Grace

I grew up sailing a little red sailboat on a lake in New Jersey. Each season we drained its leaky hull and patched the fiberglass. Not even a cockpit, our Sailfish was more like a surfboard than sailboat. 

grace wall decal
Grace

Thinking back on it, my heart fills with feelings of youth, freedom, learning to hold rudder and sail in balance ~ and how to pull the sail out of the drink when we tipped her over.

Painting sailboats … it all comes rushing back through the paint brush with charged up force.

Reflecting on why I wanted to paint a sailboat? I wasn’t sure at first. Once I began asking the question, answers piled up until I didn’t know where to begin. Then finally ~ weeks later ~ one word emerged.

Grace

Grace by Dorothy Fagan
Grace, oil on linen, 16″ x 16″ Purchase info

I remember being annoyed with the nuns for not teaching us what grace is. It seemed only that some people like nuns had it. And the rest of us had to figure it out or do without.

Who knew we were doing it all along?

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A Lily Pond of My Own | Painting Right in My Own Backyard

Right in my own backyard has double meaning in this series. Yes I have a pond outside my studio windows. Yet there is so much more here. And my pond doesn’t look like this!

Painting Right in My Own Backyard

In this story ‘my own backyard’ is inside me. I am painting these from within, NOT from any garden or pond that I have seen or painted. This is important. You may have read the beginning of this story last summer, when the first inkling came from a tiny watercolor I’d painted on my first day in France two years prior.

Water Lily Painting
A Lily Pond of My Own, oil

The unfinished paintings were clipped to a single board in the corner. Showing something else to a client, I moved a canvas exposing them to view. The one above was on top. Across the studio its colors coaxed me to stop what I was doing and listen.

I put her on the easel and sat in my chair across the room to hear what she had to say that was so urgent. An overwhelming urge for Ultramarine Blue in the shadow areas of the pond got me out of my chair. Mixing it up, I swung my brush rapidly at those places on the painting. More paint. More brush work. Sit back down.

Dorothy Fagan studio
The three canvases each took their own clip board, spreading out across the studio.

Color & Perception

In the photo you can see how I paint. The chair is on wheels back to the far right out of view ~ twenty feet from my easels. My palette is a large glass slab for mixing, a side table for tubes of paint, and a 7-drawer tabouret just below the cans of paint brushes.

Much of my color mixing is done by the viewers’ eye. Seen from across the room, you automatically blend color fields of paint. Seen up close, the paint is dry brushed like pastel over opposing colors. This creates a vibration in the way each color is perceived.

A Pond of My Own
A Pond of My Own, oil

A Lily Pond of My Own

Wanting to make everyone happy, to satisfy myself and keep the peace is a tall order. A bleeding heart I think they call it. An impossible role to fulfill sufficient to keep a person busy for a lifetime.

So. If peace is right in my own backyard and all I had to do was paint it how it feels to me ~ why oh why did it take me so long? And why do I feel like I can spend the rest of my life saying it over and over again?

I’ve always lived and painted in my own pond. Now I know enough not to mis-take everyone else’s as mine. Bleeding heart healed.

Painting Dreams ~ The Magic Connection

The Magic Connection Between Painting & Dreams

Painting Dreams

It’s a little like which came first ‘the chicken or the egg.’ We think of dreams as those inexplicable things we have when we are sleeping. Well what if dreams were more than that? What if dreams are those inexplicable yearnings we have throughout life?

Painting dreams does not have to be in the literal sense of making a painting that looks like the dream you had last night. Painting dreams may actually look more like a life time of painting from the heart.

Letting each yearning out on paper, one by one,  creates a  magical life.

So much of life is planned out ahead of time. We become executors of the plan. This works well for many things~ except that our hearts get executed in the process!

What if there is one thing you can do for your heart that would make all the difference in the world? What if you took your heart on a painting adventure? Let your heart show you where to go?

How I Did it

Last fall when I painted Tuscan Sun, my head was swimming with questions.

How could I afford to spend an extended period of time in Tuscany without working? It seemed impossible. That’s why I painted Tuscan Sun.

Watercolors are fluid like dreams. I was working and didn’t have time to set up the studio to paint in oil. Instead I grabbed a small watercolor palette, two brushes and a few small pieces of Arches Watercolor paper and took them to work with me.

The Experiment

Now I am not a watercolorist. I took a class in college, then picked it up again when I went to France. I wasn’t trying to make a finished painting. I simply wanted a way to explore my dream ~ to bring it to life on paper.

During lunch I set up my palette, a cup of water and painted. I painted several more because I didn’t like the first ones. When I got home from work, I threw them all in a drawer and forgot about it.

I didn’t know my dreams were percolating in that drawer. I just thought I had painted some bad watercolors!

Six Months Later

When my Tuscan dream materialized, it took me all day to find the painting stuck down in a drawer. When I found it, I also found watercolor postcards from two years ago that I’d painted in France. One French postcard grew into a whole series of Abstract Floral Paintings. This showed me the artist I thought I’d lost 3 decades ago is alive and well, regenerated and better than when I left her.

When one touches the paper with a brush full of fluid color dreams flow.  Something intangible is suddenly real on paper. An adventure in possibility begins with one small stroke. One by one the strokes accumulate. The heart beats a little louder. It reverberates inside setting dreams in motion.

Page by page the brush strokes take on a life of their own. Then one day we recognize our heart in them ~ unmistakably our own.

 

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