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A STORY  It was nearing the end of the year 2000. Camille and I were meeting every other week to discuss her writing an instructional art book. I was to be her editor or ghost writer or something of that nature. Camille and I have a long history of never entering into any contracts. We would just DO things together never knowing where we would end up. The book project was exciting while it lasted. There were a lot of pages I wrote that she wrote scribbled nonsensical ramblings with artist's quotes–and paper flying everywhere. Things changed. The project stalled. Suffice it to say; the book never happened. It's now 12 years later. I'm examining and re-examining my life, as a painter and someone who finds pleasure in writing, but almost never writes. And I certainly don't paint as much as I yearn to. But, I am still a professional painter and instructor, and let's not forget a life-long student. 

I'm in the process of setting priorities in my life such that I ensure that I am living the most productive and creative life possible and just as equally important to me, that I'm inspiring others to do the same.  My rough draft for the opening paragraphs of the book that never was:

Enjoy yourself and feel accomplishment in the face of a failed attempt to produce a fine work of art. It's critical that we accept our artistic failures and not let ourselves get upset by them. Try not to be greedy or seek "too hard" to paint that elusive visual truth. As beginners and advanced painters, we must learn to live with and accept our artistic desires without the obsession to satisfy them immediately. Don't fight against what you don't know. We can rest in the knowledge that as we grow, whatever frustrates us in our painting process is impermanent, and it WILL pass. Do not try to control your learning, by over-analyzing and trying to discover formulas or the secret that this book is supposed to provide. Be receptive and JUST PAINT. There is no right way to being a painter being a painter IS the way. Give up any notions that you're not doing it right. With every painting you do, the closer you'll get to discovering your visual truth.

Are we not often as dissatisfied with what we DO get as with what we don't? The desires we have, if it's not on being "a great painter," or ending world hunger, it's ALWAYS something. Desires just cause us to suffer when we can't live up to them. Sure, acknowledge those dreams, but try not to LIVE for them. If we can give ourselves this freedom, perhaps it can end our suffering through our process of our artistic journey.

The traditional Buddhist term for the cessation of suffering is the Sanskrit word, "Nirvana." It's impossible for me to explain what Nirvana is as I haven't experienced it–not many of us have it's like describing color to a blind man. But, Nirvana is an unconditioned state of liberation from suffering. Maybe this is what we can experience with our painting if we are not hung up on tormenting ourselves through the process. So, we must make an effort, the visual truth lies in our hands, but we have to work for it. So, what are you waiting for? Paint!


Peggi Kroll-Roberts said...

I LOVE this post Carole.

marcypainting said...

This IS so well-written, a real keeper. I may have to copy it down, just for my own (perpetual) reading, re-reading. Okay?

marcypainting said...


A PASSAGE "The most useful definition of creativity is the following one: people are artistically creative when they love what they are doing, know what they are doing, and actively engage in the tasks we call art-making. The three elements of creativity are thus loving, knowing, and doing; or heart, mind and hands; or, as Buddhist teaching has it, great faith, great question and great courage."

Eric Maisel, Ph.D.

A MEMORY My story, which took place in Oct 2004, was published in the January 2005 issue of Plein Air Magazine. Here it is below.

During the 18th Annual Plein Air Painters of America Workshop and Exhibition in the turn-of-the-century impressionist art colony of Old Lyme CT, 100 eager students embraced the seaside wind chill and intermittent rain and sunshine to paint among a few of the most recognized plein air painters in the nation. The instructors were Kenn Backhaus, Gay Faulkenberry, Louise Demore, Joseph Mendez, Ralph Oberg, Joseph Paquet, Ron Rencher, Brian Stewart, George Strickland, Linda Tippetts and Skip Whitcomb.

We're in a land of patterns and contrasts, with trees of saffron, terra cotta, and gold dust. With deep tones of copper and canary yellow against lapis lazuli skies, the cool October light and warm shadows reinterpreted the blues of the Connecticut River. This was the second consecutive year that PAPA visited Old Lyme. This year our group decided to come a month later to experience the fall foliage. We were deep in America's own Giverny at the most beautiful time of year, participating in a workshop with the highest caliber of plein air painting instruction.

Each instructor with 10-15 students had a designated painting spot for the week. The designations sent students to local homeowners' properties, to farms, marinas and nearby towns of Noank, Essex, East Haddam, Mystic, Guilford, and Clinton.

The workshop's opening day brought a westerly breeze that dropped the early-morning temperature to somewhere around forty degrees. A handful of other students and I set up our easels behind the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam.

Our instructor for the day, Ray Roberts a plein air painter with an obsessive passion for finding the beautiful shapes in nature, assembled simple shapes like mosaics while demonstrating and lecturing about the fundamental truths of composing and executing a great painting. "When approaching the scene, it's all about patterns, light and dark patterns," Roberts explained. "There are infinite patterns in any given scene."

The following day, a whole new group of students worked at Lobster Landing in Clinton. George Strickland, our instructor and the current president of PAPA, explained to us that he focuses on what compels him to paint a particular scene. "I feel it's important for all of us to find that out." Strickland also stresses the importance of finding our own voices.

One day, the entire group visited historic Mystic Seaport. The instructors painted for three hours; then the students participated in a mass paint-out as the instructors offered critiques and advice. It was a perfect sunny afternoon of painting among the old sailing vessels and the nostalgic setting of the seaport museum.

Ralph Oberg spent a day at Griswold Point on the distinguished Connecticut Griswold family compound. The rains had come, but the wet weather was intermittent, so we toughed it out. Oberg quoted the late Russian impressionist, Sergei Bongard, "Paint the trees before the leaves and the dog before the fleas" and stressed that a good composition must be simple and strong.

Our rain soaked day was rewarded by a private preview showing of Plein Air Color & Light, an exhibition and sale of paintings by signature members of PAPA and dinner at the Hideaway Restaurant & Pub, the designated nightly hot spot among many of us for good conversation and drink with a few new friends.

On a cool crisp morning on Tiffany Farm, Kenn Backhaus demonstrated painting a cluster of barns receding into the fog. Backhaus explained, "When physics and poetry are combined in a painting, it makes a great work of art." By physics, he meant drawing, perspective, and value sense. Poetry he defined as the ethereal quality that occurs from being “in the zone” while painting. It quickly became another challenging day as the rain began to pour after lunch, but we stayed to work on our afternoon studies.

A raffle mixer followed the workshop at the Florence Griswold Museum. Our paintings were set up for viewing by the rest of the group, and we enjoyed wine, hors d'oeuvres and banter. As George Strickland called random names drawn from a hat, students roared with cheers as lucky winners received an assortment of gifts.

Saturday night, we were reunited again for the grand opening of Plein Air Color & Light. It was a fine evening at the Lyme Art Association. as wine flowed and paintings sold. Smiles and laughter prevailed in "America's Giverny".

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