Ready to Paint Again

I remember well the transformation which took place in me when first I began to view the world with the eyes of a painter. The most familiar things, objects which I had gazed at all my life, now became an unending source of wonder, and with the wonder, of course, affection. A tea pot, an old hammer, a chipped cup, whatever came to hand I looked upon as if I had never seen it before. I hadn’t, of course. Do not most of us go through life blind, deaf, insensitive? Now as I studied the object’s physiognomy, its texture, its way of speaking, I entered into its life, its history, its purpose, its association with other objects, all of which only endeared it the more.

Henry Miller, To Paint is to Love Again

Henry Miller has left artists a precious gift with this book. My friends Stacy and Leigh surprised me with it a week ago, and it has traveled with me across Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Texas these past four days. Now I’m relaxing in The Gallery at Redlands with more time to pore over these pages.

The drafting table that Tim and Patty Smith gave me a few years ago has been moved back into the gallery and I am delighted to begin work on the ghost sign advertisements that grabbed my attention in Hot Springs, Arkansas Wednesday morning. Encountering the building and signage was a remarkable accident. I was depending on GPS to find a pancake house, and I failed to make my U-turn when commanded. I drove another block before the next one came up, and as I completed my turn, I saw out of the corner of my eye the ghost signs. I couldn’t stare because I was driving in tight traffic. But throughout breakfast, I could only think of what I had seen out of the corner of my eye. Artist Andrew Wyeth frequently spoke of subjects that became his famous paintings because he glimpsed them out of the corner of his eye and later had to return to look at them because he could not erase the memory of the encounter.

Sure enough, when I walked to the location after breakfast, I was wearing a short-sleeved Tshirt in 40-degree weather and was very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, once I found the building I had to stand there and gaze at it, taking several photographs. Someone once said that beauty was what suspended the desire to be somewhere else; we are held in place and cannot walk away from what we’re viewing. I knew that I had to paint this subject.

I am going to title the painting “Palimpsest” because during my seminary days I was always fascinated with ancient manuscripts which were re-used, a new text written over the old. As centuries wore on, the original text had a way of reemerging and co-mingling with the later text. Gazing at the layers of advertising all over the side of the building, I felt myself drawn into the history of the building, musing about the products advertised, the people walking or driving buy who connected with the message, and the changes that that part of Hot Springs endured over the years. Staring at the signage, I realized that we ourselves have layers of history stacked one on top the other. Our memories may fade somewhat, but still they push their way to the front of our consciousness and once again seize our imagination.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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4 Responses to “Ready to Paint Again”

  1. doubledacres Says:

    It was a great find. The pancakes were good too and I got to see Woodlawn Race Track.


  2. davidtripp Says:

    Boy we really made it count, didn’t we!? We really miss you down here, pal.


  3. Sandra Conner Says:

    I love the quote by Henry Miller and can relate to it perfectly. I’ve experienced the same so many times when looking at scenes and objects that had seemed so very non-descript and ordinary before I started painting. I’ve heard other artists say the same, and I can’t help but think that it’s part of the gift from the Lord — sort of a way of letting us ‘see’ things through His creative eyes — if that make sense.

    I was also struck by what you shared about Andrew Wyeth saying many of his subjects came to his attention “out of the corner of his eye.” The same is so true for writers. I tell my creative writing students that one of the reasons they need to carry a jounal of some kind at all times is that things they are NOTremember reading


    • Sandra Conner Says:

      I’m so sorry. My finger slipped and hit the ‘Post’ button before I was finished — and added words that do not fit at all. But I’ll finish now if that’s okay. Anyway — I tell my creative writing students to carry a journal at all times because things they are NOT looking for will so often pop out at them from the sidelines, and those things often instigate creativity and make great writing material. I remember reading the words of author/editor Michael Seidmen, who shared that he learned that very lesson when in the military. His instructor on the rifle range told his men that, in order to really SEE the enemy, they couldn’t look straight on and keep their focus there. They HAD to use and depend on their peripheral vision.

      After reading that, I was lying on my sofa one day and looking up at my ceiling fan, which was turning. When you look straight at it, you just see a blur of the blades as they are moving. But when you look slightly away — and the peripheral vison takes over — you can suddenly see each individual blade. I had never realized that fact previously. But it made all the difference in how I pay attention to objects and scenes now — and give my peripheral vision much more credit.


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