Saturday, February 4, 2017

beauty is in the eye of the beholder..

I've been thinking a lot about subject matter in the last couple of weeks.  And what makes something "beautiful".  I've always been interested in not quite "beautiful" things.  Old peeling paint on furniture makes me giddy.  The more run down an object is, the better I like it.  Give me an old house any day over a new one.  I like to see the possibilities in things.  Look for opportunities in the passed over.  Maybe I just like an underdog.

It inspires me.  The idea that everything is beautiful, like the song goes "in it's own way".  Maybe beauty is a personal idea or sense, or maybe it is just a frame of mind.  I like to think it's just a frame of mind.  Or maybe an "open" mind would be a better way to put it.

The art of "seeing" is what painters strive for.  The edges and shadows, the color and the light.  But what if it's not the "seeing"?  What if it is just the "looking" that is the key?  Maybe just absorbing what is in front of us not for what it is but for what it could be.

Last spring, I headed to Apalachicola, Florida with some artist friends to a brand new event "Plein Air South".  We didn't know what to expect and having no expectations is a wonderful thing.  It usually means everything is a happy surprise.  And it was.  Along with all of the wonderful painting opportunities and watching some of my favorite artists work their magic, I fell in love with the little town of Apalachicola.

I'm not sure Apalachicola is on anyone's list of "beautiful" places.  It is a fishing village on the Florida Panhandle that feels like a step back in time.  Beautiful in places but rough around the edges. Freshly painted and well rigged boats docked next to vessels that hardly seem seaworthy.  A well taken care of turn of the century mansion right next to a run down fishing shack with 50 years worth of collected and curated junk strewn haphazardly around it.  In a grocery store aisle you are just as likely to run into a  hardworking, hard living fisherman as you are a well dressed businessman.  It is a place that feels real.  It reminds me of where I grew up on the coast.   I love that kind of place. So compelling....all of those contradictions.

There was a house there in town that was famous for more than it's share of "stuff". Boats, on top of trailers next to lumber piled on old vehicles with buckets and ropes and wheelbarrows and a few trashcans thrown in for good measure. Rusted objects strewn around that no longer represented anything useable or identifiable.  But when that beautiful Florida sunshine filtered through the oaks and palms and lit everything up....It was a marvel to behold.  It was beautiful.

This house and yard was well documented in the paintings of the artists that had been there all week.  From just about every angle.  It captured my imagination but I never got a chance to paint it that week.  I left feeling a bit disappointed that I didn't take a shot at it.

Last week I booked my hotel for a trip back to Apalachicola in May.  I started thinking about that house again and decided to paint it from some of the photos I had taken.  I wanted to try and recapture the magic and the beauty of the rundown objects that I saw there.  Bring the feelings back that I had when I was observing it last year.

Here is my painting of a little area of the yard.  Just shapes and color and light and shadow.  But all woven together to create a sense of place and maybe beauty.  That is, if your eye can behold it.

"beast of burden"
20" x 16" oil on linen panel

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