The Laws of Nature

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Finding Peace

Brewster's Law
watercolor, 26"x20"
Katharine A. Cartwright, NWS
There was a time when painting was an act of hope and frustration. I hoped I could get it right and I was frustrated that I didn't. Early on in my technical training in college, my painting prof told me that my work looked like something you'd find in a department store. It was technically correct and fatally flawed in concept. But, no one ever taught me about the importance of the concept back then so I just painted bucolic scenes in an impressionist style. Evidently, my college professors were allergic to that.

But, I also knew that my artmaking was more important to me than a grade so I just kept marching along that path until I realized that I wasn't happy with the direction. Even I knew there was something lacking.

That started me on what became a nearly four decade journey to find peace with my work. There were too many struggles along the way as I tried to find something original to say and just couldn't. Why was it so important to me to be original? Why didn't I find peace in painting whatever I wanted without consequence?

Now that I've found peace with my work, the answer to these questions is apparent. Here's one way to put it: the very first painting of my Laws of Nature series literally poured out of me so quickly I couldn't stop it. There was no struggle at all. The same thing happened during the painting of the second, third, fourth .... twenty-ninth in the series. I'm still going and these pour out of me effortlessly. And, I'm happy with the results. I've never had to start one over or throw one away.

I have peace with my painting because I'm finally saying what's actually in my head and controlled by my imagination. The inner voice is speaking. It wanted to be heard from the very beginning but was silenced by obeying the voices of others. Peace with artmaking is really peace with self.

What do you think?


Susan Roux said...

I agree. Those effortless paintings that just pour themselves out on canvas or whatever support, are our inner voice. It shouldn't be ignored or tossed aside because it was too easy and therefore thought of as not good. Many artists struggle with that often remarking, "Oh that's nothing. I just did that quickly. I don't know why." How many times have we heard that? Perhaps even from ourselves!

I like what pours out of you. This one is really lovely. Are those olives on their way to my martini???

Casey Klahn said...

This Brewster's Law is a stunning piece. Wow!

Anonymous said...

Hi Katharine,
Maybe the four decade journey was necessary to get to the place you are now, what do you think? I'm still searching and struggling, in the hopeful but not there yet stage!

I do find your series wonderful, unique and exciting! And they keep on coming!

Dan Kent said...

What Susan Roux said resonated with me. Throughout my life I turned from things that seemed too easy or didn't seem like work. That was a big mistake. What I was left with were things that were hard and seemed like work. No one ever told me that if it's easy to you because it is enjoyable and you can make a living at it, that is how you should fill your days. The key that I will need to bring into my next life (unless I can figure out how to do it in this one at this late date), is to follow what you love. In other words - back to your post - you need to listen to your own inner voice first and foremost.

Oh, we are talking about painting?

Another nice piece - was Brewster's Angle the starting point? What a complicated world you have weaved.

Joyfulartist said...

Your Laws of Nature series paintings are so complex, detailed and beautiful that I can't imagine that pouring out of anyone. They make me feel happy and amazed when I look at them. I'm so glad that you are letting your inner voice do more than speak, it sings!

Unknown said...

Hi Susan - you make a good point about how work produced so easily can also be easily dismissed. There is great value in it, as you suggest, if it is a genuine outpouring from the artist. Thanks so much for that insight! (yes, they do look like olives now that you mention it - but not meant to be).

Hi Casey - thank you!

Hi Peggy - yes, every day and year of my journey has led to this and that could be said of us all. Thank you!

Hi Dan - I hope you find the ease and happiness you seek - a bump free path! This painting really began with conceptualizing light refraction (part of Brewster's Law). So, I created prisms and then broke apart the spectrum into its individual components (red, blue, violet, yellow, green ...). Each strand that weaves through a prism is a particular wavelength of color. And, the geometric shape of that color match the shape of the opening in each prism. It was loads of fun to paint!

Hi Joyful - I'm so glad that my work resonates with you! It's so pleasurable to make and it's good to know that others feel that as well. Thank you!

M said...

Finding peace with your work... Sometimes I reach that point with some works in a series. I agree with you that the ones that come pouring out of your without reworking endlessly are the most successful ones. When I have to really work hard at a piece I now know it is time to stop and move on to something else.
I have to say that your Laws series is a seamless combination with your painting style.

Celeste Bergin said...

I love the does look like it "sprang" into being.