We knew when we moved to Maine winters would be cold and snowy. Bill and I like cold and snowy. And we got it good about 5 days ago. It was -17; with wind chill, -40. But as long as the wind doesn’t blow out the power, we are happy and cozy with books, blankets, and moonlight lighting up the falling snow. Next morning, cocoa, pancakes, sausages and eggs fuel our energies for painting, writing, and reading. My homemade bread, toasted, spread with Jason’s jam (my Washington state son grows and cans a variety, sends us yummy jars that never seem to last long enough).
A harmony comes with the cold. A sacred solitude. No one will come. No phone calls. No errands. Only solemn stillness. Quiet days and nights allow ideas to flow. Bill and I write in our own individual styles in our own individual spaces–he squirreled upstairs in his den, me in an old leather chair by the Tiffany lamp in the corner of our tiny living room. Sometimes we share what comes to each of us. I find poems pop into thought and then words appear in my journal or computer. Recently these words have danced onto canvas, mixed with oil paint blending two art forms into one. It is an exciting adventure that silent snow days invite. Creativity begins in silence. I love it. Life happens. It is a time when new ideas are born. To be the receiver of such ideas is a bestowal I never take lightly. What arrives anchors me and asks to be shared. It is a time of thinking, pondering, listening, accepting, appreciating, learning.
At times I have painted winter scenes, viewed warmly inside from windows. Other times I’ve donned coat, hat, and scarf, and found some sheltered spot outdoors, painting in the weather for as long as I could take the nearly freezing temperatures, to capture the scene before me. Feeling the snow, not merely observing it, helps the scene appear most accurately on paper or canvas.
Though it is February, this year my new work is not realistic winter scenes. Yet, somehow, it reflects winter’s thoughtful solemnity. I am curiously enthusiastic about where these fresh paintings will take me, what they will reveal, what they have to say. Though started in recent weeks, they will not be finished for many months. It will take many layers and mediums to complete these large pieces (and oil paint must dry for nearly a year). Though there is not a speck of snow or frosted pine to be seen in these works, they are becoming a winter gift. Abstract, and with words, they express winter without what the senses see or feel. I eagerly watch where they want to go, how they will express what they tell me.
Though excited about this new winter work, I do still appreciate my older paintings of snow-clad trees seen from a kitchen window, or frosty outdoor scenes that I managed to capture with frigid fingers one brave day. They capture the season.
What winter solitude gives me now is seasonless. It provides the perfect atmosphere in which to work spiritually. Deeper meaning than mere subject matter takes hold. Dictates of form drop away in favor of soul-directed expression. Ideas about life and being are born to thought and find their way to canvas. They go beyond appearances, beyond the senses. Lines and shapes convey more than sight suggests. Coupled with words and the movement of marks and hues, dark and light, deep meaning shines through. And if I work at it diligently, listening always, then the work is born with self-less purpose and beauty. One day when one of these new pieces is finished, I’ll share it with you.
Artwork: Snow Day, framed watercolor, approx. 30″ x 26″. I no longer have this piece; it was painted about a dozen years ago from my kitchen window and sold from my gallery, Shawnee Falls Studio, Gallery & Guesthouse.