Just Get Painting

15 02 2012

 I’ve always loved traveling.  I did a lot of it in my teens, but not so much in my adulthood.  The four kids, homeschooling, music lessons, a house and a business, a big garden and chickens forced my husband and me to run a pretty lean ship and nothing was left for exotic trips.

But there was always a way in which I could travel – in front of my easel.    Art is the only way to run away without leaving home, American dancer, Twyla Tharp, wrote. While I never seriously wanted to run away from home, I certainly enjoyed being transported out of my daily routines by the simple beauty of colour, shape, and line whenever I slipped out to the boathouse to paint in the early morning before the babies started wailing.  I always returned renewed, as if I been somewhere special and far away.


I guess that’s how I became a painter.  Sure, I had always managed to squeeze in a few studio art courses at university while studying language and literature, and the odd week-long art course when the kids were tiny.  A relative had to be cajoled to move in and run my household in my absence. That wasn’t very easy or very often.  So, I’d just paint.  I’d pore over art books and art magazines, then paint some more.

I came to learn a very valuable lesson.  And that is, if you want to be an artist, you just start being one.  Just get painting every day, even if you don’t have all the credentials.  You find out that you had the best teacher right with you all along. That’s you, yourself!  The artist within just needs a lot of practice at seeing and doing to be coaxed out.

Art books and magazines are a pretty good second best.  If you live far away from night courses and art galleries, as I do, it’s big colourful reproductions that substitute very effectively.  I tore out my favourites and placed them in a box.  I pored over those scraps, asking myself just what it was that drew me to this or that painting. Then I’d try out the technique myself.   To this day, when I need inspiration or have a painting problem, I rustle through my box of cutouts. Among the many excellent painters who preceded me, one always holds the solution in his or her paintings and tells me what I need to change in my painting.

I am so grateful to my dear friend, Janette Malloy from Ohio, who, every once in awhile, boxed up old American Art magazines and sent them to me.  Pure gold could not have excited me more.  Years ago, I sat beside her at a Charles Reid workshop in Hilton Head, SC.  Already an accomplished painter and a member of the Pastel Society of American, and thirty years my senior, this talented artist became a mentor who introduced me to pastels, impressionism and wild colour.  Teachers like Janette Malloy cannot be planned.  They drop unexpectedly like angels into your life, and ignite a creative spark that you never knew you had.  All you can do is pray and wait expectantly for a Janette to drop into your life, just at the right time, and guide you along your artistic path.  There is no greater gift.  Sadly, Janette Malloy died only a few months ago.  I am very grateful for the time and the conversations I had with her.

Painting itself is a conversation, with the living and the dead, about a journey that we illustrate through colour and shape.  It might not take you to Spain or Esfahan, but it does, strangely enough, get you into infinity.




6 responses

15 02 2012

I love this post! I feel the same way about writing. You just have to start doing it in order to become a writer.

15 02 2012

Thanks, Katherine. I can’t tell you how many times you remind me of myself.

16 02 2012
Jane Nigh

I loved reading your blog this morning. This is my sister! Don’t dabble the toes around water’s edge. Just jump in.

21 02 2012

Thank you Elizabeth for your inspiration – your embrace of life and all it brings exudes from your paintings. Thank you for your sharing your gift!

21 02 2012

This is lovely, Elizabeth. Congratulations!

22 02 2012
Elspeth McCarrol Cadman

I hear your voice in your words – and am reminded of why I love you so.

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