Monday, August 30, 2010

And Then There Were Clouds

Trio of Clouds, c Sukie Curtis, 2010, 5x5 each, oil on wood

What can I say but that I love clouds? Unapologetically. 

After all, I am a certified member of the Cloud Appreciation Society. And I find clouds endlessly fascinating and entertaining in their variations of form, color, density, changeability. 

Sometimes I wish I could hold them from shifting shapes quite so fast, and yet that's part of the nature of clouds to be always changing, fleeting, transitory, impermanent, ephemeral. And thus, fun to watch!

(Did you know that word "ephemeral" is built of two Greek words--the preposition epi meaning "on" or "at," and the word (h)emera meaning "day"? So ephemeral means on a day, or fleeting, etc. That was one of my brightest, most exciting "aha" discoveries taking New Testament Greek in seminary thirty (gulp!) years ago.)

A few weeks ago on a random morning, I happened to look at the sky over our neighbors' house across the street and saw some great cloud formations, and I decided to paint them as quickly as I could. Fortunately I had three small (5x5") wood panels all primed and undercoated with a rosy tone, so I brought my paint, my brushes, solvent, and the three panels out to the small stoop in front of one of our doors. Spread some newspaper on the porch beside me, just in case, donned my apron and went to work. 

Quick work. You have to work very quickly if you're trying at all to paint what's before your eyes when it comes to clouds (or nearly any other weather-related or sunlight-related phenomenon in a place like Maine). 

Of course there comes a time when you are no longer painting the cloud itself, which has morphed through several new stages in the time it has taken you to mix a color of paint. But some concoction of the actual cloud as it was, the way it remains in your memory and imagination, and the actual cloud as it is now and is fast becoming (I will resist saying--well, apparently not!--"as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be..."--what a preposterous idea of changlessness and immutability.)

But I don't set out to paint exact likenesses when I paint anyway. If I were after that, I'd take a photograph, and even with photography there's lots of choosing going on to make up a photo--a kind of editing of subject even before the photo gets taken.

As a more experienced painter once said to me, "All paintings, no matter how representational they aim to be, are abstractions." Fictions, we might say.

Especially so if the painter in question is as much interested in her/his own response to what is seen and to the amazement, delight, elation (or, legitimately, sadness, longing, poignance) stirred up in the one seeing. 

Which reminds me of something I've read attributed to Alexander Calder: "My method of working? I begin with elation." To which I say, count me in.

PS. I had intended to sell the three cloud pieces as a trio, but I have since sold one (the one on the right) to someone who admired that one. The others are still available. And I plan to do more.


IndyAnne said...

I love your clouds, Sukie. I've heard they are not easy to do, but you have the gift! I just gave Grace (10) an Alexander Calder book of shapes and stickers to play with on her wall.

Sukie Curtis said...

Thanks, Anne. I'm not sure what the secret is, except not to get too fussy about them (since they are hardly fussy about themselves, always changing the way they do). That, and maybe starting from love and "elation"--a good formula.

I think I bought that Calder book of stickers for myself last year!! I love Calder--so much of his genius was in his playfulness. He clearly loved what he did.