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Archive for the ‘sky’ Category

Inching My Way Back




“Summer Clouds Over Hills,” oil on canvas, ©Sukie Curtis 2015

I have a confession to make: sometimes I get stuck, really stuck.

A lot of time can go by when I don’t paint. My paint-avoidance might begin in the somewhat natural let-down just after a particular “push” to finish pieces for a show or some other external deadline. Sometimes other things–like family events, travel, a change in schedule or in who happens to be home when–come into play.

Soon a week become two weeks, and two weeks become a month, a month becomes two months. And the longer it goes, the harder it is to begin again; and the harder it is to have much confidence in myself as a painter. It’s a bad deal all around!

I know I’ve mentioned this phenomenon before (and probably will again)! I am remembering a thought expressed in the book, Art and Fear–to the effect that art-making is about not giving up, about finding ways to start over, again and again.

As you may have guessed, I’ve recently been in one of those stuck places, built of circumstances and stuff like fear (fear of failure? of course! fear of success? probably that, too!) and all sorts of tiresome arguments within myself.

And the process of inching my way back has been built much more deliberately and intentionally than the process of getting stuck. Some of my tricks and tactics include drawing for fun, low-key sketching and playing with watercolor pencils–just to keep my hand in the game and to remember the pleasures of lines and color.

Then came giving my paint brushes a long overdue, thorough cleaning. (Another confession: I am NOT a diligent washer of my brushes. I cheat and skimp in that department.) And then I scraped old blobs of paint off the glass surface I use as a palette. So everything was ready!

Last Sunday when the house was empty of other people, I too was ready to paint. And painting over some older paintings that I wasn’t happy with seemed just the place to start.

The painting pictured above, “Summer Clouds over Hills,” is one of the results. The skies lately have been beautiful and full of fascinating, ever-changing clouds. I have a feeling this is not the only cloud-scape I will be painting!


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Summer Clouds Over Hills

Summer Clouds Over Hills


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Skylight View


Sketchbook page: watercolor pencil, oil pastel June 13, 2015

Morning by morning

my skylight teaches me this–

clouds never stay put.*


*Except when they do, or seem to, as on an overcast day when the sky seems “stuck.”

But on other days–days of clearing winds, for instance–the view through the skylight near my desk is constantly changing. The light and shadow in the treetops that frame the lower portions sharpen and blur, sharpen and blur, repeatedly. And the hues of green change with them.

And the clouds! Sometimes they meander across more or less horizontally. Sometimes they race from top to bottom of my view, traveling more or less in a southerly direction, I think.

Clouds shape-shift. Thin clouds seem to evaporate or grow so thin and so distant as to disappear.

Other days everything moves much more slowly. Imperceptible movement within a field of uniformly pale grey. Not my favorite days, those “stuck days.”

But then, we don’t get to choose the weather, do we?

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And a Sliver of Sky



Looking into Trees, oil on canvas, ©Sukie Curtis 2014

Most days begin for me in earnest (after brushing my teeth, helping to feed the cats, make tea, etc) in the northwest corner of the large room over our garage, now much cozier thanks to new insulation in the ceiling, floor, and walls and a new heat pump. When I sit at my desk– a large writing table, really–I have a view out a nearby window across my neighbor’s backyard and through a stand of trees to a more densely wooded hillside.

If I turn 90 degrees to my left and look up, I see through a skylight to a rectangle of sky bordered on its lower portion with the tops of tall trees (right now mostly bare-branched oaks). Some days, like today, a robust wind sets clouds racing across my sliver of sky, shifting constantly in shape, texture and color in the endlessly fascinating way of clouds. This morning in the span of ten or fifteen minutes, my view went from that of a bright sky blue with soft white clouds to nearly solid grey with thick snow flurries falling sideways, and then partway back to glimpses of blue. Other days the movement is much slower and more subtle.

In the last few years of her life, my mother, who died almost a year ago, spent much of her waking hours sitting in her favorite chair watching the clouds and trees and birds outside her windows. I am grateful for our shared enjoyment of clouds and for the fact that she expressed an interest in some of my paintings of clouds. I am glad that I was able to contribute some painted glimpses of clouds to her view, even when no real clouds were in sight.

What a crazy thing it is to paint clouds, especially on a windy day! That is, if one has any inkling of trying to recreate a specific cloud just as it “truly was.” The moment you dip your brush or palette knife into paint to put a mark on a piece of wood or canvas or paper, the cloud has changed, moved, shifted, perhaps even dissipated right in front of you while your hand is still poised for action!

When I sit at my desk in the morning, sometimes I am writing, sometimes just sitting and looking, and sometimes those constantly changing clouds seem the perfect match for my thoughts and feelings, as they too race across the pages of my journal or simply the sliver of sky that is my mind.

SCurtis_AugustSky  August Sky, oil on canvas, ©Sukie Curtis 2013

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