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A Painter's Responsibility

Shell Seeker
I have had a few painting instructors and each one has told me what they do with the paint left on their palettes. Some seal it in a container so that it doesn't dry out. Some guiltily confess to discarding it. The habit I prefer is one I learned from my friend and painter Catharine. When she is finished for the day she applies the paint to a panel for that singular purpose and when it is full, or done, or however you wish to qualify it, she shows it.

I have purchased one of these paintings of hers and I confess, even though I own one of her lovely figurative oil paintings as well as a reclining pregnant nude sculpture she made that is quite excellent, her painting below is a favorite of mine. Is it actually art, you ask? Well, I guarantee she applied the paint with intent. How could she not? The result is a lovely study in texture and color. It has so much texture, in fact, I decided to frame it under glass because I was concerned about the accumulation of dust over the years.

Textured painting by Catharine Liles
So what does all of this have to do with my painting posted at the top? The child with the bucket was painted yesterday afternoon. The background, the canvas, is the accumulation of many sessions worth of paint that did not make it onto a painting--until now. Any leftover paint was applied to this one canvas. When you think about the resources required to produce paint in addition to the plastic containers the paint goes in, and how frustrating it can be to "properly" dispose of paint (whatever THAT means) you begin to realize the responsibility you have for what is left on your palette.

The canvas had developed a lovely thick surface. I would sand it a bit to expose some layers underneath. Last Friday, I glanced at the canvas which was on the floor propped against the wall and I immediately saw wet sand and a darkening sky over an ocean. My mind flashed to last year's vacation at Pawleys Island and all the hours my then 3 year old spent collecting shells. Bingo. I drew her in pencil on paper. Using that as my visual guide, I then painted her on the canvas with a liner brush.

I like that she has her left foot planted and the other is lifted as she begins to move forward. Toddlers have a bit of a swagger. Her eyes are intent on the sand as she looks for shells. I also like that she seems to float in the space. This is what it is like for me to watch her. Everything else falls away and I am quite in awe that she is mine.

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