Our screened porch looks out over our sloping wooded hillside down to the ocean estuary where the sun sets nightly and a hefty sea breeze races up to meet us, reminding us why we moved to Maine. Recently it came to me that I needed a fourth seat on this porch–an old antique wicker rocker would do nicely, I thought. It came to me to drive to a nearby flea market-sort-of place with lobster buoys, iron work, wooden pieces from ships and old homes, antiques and more. Though I’d not seen a chair there before, I knew the chair I wanted would be there. It was. For thirty dollars it was mine. I loved its old-fashioned style, its high back and its flaws. I cleaned it up, barely tinged it with a bit of white paint, shellacked it, loving its imperfections and muted driftwood color. Now when we sit on our porch evenings, my husband playing his banjo before the sun gives its final flare and fades, I smile at my treasure, sunlight shining through the woven wicker. I will paint it one day.
I have painted the sunset porch view numerable times, never fully doing it justice. Nature is more perfect than what an artist’s brush can capture. But I try.
I have, however, recently been modestly satisfied with three new watercolors I’ve completed of the ocean. The rugged waves crash against the rocks, stirring up white foam in contrast with the deep teal and aqua sea. In these three pieces I think I’ve captured what I love about the ocean–just as I loved and painted Lake Michigan. For many years I’d walk miles down that lakeshore, rarely seeing anyone. It was glorious. In Maine rocks and tourists are more likely than sand and solitude, but there’s a similar pleasure, a gratifying communion with nature.
There is a spiritual relationship between an artist and her work. Difficult to describe. The word that comes closest to describing it is listening. Subject matter and method each teach me how to proceed. There is a call, or telling, whispering direction, inspiring, showing me what needs to happen–how the composition should be laid out, what to emphasize, where the powerful darks and lights should be maintained, what hues should be mixed. It is a transcendent, enlightening experience to paint. Beyond time. Beyond the thing itself. It is also hard work. And, eventually, it is a joy–like the satisfaction after climbing a 4,000 foot assent and collapsing, arms spread out, eyes to the heavens.
I look forward to painting my wicker chair just as I look forward to paint another view of the ocean, each an adventure. I am eager to listen and learn.
Artwork: Rugged Waves at the Ridges, watercolor, framed, approx. 30″ x 24″, $975. Just finished and at the framers, this is my current favorite, along with two others of the ocean just completed.