I find painting from life is a joyful discovery. The way a color dances and sings is just screaming for our attention. The way light washes over a form and we perceive it moving through space. Light reveals nature's timeless beauty, whether it is a person or place; all are wonders to behold.
Ironically I cannot paint feelings. All I can paint are shapes of color in a particular location. That's it. But I can use my feelings to direct my painting. It is about slowing down and really looking at my subject and then looking at my painting. How do those two experiences compare? What feels different to me? What doesn't feel right? What feels like it is missing? Those questions lead me to continue refining the areas in the painting that interest me as well as removing the unnecessary and leaving only what is essential. That is what I call elegant painting.
During painting, things are not always as they first appear. When I feel unsure how to proceed that is a good time to put down the brush, take a step back and reflect on what it is I am feeling. Clearly something about the painting is not expressing the way I feel about the subject and that is making me feel uncertain how to proceed. If I stay focused and continue really looking at my subject and comparing it to my painting I usually find that what I was missing was right next to where I was looking. I just needed a new perspective to see it.
That feeling of uncertainty can be tricky. It may cause me to confuse my feelings about the paintings with my feelings of uncertainty about myself as an artist. Other times the uncertainty leads me to feel frustrated that the painting is not going the way I would like. It is important to notice the problem is not on the canvas. After all the painting does not feel. I am the one doing the feeling. This is not time to paint, it is a time for personal refection. When I'm truly open to what I am feeling, I can witness myself. This is when the shift happens. My mind becomes quiet, time stops and the paint flows.
There is something almost magical in this practice. The act of painting taught me to simply be present. Accepting my feelings led me to accept myself. And in accepting myself, I found myself living a more authentic life.