Tuesday, May 19, 2015

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Spring jumped ahead to summer here with warm temperatures and thunderstorms already a frequent occurence before the end of May. I'm busy getting ready for my summer art show season, but when I have the time I like to sneak out and do some field work in this mild weather.

Photo: My reference photo of my plein air farm subject from this past weekend,
with a partial rainbow in the background

This past weekend, I spent an evening working at a location near our home and I caught this farm under a gorgeous, dramatic sky. The evening alternated between rain and brilliant sunshine, and the clouds were stunning throughout the changes. Shortly after I set up my easel, it rained briefly. And then that gave way to a delightful rainbow right over the farm itself, as if I was given a message from on high that I'd chosen a great subject. This wonderful coincidence got me thinking: You can't make this stuff up.

I often get asked at art shows whether I "made up" my piece or staged something. "Was it really like that?" people will ask me with a heavy dose of skepticism.


Detail: My painting in progress.
This will be an 8 x 16 oil on canvas panel.

One of the aspects that I most enjoy about being an artist is the reward of pausing and noticing the details of life that many other people miss. We all see things differently. An engineer may see the structural flaws in an old barn like this one, whereas I see a sun-faded beauty that works well with the summer sky in the background. These little details and everyday examples of interesting subjects mean that I don't have to make up anything. It's all right there for me to explore; I don't need to fabricate compositions or embellish.

I think this is why I like to read nonfiction books. I don't often have the luxury of sitting still to read, so when I have the time, I like to read history or works about contemporary topics. My time to read is so scarce, and I find details in these books that are so compelling that I don't need fiction to hold my interest. For example, did you know that dust from the Great American Dust Bowl darkened our nation's capital? This is from one of my favorite authors, Timothy Egan, and his book, The Worst Hard Time.

I could prattle on here with tons of other arcane facts, but I think you get the idea. There's beauty all around us. It's up to us to see it and appreciate it. You don't have to make this stuff up.