I’m working now with inspiratons from tonalist artist Charles Warren Eaton, often known as “the pine tree painter”. Today’s painting — the 12th in my series of 31 — does indeed feature pine trees. I cropped the view a bit since I was painting on the vertical, and index cards don’t correspond to the usual sizes and proportions of canvases. As I always do, I tried to capture the “essential elements” of the painting — the tall pines and one tall, bare tree, and a scene with a lake and distant hills in the background.
Here is my painting:
When I first finished it and stepped back to view it, I hated it. I hated the colors. I hated the trees. I hated those hills in the background. I shook my head in dismay and hoped for a better painting the following day.
Later, I looked at my Pine Trees painting again, and my thoughts changed completely. I realized, much to my surprise, that I absolutely loved the painting. I loved the gentle blue lake. I loved the proud pine trees. Those distant hills? Magnificent! Even the bare tree seemed to have something to say, and I stared at the little painting in wonderment. “How did I create something so lovely?”
And then, still later, I took another look at the landscape, shrugged, and thought, “Well, it’s not bad, really, but then again, it’s not all that much, either.”
I’m laughing a bit here because it’s fun to see how many different reactions I’ve had to this one little painting. I’m wondering, too, how my reactions can change so completely. Of course, I’m viewing one of my own little paintings, but isn’t it possible that my reactions to other artists works can also vary depending on such irrelevant factors as the time of day, my general state of mind, my physical state?
I think it’s probably true for all of us that if we’re in a positive mood, we’re apt to like a lot of what we see around us. Sunny moods make for positive attitudes and favorable responses to things we encounter. A dark, depressive mood, of course, can easily have the opposite effect. If we’re feeling a bit down-hearted, discouraged, or despondent, we probably won’t like anything!
Maybe my drastic mood changes about this painting were a bit exaggerated. I tend to go to extremes of loving and hating where my own artwork is concerned. In the end, I did settle back down to a more realistic evaluation of the little landscape. It’s got its good points, and its got its not so good points. As with the other paintings in the project series, I had fun painting it. And, in this instance, I had fun laughing at my mixed emotions.
We talk all the time about art moving us, about how there are emotional connections to visual art. Today’s little painting helped me realize that those emotions can move us in very different directions at different times, and that makes the world of art all the more exciting.
Even when I go back to visit favorite paintings, I can never be quite certain of how I’ll see them. As my life changes, as I have different experiences, as I create new memories, my thoughts and feelings about works of art will necessarily change, as well.
It’s not always “what you see is what you get.” It’s more like “what you see today may change completely tomorrow.” Doesn’t that make art so much more interesting!