Monday, March 28, 2016

Passion Without a Plan

©Theresa Grillo Laird -Twigs and Blossoms- 10x10 - oil on linen
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Washing dishes is seldom a rewarding task, but this week I've been entertained by a bird building it's nest 10 feet from my kitchen window. He works diligently and energetically in bursts, then disappears for hours. Twig by twig he builds, dropping like a rock to the ground then soaring almost straight up, carrying a stick bigger than he is. Sometimes the wind undoes his work as fast as he can do it. Yet each day he's back and the nest gets a little bigger.

It struck me how alike his activity is to an artist's practice. We also return to the practice daily no matter what the result of the previous day's work. We diligently build our knowledge base and our painting bit by bit. Sometimes, as when the bird carries a stick bigger than he is, we take on more than we know in an attempt to bring our vision into being. We keep trying despite the setbacks. 

Each day the bird returned, sometimes with it's mate. Undaunted, they went back to work rebuilding what the evening winds had undone. 
They had chosen a narrow ledge above the carport for their nest. It seemed ideal, being high off the ground and inaccessible to other animals. But on all but the calmest days, the wind swept under an overhang and blew their handiwork away. It reminded me of the times I've labored over a painting that seemed to be a good idea but became bogged down because of foundation problems. Yet I admired their tenacity and their certainty of the worth of their effort- qualities every artist needs! 

One night after a furious thunderstorm, I found the nest in pieces on the ground. I thought the birds had finally given up until I found them building a nest on the opposite end of the carport. It was barely better than their first spot and after a few days of rebuilding, they abandoned the effort.

When you paint enough paintings, you soon learn that some paintings need to be abandoned no matter how much work you put into them. Sometime taking a bit of time to check that you have a sound foundation, works better than passion without a plan.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Promise Kept

©Theresa Grillo Laird - Breath of Spring - oil on linen - 10x9"
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Three weeks, a tornado hit Pensacola about a mile from where I live. A week earlier, straight line winds missed damaging my residence by a much closer margin. Driving past 3 storey houses reduced to a heap of match sticks on the ground, I thanked God once again that no one was killed.

I've lived through the complete destruction of my home from a hurricane and tidal surge, so I know what people recently made homeless are going through. 
One memory will always stand out to me of the many remarkable things that happened in the aftermath of the storm that cleared away everything I owned.

All the trees had been stripped bare, so it looked like a northern winter even though it was only mid September. Wreckage of houses piled 8 feet high,
lined the sides of the road like strange snowbanks. Yards that had been enclosed by tropical vegetation were now open to the sky and water and were marked by toppled and uprooted trees. The evidence of people's lives lie twisted in the trees and swirled by receding water into moldy clumps piled against the remains of houses.

Yet in the middle of all the destruction, nature's life sprouted again, defiant in it's fresh beauty. Trees set out new flowers as if it was Spring. Sunflowers sprouted next to chunks of broken concrete. Children ran barefoot and shirtless in summertime warmth and sunshine that prevailed into late December. I marveled at this Creation that could give such beauty and hope to thousands who had lost all they possessed overnight. It was as if to say this is the real life!

Now, whenever things seem overwhelming in life or insurmountable in art, I remember that September Spring and know once again that all is well. 

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