Wednesday, February 2, 2011

bravery and memory

pastel on somerset paper
Recently I did the bravest thing in my life. I made the decision to lose a chunk of my lung in order to get rid of a micro bacteria that was eating it up. It was a gamble could work...or not. The doctors now think it worked. (YAY, celebrate!)
That brings me back to memory painting and bravery. For years I was a afraid to paint without a reference...I  needed a plein air painting, photo, drawing, or the scene in front of me ...something that I could hold on to however small. I told myself that I needed to spark my concept. After surviving my surgery and gradually "coming back", painting from my head is "no problem."
Fear (for this) doesn't exist anymore. Letting go of fear was eye opening...What WAS I afraid of,  ME? Painting is about the concept, the idea/feeling that makes you want to paint. The idea that possesses you. With memory, it not only possesses you, it is you.
So this painting is the proverbial "rabbit out of a hat." I made this one up with just memory of what light looks like and a desire to paint warmth.  WHERE did it come from? Where is this landscape? I don't know. Maybe from the recesses of my mind.
So now I come back to you blogger friends, what is stopping you from trying? You might fail...but does that really matter? Finding the painter inside you is more important. So I challenge any painter..try a memory painting this week. Enjoy. Send me a jpeg so I can enjoy with you.

The memory painting guidelines, adapted from Whistler.
*watch a scene, then turn your back and in words describe in detail. If you have someone with you have them correct if you are wrong. Do this till it is secure in your head. No photos or sketches.
* Wait 12 hours, allow the scene to be created in your head
* Paint, using only that memory. Your knowledge and understanding of light will stream in and guide you.
* I will be happy to post a jpeg of your painting on my site, with credit to you, of course.

Yes, I will go back to reference material, probably using my plein air studies as I always did. But now when I return to using something in front of me I will do so with a new mind.


Mary said...

Bravo and congratulations on your decision.

I fantasize about painting from within but still have to find the guts and the time to do it. One day when I'm able to dig in there I will be posting.

All the best. This really is a lovely piece.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I don't think about painting from memory but your post shows me different possibilities.
I'll accept the challenge.

Caroline Simmill said...

When you say a memory painting do you mean you close your eyes and remember a beautiful scene? or are you painting a scene that is simply flowing out of your memory? if it is the second one the flowing out then I think that has to do with what we have learned being stored in our mind. Then when we work it all comes to the surface. I should read my Carlson book shouldn't I! I told you I am a poor student.

Leah said...

This post brings tears to my eyes for I know what bravery exits within you, my friend, in so many ways. As always, you are an inspiration to many.

loriann signori said...

Hi Mary and thank you! Come along for the ride.

Hi Mary Sheehan Winn,
I can't wait to see. I remember your blog and know that you are ready and think you will love the challenge.

Hi Caroline, a poor student you are not. You can define a memory painting as you want..either. For me the important idea is that you have nothing in front of you. I guess my favorite is to memorize a scene, see it in my head, wait 12 hours, then make the painting in my head.
I do as Whistler did. Look at the scene and remember. Next, since due to my condition my husband Paul is Always with me,I turn my back and then describe to him the whole scene in words. He corrects any inaccuracies.
I know you will excel. To create your sky paintings you must dwell in your head.
My challenge is about remembering a distinct scene.... with nothing but your brain.

Thanks are the best friend in the world. Thanks for helping me through this!

Casey Klahn said...

I notice one thing about memory paintings is that some come from deep memory. Childhood, sometimes.

Also, an image may ruminate for a year before (this is me in my meager ability) it will become a reasonable image.

Brenda Boylan said...

Loriann, this is quite the revealing post! Your confessions of fear and tackling them head on is inspiring.
Yesterday evening, I was looking at the the Oregon sky and thought of was a sky from one your memory paintings! I think I just might have to try your challenge.
Sounds like you are weaned from the meds?

Nika said...

OK, I'll do it. Count me in!

loriann signori said...

Hi Casey, letting it stew for a long time is something Inness did regularly. A year or more was not unusual.
You are so right that our other, even childhood, memories come back. I still see my Mom's house high on the hill at sunset. I hope one day it too is a painting.

I am so happy to hear from you Brenda and delighted to hear you will take on the challenge. You know the color of light so well...I think you will get hooked.
As for the meds...I tried to get off, but it was obvious I was not ready..maybe next week. My husband is right this minute putting together my easel and filter. YAY!

YAY, Nika! Somehow I knew I could count on you!

Jala Pfaff said...

Gorgeous, YAY!, and you ARE so very brave.

SamArtDog said...

Courage is as courage does.
A knee for a lung. You deserve each other. What a pair!

loriann signori said...

Thank you Jala and Sam! My Boulder blogger friends are both so supportive.

Pam Holnback said...

I like the part about describing it. From my years of teaching I know that if you tlk about something "out loud" it sticks w. you longer. So, you've got me thinking about attempting this challenge. I normally avoid memory pieces.

loriann signori said...

You are right Pam..actually making sense of it in words makes it stick. I hope you decide to give it a try. It's an eye opener.

artistinthewild said...

Inspired writing and a beautiful painting. Life's a lot richer when you don't mind working without a net.
All the best -W

Anonymous said...

Loriann- you are very courageous and an inspiration to all of us. The beautiful painting that you posted is also the result of all the previous landscapes that you have painted. I was looking through my 5-1/2 x 8- 1/2 sketchbooks the other night. I had just finished working on a new painting . This is the first time that I have touched brush to canvas since last October or November. I have created drawings but still as much as I LOVE to draw there is nothing quite like putting paint on the canvas. Anyway I was looking through sketchbook #40 dated from 06-05-99 ---06-04-00 and found this interesting quote. I am not sure who said it but I wanted to share it with you because it fits right in with the direction that you are going.
What is important is not the motif itself so much as your ability to imagine-speculate,organize and above all simplify. Loriann the more you paint the stronger your health will become. It feels good to create art . Stay warm


Teri said...

