Monday, November 13, 2017

Porto on Paper

For years I've kept travel journals.  They used to be just writing but in the last fifteen or twenty years I've begun adding a visual component.  I sketch and draw in them.  And for many years I never was able to do any painting or drawing that didn't happen inside the pages of the journals.  But lately I've started to feel constrained.  I've been wanting to go beyond the journal.  And yet for some reason I seemed afraid of paper.  As a writer I rarely have that dread of the blank page but as a painter I did.  Some of my concerns were practical.  What if I ruin the painting?   Then I've ruined the page.  And what should the painting be about?  As a writer I've never had a problem with the blank page.  I could almost always fill it and besides writing paper is cheap.  But good watercolor paper, let alone canvas, that was another matter.

But I've been digging deep.  Trying to take some risks.  I've been spending a lot of time for various reasons reading about Joan Mitchell and looking at her glorious work.

About ten days ago I put a large sheet of watercolor paper on my painting table and there it sat, staring at me.  But yesterday late in the day I had an idea for something I wanted to do and so I did it.  This painting of Porto.  It is big.  About 28"x 14" and it's on paper, not in the journal.  I feel a bit the way I did as a young writer when I finally opened the drawer where all my poems had lain for so many years.

I can't exactly explain why this felt so good.  Why it feels so good to not be afraid of paper, of mistakes.  Just letting it happen.

Again to repeat the Tahitians.  They have no word for art in their language.  The closest thing translates to "I'm doing the best I can."

Enjoy whatever it is you are doing.  There are no mistakes.  They are just steps along the way of learning.  


  1. Beautiful watercolor. You're an inspiration, Mary.

  2. I came here after reading your book "Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Travelling Alone". I haven't read something so raw and exquisite in a very long time. It will stay with me forever!