in the undergrowth, I mouth the words, "How could anyone even think
of trying to capture this?" The riverbank scene before me is complex
beyond imagining. Simplify. Pare down to essentials, conceive a basic structure - like seeing a Christmas tree stripped of ornaments, evergreen needles
and even smaller branches, so that what remains is only the trunk and a
few heavier limbs. "Can I paint just this much? Yes, I know how
to do this much." What about
all the rest -
the branches and twigs, the millions of randomly placed
fallen leaves, rocks covered with fuzzy moss dappled in sunlight,
constantly changing? "Oh that. Just begin."
arranging colors and utensils, I brush a mark onto the canvas, then
another while seeing myself bolting headlong through grasping vines, over
building-sized granite boulders, up the bank to the safety of my Plymouth
parked in a turnout alongside Railroad Flat Road.
mix the next color, brush on a few more strokes and then wipe it out and start over. After several attempts, cobwebs of scrapes,
splatters and deliberate strokes merge, and something not yet nameable
looks out from the canvas.
at my growing edge, there is a magnetic pull to revert to a less
challenging subject. I feel the urge to mix colors and manipulate pigment
in familiar and comfortable ways. Or to simply run away. I can't say how
many times I've gone out to paint and then returned home without even
setting up my easel. How many times have I crossed the boundary of my own
knowing, only to pull back?
how-to painting books infer, "Here is step one, then two, three and .
. . look! A finished painting! See how easily I've done this!"
George Allen Durkee
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