Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Paying Attention to the Universe

I recently returned from a painting trip to a lovely area of central California, Paso Robles.  This community is about 45 min. inland, and full of rolling hills and vineyards.  This was an invitational exhibition with a wet painting sale and auction over Memorial weekend.  I don't participate in a lot of plein air events, but when I do, I ask myself a few questions.  Have I had the opportunity to paint this area before and do I feel inspired to paint there again?  Or if I haven't painted there am I interested in painting that area?  In this case, I painted the central coast near Carmel last year and loved it.  The painting event in Paso Robles gave me an opportunity to paint central California again, this time farther south and inland, although we could paint anywhere in San Luis Obispo County which includes some quaint coastal areas around Cambria and the Hearst Castle.  I personally found the combination of ranchland and coastline intriguing.  There was opportunity to paint the vineyards, old barns and farmsteads, back roads, the coast – all of which I took full advantage.  Almost every road off Hwy 46 between Paso and Cambria was good.   Most of these roads are dotted with farmsteads and old barns, wineries and beautiful golden grassy fields.  And it was quiet!  Another quality I personally look for in having a positive plein air experience.  There are many, many beautiful places to paint in the United States, but a lot of them are so busy and overcrowded with tourists that it's hard to have a good plein air experience.  For me, part of being inspired to paint outside comes from being able to hear the wind, water, birds chirping, etc.
A Drive Along Live Oak, oil, 8x10.  Painted in the Paso Robles area.
On Wednesday afternoon while finishing up a midday painting, I noticed the clouds were building.  This particular evening the artists were invited to a welcome party, hosted by a local owner of a winery.  I really didn't have time to properly finish another painting before getting back to the hotel to get ready and head back out.  However, my instincts for a good opportunity kicked in and I had to try.  In about 15 minutes I found a good spot to view the cloud show that was developing and set up.  I worked feverishly to get to a proper stopping point on a 12x12 sky piece overlooking some fields.  Luckily, painting fast often works when painting clouds as they move and you have to capture quickly.  I couldn't finish, but got it to a point that the sky was complete and the ground had enough information it could be finished later.  The next afternoon I went back to the same spot to finish the painting.
Evening Show, oil, 12x12.  Painted in the Paso Robles area.




The wet painting sale was on Saturday.  This 12x12 cloud piece was the first I sold that day.  The lady who purchased it said she was a Bierstadt fan and this piece reminded her of some of his work.  I think she was being kind, but thanked her.  We talked at some length about being inspired when painting outside and it became clear that we both were inspired by the sky and changing weather. 

I couldn't help but think that if I had squelched my desire to quickly get a painting in and instead listened to the voice of reason which was telling me I didn't have time, I wouldn't be connecting to this collector.  The universe, a higher power, whatever you want to call it – there was definitely some intervention going on.  I do know that whenever I disregard my instincts I usually regret it.  As artists, listening to our inner voice and paying attention to what the universe is telling us is as important as any art lessons.