When it Rains, Inspiration Arrives

We never come to thoughts. They come to us.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

As one grows older one sees the impossibility of imposing order on the chaos with brute force. But if you’re patient there may come that moment while eating an apple when the solution presents itself politely and says “Here I am.”

Albert Einstein, quoted in the film “Why Man Creates” written by Saul Bass and Mayo Simon

Colorado gave us rain most of the day, forcing me to stay inside the cabin, or at least on the deck. Before the rain arrived, Sandi offered to drive us on an extended road trip over the Silver Thread. We managed to get ten miles past Creede before . . . (wait for it!) . . . a sleet storm overpowered us! So, we turned around and headed back to our cabin in South Fork. Before the rain, I rode along as a passenger, admiring the vistas, especially the aspen trees.

Since the year 2000, when I first visited Colorado, I was smitten by the sight of aspen trees, their glittering, shimmering round leaves blinking through the mountain atmosphere. And those white tree trunks against the dark forest interiors! Over the past twenty years of Colorado visits I have tried to solve the pine trees in watercolor, and still feel I haven’t arrived. But I was always befuddled, wondering how to render aspens. As Sandi drove this morning, the idea finally arrived. Thinking of Heidegger and Einstein, grateful for the visitation of inspirations, I spent the day inside the cabin contemplating how I was going to paint my first stand of aspens.

After taking ten photographs and adjusting them for my composition, I decided to begin with (I don’t know what this is called) negative painting or painting by subtraction. I penciled out the aspen outlines, then used my masquepen to block the trunks and branches. Later, I poured some of the masque solution onto a saucer and spattered with a toothbrush my first layer of “white” aspen leaves.

Nightfall has arrived. Tomorrow, under natural light, I will apply my first wash of light sea-green, sprinkled with salt and stale bread crumbs. When dry, I will spatter more masquing fluid. Once that is dry, I will apply a darker layer of aspen green. Dry again, then a new spattering of masquing, followed by a yet darker color, etc. I tried this method for the first time in the summer of 2015 when I was doing my Artist-in-Residency for Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. While on a spoil island in the Laguna Madre, I was reading Heidegger’s “On the Origin of the Work of Art” and was inspired by a quote from the Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Dűrer:

For in truth, art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it.

Sitting on the island my first evening of the residency, I read that statement and contemplated the cord grasses growing in the shadows of the research station where I was residing for a week. Recalling the appearance of Albrecht Dűrer’s watercolor of tall grasses, I puzzled out the technique of multiple layers of masquing and watercolor washes.

Now, seven years later, I’m ready to try it again on the Colorado aspens. We’ll see how it turns out.

The day has been filled with gods (I believe Emerson wrote that), and I am grateful to have been alive to experience the visitations.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover (especially today!)

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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