I finally feel like my inspiration and motivation are reviving after being mostly absent for much of 2020. While I have sketched a great deal, especially from our front porch in Maine (Front Porch Sketches and More Front Porch Sketches), I haven’t often had the mental energy to do more than very quick sketches. I am realizing more and more how much stress and grief and illness can drain one’s creative energy. But now that my creative spark is returning, I am finding it is both energizing and calming at the same time to immerse myself in meditative sketching or painting. I am very thankful to be getting my brushes wet again and to be playing with paint and ink.
A couple weeks ago a friend who does amazing renditions of Van Gogh’s and some other artists’ paintings suggested I paint the same black locust tree I had done in ink (images in my last post) with vivid colors. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I decided to pull out my gouache and go a bit wild with color. I sat in my yard (under a cedar tree that showered me with prickly needles) and painted, trying to capture the light on the trunk of the tree. And that got me revved up to paint with gouache, so next I pulled out a sketch I’d done on location and a photo of Bash Bish Falls in Massachusetts (can’t go there now because of Covid, so a sketch and photo had to do) and imagined being there as I painted.
I love this time of year when we still have some fall color, but we can also see more and more of the essence or “bones” of the trees. Trees are one of my favorite subjects for drawing, painting, sketching, and just plain looking at. They are more cooperative than dogs, cats, or people, and especially more so than birds. It seems no matter how quietly I pick up a pen and my sketchbook when my cat, Acadia, or my dog, Ramble, are sleeping, they immediately wake up or shift position in their sleep. But the trees in my yard generally stand fairly still and they hold their essential shape (with minor changes due to falling limbs on occasion), except when leaves are growing in the spring or falling in autumn. But those changes take place more slowly than I sketch.
However, even though the trees stand still, the light can change dramatically in a matter of minutes, so sometimes I need to observe closely and sketch quickly. As I sketched this morning and tried to capture the morning light on one of our venerable black locust trees, Paul’s words from Ephesians and Colossians about making the most of every opportunity came to mind and led me into meditating on the importance of being attentive to the opportunities God brings my way. I don’t want to miss the privilege of seeing his fingerprints in the world or cooperating with him in some work he has for me, and sketching trees always seems to slow me down and bring me into a place of mindfulness. I wonder if one reason God made trees to be stationary beings is for them to model a patient attentiveness and responsiveness to all that happens around them.