Flying Girl is Ready to Go, or Packed. 9/26.08
Golden Fluid Acrylics, Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils, Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens.
This painting was inspired by Illustration Friday's prompt, Packed. At first the image in my head was of someone burdened with all their baggage, trying to fly despite the heaviness, and then that was replaced in my head by this image, a red suitcase, and the song "Leaving on a Jet Plane." In fact, I sang that song all while I painted (except for when I was watching the Presidential Debate). I was told that it seems wistful, but it doesn't feel so to me. She's packed her bags with all she needs and is off into the future. I'm not sure if the train is going the same direction she is or if it's not, but I feel certain there's a broad ocean on the other side of those mountains. A sea full of life and opportunity.
This whole painting went differently than many others. Instead of fixing the colors after they went down, I thought about what I wanted before hand. I wanted a rosy dawn tint to the sky, but going through my paints, I couldn't find the key. Then I looked at my pencils. Lately, I've been drawing my sketches with the watercolor pencils, they add a little smudge sometimes that I like. This time I had the brain storm-- why not use the pencils to add color to the paint??? They're water based, so they will blend a little, but not completely. So I colored in the red sky, then washed it with a wet brush to make sure it would give me the right effect, and then on went the paint. I really like that it is sheer enough to let the underpainting show, but also took on some of the watercolor pencil pigment. Layers. Interacting media. Experimentation.
I had thought also about making the mountains purple, but when I had the sky in, I didn't want to jar the nice peach skin blush with a contrasting color. Still wanted a little purpley tint, but didn't want to go all the way. So, hey! Extend the experiment. Color in the land with green in the front, blue in the middle and blue and red (also known as purple) in the back. Voila, the sheerest tint of color to the tan. I did the same on the girl, too, but I liked the wash effect so much, I left off the layer of tan I had been planning.
It is interesting that this painting actually uses more colors than any of the others, but I think it's the most muted of all the paintings. I suppose it's not the colors used, but the way they are handled. I enjoy the experiment, and wonder where it might lead. Particularly with the added addition of the detail of the train. I like the mutedness with the pop of sharper color.
So. What is in that bag that she is carrying?
Here's something that I have been thinking about lately, the things that we need, the things that get us where we are going. I'm pretty certain that the things in that bag are the things left when we purge all the crap we collect all of our lives. Only the best, most beautiful, most beloved, most important things.
The surprise I'm finding is that the things that are left are not about the successes we've had. I think they are about the things that didn't quite work out the way we planned. The failures. The missed opportunities. The times we were not strong enough or brave enough.
Oh let me stop being metaphorical.
I think that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, on the verge of achieving my dreams precisely because I've been knocked around by life.
I am thankful for being poor growing up, because it taught me how to be creative with the available tools at hand (see how not having the right paints forces me to find new ways to use the medium I have.)
I am thankful that my college advisor dumped me in the middle of my poetry honors project, saying I couldn't do it, because it forced me to keep trying, struggling to prove myself right, even while suffering from the blow to my confidence. And it probably kept me from applying to an MFA program for poetry, and had me turn my poetic tendencies to my prose. I think I'm a better fiction and essay writer than I am a poet, but it's because I actually am a poet, even if only a mediocre one.
I am thankful that I never got my wish of being a precocious author who published to great acclaim before she was thirty, because I have learned SOOO much in the last decade and I think it has made me a better writer, a better artist, and a more whole person. I think that last one is the most important. You can be an artist without being crazy and/or addicted to whatever.
What else? I am thankful that the writing for a living was too scary for me and so I turned to teaching, because I don't know if anything has taught me more about myself, about people, about living, about literature and writing than teaching did. And I am even thankful that I burnt out on teaching, because it gave me a chance to turn what I had learned to the creative process... and it made me more marketable. Now, I can't just DO stuff, I can teach you about it while I do it.
I am still dealing with this one, but I am going to look for what I am learning from my current situation. I am grateful that I lost my art mojo while pregnant and nursing my kids (that's almost four years) because my life lessons had a chance to sit and marinate in the fallow period. And I am grateful that I had to work my way back, because that makes me much more conscious of the creative process. And I am grateful that we are in a constrained financial place, because it gives me the motivation to focus on a career, and the time to focus on this right here in front of me, rather than, say, socializing or shopping or adventuring all over creation.
Come to think of it, I don't think that train is going where Flying Girl is going at all. She is off the track. She is limited only by her vision and her desire and her gumption.
Go Girl Go.