space, a sign warns, “No Talking Zone.”
I mixed the acrylic colors for the primary wash and placed fresh water, palette and brushes beside the canvas. With intense concentration, I began working the colors wet into wet while racing the half-hour of time it would take before everything began to dry.
“Lee-SAH!” Candy, my sweet neighbor called from below!
“Lee-SAH! Lee-SAH!” her two precious boys helped pull me from my focus while they knocked on the back-door entrance to the apt and to their home. They did not have their key!
“One minute, one minute!” I shouted through a closed door and hoped my voice traveled down the stairs…. working the pigment into the wash, dark in front of light, and light in front of dark, I wondered how to slam on the brakes… It must be a bit like maneuvering the rapids in a canoe and someone shouts, ‘Wait!’
I nudged the paint into a watery area, and with brush in hand, I dashed downstairs and opened the door. In a foggy painting trance, I apologized and motioned to my brush and turned to race back to the work. She also apologized and also invited me to have lunch with them — I begged off and said, ‘Half an hour?’
At least an hour later I reached a stopping point!
Like trying to return to a dream, I lost the rhythm and focus. I reminded myself to be grateful that my neighbors are kind and generous people and are forever doing nice things for me. I was thinking about everything except the painting and made several goofs. It was time to stop!
“Sometimes it’s as if some invisible hand guides the process,” and other times that magical gift evaporates.
Hopefully the tree will be finished before I leave for Yachana but if not, the Muir Tree will be waiting when I return!