I have been confronting again lately something I have faced before, and have talked about briefly in previous posts on this site--how little conscious choice I seem to have over what I paint. I have a solo show opening next month at Christa Faut Gallery in North Carolina, which will be titled Kesler Woodward: The Forest and the Trees. I have plenty of new paintings for the show, of course, but I always want to do more, and I had thought for the past couple of months that I should work on some Southern trees, to go along with the Alaska birches and boreal forest I normally paint. So I've tried again and again to paint some of the Southern trees I love--sycamores, longleaf pines, beeches and oaks.
No dice. I don't lose--give up on--many paintings these days, but over the last month and a half I've put in countless hours on new paintings of Southern trees, and have nothing worthy to show for it. I've been banging my head, and hands, against a proverbial wall. It's not what I want to be painting, and no amount of work or determination will change it. I will paint Southern trees again--maybe after the February trip to my show. But not now.
Instead, I go out every day into the great boreal forest of Interior Alaska that surrounds my home, and I'm overwhelmed by the beauty of the light. I cross-country ski from my back door onto a neighborhood trail nearly every winter day, from October through March. Some days it's very cold. I skied every day a few weeks ago when it was between 30 and 40 below zero, plenty warm once I got moving, though I did lightly frostbite a couple of fingertips one day, taking snapshots with my iPhone's camera of light on the Alaska Range, along the southern horizon.
I'm not sure it's possible to be happy here, if you don't get out of doors often in the just over 3 1/2 hours of daylight we have each day in late December and early January. So nearly every day, I take a break from my studio in the early afternoon and ski into the brief, wan, but absolutely gorgeous light. It is, I'm convinced, the most beautiful, ethereal light of the year, and you only get to see it if you're out in the deep cold, out in the stillness that surrounds the winter Solstice in the far North.
This first painting of 2011 is looking out from the woods, on my trail, at the new year's light. There's new light in the North for me, and I hope there's light for you and yours, as well, wherever you are. Happy New Year.