That's what happened to me with a painting I later titled Path of Light. The thing is, I knew it's name before it developed into a painting and, this is just a guess here as I'm not fully clear on how inspiration really works, maybe that's the reason it all came together. I'd been reading from The Tao of Watercolor, by Jeanne Carbonetti. She was talking about focus... about knowing what we want to say. I found that so interesting because she wasn't saying to focus on knowing what we want to make. Her emphasis is to first know what we want to say or what story do we want to tell. There is a difference. Can you feel it? She also says that beginning artists often judge a painting too soon - that maybe it needs more paint. Both of these ideas influenced what evolved the next time I picked up a brush.
I headed into my studio late one night. Clean water and brushes were waiting for me, as it has become my practice to always make things ready in this way. It occurs to me as I write to you that this is a welcome ritual where I am planning ahead for my own return, preparing to say "Hello, my friend. I knew you were coming and have brought fresh water, cleaned your brushes, topped off your spritzer bottles, and taped some paper down on the glass..." or board... or other sturdy surface that didn't already have something already taped to it.
That night as I wet my paints, a thought arrived for the first time ever - I want to be known as the lady who painted light. Typing it now gives me goosebumps so I know this comes from my deepest heart.
The paper seemed happy to receive a nice even wash of clear water. I sopped up the transparent yellow from the well with my floppy rigger and let it slide onto the page as exploding sunshine - it seemed eager, like it couldn't wait to be there. I left the upper corners clear of yellow and filled them with manganese blue, swabbing out a few light clouds. Gradually, easily, I added colors to the page - quinacridone gold and transparent pyrrole orange in layers across the bottom of the still wet yellow page. The gold and orange shot fingers up into the yellow that branched out like limbs in a whole forest of trees. As I went along, teasing out tree trunks along the bottom few rows of woods, dabbing the fall leaves onto the still damp yellow, I started to feel a little lost. What was happening? Where was this going?
I paused and remembered I wanted to be a lady who paints light. Ahhh,,, that's right. Light. So that's what moved me forward - the promise of light, not trees. I wanted to tell a story of how every path, no matter how dark it seems, contains light and that light will lead us to more light, away from the dark places. What resulted was a forest in autumn with too many trees and perspective out of whack and needing a lot of work. I'd begun devising complicated plans to regain control and fix this haywire overgrowth. Still, even thought my forest was out of control, but the path of light was strong. I went to bed, deciding to let it be until morning.
In the morning my coffee and I sat quietly with the forest, loving that path of light. Oh, how it spoke to me. It was glowing as it streamed it's way through the overgrowth. I'd remembered that cropping can be used to rescue paintings that seem to have gone off course. I looked up on my wall and saw some old mattes dangling on a clothesline, grabbed a 4x4 square and set it down on my painting. Suddenly, it was just right. I didn't need to beat the forest into submission with desperately contrived plans and fixes. What I wanted was already there. What was needed was to get rid of everything else. And so, I did. And it was good. And I was, in that moment, the lady who painted light.