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Christmas Presence - Perspectives No. 294

Christmas Presence

Perspectives No. 294

A Matter of Opinion © Laura G. Young
A Matter of Opinion  12 x 9"  WC  Laura G. Young

   Our Perspectives this week comes from Colorado artist, Laura G. Young. We have painted together many times at the Susan K. Black Foundation Workshop in Dubois, Wyoming. Laura shares her thoughts about the gifts we receive when we are present in our art.

  
I'll never forget a conversation I once had with my grandmother.

   “As you get older,” she said, looking out the car window as I, a newly licensed driver, cautiously navigated traffic, “time goes faster and faster.” She continued, “I look in the mirror and think, 'Who's that old lady?' I feel like I was your age just yesterday.”

   Just yesterday.

   As another year draws to a close, I'm starting to understand that she wasn't just using a figure of speech. Time really does seem to be accelerating, like an evening toboggan ride down an icy hill. My experiences are becoming more abridged, more porous. Last week can blur into last month, or an event fifteen years ago.

   I think it has something to do with cognitive processing. If you are blessed to live long enough, the activities of your day-to-day life begin to wear familiar patterns in the carpet of your mind. So as you're washing and putting away the same dishes 1,500 times, or saying goodnight to your spouse 10,000 times, or celebrating your birthday for a cumulative six weeks, perhaps your brain starts to deal with all of this information in a way that's the most economical. Maybe it begins to take out the similarities the way that digital compression takes out redundant pixels.

   When you're younger, you don't notice this as much because your data set (i.e., life experiences) isn't large enough for you to lose track of your files (i.e., memories).  A seven-year-old can recall nearly every single book they've ever read because, well, there's only three years of reading to sort through. And because those first books were so different and new to a developing mind, and because they were undoubtedly read over and over, those stories and pictures were emblazoned on the reader's memory for the rest of their life, even if they can't recall the exact titles.

   Yet if you ask me a comprehensive list of every book I've read in the last decade (several hundred?), I'd be sure to overlook a few. Shorter experiences such as movies are even more challenging. And, the instant a picture is taken with one's phone? Perhaps lost for good. “Photo or it didn't happen” has become a catch-phrase of our distracted modernity.

   In a way, I think this is why painting from life can be so meaningful. Instead of merely watching a screen or taking a drive-by selfie, one has to engage the scene in a more purposeful way. Even at my fastest pace on my smallest paper pad, it can take at least a couple of hours to complete a painting in the field. Note taking, composition finding, paint mixing, outline drawing—and of course laying down the brushstrokes themselves. It involves such an amount of effort and focus that, by the end of it, I feel as though I've not only created a record of a place, I've inhabited it.

   Later on, when I view the work again in a different context, framed and hung on a wall, it's almost like looking at a pinned butterfly specimen. While others see a motionless picture, I recall a living scene. Once again, I hear the spruce boughs whisper, or feel the sun's warmth on my face. I smell the river mud or the ozone after a departing storm. It's more than a picture. It's a direct connection to an actual experience that was lived out in both space and time. It's a memory made visible through the filter of my existence.

   And perhaps—just perhaps, by slowing down to think and observe and create, my perception of time will do likewise.

   Born and raised in the Allegheny mountains of West Virginia, Laura moved to Fort Collins with her family at the age of nine. She graduated from Colorado State University in 1996 with a degree in Russian and East-Central European Studies. She then briefly lived in Seattle before working as an educator in the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan. In 2003 she married her best friend, Chad Young, and they now share a home in Fort Collins with Skeeter, an adopted African Red-Bellied parrot. She is the illustrator of several books, including the ongoing AVES series by C.J. Berry.

   To see more of Young's work visit her website: http://www.lauragyoung.com.
There you can see her bird portraits, blogs (and an image of her grandmother—the subject of this article)!

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Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.

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About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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We are also regular contributors to the Plein Air blog at Artist Daily.

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