In art we often talk about inspiration. Going out, seeing different sights and experiencing new things can contribute to our inspiration because they open our mind to other possibilities. In July 2017 I started painting in my garden, and I discovered that it drives me to paint endlessly.
I’ve heard that if you really want to paint then you’ll paint anywhere. Though this is mostly true, I don’t believe that I paint at my best from anywhere. In my previous life, I wasn’t happy being stuck indoors and depriving myself of sunlight. So why was I staying indoors now that I had the power to choose if to go outside to work?
Maybe it was habit or maybe it was the fact that I didn’t want to move all of my materials outside. Regardless, I stayed in my basement studio for a good portion of the summer. In fact, I had attempted to paint outside once before, but I did it all wrong. I was painting from a picture under the 2:30 pm sun. The light was reflecting off my painting while the colors on my palette dried too quickly for me to use them. Painting like this was not enjoyable.
So the second time I attempted to paint outside, I made sure to paint in the shade and while it was still cool out. Painting became my morning priority. Suddenly nothing could pull me away from my canvas – except maybe lunch.
Outside, everything around me is inspiration and I’m able to use shade to my benefit. When the sunlight moves directly into my eyes or onto my painting, I simply pause that painting and move to a new spot to work on a different painting. The interruption allows me to decide what looks best on my canvas, using the plant or flower only as inspiration for what I create.
Pictures don’t always show all the details I want to see. So when I’m painting from one of my photographs, I have to fill in the blanks with my imagination. While painting from a picture forces me to invent, when I’m painting outside I’m only responsible for creating. I don’t think that one approach is better than the other, they’re simply different. When I paint inside, I study my canvas. I study the colors and shapes and how they interact. I dream of those paintings and journal about them. I create a more colorful and bright world to compensate for what I don’t have indoors in the winter months.
When I paint outside I don’t go through the same process. I merely paint what I find interesting. I sit on the grass or in a chair, lay some colors that I see onto my palette, and then I paint what I want to focus on. My colors aren’t mixed to be realistic and match what’s in front of me. They’re mixed in a way that expresses what I feel when I look at that plant or flower in that moment. There’s very little afterthought. I journal about what I’ve painted and move on to the next painting. It’s simple.