Ireturned from a recent three-day watercolor workshop with three marginal values’ studies in gray (trying to see and control the range of light-to-dark without being distracted by color), and a scrap of paper scribbled with doodles and notes. Some of the notes were things I wanted to remember about painting. But most were moments when our instructor, Santa Fe landscape artist Fran Larsen, offered thoughts on painting that felt to me like wisdom about writing. Among them:
- On that elusive search for voice: “Each one of us has something we’re looking for that’s in us. We’re trying to find a voice.”
- On her own 60-year journey with art (which she once described as telling stories without words): “Slowly but surely, I started to have a voice. Some of it was good. Some of it was terrible. There are still days when I can paint well, and days when everything I try to make is crap.”
- On pushing paint (or words) on paper again and again and again: “Everybody has a voice, and you’ll find it.”
- On letting go of a painting (or story) at some point: “Life is never done, and a painting is never done. Each one is chapter in a bigger story.”
- On moving a viewer’s eye around a painting (or through a story) with color and structure: “I’m always hunting for transportation in my paintings.”
- On discovering the story as she paints: “Never get locked into what a painting ‘should’ be. Keep it open. The more open it is, the more you can take it somewhere else.”
She also said, according to those scribbled notes, that it’s “like killing snakes.” I have no idea what that means. But maybe I’ll figure it out if I keep painting — and writing.