About a year or so ago, I began to paint with watercolor at the home of my friend Violet. I started with whatever was in front of me on the Formica table–usually a piece of aging fruit. Never a fan of doing still life (I like action! gesture!) I decided to view it as a challenge rather than a bore. Soon I realized that I wasn’t really painting fruit or vegetables, I was just focusing on the color, form, and detail in front of me. And such glorious detail–bruises, dings, decay! After letting the wet-on-wet color settle and dry where it wanted to (with a little help from me), I went in with a smaller brush and meditated on the beauty of imperfection. And aging. At this time in my life, the metaphor is too apt. Recently, I was helping a local landscape artist with her autumn pruning. She pointed to her apple tree and encouraged me to help myself, that they made good apple sauce. I knocked some down and thought, now I know what a real apple looks like. Each one was unique, misshapen to some aesthetics, but charming and unapologetic, and begging for a portrait. So I did, with each and every one. Next I polished them off.
In front of me is my late-in-life splurge, an Arches watercolor block. Next to that, my nearly four decade-old Pelikan pan of paints, my travel set of Windsor Newtons, my cup of tea, and subject matter that never in all my life had any appeal for me. Still life.
Normally possessed of a loose, gestural style, I find myself slowing down to contemplate the pores of a clementine, nicks in a bosc pear, age spots of an over-the-hill banana. The paper is teaching me how to respond, and, at least for now, I am held in a suspension of trepidation and awe. The fibers snag and grasp threads of color, pulling them into eddies and puddles that I navigate as best I can. I use no more than two brushes as oars on these serendipitous outings. Occasionally I drop one.
Perhaps I am taking the path of both least and most resistance. In Violet’s kitchen there is always fruit in the bowl. And in this obscenely-paced world, slowing down to contemplate a single sunflower is an act of not only defiance, but deliverance.
all images copyright Sharon Watts 2013