Sometimes you’re just too close

by | May 31, 2023 | Art's lessons, Artist Journey, Painting | 0 comments

I started needlework and quilting in the early 90s. With that particular medium, you work on one section at a time, sometimes filling in that section with tiny stitches and designs.

It’s very easy to look at that work and see all the flaws. The stitches are uneven. The stitches are different lengths. You can see a gap. And on and on.

Continually I would come back to the project in day or week (or month or year!), and I couldn’t find the area where I thought there were all these problems.

A couple of lessons here.

  1. A piece of art (or a project or whatever) is meant to be enjoyed or used in its entirety and wholeness. In other words, no one is going to zero in on the one square inch of the 6′ x 4′ quilt and go, “Man, this sucks! See how these three stitches are not equal length?”
  2. When we’re working on something, we tend to have a micro focus on that one thing (segment, piece, etc.). So, of course, every little detail is magnified. (And sometimes literally magnified if you’re using an aid to make it bigger.)

What that means is that when we step back and take in the project as a whole, we see it in that form – the wholeness. We’re not really able to focus in on any one thing for very long because the whole calls us to see it as such – whole.

Fast forward from needlework to painting today. I take a lot of pictures of my art pieces, sometimes as progress photos (like Green Tara), to mark the date, or to document the process.

This particular piece, which I’m calling Tree of Life #Borealis, is one I’ve been staring at for weeks. I put the finishing coats on today and took pictures of it in the sun to capture the stunning colors.

Knowing I was going to write this blog post, I sat down to write and pulled up one of the pictures.

I almost gasped. I see something in the photos (because I have distance – real and figurative) that I haven’t seen since I’ve been working on this piece for close to a month.

Before I reveal what I see, I ask you – what do you see? (Yes, I know a tree, but look at the background.)

Here’s what I see: water on the left and the right, pouring into a fantasy land and then into a chasm in the middle of the painting. It’s almost as if this landscape opens up into space.

I also see what looks to be a horizon through the middle of the picture.

One thing that is consistent from today’s viewing and my previous perusals of it is that it looks like space through the vertical center (and maybe even some stars). Hence, why I used “borealis” as part of the title.

I wonder if I should have added the tree, but the tree was part of the planned process, and I drew it through the wet paint. I wouldn’t have been able to stand the canvas up vertically to take a picture, or the paint would have dripped off – changing the whole image.

Always lessons. Always surprises.


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