Another Big Flower...

"Reaching Out" 12 x 18 Pastel (oil and chalk) on Paper
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Another big flower... another mixture of oil and chalk...

Same subject, different day? How is it that painting in a series can be comforting, yet challenging? And is it still considered a series if you take a break and paint something different for a while?

I'm not sure I would call anything I paint a "series," except maybe my Egyptian-inspired pieces. Yet, these large flowers call to me often, as does the need to paint them in oil and chalk. I'm not sure it's the subject matter and medium I crave in these cases, though. I think it's the escape into painting without having to plan too much, or worry about perspective and straight lines, or about capturing a likeness. It's the freedom of painting loose, with a general destination in mind, but absolute freedom in how I reach it-- and absolute confidence that I know may way there just well enough to try a slightly different path.

As a child, my sister and I were lucky enough to live on a piece of property with 200 acres of natural reserve land behind it. It was just scrub brush, hills, riverbeds, and trees, but it offered hours of exploration. We spent entire days tromping through the area, usually heading for a large bunch of trees that appeared to be miles away from our house. We took different ways to get there, but for some reason we aimed for those trees on a regular basis.

Some things remained the same on those trips: we usually found a large creek along the way, which told us we were getting close. We always had to take the dogs (on mom's orders), and they seemed to know where they were going, or were at least happy to lead the way. Our feet always ached before we even got there, and we always returned home hungry and tired. And every time we reached that lonely old bunch of trees, there stood the empty, dilapidated barn that looked like it would fall down in the rushing breeze. We would stay just long enough to get the creeps, then would turn around and head home.

When I paint my familiar subjects, the experience is like those childhood trips. I start out with the comfort of my usual tools, and make a general map of where I'm going with a quick sketch. I happily block in the darkest darks, the lightest lights, and the bright colors. I sit back for a minute and assess how close I am to the destination, then return to my journey and begin to work on some details.

I usually finish my work the way I finished those day-long journeys: worn out and hungry, with an aching body (probably from sitting on the hard floor so I can make a bigger mess). I may be eager for a different destination the next day, but I know I'll return to the familiar one again soon, because the experience was just challenging enough to offer something new, but comforting enough to give me confidence.

For the record, I wouldn't let my own child wander around the boonies like this-- the days of wandering free for little girls and their dogs are long gone, I'm afraid. I'm grateful I had that freedom, though. It taught me to weather challenges and look for patterns that would lead to success, which are skills I can use in any aspect of life.


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