Monday, September 16, 2013

Interpreting the Landscape

"Reading" by JimCarpenter, Acrylic on Paper, 7 1/2" x 9 1/2"

Painting #13 Day 16 in the 30 in 30 Challenge

Jim: Can I paint this field purple instead of green?
Linda : It all depends.  Did you bring you license?
Jim: My license? What license?
Linda: Your artistic license.

Yes, this dialogue actually took place when I was a student of artist Linda Pence.  Though the subject was not specifically the purple field, I had asked her a question of similar import, and I assure you that I was totally baffled when she asked me if I brought my license with me.  Still the lesson is a hard one to learn.  

One spring I went out painting with Linda and another art buddy. After hours of looking at beautiful fields layered with intermingling swaths of pink and purple and yellow wildflowers, we ended up inexplicably selecting a plain green field with nothing to distinguish it from any big patch of green grass.  There were a few weedy pale pink flowers hidden in it but they were obscure and negligible.

I resigned myself to painting this somewhat boring flat green field, and soon got lost in the painting.  I was picking out the flowers in the field, squinting to track their spotty layout, and by the time we decided to pack up a few hours later my painting of the green field was filled with swaths of blue and pink and purple flowers. 

It can take a few minutes after a painting session to distance oneself from what has been done, and when I stepped back to look at the painting I laughed at myself for painting something that would never pass as an accurate recording of the green field.   

Perhaps this was a foreshadowing of the way I would come to paint a few years later in the studio, but at the time I didn’t recognize it as personal expression or personal interpretation of the landscape.  I owned the purple field, but it didn’t register that it was necessarily a step in the right direction for me. 

I find it amusing now that I was not more tuned in to the notion that an artist interprets the world around him.  I know that is what artists do, but somehow I wasnt thinking I had the license to do it myself, despite the many times my teacher reminded me that if I brought my artistic license with me I could paint whatever way I wanted. 

I titled this painting “Reading” because to read means to interpret text, both verbal and non-verbal.  Artists are constantly interpreting the text of the world around them, and their interpretation – a dance, a film, a piece of sculpture, a poem, a painting, a song – is there for all of us to read.  

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