“It’s good to be aware when you find yourself in trouble that it’s your own banging and clanking that is drowning out the quiet path that is there patiently waiting to show you the way.”
I found this comment when going through a few early email exchanges between Damon and me. I must have been having trouble with a particular painting in the studio that day. The comment reminded me of a day spent painting in a lovely villa garden in Lucca, Italy, in 2017.
At the time, I was participating in a workshop, and we had a field trip to paint in the beautiful gardens of Palazzo Pfanner, which is located in the walled, historic part of the city. The grounds were gorgeous and rich with lovely manicured lawns, fruit trees, flowers, statues, fountains. Everything waited to be painted, but what felt lacking was my own inspiration for what to paint. I am the first to admit that I am not a plein air painter. I recognize it is a foundation of many a painters’ practice, but it does not come naturally for me.
Eventually, I settled in a secluded corner of the garden. An ivy wall stood in the background. Flowering plants and a blossoming lemon tree kept the foreground. I saw colors, and I thought, what the heck, why not just do something abstract? So I started putting paint on the canvas randomly and with abandon. After a few minutes, I started to see the gardens differently. I slowed down and listened. I didn’t see “flower”, “tree”, “wall,” and the rest of what was there. Instead, I saw shapes, textures, contrasting colors. The space flattened, and in this new quiet, the painting started to take form. I went with the emotion of the scene, and gradually, the painting emerged. I had slowed down, quieted my critical voice, and allowed the painting to show me the way.