Thursday, April 30, 2009

Morning Sounds

Since I've moved to New Mexico (it will be 8 years next month), the spring mornings have always enchanted me. I sit on my front porch sipping my tea, the coolness of the air and the warmth of the sun blending into a delicious fusion upon my skin. I have views of the Jemez mountains in the distance, and I can see the cottonwoods down in the valley beginning to leaf out in soft clouds of delicate greens. The little Rio Chupadero has started to flow again from the snowmelt off the mountains, and it's music thrills me as it reaches up the hill to my ears. The songbirds, too, fulfilling their springtime destinies, suffuse the air with sweet melodies. I feel blessed to have this inspiration all around me, floating in and out of my consciousness as I work in the studio during the day. It all trembles in time and space and eventually becomes a painting of how I perceive Nature's essence.

Morning Sounds III, 2008, oil on canvas, 24x24 inches
© 2008 Diane McGregor

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Love Song

Lily, 2009, oil on canvas, 12 x 12 inches
© 2009 Diane McGregor

Once in a while I'll fall deeply in love with a new painting, for no reason in particular. Lily is one of those paintings -- she's kind of quirky and simple, light-hearted and sweet. She's going to the framers soon, destined to be shipped off to a gallery in Scottsdale, and put up for sale. Sometimes I wish I could keep these small treasures, the ones that really grab my heart. But I believe that a collector should always have the chance to acquire an artist's best work -- not that this little painting is "the Best," but just knowing that she's out there, available, makes the heartache of giving her up a little less severe. When someone eventually has the good taste to purchase Lily, I will be thrilled, knowing she's in a home that loves her and will truly appreciate her. I wonder if collectors know how artists feel about these things, giving up their "babies" for money. I wouldn't have the privilege to continue to paint if I didn't sell my favorite pieces, and usually each painting I create becomes my new "favorite" just after I complete it. It's often hard to let them go, but perhaps if more collectors knew the gratitude and fulfillment that an artist receives when a painting sells, then they would understand it's never just about the money. It's about living, loving, painting -- it's about supporting a life's work.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dream Journey

In the trembling grey of a spring dawn, when the birds were whispering in mysterious cadence among the trees, have you not felt that they were talking to their mates about the flowers?
-- Kakuzo Okakura, The Book of Tea

Alabaster Sky II, 2009, oil on canvas, 12 x 12 inches
© 2009 Diane McGregor

The Southern Song period of Chinese landscape painting (1127-1279) is the work that most inspires my own aesthetic. The following quotes are from Dreaming the Southern Song Landscape, by Valerie Malenfer Ortiz:

"The most remarkable aspect of Song landscape painting was its role, comparable to that of poetry, of guiding the scholar-viewer toward a deeper understanding of the truth that lies beyond the forms.... To the scholar-elite of the Southern Song, landscape paintings of the type epitomized by Dream Journey embodied the highest philosophical truth." (p 7-8)

"One of the most significant aesthetic qualities of pictorial dream journeys is that they lift the place dreamed out of the normal category of experience. The blurred quality of the flickering images seems to deny the separateness of the objects these images represent." (p 156)

"The business of landscape painting -- nature's principles revealed as a process of transformation that reveals the operation of perception -- is to evoke a moment of contemplation, wherein man might discover his just relationship to an often inexplicable world." (p 156)

Alabaster Sky, 2009, oil on canvas, 12 x 12 inches
© 2009 Diane McGregor

"Poetic knowledge mediates between understanding and being. It does not consist in a precisely defined style but in an emotional identification with the intuited nature of being....Concentration on poetic effect opened the viewer's mind to li, the organizing pattern of the cosmos." (p 157)

"The ideal of the Southern Song painter was to transcend his own materials and his own ego, so that the form of the object breathes itself upon the paper or silk, with the painter serving as a kind of medium between Nature and painting." (p 158)

My minimalist abstractions reference nature and the landscape, but in a poetic sense, not a literal translation. The dream journey I take through the landscape to find my connection to the cosmic whole is very much grounded in the Asian aesthetic of painting.