People often say to me that they could never be an artist. It is not for lack of skill or desire, they say, but because they don’t have the patience to do it. I rarely understand what they mean by that. My work typically deals with the immediate response and interpretation to what I see in front of me. I work with big brushes and make broad strokes, and the process is energetic. So that is possibly why I get confused when people tell me that they don’t have the patience to paint. Well, what about the patience to look at something?
As we know, most of our world today deals with immediate response and gratification. There is now a “two to ten second rule” that suggests content should “grab” attention within that amount of time lest it be ignored or dismissed without consideration. We are so casual with our information stream that our emphasis on the value and importance of “engagement” is really becoming less and less.
We like to tell ourselves that we are “present” while dividing our attention toward something else. It seems our lives are now defined as being caught between a desire to be present and engaged, while being occupied by every distraction thrown our way. There used to be an expression that beauty is a feast for the eyes. So many times we settle for visual fast food.
What if we imagine going back in time to the feudal ages? Think of a king upon his throne waving away his court jesters out of boredom. Each jester may learn to reduce his truest wit to be as slapstick as possible in order to win the king’s attention. So, it seems we have arrived in this age as the royalty over our own content. There is very little patience to be entertained by subtly and intellect. We develop our own impatience by demanding the immediate satisfaction instead of waiting for the moment of a higher epiphany. Then we ask ourselves, why are we seemingly “dumbing down” in an age of everything being so smart? Why are we so dis-connected in an age when we have never been more “connected”?
The process for the type of plein air painting that I do requires a quick and fast approach. Yes, it is necessary to capture the light before it moves. It also important to work quickly to invest the energy of the scene into the painting so the canvas does not become static or over-burdened. Why is that immediacy in painting important? The answer is to produce the opposite effect while looking at the finished piece, which is to slow down. Look wisely and take it in with a lingering contemplation. There may be a deeper appreciation gained by looking in this way than to simply swipe away a beautiful moment. Looking at art while engaged in lingering contemplation can truly satisfy us. We walk away carrying the moment with us for as long as we wish.