Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lessons in Transparency

When my family and I were visiting my parents in Kentucky over Christmas break, I found this painting sitting on a dresser in their home. My sister said "Oh yeah, I found that in storage the other day and brought it out so we could look at it again." I'd forgotten completely about it. Painted while I was taking my first oil class, I recall how much I struggled with the reflections and the transparent nature of the bottles. However, when it was complete, I was so thankful that we'd had the exercise. My professor, Cliff Davis, encouraged me to continue the study of transparent glass when I took an independant study the following semester. I recall being so eager to begin again but was very disappointed when summer was over and my inspiration had completely evaporated. I would go and sit in my studio space and stare at the blank canvases. It's hard for me to remember now just what the personal struggle was at that time but honestly I felt paralyzed to move forward. Prof Davis would say "Just paint what you see. Stop trying to make all of your art about something. You don't have to be inspired." I wish I had believed him at the time. The brush in my hands felt so heavy. Everything felt heavy as I sat, trying to look through glass as clear as day but clouded by the tempest within my heart and mind.

I'm so very thankful to have this painting safely preserved almost 18 years later. I gave all of the other paintings away or threw them out. Perhaps there are actually a few more left somewhere in my parent's attic. Quite truthfully and sadly, I disposed of much of the work I did in college. Please make sure you tell students you know to keep their work for future reference. Even if you're sick of it then and feel like you need a fresh outlook on creativity, go hide it all in your parents' or siblings' closets. Some day you'll value what you find and maybe even discover that what you learned during those days was worth the unpaid college debt of today. Maybe. Regardless, it makes me want to try my hand at oil painting again. It's been too long... Thank you, Professor Davis. Wherever you are, you were right.


  1. I never considered how difficult it must be to paint transparent glass. Looking at your painting, I see that it is truly amazing. i think it's sad that a lot of your artwork is gone.
    Glad to see you blogging again.

  2. Thanks, Sarah. It's good to be back in the blogging world. Yes, I'm quite disappointed sometimes when I think of how I threw out all my work one semester in particular. The drawings were perhaps the most tragic. I kept none. Why I did that is beyond me. Oh well, we live and learn.. and there's motivation to make more. :)