Lambent Rose, Oil on Panel, 9.5 x 7 inches
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(of light or fire) glowing, gleaming, or flickering with a soft radiance.
I’m often struck by how limited oil paint is.
For a start, it simply can’t replicate the rage of values from light to dark that we see in nature.
Because we paint on flat surfaces, we can’t accurately replicate the light side of a light object and the shadow side of a dark object at the same time.
And that’s not even getting started on colour.
But perhaps the most telling limitation, the one that’s most uncomfortable to think about but which nags at me constantly, is the paucity of my knowledge and skill when faced with something as simple, as beautiful as the light in a rose.
I think perhaps that the gap, felt dimly but always there, between the devastating beauty of what I see and what I’m able to create is what keeps me searching for better ways to paint.
It keeps me looking for a deeper understanding of colour, of value, and of the link between value and chroma.
It encourages me to try new methods sometimes, to attempt to constantly evolve a process that might close the gap, even a little.
And it would seem a sad situation, to always be falling short of your desire.
Except that the search is the most fulfilling and strangely, even satisfying thing I’ve ever done.
When I was young, all I ever really wanted to be was an artist.
It seems that I’ve spent most of my adult life attempting, in one way or another, to approach that dream.
Very often, for long periods, I was sure I wouldn’t manage it. Those times were crushing.
Now that I have (somewhat precariously) managed it, I’ve realised that it really means embarking on a deeper, more encompassing search, for something that may well never be achieved. That probably will never have an end.
The search to be better.
And that search too can be derailed by everyday life, by sickness, depression, by someone else’s heedless, unknowing behaviour. Sometimes, knowing and deliberate behaviour. Most often, though, by our own I think.
If the dream to be an artist is in you too and you feel haven’t reached it yet – even perhaps that you never will – I want to encourage you to keep that light alive within you. Nurture it however you can, whenever you can, even when it feels hopeless.
It may be strong and sometimes it may wane for a while, but still it has to be the constant in the midst of the change around you.
If the search to be better, to be more able to take hold of the beauty you see and make something worthwhile from it niggles at you too, then know that that search will always be with you.
Now that I’m coming to the end of writing this, I think that perhaps the need to be an artist and the attempt to make something beautiful from what we see come from the same place.
Perhaps that quiet, inner radiance that I’m thinking about is really just the search for meaning.
P.S. You can see the first stages of this painting coming together here:
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