Thursday, May 26, 2011

Capturing the Essence

View from the studio window
The clouds this morning reminded me of Michelangelo's ceiling...

"Morning Light"
A recent small 8"x6" painting of the trees right outside my studio

   Someone recently asked me, if I was the last person on earth would I still paint. And the answer was surprisingly yes...even if I had to draw in the dirt.( as I assume there would be no paint without people to make the paint : ) I realized through pondering the question that ever since I was little, I had to express outwardly through my hands in some way the things I absorbed visually from the world, that without doing so I would become like a river damed up and stagnant. It needs to pour it out in appreciation of what is seen and experienced...I think it is the same for many artists, it grabs hold of you when you are young and becomes a part of you like breathing.
Painting is my way of saying Amen visually, to say I am in agreement with the beauty and mystery of this world. That I see the person, really see them sitting in front of me and that I want to know and experience the story of who they acknowledge that everything is profound and very simple at the same time, extraordinary and yet available for every person on this earth to notice and take in to their soul and be changed by it.
And what an immense priveledge it is that we do get to share it with others and them with us...
I can't count the number of times I have stood before a painting and been truly affected by it, felt my soul and awareness expanding and felt that I understood life and painting a little more clearly...
We, as humans and artists in every medium, create from that undefinable spark within, and if we are true to it, it ignites that flame within someone else who then creates in their own way. Maybe through painting, maybe through the simple paying attention of what's in front of them in this moment. I think God waits for us to notice such things, such moments, and take them in, be changed by them for the better and in some way , in our own way, pour it back out into the world...
who knows what an amazing effect it can have on an individual. I am grateful to every artist who has inspired me through giving so much of themselves in their art and sharing how they see the world...It's helped me to see more clearly.
 On a recent trip to Ca I went to the Masters of The American West show with friends and Artists Morgan and JoAnn Weistling and their daughters.Their youngest daughter Sienna and I were looking at a her father's painting...there is something about the purity of children that just puts everything into the right perspective... 
As I held her, I would point to one of the characters in the multi- figurative painting and ask her what she thought they were doing, what they were thinking, where they were going...she started to get so excited talking about what came to life in her mind and imagination from viewing that painting and I was reminded this is what art is really about...
It awakens, enlives the viewer , makes them feel connected to others...Being 4 years old she couldn't appreciate yet the technical beauty of the brushwork and value patterns, but she saw the essence...It reminded me that the essence is what's most important, everything is a tool to point the way to that...
I was unaware that Morgan took a photo of this special moment between Sienna and me until he sent it to me, and when I look at it , I am reminded of the message I received that day and carry into the studio from the enthusiasm of a small four year old girl...

Photo and painting by Morgan Weistling

" Imagination is a very high sort of seeing, which does not come by study, but by the intellect being where and what it sees, by sharing the path, or circuits of things through forms, and so making them translucid to others"
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

" Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it."
~ Mary Oliver

" Art is , after all, only a trace - like a footprint which shows that one has walked bravely and in great happiness"
~ Robert Henri


  1. Your trees are nice. Love your blog

  2. Your painting sparkles in the morning sunlight it really inspires me to do a plein air painting. You did acknowledge the beautiful scene with this piece :) I wonder if you could expound on your thought about "everything is a tool to point the way to [essence]"

  3. Lovely post Michelle. You come at all you see with such gratitude and grace. Thank you for sharing. :)

  4. Lovley blog and great art ,very inspirational and love all of Richards work .

  5. Your paintings are inspiring. Blog some more!!!

  6. Thank you for the lovely comments everyone, sorry for the late Reply Erika..I was locked out of the blog for a while and will be doing some catch-up posts and posting regularly from now on. You asked about what I wrote that " everything is a tool to point the way to essence" I believe another name for essence is the heart , the soul , the truth of something...We all feel it and experience it every time we stand in awe of something beautiful and moving that stirs us on the inside and calls out to the truth that resides in our soul...I believe every positive intended creative attempt and expression is a response to that ...we are ,as artists, painters, writers, or musicians , saying in no small means " pay attention " we might use colors or words or notes of music to point the way but the direction always leads to the heart of inspiration...because a human being inspired is limitless in their potential...

  7. Lovely trees...

    Michelle, Thank you for posting about your art life. I have stared at Richard Schmid's Alla Prima book many a time, and copy Sargent drawings daily. So, to see Schmid's studio, and his current work, and to see photos of you looking at Sargent's watercolors at the Met... is quite awesome. And you are quite an artist as well.

    Great stuff, and thankkkkkk youuuuuuu for bringing this world to me, here in Baltimore.

    p.s. We do have the Zoll Studio, where Jeff Legg, David Leffel, Scott Powers, and Robert Liberace, and others have given workshops. If you are interested in giving a workshop here, it would be a big hit.

  8. Une belle image que le miroir de votre vie...
    J'ai parcouru votre blog avec attention et émotion... J'ai vibré souvent, aussi je reviendrai vous visiter.
    Gros bisous