Echoes of my mom

I'm excited to report that I've been invited to do a workshop on creativity -- which means I'll be spending time for a while exploring that topic and watching to see how it resonates in my own work.  So yesterday I spent some time painting (nope, nothing worth sharing here, though I did learn some important things about surfaces) and then poked around the images I shot in the Skagit Valley last week to see what potential might be there.

This image started out as the cement wall shown at right -- which just tells you, doesn't it, why it is so hard for me to throw any of my images away; you just never know what they might become!  Not that the result is necessarily fabulous or sale-worthy -- but how do I get from this to that?

I think, for the moment at least, that the answer has something to do with engagement, and paying attention.  I look at the image, I notice the parts that appeal to me, and I try to bring them out -- rather like a conductor emphasizes themes in a symphony, or a director encourages the characters in a play. 

To some extent I do that when I am painting, as well: once there's something on the canvas, I try to see where it might be going.  I do pay attention, try to watch and listen.  But the difference, though I've painted off and on most of my life, is that I really don't have the skillset to bring to the process. 

Working with Photoshop has become somewhat like driving a car -- I automatically have all these resources at my fingertips.  I don't have to think about technique; the possible actions are all embedded somewhere in my lizard brain after all these years, so I can kind of "go with the flow." 

But with painting everything still works at the conscious level -- mixing paints, choosing brushes, dealing with surfaces -- so I'm more like a teenager learning to drive, having to mentally rehearse or challenge each decision along the way.

Does that mean I shouldn't learn to paint, or keep trying to paint?  No -- I still think there is something vital to be learned from that process. 

But watching all of this, I am forced to admit that there is more of my mother in me than I realized.  Mom was a gifted watercolorist -- not fabulous, but definitely good -- and it drove me and my dad crazy that she insisted on painting in oil.  Because her oil colors were dreadful, really.  I have several of them stacked in my hall closet: believe me, they have little redeeming value other than that her hands created them!

I never understood why she wasted her time creating bad art when it was so easy for her to create good stuff.  But now I am watching myself do the same thing.  Which makes me stop and think: what can I learn about HER from watching this echo in myself?  And how does her choice inform my own?  Are we just exploring boundaries, challenging ourselves?  Or are we still trying to be something we're not instead of honoring the gifts we have?  And what do questions like these tell us about creativity and the creative process?

As Alice said in Wonderland -- "Curiouser and curiouser..."


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