Writings in my Artwork
I write in my artwork to fill a need to communicate more clearly my connection to wild places. It began with a journal.
I've kept a watercolor journal for many years, even when my kids were little. We camped and backpacked in amazing (and now disappearing) places in the Pacific Northwest. Each trip, I found time to pull out my watercolor paints and sketch the surroundings. I wrote little notes about where we were and what was happening. "Mosquitoes ferocious", one entry said. Or, "the boys climbed a cliff and scared the daylights out of me." "Found a spotted salamander today". "Frogs deafening last night."
Painting in my journal at Mt. Rainier, WA, with my three boys, circa 2004:
As the years went by and my time was needed less and less for the attention of little busy boys, I wrote detailed notes in the watercolor journals, spending more time with each entry. I felt the need to describe the day or the surroundings, in order to remember little details more clearly.
Journal entry, Western Colorado:
As artistic ideas seem to happen sometimes rather mysteriously, one day it occurred to me to put words into my painting. I was listening to a song, and randomly began to write lyrics onto the surface. Since I've always loved the act of writing words, I didn't use a template or a "style", I just took an indelible pen and began to scribble, unconcerned if the words were ineligible; more fascinated with the simple act of script and appearance. The resulting looping script within the work intrigued my mind.
In the following painting, the words became more of a stream of consciousness; random words coming to mind about the place, and I would simply write them as they occurred to me.
This began to backfire on me, however, as those interested in the scribble asked me what it said. HA! I could not remember at all! It was MY connection, but it needed to be accessible to others. Understanding that, I went back to the source. Why do I want to write in the work? What do I want to say?
I wanted to communicate my attachment to the place I was painting. I wanted to speak of the special wilderness, the wild spot that lurks in us all, and comforts us. The place itself, and how it is so precious to preserve. To that end, the journals were my source. I went back and found journal entries of each area I loved and painted.
Which worked extremely well until I out-painted my source. I found a day where I didn't have new material for my new original. Plus, I found that I was repeating myself. Boring. Time to look for a new source of writings.
One of the first poems I stumbled across in Poetry for the Earth, a collection of poems edited by Sarah Dunn, was a poem by Theodore Roethke, called The Rose. In it, a phrase caught my eye, "I stood outside myself, beyond becoming and perishing..." And I thought, this is it. I can find poems to fit each painting. Poems about nature, about our connection to the land, about peace and finding ourselves comforted by the simple act of being in the wilderness. About preserving wild spaces.
Nourish, above (3'x4' mixed media on board $3,500 original). Poem within: " Give me her solitude [...] so I can once more feel earth beneath my feet., so I can draw her nourishment again." from Robinson by Jesus J. Barequet. Detail of script below:
While the words are not supposed to be seen perfectly (they are scribbled and some parts are wiped out or painted over), they are an intrinsic, tangible part of the painting and give a feel of the place. They connect me to the place, the words, and to you, the viewer. Always uplifting, about nature, and usually introspective, they give a place to ponder and consider a story. Each poem phrase is written on the back of the painting, and credit is always given to its original author.
With this insight, I hope to give you a space and a quiet moment for introspection. To free yourselves from the daily grind and remember how the wild calls to you and calms your spirit. Let's save those wild spaces for ourselves and others.
Thanks for reading, my friends.