Lights and colours flash across the scene; the changing sky, the glimmer on the water, the moving air, the waving trees and rushes. Do we paint what we see or do we try to capture the energy behind the moment? Trying to express something like the mood of the scene, the crispness of the winter cold, the sultriness of a hot summer day, the wildness of fierce winds, makes us stretch our consciousness from the tangible to the intangible. We know it, feel it and hold it in our consciousness while we try to express that which is felt only by the intuition.
The artist instinctively knows when he has it right or wrong. When it is wrong there is a sense of nervous restlessness, frustration and struggle; but when it’s right, oh then he knows it; the work of art has something that gives us a feeling of harmony, a truth to it, and nothing else has to be done. It is finished.
There is an aesthetic sense in play here, where we humans know when it’s harmonious, complete and right and it has nothing to do with the subject matter. This intuitive sense is part of the essential spiritual self and a larger whole, it’s a connection with a consciousness beyond our everyday narrative of the mind.
The artist has a huge advantage when he enters the spiritual path. Every picture is a meditation, a focus of consciousness in which he/she is searching for perfection and harmony.
A. Lismer writes of Tom Thomson:
“He saw a thousand things – animals and birds, and signs along the trail that others missed. He knew where to find subjects – a stretch of muskeg, a fine stand of pine with possibilities for the kind of thing he wanted to paint. He could drop a line in places, and catch a fish where other experienced fishermen had failed. He identified a bird song, and noted changes in the weather. He could find his way over open water to a portage or a camp on a night as black as ink. It was this sense of awareness and significance of simple sights and sounds, his uncanny sensitivity carried over into his paintings and sketching that gave the authentic tang to his work.”
“Authentic tang”, I like that expression. I shall strive for authentic tang in my work.