Why was I painting in the rain? The answer was that I had noticed the shadow colour that I saw on the trunks of the sycamore trees. I had read a lot over the years about impressionist paintings, and had been told that impressionists often painted their shadows a purple colour, but I had rarely seen purple shadows in nature. That rainy day in Te Kuiti I saw purple shadows on the trunks of the sycamore trees.
The place that I was painting was not particularly nice, in fact I was standing rather close to a sinister green metal structure that must have been a part of the town sewer system, and from this something odoriferous and unpleasant hung in the air at intervals. Not that smell would be apparent on the painting, thank goodness, but the scene was a very ordinary one. A small, muddy river, some weary trees, and the tired green river banks.
Once I started painting what was there in front of me, I became aware of the beauty of the place. The rain made the colours silvery, and I found that there were subtle grayed shades of the reddish purple that I had seen first on the sycamore trunks in other areas of shadow.
I did not paint a particularly good painting that day, but the experience helped me to see. I also witnessed a little miracle, one of the transformation of something apparently dreary, drippy, and even a little unpleasant, into something that had a beauty. This is a gift that art brings us, and it is worth being reminded of and treasuring.
I am not talking about the sort of art that has "rose coloured spectacles", the sort of art that makes things pretty..., that sort of art pretends that something is different from what it is!
I am advocating something deeper. That place where art reaches out and meets Life. It is a place of complete honesty. It may be found in great music, painting, literature, or in a humble pot that can be held in the hand. Sometimes children have this quality.
Rembrant painted self portraits throughout his life, and his face was like a mirror of his life. There is the young man, full of fun, and pulling faces. Here he is with love and early success. Now he is middle aged, strong and accomplished. And here he is at 63, old now, with face sagging, eyes surrounded by folds and wrinkles, and such a look in his eyes. Have a look at National Gallery UK Rembrandt. and here for self portraits in chronological order.
Rembrandt's later self portraits looked into his soul, with honesty. They said, "this is who I am".
Last Bus Home!
I didn't expect to write all of the above, but I will keep it, because it puts into words something I believe is important. Something that sits beside me as I pot, write, or paint.
I am not all that well at the moment (which might account for my verbal meanderings). For the whole of this week, I neglected to do anything about feeling dreadful and having a painful sore throat (there just wasn't time!!). A visit to the doctor on Friday confirms that I have what is almost certainly a Strep infection, and I started 10 days antibiotics yesterday, and have been told to rest. I did actually spend this morning in bed, which makes a change.
Anyway, earlier this week I struggled through the process of getting my passport renewal application done, and got into town on the bus on Wednesday and sent it away. For some reason, getting a British passport renewed in NZ now costs NZ$340, where as in the UK it would cost 77.50 pounds or NZ$165. The process can only be done through Postshops in NZ, and not direct with the British Consulate.
The process of filling in the forms and getting my photo taken made me quite miserable, I was not well after all, but... it was then that I started to experience something good. The staff at the PostShop were so understanding and helpful as they checked through my application with me. I am full of admiration for them, because PostShops here are notoriously busy and understaffed and must be very stressful to work in, but they treated me with kindness, patience, and humour. I am very grateful.
That same afternoon I missed my first bus home from Dunedin, and went into Chrome cafe for a sit down and some refreshment. Two elderly ladies walked in ahead of me, and a young Asian couple followed me through the door. As I reached the counter, I quietly asked the lady working there what time they shut, it being nearly 4pm, I suspected it must be soon and I did not want to delay her being able to close for the day. "In 5 minutes", she softly replied "but I usually don't get away before 4.30, so it's OK!" She smiled at me with a tired face that lit up, and kind eyes, and brought me my coffee and a huge warm date scone with 4 knobs of butter. "You don't have to hurry", she said.
After I left the cafe I saw that the last of the sun was lighting up the top of a water feature in the City Center, and transforming the thin curtain of water, into something that looked woven. I took photos.
I saw a building reflected like flowing butter in the water. More photos.
I got the last bus home.
Last weekend Bill Campbell visited to pick up some photos that we had taken for him for the East Otago Review that he runs, and I ended up being interviewed about the exhibition in NC. I sent him a press release with more detail about it by Sunday lunchtime, and he managed to get a story published in Monday's Otago Daily Times (the Dunedin paper) with a large photo of myself.., and a somewhat embarrassing title "Blog secures US invitation".
I try to explain that my taking part in the exhibition is really the result of relationships I have built up through the blog, but since the article went in, I have received phone calls, cards, a cheque for $50, and good wishes from people who are proud that someone from Waikouaiti, NZ will be off to North Carolina to take part in the Clay and Blogs exhibition. People are really excited about it here! So, when I come, I will do so representing this beautiful part of New Zealand, which is a huge privilege.
As to who's coming. I think it will just have to be me this time. The cost is certainly part of that consideration, but there are other practicalities. We have a gallery here, and various commitments that make it hard to get away.
PS. Please ignore the date on this post, it is actually Saturday 24 July today.