I realized that I had things in my head, not like what I had been taught-not like what I had seen-shapes and ideas so familiar to me that it hadn't occurred to me to put them down. I decided to stop painting, to put away everything I had done, and to start to say things that were my own.- Georgia O'Keefe.
So many times I hesitate to go to the full uniqueness of a piece of art that I want to share because it is different than my other pieces or different than the work I have sold lately. My mind will fill itself with doubts over what should be such a pleasurable experience: Will people know what this woman represents? Does it matter? Can I be patient enough to stick with my inner vision, enough to do it over and over till it matches what is in my head? Can I change mediums if this one is not working to tell the story? Can I like it if no one else does?
And there you have it- just a few of the thoughts that ride on my left shoulder while my right arm is painting an image from my imagination, or changing a landscape to match what I feel and not just what I see. And I don't think I am alone, which is why so many of us appreciate Georgia O'Keefe's stubborn insistence on going her own way. If I am lucky, the stroke of pastel or paint on paper and watching the image evolve silences those unwanted words.
ILLUMINATED GARDEN, the image above, developed a meaning-its own story-after landing on paper in bright, soft pastels. Something about planting seeds when no one is looking and being content that they would sprout in their own good time and grow into what they were meant to be takes faith. I am thankful that this image sold, but I keep a framed print of it nearby because it is a reminder that I need to plant those seeds, whether they are in the form of words or images. To know that Georgia O'Keefe had to remind herself to stay true to herself is a wonderful validation that the insecurity, the need to push on, the temptation to paint just to please others is there with even the best of artists. Her words are a reminder that this decision is one we need to make over and over again as we continue our journey. A small book of her quotes, WORDS/WORKS was given to me by a friend who knows me well.
If you would like to read earlier installments of Painting The Sky, you can find them here.