The autumn weather and colours brought me on a long wandering walk this past weekend through the rolling single-track trails of our local river valley. Fifteen minutes of brisk strolling in the direction of the parklike preserve finds multiple opportunities to step into a wilderness that changes with the season.
For a few days, literally only days, each year the trail is a glorious canopy of oranges and yellows, and on rare days it is all set upon an upwards sky that acts as a azure blue backdrop to the autumn changing of the leaves from life into litter.
I strolled with the dog and paused every few steps as a new splendour tempted my phone camera as a reference that pleaded to be put down on paper in vibrant watercolours.
persistence and time
While I cherish the idea of quickly sketching a few lines onto a page and leaving behind a breezy, airy form that captures the imagination, I have also known since my early art days that not every work will come so easily. Eagerness to stamp a date and a signature on the bottom of a piece and flip the page to the next project is often overwhelming for me, so occasionally finding myself with a challenge that requires literal days of iterative work forces me to think long term, in layers, and across the trudge-like march towards something that will always seemingly benefit from a few more perfectly placed spot of colour.
Painting leaves turned out to be a massive challenge.
One at a time, I have drawn and coloured many of them in the past days and months.
But thousands. Millions, maybe, like an abstraction of light and colour and life and warmth and magic all at once? Capturing that with my amature skills was almost an impossible task.
I will admit, as I put down the first couple layers of paint and left them to dry I had a sinking feeling in my heart that I’d be either tearing the page from my art book or leaving it there as some kind of reminder-like testament to an ego-driven error.
I went to sleep that first night, a Saturday, a little humbled by the paint’s ability to break me so thoroughly.
Sunday morning I woke up and in my morning stupor dabbled a bit more into the piece. The drops of spattered colour had the right hues and shapes as they had fully dried and there was nothing to lose by adding a few more of them. Rather, I resumed my droplet art with some deeper reds and greenish yellow to act as a contrasting underlayer.
By Sunday night, I was feeling a bit better… but still had a vague sense of… meh.
Monday, more paint was added. And yet by Tuesday I had decided to be bold and deepen the contrast of the tree branches which were starting to fade into the background blurs of yellow and pinks and reds and greens.
There wasn’t really a moment when it popped, but at some point I started to feel the persistent meddling in the finality of this piece had begun to pay off, transforming the random shapes into something closer to what I held in my mind’s eye, that reference image captured in my memory as I stood on a river valley trail gazing up into the orange canopy of leaves overhead.
It just stuck, somehow. Worked. Though I couldn’t explain why.
It was still imperfect, yes, but definitely not more litter for the autumn trash heap.