Intensity at the easel

March 9th, 2011


Towhee Nest with Jimson Weed

“The excellency of every art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeable evaporate.”
John Keats

What does he mean by “all disagreeable?”

I think that he is referring to that state of oblivion when you’re immersed in the creation of your art. When it’s most intense you don’t feel pain, hunger or weariness. You don’t notice a bee sting, or the house falling down around you or the world imploding.


That actually can be mostly true.

I am immersed in that intensity now… Still meeting other obligations and staying in touch with reality because I have to…
– oops! pay the phone bill…
– oops! rewrite artist statement TODAY…
– oops! make it to class on time…
– oops! it’s 2 am and I have to get up tomorrow!

But it’s true that when I am in the groove with my art everything else can fall by the wayside.
I’ve taken a little tangent though.

A respite from the heat of oranges and quinacridone azo yellows.
After all the paintings of ravens (which I find to be beautiful) and barbed wire (not exactly beautiful, but an intriguing visual challenge,) it is a relief to paint something that is simply beautiful. Well, and a little dangerous if you think of the prickly seed case, the thorny stem and the poisonous/hallucinogenic seeds. Beauty is what I was seeking in this painting of a Towhee’s nest in the lower branches of a woody Jimson weed.

Jimson weed has always seemed exquisitely magical to me. Immortalized by O’Keeffe, I have only painted small paintings of it before. It belonged to her. Now I  have given myself permission to paint it too. I’ve often marveled in it’s huge fragile blossoms and watched the delicate petals unfurl in the dark of night only to fade in the intense heat of the desert morning.
The challenge in this particular painting is to depict light and translucency. Exploring shafts of  light and the delicate lavender highlights that shine through the translucent flute of a Jimson weed blossom fascinates me. Translucency, transparency, opacity… all challenges to be explored.

And while immersed in that intensity “all disagreeable evaporates.”

My studio is full of chaotic intensity right now, preparing for the show I will be hanging next week.

ps. I’m sure I would notice a bee sting!

Back to the easel!

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