You are the bravest, Loriann! You sound strong now, too. i want to try memory painting and i will try to have you post it when i do. Thanks and keep up your great work!

Deborah Paris said...

Wonderful post Loriann. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Last year when I advised a student of mine to read that last chapter of Carlson (about painting from memory) she said "I've always wanted to but I am afraid". She said it a bit as a joke, but not really. So I think fear is a common response. I also think some people attempt it before they are ready- before they have built up a store of knowledge and visual information on which to rely. And, as you have learned, it takes much practice before it begins to bear fruit. But, when it finally does, it can help us create the most compelling authentic work we'll ever do. You are proof of that!

loriann signori said...

Hi William, I love your phrase, "working without a net." That is the perfect description. For when you can feel the rope under your feet and have practicing this move for your life time, you do not need the net. Thanks William!

Hi NJ,
Great quote from your sketchbook. It can be amazing how we know the motif is not important yet will lean on that crutch...because it's there.Thanks for your kind words...pain on my friend!

Thanks Teri! This has been an eye opening experience.When you try your first memory painting enjoy. The more you do the more you will learn to trust yourself.

loriann signori said...

Hi Deborah,
Thank you, I really appreciate your words. My study with you and reading all the Tonalist painter's writings has all opened my eyes...or maybe it's really my heart, not my eyes. I am grateful for everything. Thanks.

Catherine Vines said...

I disagree with Deborah about taking the plunge before you are ready. If you can actually plunge, then you are ready. That doesn't rule out continuing to grow in other areas. I don't believe we are nearly as afraid of learning techniques (in fact, can use them as a crutch) as we are of "plunging."

Lynne E. Windsor said...

Great post Loriann. Your determination is inspirational. Regarding the memory paintings... I think it's a little bit of being ready (having fine tuned your skills) and a little bit of having the courage, but also, do you think it could be a little bit about what your vision is? I remember being at art college and we would be told to close our eyes and draw various things... like a cat stretching. All the drawings were so interesting and so alive! Now if I could just win the lottery, I would be able to find time to practice my memory paintings. Love the quotes, thank you for those.

loriann signori said...

Hi Catherine,
If you feel ready, enjoy the plunge. For me I needed a treasure chest of knowledge to act as a backbone to my memories. For me I do not think these are techniques, for I often feel "technique-less, always searching" I think it is more about the understanding of how light works and what happens to light when it hits the horizon.. or two minutes before. I needed this knowledge and it amounted to more than 2000 plein air paintings. Still I flounder. I admire a brave soul like you, ready to go. Please send me your painting and I will post it. cheers!

loriann signori said...

Thank you Lynne! Thanks for your input about memory. Could you say more about your comment "what your vision is?" Lucky you to have been introduced to such great practice in art school. I was wondering how much longer is your stay in Great Britain?

Lynne E. Windsor said...

I have been thinking about my response to your query about ‘vision’. I was able to ponder on this today because I found myself struggling with a painting which I had started in Norfolk. It was a good plein air start for me. I like painting ‘en plein air’, for the fun of being out in the open and for the lessons learnt, but I rarely finish a piece this way. I let it dry and worked on it again a week or so ago, I thought maybe it was finished. It was finished! But, I looked at it today and thought, ‘so what’? It’s nothing special. It was reasonably accomplished but it was ordinary. Needless to say I started pulling it apart, changing colours, changing composition (all from my head, but not really from memory... maybe memory of another place).

So I suppose when I say ‘what my vision is’, I mean how I see the end product. Do I think it looks the way I want it to look. Is it interesting in all the different ways a painting can be interesting. Are the colours beautiful, what about the composition? Etc. Is it worth it? After all I make my living from selling my work and whilst I paint what I love, I need others to fall in love too.

Does this make sense?!!

Lynne E. Windsor said...

I am here in the UK until 23rd March!

Making A Mark said...

I'm finding your blogging about memory painting to be very inspiring! It was the most difficult thing I was ever asked to do by a tutor - and it made me realise how I needed to look more and let my brain really absorb what I was seeing.

That sounds like it was a difficult decision re the lung - and congratulations - sounds like you made the right choice as well as the brave choice.

Anonymous said...

very interested to read your thoughts on memory painting. I know exactly what you mean by the fear of losing the motif. I have always been fascinated by the old traditional Academy memory training exercises, and find it amazing that in times gone by, students were trained to draw and paint so much from memory. But I am also interested in non-specific memory painting; the sort which comes from deep within the imagination, not prompted by a specific motif. It still relies on our wells of experience and practice, but allows us to express feeling so much more easily. I have been exploring my sense of self through a daily drawing over the last six months. Increasingly, the images are from deep within the imagination, and losing the fear of losing 'reality' has been liberating and rewarding in equal measure.

My very best wishes for a full and happy recovery from your recent operation. Your brave decision deserves to be rewarded with both health and success in your work!

loriann signori said...

Your words make complete sense Lynne.I appreciate the small glimpse inside your brain.

Hi Katherine,
It is so good if schools/teachers/tutors stretch their student this way before the fear builds up. Thanks for your support on my medical challenges. It was a huge relief to learn I am clean.

Hi Gillian,
Interesting ideas. I know that back in the time of Robert Henri he wanted students to observe the model in one room and paint that same model in the other room. Excellent idea.
Sounds like you have developed some fruitful practices. Congrats on that! I will check by your site.
Thanks for the well wishes for my health. It's the year of the rabbit, good will flow forward.