Almost sixty degrees in January, I had to take it outside today. A morning walk with my dog and a friend - still overcast but gentle on the skin and lungs. A half hour sketching birds at the feeder from inside the window and then bundling up in fleece on a yard chair to sit as still as possible so that even the timid female cardinal would come to the feeder. Another walk with my dog and husband by the Sudbury River - my feet skittering on top-melted mud - coatless, hatless, gloveless in the now sunny afternoon.
Today is a day I call materials gathering, a sort of artistic grocery shopping without a menu in mind. What looks good, what is plentiful, what meets my craving. I go out empty, ready to receive.
In addition to the immediate joys of inhaling the moist thawing earth-scented air, absorbing the sun on uncovered skin, relaxing shoulders long tensed against the January wind - my senses are gathering information - shapes, sounds, colors, lines - which will inform or inspire my studio work.
The aching joy of shining wet green moss, vivid in a browned forest floor, the tender pale golden marsh grasses and the red twigged blueberry bushes outlined by the blue water; the fecund rusty red insides of a fallen log spill onto the path, The graphic lines of the breaking ice, the tree shadows, the twisted trunks and cattail fronds. Gathering in, gathering in.
Sitting still in the sun warmed backyard, the whoosh of woodpecker wings over my shoulder, the twitter of sparrows sparring for position on the feeder. The tinted yellow of a goldfinch's throat, the saturated red of the male cardinal against the green spruce, The golden green red breast of the female and her garish orange beak, the bright red cap of the woodpecker and the graphic black and white stripes down his back, The bold blue and black of the blue jay storming all the other birds from the feeder yet scattering seed for the black and white junco's underneath. The jaunty upside down twist of the nuthatch waiting for an available spot on the feeder and the sweet slate blue of the brave titmice who bring their sunflower seeds to the window ledge to eat. Gathering in.
My aesthetic is sharpened, I notice what I notice and why, I like gesture, I like calligraphic lines, I like high contrast, I like simple palettes. I like close ups more than landscapes. I tend to turn the pad and the camera to vertical instead of horizontal. I like inference and association. I like relationship and distinction, I like composition and rhythm. Some things call for the camera, others a sketch pad, still other things a pause to absorb the gestalt of time and space, inside and out. Some things even insist I carry them home; a tray sized piece of birch bark with bright green moss and lichen and reddish under-bark. I carry it home on one upturned hand. like a waitress carrying a birthday cake through a busy restaurant. I think of how my brother Bruce would appreciate this piece and how to wrap it for shipment to Colorado. Where is that box and do I have any ... I pull back into the moment and the pale peach beech leaves in a forest of leggy pines. The dog is smiling, my walking partners at peace. Gathering.