Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about magic. I don’t mean, ‘Pulling a rabbit from the hat’ type of magic, but the kind of everyday magic that is the mystery of existence. I catch glimpses of it through the bathroom window while I’m brushing my teeth. I sense it when I notice a seedling has broken through the surface of the earth, reborn from the roots of a burned tree. The wildflowers in Tahoe are thriving a year after the fire, and I wonder – is it because of the ash?
Colour is increasingly captivating. I see Radiant Lemon light filtering through Jeffrey Pines, first dawn rays fanning over the mountain transforming a Prussian Blue valley. Inky Indigo moonshadows on snow. The glow of sunlight through tender new leaves, Phthalo Green. Autumn Cottonwood leaves gathering at the riverbank – Cadmium Yellow and Orange.
I want to paint every beautiful thing I see, but if I bring a sketchbook with me every time I go outside, an anxiety builds in me. The natural world is always beautiful, always interesting. The problem is, I get so focused on one scene that I miss the bigger picture.
The balance, it seems, is spending more time looking without a brush or charcoal in my hand.
As I observe solid forms like rocks and trees dissolving in fleeting light, it feels like meditation. I lie on the earth on my belly, and focus to the point where I can lose myself in patterns and colours. Then I stand up, open my eyes wide to gaze at everything all at once.
I watch reflections whilst standing in the river. It is hypnotic, entrancing. I feel the water flowing past my skin, and the energy of life. I see light bending and dancing over the water’s surface whilst simultaneously noticing the rocks under the surface with my eyes and feet. There are tiny minnows and crayfish, skaters, slime and dirt. I close my eyes and let go, falling back into the cold water. The shock is exhilarating.
Later in the day, I return to the same spot to paint this place and the experience of the morning. I look deeper. Patterns emerge, bizarre shapes appear, a column of light and colours I have never seen before.
The newness of it all is seductive, compelling. It’s like saying the same word over and over until it becomes meaningless, a mantra. When we transcend the world of language, into the realm of idea, pure colour and sensation – a kind of magic is revealed.