Wednesday, 23 March 2016

In the Valley

"In the Valley" J. Douglas Thompson, 2016

Yes, I’ve painted it yet again…another iconic tree.

One would think maybe I’d be bored with the same subject matter after so many attempts. A theme that has run through my work since the earliest days of drawing five decades ago, I’ve always been attracted to their twisted gnarly examples.

Charcoal Sketch, 1969...5 decades ago
The most interesting ones are those who have endured intense and lasting struggle. They display the striking dynamic shapes that make me stop short, turn around and spend time in their presence…a place to come aside, rest awhile in their shade, sketch, while pondering the storms that brought them to become such rugged, ragged beauty.

This painting above is a result of a set of some newly discovered techniques. I recently had opportunity with a good friend to visit the works of the master painter of atmospherics, J.M.W. Turner at the AGO in Toronto. I had sat decades earlier in front of these and other of his masterpieces during my time while living and working in London, England. Now, after fifty years of painting, at least I can begin to see something of what he was achieving technically. It was so inspiring that I went back a second time and sat for several hours of rapt attention with them.

Reichenbach Falls: J.M.W. Turner, 1804
One technique I’m subsequently employing has and is leading me from the style of a graphic illustrator to one who has found more light and motion and is becoming more painterly. It involves the act of whipping paint onto the substrate with rags or paper towels. Lots of mediums are pre-mixed with the paint and employed to break open and separate the paint to deliver motion and texture. It is the act of hitting it hard with impact, surface to surface that produces the natural formations to work up from there. This of course is true in nature as trees and rocks are also whipped by the elements of wind, ice, snow and sand among others to produce the wonderful textures and patterns we can enjoy or yes, pass by without a second glance. I’ve been searching for this ‘look’ for decades…such is the reality of being more or less self taught.

In this piece, “In the Valley” after ‘whipping’ the paint across the canvas, a subtle shape of the tree sat tangled amidst blue brown chaos. While pondering the mess it began to emerge in the bottom corner perfectly situated one third in from side and bottom. As they say, 'a happy accident.' It had potential but could it be rescued from all that entangled it? I set it aside for weeks and came close to overpainting it with something else. It kept calling me back. I’m glad I listened. The reality was that it needed help to be freed from the surrounding barrage and brought to a place of prominence and peace. It needed a friend to rescue it from the mess that entangled it. It took inordinate time with lots of re-working to gain its place of well-being in the world.

Whipped Texture
Often we are caught in life’s web of circumstances that overwhelm and have us trapped. I certainly was! The circumstances often are not our own doing but nevertheless we are trapped and feel insignificant and full of shame. There is no way by ourselves that we can extricate ourselves from the reality of being so slough mud stuck. Often we are completely unaware of our own tangled-ness or how we arrived there. It takes another who sees with patient skill to bring light to the dark valley and separate us from our chaos.

If you find your life a tangled mess, it is worth searching and asking for the help of someone who can see hope and light through the chaos and invest the time and effort to help free you, so that your beauty can be fully revealed.

My personal testimony is that it is worth the long journey to find a new life, hope and reason to be vertical, even though there is no doubt I remain a little twisted.

J. Douglas Thompson
“Awakening Awareness, Encouraging Endurance and Blessing Beauty with Wild Creativity”