why do i paint?

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by Karen Phillips Curran

Why do I paint?

It’s a good question, which for me, has had different answers over the years.

Recently, I drove from one coast to the other, west to east. It took 9 days.

 

It was winter, so the days are shorter. I was on a journey with others, so we only made one “stopover” each day. No matter, inspiration can find you anywhere you are. I am a person of some age now (over 60) and have been an artist since I was  11.  I can vividly recall the decision. My ever supportive Mom had been letting me visit with a wonderful realist artist who happened to live in our apartment building. Margaret Henderson was her name and she painted landscapes of horses, (usually in fields). At one point she set up a small still life, she quickly, deftly, made sample watercolour of it, then left the room, looking me in the eye and instructing me to do a little watercolour. She came back later and we looked at what I had done, she was pleased.  I looked into her eyes and decided to become an artist.

She and I would spend time in the summer, in fields with run-down barns, cattle or horses, painting and drawing. We also spent hours together at Ottawa’s Museum of Nature drawing with a pencil, as well as watercolours, of the naturalistic bird displays behind glass there. I still struggle to be as good “en plein air” painter as I can, but I am indeed a better studio artist. It is in the often serene atmosphere of the studio that contemplative process can emerge.

I can still picture the little still life setup that determined my future, a small silver fruit tray, with a pile of grapes on a piece of cloth.

Here is one of my best little plein air pieces, a small watercolour of a brook in Ireland…not far from Dublin.

watercolour of a small shaded brook in Ireland

watercolour of a small shaded brook in Ireland