Slower Water is Clearer


          Somewhere along the way I became the constant painter. Listening to a friend tell me what is new in his life, my mind forms a picture of a place or moment. A stranger strikes up a conversation on the street while I study the colors in his face, the more interesting the conversation the more visual information I absorb. A city worker cleaning up the park below my window begins to tell me how he is a volunteer. His story grows and my interest in drawing him intensifies; I study the colors in his weathered face. Uninterested in posing for me, I at least get him to pose for a photo. How far this encounter develops depends on how intense the piece on my easel is. I may or may not interrupt what is developing on the easel to do a very quick sketch of my new friend. In the past I have hunted down homeless men because of the stories they have given me. At 10, I was struck by a hobo's story so much I disobeyed my parents and visited a hobo camp near the river to hear more of his story and sketch. A veteran of the first world war, he traveled around the country seeing all the wonders of America. He was cowboy for a while, a then a fireman who fought forest fires. In 7th grade I did a drawing of the bricklayer working on the new church next to school. My mind was always elsewhere, developing scenes of places I would visit or sketches of people I would meet someday, like cowboys I would work with when I was old enough. 
          Still developing paintings in my head, I do a lot of plein air painting without paints or brushes. I'll study the greens in a single tree and analyze why there are so many greens in just one tree. Leaves picking up the blues in the sky while other are yellow from the sun streaming through them, and still others display a rich true green as they hid from the sun and the blues of the sky.        
          Other days I'll sit staring at the ripples in the river trying to figure just what is it I am seeing, the color of theater itself or is it the river bed between those reflections of the sky and trees above? Spent a week in Wisconsin staring into streams and studying water. A local told me the water itself has different colors due to the iron in the rocks it is eroding. Slower water is clearer due to the plants growing in the water. 
          Painting out on the spot is always a learning experience, someone always comes along who wants to share something with you whether it is a child who informs you their dad is a better painter than you or a grown up telling about the developer who is putting up a shopping mall in the middle of the scene you are working on. When painting without paints or a brush people tend to leave you to your work. Picking up a brush loaded with paint is an invitation to people join you. I love it, I learn about things I have no interest in that I can pass onto my friend so they'll leave me to my painting when we get together for coffee.