Mar 14, 2012

The Roots of Art

Linda Lover
Photo is my Granddaughter

There are so many ways that the desire to paint can be introduced into our lives. Some are born with the gift and it becomes as easy as breathing for them. Some have found their way through trial and error, sort of a labor of love. Yet, there are others who are influenced by someone or something, and simply gave it a try. It can be about color, self-expression, creativity, and relaxation or for many other reasons, but every painter has an artistic root that has been nurtured at some point and grows with time if they chose to make it so.

I used to think it was the crayons and stack of coloring books that were the beginnings of my fascination with art, but I’ve decided it’s far more intricate than that. Way back when I started kindergarten, we had to bring a rug to school for a rest period and I remember choosing mine for color more than softness or length. It had just about every color of the rainbow in it. Nothing could ever be too colorful for me when I was a kid. Even when learning to read from the “Dick and Jane” books in first grade, I was just as interested in the watercolor color illustrations as I was the words, maybe more so. It was always the best day when we had anything with arts and crafts, and that feeling followed me all the way through school.

Our old neighborhood had a park nearby that was supervised in the summer. For a nickel we could make a potholder or a lanyard. It was better than choosing candy from a jar to get to pick out our colors and watch a pattern form as we worked to finish the project. Sometimes the seed of art is planted with just such seemingly small incidences that can eventually grow to be the root of art in our lives. It’s a sort of day-to-day thing rather than a single event for most of us.

Have you ever liked a design but not the color or liked the color but not the design? It seems these two must be compatible for something to be fully appreciated. As a child, whenever I was ill I remember the quilt my grandmother would bring out to cover me with. It was like being on a treasure hunt to look at all the different patchwork squares of fabric, matching them up, comparing them, and looking at the patterns. There were some I liked much better than others and those were ones where color and design were both appealing to me. So this is something we also discover early on whether we distinguish the reasoning for it or not at the time.

I also recall the beautiful flowers my grandmother and our neighbors had growing in their gardens. Balsam was a favorite of my grandmother’s, as it grew wild where she had lived in Russia. She would bring them from her garden to church to have them blessed by the Eastern Orthodox priest in August, which was the Great Feast of the Dominion of the Theotokos.

Theotokos left behind an empty tomb, and when it was discovered, it was found to be filled with the fragrance of flowers. My grandmother loved the pure reds and oranges. In fact she favored red in most varieties of flowers. I remember her buying several small pots of geraniums to plant on graves on Memorial Day so, as much as she enjoyed them, she wouldn’t plant them in her own garden. They were set aside and meant to be special.

For those of us who garden or appreciate walking through one, we find our favorite flower might be because of the scent, a specific variety, or the color. So after all these years, I still find myself being influenced often by the flowers in the old gardens that I grew up around. I love to paint geraniums because of how special they were to my grandmother.

The woman across the street from us had sky blue morning glories and a neighbor two houses from us had every color imaginable in hollyhocks. My Aunt Annie had a blanket of lily of the valley and an arbor of beautiful purple clematis growing up the one side of the porch. My Aunt Mary had a bleeding heart outside her kitchen door and a yard lined with violet lilacs. Not only am I attracted to the colors of these flowers, but also when I paint them; I find the joy is also in remembering. Some of the earliest cave drawings are of flowers and some of the pyramids of Egypt were found to have seeds. Flowers have influenced our lives in many ways for centuries and very often in art.

The root of art continues to grow in yet other ways such as being able to capture pleasant memories or tell stories in paint. Currently I’m painting a series of snowmen. In the process I can’t help but be reminded of the wonderful times I had as a child outdoors in winter, then later as I played outdoors with my own children. Snowmen were always such a part of that.

So were the evenings when the full moon made a blanket of freshly fallen snow look like blue velvet. I also love windows lit up with bright yellow and orange on a cold evening reflecting welcoming warmth. It was always such a delight to get to go to my Aunt Mary’s after she had all her holiday decorations in place. The contrast of a night sky against the glow of the tree lights on her enclosed porch and the big Santa face in the window still bring a smile and have even inspired my paintings through the years. Even though we didn’t have a camera, it was moments like this that still remain very vivid among my memories.

How many remember a lazy day in summer, lying on the grass and looking up into a cloud filled sky? It was such fun to find shapes of things and watch them turn into something else as they moved along. This might have been my first introduction to impressionism. After all, impressionism is like visual effects over details, not being linear or having smooth blends but more the play of lights and shadows, darks and lights to create an image. You can see it in distant trees and other foliage as well. Though the detail is not clear, it’s obvious to the eye what it actually is.
Art is such a part of our lives in no many ordinary ways that it may even go unnoticed. This is true whether we paint or not. We see it all around us in nature, in architecture, in fashion and home décor. It might be the in the color of car we choose or the color of paint for a room. How often have you looked at something as simple as wrapping paper or a card that has to be “just right” in color and design?

Just about every day I find that I look at the sky to study the colors, the shapes of clouds and the shadows that change throughout the day. I take notice of the differences in all the evergreens in our neighborhood; some are dense while others are gangly and easy to see through the branches. Tree bark is not actually brown and some is scaly and some are smooth. I look forward to the flowers blooming once again. Each season is such a gift in beauty and offers the painter endless possibilities from which to create.

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