What drives artists to paint a particular piece? I get asked this question often, so I wanted to answer it as honestly as I can here. For me, it frequently comes down to one simple thing: a color—or a combination of colors—that I’m craving. It’s as strong as a craving for a certain kind of food, and it’s almost as tactile a sensation as savoring that food once it hits the taste buds. Really. I’m not kidding.
Recently, that color was a certain deep shade of periwinkle—the perfect intersection of blue and red, warm hitting cool, both finding a harmony, a peaceful way of coexisting. I needed to have it, see it, work with it, dive into it, feel it become part of me. I also needed a big canvas so I could move with the paint, take part in a certain kind of dance, if you will. I had no idea what would happen; I knew only that I craved a color and then a feeling, and the color and movement would help me express that feeling. The result was “That Time of Day, Acadia,” 36 x 36 x 1.5 inches, oil on gallery wrap canvas.
As the painting began to form, I noticed other stirrings and became more aware of the technical side of things: how the composition needed to help the eye move throughout the piece (which meant changing some shapes here and there), how a golden, medium cadmium yellow would be a good complementary color to set off against the periwinkle, and how magenta and orange needed to play a role, too.
I noticed as well that streaks of light in my work are making more of an appearance. And I found myself remembering a certain day on my road trip when visiting the jaw-dropping glory of Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine. It was summer, that magic time between night and day where, when I’m fortunate enough to be in a beautiful location, and even more fortunate to be present, awake, and aware, I experience deep and yet contradictory stirrings of peace and longing. For me, light and water and that time of day feel like coming home for my soul. Add some hills or mountains, and it turns into nirvana. That’s how this experience was, and once my memory took me back to it, the painting almost created itself.
But all that took second place to what started it in the first place: a visceral craving I had to act on.
If you can, pause to notice the colors around you that strike you, stir you, or that you might crave, and then observe the feelings they bring about in you. It’s a wonderful meditation, and I guarantee you’ll come to a new awareness.
Here’s to the sense of “waking up” that art brings into our lives.