In 1873, Claude Monet became enchanted by the water in Giverny. He began executing paintings of this one subject matter and it grew into a full-fledged fascination with nature that would last his entire life. His most famous work is "Water Lilies," and it absolutely inspires me.
While in Boston this past month, I spent much of my free time thinking about Claude Monet, after spending most of one Sunday visiting his exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. Monet’s ability to capture light and texture within every painting he created captivated me. In his Water Lilies painting, I noticed that it appeared as if there were flowers floating just below water’s surface like mirrors reflecting not only themselves but also their surroundings.
Since as far back as I can remember, I have learned best through observation. Being able to watch someone in their element, no matter what the subject matter has always taught me the most. While I could not be there to observe Monet’s brush strokes, I was able to observe through being up close, even taking photos so that I could zoom in to get an even closer look. Each observation of his work absorbed me, even purchasing a small book of Monet’s art so that I could continue my observations outside of the museum.
I returned from Boston just in time to make it to the last plein air class of the season (since then the summer season has started). On my first day back staring out at the landscape before me, something felt different. I tend to jump right into creating the moment my feet land at the spot I have selected to paint for that day. However, this time I sat… And I sat some more. For nearly an hour all I did was take it all in, the scenery in all its forms, the sounds all around me, and my own thoughts. I found myself thinking especially of how Monet would have painted the foreground, expressed the many textures, and mimic the way the light touched every mountain, tree, and rock. Everything that I had absorbed from the Monet exhibit was influencing the way I would have normally painted the landscape before me.
After sitting for some time I painted for seven and a half hours straight. Never had I given more attention to the intricate detail before me than I had with this landscape. As the sun shifted throughout the day, my painting became bathed in an ethereal light that seemed like it was coming from within me. It was as if there were lanterns lit inside of me which illuminated everything around them, creating this serene atmosphere that somehow felt alive. It's hard not to get lost when you paint because your mind can wander easily but taking the time to sit helped keep myself grounded and allowed myself permission to create whatever came out naturally without any sort of pressure or preconceived notions about what should be depicted on the canvas - instead literally becoming one with all elements at hand: water, sky, earth - I was having a lot fun!
I walked away from my long day of painting with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the artists who came before me, especially those like Monet who struggled through much criticism to produce the art he loved. Creating does not come easy- it takes perseverance to go beyond your mind's habitual questioning in order to create. I never just sit down to paint; instead, my mind’s on an endless loop of responding both internally [to questions such as how] and externally [evidently by way of producing what].
Needless to say, I am excited to not only continue to learn from other artists, but to also apply it. I have never felt more inspired!