April 6, 2011
Today, for the first time this spring, I painted outdoors. Since I am no longer in a painting group–these groups tend to disintegrate with time due to aging, ill health or the other interests of the members–painting outdoors alone means more difficulty finding places to paint and perhaps more exposure to the general public while I’m doing it.
But Lawrence in the spring cries out to be painted as trees and flowerbeds burst into bloom: forsythia, daffodils, violets, pansys, Bradford pear trees, magnolia trees, etc. and today the weather was perfect, sunny with temperatures in the high 70s. I simply had to paint outdoors.
I was reminded of the story of Monet, an Impressionist artist whose work I have always admired. He too had to cope with how to continue painting in old age. (He lived to be 86). One of his solutions today became mine. As he aged, he primarily painted on his own land at Giverny. My city lot is much smaller than his country acres but I took a closer look at my yard today where violets clustered at the base of an oak tree and magnolia and Bradford pear trees were visible in my neighbor’s yard. While Monet in old age struggled with failing sight, I’ve experienced the modern miracle of cataract surgery. Now if only I can paint on canvas what my eyes see so well.
So I set up my easel in my driveway near the street and started to paint with a bird singing nearby, determined to concentrate on painting, no matter what. And of course the same things happened that always happen when painting near a street. Cars come up behind me very slowly. One woman even slowed down enough to comment that my painting was just beautiful, although it was in such an early stage that it really wasn’t. Bicyclists glanced my way and a neighbor came over and said I couldn’t expect her not to look.
Nothing outdoors stays the same for long, so I’ll eventually finish my painting inside from a photo. Even if the painting turns out to be not that great, the experience of painting it outside on a beautiful spring day certainly was.