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Art not for the Faint of Heart

Art not for the Faint of Heart
by Robert Genn

I'm crouched on a stack of easels with eleven other painters on the top of a snow-clad mountain waiting for a thumping Bell 212 helicopter to rise away in a swirl of whiteout. At times like this, thoughts run through one's head.

There's the sheer brutality of this great gas guzzler with its thundering twin jets and the swish swish swish of the killer windmill just off the top of our precious little heads.

The other thought is the outrageous privilege and joy of being whisked to places you would never otherwise see--often with an altitude change of more than 4000 feet--all in less than ten minutes. Then there's the miraculous and eerie silence when your chopper leaves and you're simply king of the world, gobsmacked with 360 degrees of infinitely paintable magnificence. With a lump in your throat, only humbling praise comes easily. FYI, we've posted some photos at the top of the current clickback.

We're staying at the Bugaboo Lodge, high in the Purcell Range in southeastern British Columbia, Canada. Bundled up for the blown snow, hail, and sharp, sub-zero winds, we have the added fun of painting in mittens. Another spot included sunshine, soaring golden eagles and alarming bear scat. Daily we've staked out our territory, not too much out of sight or earshot of one another, coming to grips with our private terrors of plein air.

No matter what we've done or accomplished in this life, we take our winnings and our weaknesses to the peaks and carry with us the methods and processes of our prior learning, great and small, right and wrong. Breathless in the high altitude, tears in her eyes, a painter turned to me and said, "I simply can't do justice to this place."

"Calm down, settle down, get into the flow, feel the magic; today's second painting will be better than your first."

At times like this I think of the words of the Austrian-Canadian mountain guide and climbing pioneer Konrad Kain, (1883-1934) who, well before helicopters, was first to the top of many of these spires: "The guide should never show fear, should be courteous to all and should always give special attention to the weakest member of the party."

Best regards,


PS: "Whatever is in any way beautiful hath its source of beauty in itself, and is complete in itself; praise forms no part of it. So it is none the worse nor the better for being praised." (Marcus Aurelius)

Esoterica: The rules apply. Find a good place to sit or stand (look for shelter, sunshine, more than one visual opportunity). Rotate through the compass and look well at this and that. Anticipate changes of light. Check out possible foregrounds and possible design potentials. Lay up an imaginary frame here and there. Half close your eyes and make value judgments--foreground, background, light and shade. Know that paintings need not be what is seen, but what will be seen. Squeeze out. Praise it with paint. Love it.

Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from hisĀ  twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his valuable artistic insight, visit http://www.painterspost.com

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