Monday, July 15, 2013

The Faraway Nearby: On Watercolor Postcards

Rebecca Solnit titles her new book after a salutation that Georgia O'Keefe used.  O'Keefe while living in New Mexico missed her life in New York.  She'd sign off on her letters to friends and loved as from "the faraway nearby."  Meaning that even in distance we can remain close.

The faraway Nearby.  This has always been a bit of a struggle for me.  How do we bridge the distance when we or our loved ones are away.  Recently I've been trying to find new ways to connect in part because our daughter, Kate, now lives three thousand miles away in Los Angeles.  How can we stay close when we are far?  It has taken me a while to understand that of the things that can create distance between people geography can be the least significant.

While it may be difficult, or even impossible, to bridge emotional or ideological rifts (my father and I wrote a series of angry letters during the war in Vietnam), landscapes can be literally and figuratively linked.  The suspension bridge is not just a metaphor.   One solution I came up with was the idea of watercolor postcards.

I began doing watercolors in my journals a while ago.  I don't have much technique, but I love color and I enjoy doing these.  I only paint when I'm on the road - most often in my journals while sitting in cafes.  On most trips I carry with me a journal I like (unlined with sturdy paper), a travel watercolor kit, a pencil case with some watercolor crayons, brushes, waterproof pens for drawing.

But on this last trip to Spain I also brought with me some watercolor postcards (you can get them at any art supply store).  I decided to send them to four friends who I thought might appreciate something that's not just a generic postcard.   And so I painted and sent out a few. They were like little gifts.  Here are two of them.

People say to me all the time.  "Oh I can't draw.  I can't paint."  Well, honestly I can't either.  I have very few drawing skills.  I know a little about perspective and can do some things with a brush.  I like color but can't draw people. brings me pleasure.  In The Rose Tattoo a woman holds up a landscape she's painted to Marlon Brando who stares at it blankly.  And the woman says, "I know they aren't very good, but I feel better when I do them."

Maybe herein lies the entire secret of art.  Whether it's good or bad, perhaps that doesn't matter at all.  What matters is that we feel better when we do them.  To me this is reason enough for putting pen or brush to paper.  And it is just an added bonus when it makes the person on the receiving end feel better as well.

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