Friday, May 09, 2008

A Lot Like Work

Sometimes it seems that painting outdoors is an awful lot like work.

Recently we were on the west coast, and we went painting on the seashore. The weather was perfect (northern California, breezy, sunny and mild) and we were in a state park, so it was picturesque and not too crowded. What could be easier than doing a watercolor of some small, windblown eucalyptus trees with bright iceplant blooming on the sand next to a fallen log? Well...
I started off in the routine way, framing the scene in my composition finder, marking divisions on the side of the paper, sketching in the trees, log and foreground grass. Then I looked more closely at the tangle of branches, and the "monkey mind" started in with its complaints:
"Look! There's some little birds swimming on the water...wouldn't it be more fun to watch them?"
"Ouch. What's that? My finger is bleeding. Bleeding!"
"Listen to those people having fun. Wouldn't it be more fun to just go wading? You're just an outsider, sitting here trying to paint these trees."
"Um...there's a truck on the beach with big numbers '911' on its side. Something must be wrong." "Are you sure you have enough water? You're going to get thirsty."
"This concrete ledge is starting to feel awfully hard..."

Finally, the voice quieted down and even went away as I kept focusing on the scene. I was feeling grateful that I wasn't a professional painter. It wasn't easy to paint it, but I did manage to cover the paper and even make it resemble what I was looking at. It took three hours altogether (and the concrete was indeed feeling very hard), but it was rewarding work. Maybe that's a good thing to say to the monkey mind's complaints: "Don't worry, nobody has to look at this, and eventually hard work will pay off."

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