It's March. Late March to be precise. The sun is shining brightly, yet it's 24 degrees outside my studio this afternoon, with a wind chill that makes it feel like zero. Snow and ice blanket the surrounding countryside as deeply as a mid-January day.
Now, I will grant you that most of the country views March as the first month of Spring, but in Maine it's the last month of Winter. Actually, our seasons go like this: Spring is April, May and June. Summer is July 10-18. August, September and October are Fall, and November through March is Winter.
This snow and cold has been helpful with one thing, though: My current painting. It's a Winter scene, and I've been using this extended Winter to step outside and study light, shadow and snow effects to make my picture more truthful. And that's where I'm going completely wrong...
Don't get me wrong-- I like the picture. Or rather, I like the potential it still holds. But I'm having my usual fight between Truth vs Art. I've written about this ongoing battle before, as astute readers of my blog (and you know who you are) will attest. (No, not you. The one in the back over there. Yeah-- you.) It seems the paintings I admire most are beautiful combinations of reality, but within the framework of great Art. For instance, take a peek at one of my favorite Andrew Wyeth Paintings:
Most folks think of this painting as a realistic, truthful depiction of a Maine house. But in reality, this isn't what Andy saw at all. Well, kinda, but not in the strictest sense. The Olsen house here does look like this, and he painted it very recognizably. But what's important is that he painted it the way he felt about it. So he took out any distracting trees or useless details that have nothing to do with his emotions about the place. He simplified subordinate passages and used detailed precision on the important ones. He used his signature color scheme of greys and ochres to tie all the elements together. So yeah, it's what he saw, but more importantly-- he made it look like Art.
And that's the problem I'm having with my little painting. It's the court stenographers transcription of a trial as opposed to the newspapers story as opposed to the novel about the trial. Know what I mean? It's Linus mirthlessly plinking Jingle. Bells. Jingle. Bells. on his toy piano as opposed to Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way... So yeah, my painting looks like a truthful depiction of a scene set during a Winter's afternoon. But it ain't Art. Not yet. But it will be.
Maybe to keep myself from being tempted to overly "truth" it up, I should wait to finish it until after Spring arrives.
And the way things feel outside, that won't be anytime soon. After all, it's still Winter...