Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Snapshot

Photography in Stonington, Maine

One temptation in traveling with one's paint kit is to take "painting snapshots" along the way.  We think that, because we paint for two hours before our subject, we absorb more of a sense of place than someone with a palm-size digital camera who captures thousands of snapshots on a single card.    But are we really paying attention to what's around us as we paint?

When I paint, I'm focused on technical matters - how light and warm this shape is compared to that shape and so on.  I do like to think that I'm hearing the buzz of crickets, smelling the fragrance of wild apples and really getting into Nature in an Emersonian way with a capital "N".  But how much of that, which is extraneous to the actual painting process, sticks?  Were I to undergo hypnosis afterward, would I be able to dredge up this multi-dimensional moment accurately?

Sometimes I wonder if I am only a camera using agonizingly slow film that captures just the visual phenomenon before me and nothing else. Maybe I'd be better off with a point-and-shoot camera and forgoing the technical agony.

This thought doesn't often come to me, but when it does, I try to take my time.  Not with the painting, but with the setting up and breaking down, with the hike in and the hike out.  I listen to the crickets, smell the wild apples, feel the sunlight on my skin.

Otherwise, the whole effort isn't spiritually worthwhile.

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