(published Dec 20th through my newsletter)
The weirdest dream woke me up at 2 AM a couple weeks ago. It roused me with the very distinct instruction that I need to seriously take up watercolor painting.
This thought was so strong – it dug down through the deepest sleep state and hoisted me into waking consciousness. It must’ve known it had to fetch me at 2am. I can’t possibly imagine taking such a thought seriously during daylight hours.
It also took a while to fall back asleep that night… as though the thought wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be forgotten by morning.
Two of my grandparents (on my dad’s side) were watercolor painters.
My father’s father, Walton Blodgett, painted landscapes in Vermont. My grandmother Alice often painted portraits. Each year on my birthday she would make a new little painted book for me; “Ariel is 6” and “8 is Great.”
Furthermore, my grandmother’s cousin, Alice Neel, was a hugely influential painter in the first half of the 20th century. I didn’t know how big of a deal she was until I went to the Tate Modern in London and discovered two and a half rooms devoted to her work.
Painting has always been a hobby for me. Something I have not taken seriously, but done as a way to pass an afternoon in nature, or spend quality time with artsy friends.
Although I get obsessively focused when I paint, I’m rarely happy with the results. I’m frustrated with my nonexistent skill and feel my paintings pretty much always lack gravitas.
But since arriving here in the high desert of Southern California, I’m kind of obsessed with the horizon line where the mountain meets the sky.
I keep wanting to paint this line.
Today I was on the phone with my dear Vermont friend Christyn, telling her how I just want to paint those horizons and she said, “Makes sense… that’s where form meets the formless.”
At which point I promptly shat my pants.
That’s where form meets the formless!!!
Can you even stand how exciting this is?
I am particularly intrigued by the few minutes during sunrise or sunset when the sun is so bright that it washes out the horizon line completely.
This big yellow glowing ball cancels a portion of the whole thing out! It totally freaks me out!
When I hit the road for this adventure, I knew I’d be met with many surprises, and the call to watercolor is no exception, a real mind-bender.
But as I feel into the urge, I cannot help but think of how certain activities have somatic echoes throughout the rest of our lives. They help us activate other possibilities.
An urge to take up knitting might soothe your nervous system while also stimulating the inner need to strengthen interconnection and relationships in your life.
Or the desire to make pottery could fortify your own feelings of personal power and agency (I don’t need no Pottery Barn I can make my own damn bowl thank you very much!).
Or the need to express yourself through dance might be tapping into an urge for increased creativity and freedom in your work.
Above you’ll find a profoundly mediocre attempt at painting a horizon during sunset in Joshua Tree park I recently did. I keep staring at this sub-par postcard-sized painting.
Something about it is waking me up. I want to paint a million more.
Do you have this? A strange urge to do something artistic with a swath of your time? Or am I just tossing pixels down a wind-tunnel here?
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