Plein air painting of path through beach dunes at sunrise by Daniel Ambrose

The artist that paints a landscape, with passionate intellect and perception, may find and unveil in the process, universal truths of humanity. Inspired paintings of nature inherit the potential to transcend the ordinary . . . to become supreme. A supreme work of art enlightens, transports us from the commonplace. A cosmic connector joining the worlds of the temporal and the spiritual.  The path of art is a celestial bridge.

Imagine the first artist. Inspired to be understood by another human, instead of grunting or knocking the other over the head with a club, kneels down, and scratches out a drawing in the dirt. The first drawing in the world. In that meaningful moment  the artist initiated a creative event, distinguishing us forever from other thinking life on earth. All over the world, humans express themselves in pictures, for every purpose. From the primitive to the sophisticated, the silly to sublime, in our most earthiest or most heavenly thoughts; we share our humanity in pictures. Art is the original language. Cogitating, evolved artists, continue to follow this ancient path of wonder. In the work, is the being of the artist.

To acquire knowledge in a discipline until it becomes a part of you, to excel, requires dedicated study and practice. Mastering the materials and methods of painting, is only part of the journey. Finding your path in art through years of struggle, of questions, will guide you to your subjects and style on your path of art. Painters that persevere in this process will come to know; you are not the same person who began the journey. Upon reflection, we realize, we have traveled a parallel path of self-discovery. Fulfillment comes to those who sow the creative seeds of their passion on the fertile ground of focused practice. You will reap the rare rewards of purpose and peace. An orbit of certainty revolves around the higher realms of mind and spirit. Find your focus and you will find your way.

Exploring a variety of mediums facilitates finding your path in art. My search for the creative vehicle that could clarify and give expression to the vagueness inside, led me to three: pencil, oil, and egg tempera paint.

Similar to stroking charcoal on cave walls, or scribing cuneiform on clay tablets, putting pencil to paper gives me a fundamental “earthy” feeling of creating. The precise point of the pencil forces me to focus upon the thing that I am drawing. Drawing helps me understand structure and shape; how things are made, how they fit and flow together. I carry a sketchbook with me, and draw.

Where drawing lets me home in on the specific, oil paints allow me to quickly capture a larger feeling of mood through color and shapes. Oil paints I use for small plein air paintings and large studio works. I paint studies from life outdoors in nature “en plein air” to record the effects of light, for inspiration and reference grist for the studio mill. In the studio, eventually many of these study ideas find their way into my finished oil or egg tempera paintings.

Egg tempera bridges the gap between the fluidity of oil and the dryness of drawing.   It allows me to ease into my thinking, helps me clarify my thoughts. Egg tempera is more of a meditative medium, akin to drawing. Originating in classical antiquity, egg tempera is an enduring paint, yet rarely used today. I make my own paint from a fifteenth century recipe using egg yolk and natural pigments. The process is slow, requiring considerable time and effort. But the results are exquisite.

All of my time is not spent painting, yet being a painter takes all of my time. After three decades of painting, creating art continues to be an all consuming mystery to me. I feel I am only just beginning to tap into the essential nature of things. The Impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro, late in life wrote, “I began to understand my sensations and to know what it was that I wanted to do when I was about 40 years old — but vaguely.” I’m with Camille, my mind is moving between sensation and understanding – between ambiguity and clarity. Somewhere in the middle, in the murky borderland, I hope to find that celestial bridge.

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