I ordered a five-foot canvas and when it arrived, did several sketches and mapped out a loose painting of where everything should go.
I then had to put down my paint brush for our spring break to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Arizona. My son had never been to the Grand Canyon, and being that I’ve spent a ton of time exploring down there, I wanted to take him.
Being that I lived in many industrial towns growing up, which were not big on scenery, these childhood trips were the reason I ended up living out west. In these expansive lands, lands of possibility, where anything can happen.
In the Midwest, you go to college, you get a job, you raise a family, and you take your two weeks vacation. That was the life I was looking at out of college, as I took my first graphic design job in a fiberglass manufacturing company in downtown Joliet, Illinois.
On the way down we stopped to see the dinosaur tracks on the Navajo Reservation. We bought jewelry at the roadside stands, and heard long stories from the people, especially an elder Navajo woman who knew very little English. These were the opportunities I wanted to provide for my son – an education about people and places. I still remember exactly where I bought my necklace on the reservation at age 12, in a roadside stand outside Tuba City.
After a day of driving through piercingly blue sky, and listening to Harry Potter on CD, we began a snowy ascent into our white world.
We drove past Wilson Peak, and around Telluride, where I returned to this Wilson Peak painting commission. My largest commission ever, this 5 foot painting was intimidating. But painting is problem solving. That’s all. It’s about trust and pure letting go, and then pulling it all together with your heart.
You have to trust that the paint you’re splatting on the canvas is going to make sense some day. If you don’t let go, you end up with a tight and calculated painting. And that is nothing about what a mountain is.
I collaged into its hills naked women, Sufi poetry, patterns, water-color, rice paper, vintage newspapers, and more. And then the hardest part – painting over all that and really trusting.
There is big vision, and there is small vision. Both can be very useful. Both have their place. Laying down long layers of paint across a mountain massif is no place for small vision. You have to keep your eyes out of the details, and on the overall feel of the piece. The painting is all about how that mountain feels. And how you feel, when you look at that mountain.
Only in the rocky ridges up high did I add a few details with the small vision in the end. As usual, it was all the unplanned play that made this piece work out.