I find myself in the studio, building a small fire, and taking up a brush, and some bright greens and blues. I must paint sky, and I must paint the summer green of trees and grass, and sunshine. This week, I ventured into oils, buying myself a nice starter set of oil pigments, and some high quality linseed oil. I take a few of my paintings, and try out the oils and the new colors. It is pleasing work, as the oil seems to make the colors shine, and my brush work becomes a dance with the light and the texture of the paint, the oil, and the canvas. My painting becomes like the writing of music, and I am the conductor.
Soon, a sad little painting of a moonrise begins to take life, and the newly gilded moon dances over the platinum and marigold yellow clouds, flying over the dark purple mountains below. I have a stool to sit on and music to play, but today, I must be on my feet, and the music is found in my brush as it dances across the canvas, and pauses occasionally on the pallet to gather more light.
I take a new canvas, and boldly paint the beginnings of a portrait. New territory for me, but the brush and the canvas call me into this work, and soon, a face begins to emerge. Today’s project is to put in some hair, the eyes, the nose and the cheekbones. And, yes, it is looking like a face. My subconscious is happy, as it is has been prodding me to move my brush to make eyes, an ear, and a nose for some time.
Time stops having its regular meaning, and my morning is governed by the feelings of the brush, the silence of the oil and the pigments, and the occasional scratching of hog’s bristle brushes on canvas. “Skritch, skritch.” The earthy aroma of the linseed oil reminds me of a hot summer’s day, and my dad’s woodshop when I was a kid. My long ago ancestors must have been cave painters or the carvers of totem poles, as the linseed speaks to my heart, and brings a sense of peace to me today.
I’ve certainly enjoyed playing with the colors and brushing acrylics on canvas and paper, but with the addition of the oil this week, my work seems more complete, more in tune with the songs playing in my heart. Now, there are new rhythms of painting to learn, as the oil dries ever so slowly, and is singing new songs for me to learn. And, so I dance on.
I throw a few more logs on the fire, and pick up another canvas. This time, the blues of the sky truly seem to reflect that Eastern Oregon August brilliance I had wanted to recreate, and then, I add some lights and shadows to the little cabin in the aspen grove, and the painting finally seems to near completion. Another canvas will someday be a building I have been trying to paint for a year, and even today, the addition of some oil and new pigments seems to have finally brought the building to life, against the backdrop of Mount Emily, the guardian mountain overlooking LaGrande.
Another painting is the tree with its two eagles, awaiting the morning sunrise. The tree itself now lies in a muddy pasture, the victim of this winter’s worst storm, but its former glory may be on my canvas, if I can get the light just right. It remains, as they say, a work in progress.
Rain comes down now in a huge torrent, overflowing the eavestroughs, and I begin to clean up my brushes. I seem to relish the tinctures of paint residue in the turpentine, and the squeak of the paper towels rubbing the newly cleaned brushes to freshness again. I toss the now muddy turpentine outside, and watch the rainbows of the turpentine dance in the rain before being washed away.
I had wanted to write a poem this morning, but the poems in my heart began to be heard in my brushes, and on the canvas. And, that is perhaps the way the poems will be written today.