There’s something about winter that makes me want to paint night scenes. Probably because in the northern hemisphere there is more darkness this time of year. Night can be magical and mysterious, which is what I’m trying to convey in this painting with a dramatic sky and a full moon shining through the clouds. “Creatures” tend to become more active at night, though in the dead of winter, I’m not so sure. I bet most sensible animals slow their heart rate down and buckle down until warmer times. I like to think of ourselves as slowing down too, to take a breath and look around? Nah, of course not.
A friend recently gave me a book called “How to Connect With Nature”, written by Tristan Gooley. At first, I thought, “are you saying I need help connecting with nature”? How dare you; after all, I attended “Nature College” and earned a “Nature Degree”. Of course, I dare not actually say any of that stuff and I thanked him profusely for his kind act. But, hang on a minute; my friend is actually spot on! Reading scientific papers about deciduous forests is not the same as experiencing a deciduous forest, fully with the senses. Better yet, hiking through a deciduous forest and identifying plants with a wild, scattered mind is not the same as experiencing a deciduous forest, fully with the senses.
I’m only a few pages in, but so far I like it. It seems the purpose of this book is to give people practical tools to make a profound connection with Nature. Sounds very cliché; we hear it on television, musicians sing about it – take it all in, commune with nature, they say. But, to consciously want to connect with our natural surroundings, in my opinion, is not a common desire. I had a friend tentatively make the following request a few times per year – “take me hiking, dude, so I can be one with nature and shit”. I assume this request came out of the idea that going to some scenic setting with birds and a nice overlook would seem cool. But, perhaps there is also a good chance that folks who want to take a hike for commercially inspired purposes might develop a deeper interest in nature through that experience.
It seems that to be present and “feel connected” is no easy task, even for people who really want to experience nature in a primal sense. For me, there is often an in and out signal – sometimes I feel more aware of my surroundings and sometimes I feel foggy-headed and distracted by thoughts of what has occurred in the past or what might occur in the future. This dilemma seems to circle back to ancient teachings about the practice of awareness and staying in the present moment. I believe this is the fundamental step for people who want to “connect with nature” in a truthful way. There are many wonderful sources out there for folks who want to learn more about mindfulness (and I don’t mean to use the term “mindfulness” as the marketing buzz word that it has become). Below are my top 3 favorite sources that I follow on this topic, and I hope you can benefit from them too. Happy trails!
3 Great Websites About Awareness / Simplicity
Audio Dharma – an archive of Dharma talks given by various speakers.
Zen Habits – a blog about finding simplicity and mindfulness, by Leo Babauta.
Raptitude – a blog about getting better at being human, by David Cain.
…Nature-inspired watercolor paintings available on our Etsy Shop!
Dear fellow artists and wanderers,
I’m going to let you into my world.
I put together a short video that outlines my typical creative process for painting nature scenes in watercolor. It is quite simple: wander around someplace, find something that you think is interesting, take a picture, and put it down on paper. You might be thinking: yeah, easier said than done, but I hope you might draw some inspiration or ideas from my process. Please enjoy!
I rarely paint in plein air, but I would like to get into that habit. I don’t mind the cold or the occasional curious observer. It’s just that I am spoiled by the ease of working from a photograph, indoors where I don’t have to worry about the light changing rapidly or the wind blowing away my art supplies. Still, I plan on sacrificing these creature comforts for a different experience and greater challenge…maybe.
What does your creative process look like?