Dream Big

Posted by on Feb 20, 2019 in Blog | No Comments

The Dreamers, Acrylic on Canvas, 2019, 48 x 72 inches

I felt so inspired, hopeful, and grateful watching kids perform salsa dancing in a dusty, rural South African schoolyard as part of my daughter’s school delegation trip last summer. I wanted to try and make a painting inspired by these kids, who were so joyful yet also growing up in challenging circumstances. Dance and music are a big part of South Africa but seeing salsa was a surprise as I’ve always thought of salsa as being distinctly “Latin”, but have since discovered it also has African roots. I was completely enamored with the smallest pair in the dance troupe. Besides talent, they took their performance in front of us and their peers very seriously. I had taken a number of photographs of them and knew I wanted to portray them accurately, despite my recent inclination to move away from realism. I chose the lush rainforest setting symbolically, although it could be a nod to salsa’s Latin American connection. However I was thinking of the idea of abundance, chaos, music, light, and beauty. Words that also seem to align with dreaming big. (Click on all images to enlarge)

The Dreamers, DETAIL

I love to dream big. After many years of dreaming big I have discovered it is the details of the journey worth delighting in, not just the final destination. Details like being brave and pushing beyond your comfort zone, embracing the whole process including the failures, making discoveries along the way which may lead you towards a different destination, being kind to yourself, and rejoicing in the small successes. I had big dreams for this painting about dreaming big. I wanted to try and capture the light and energy and multilayering of a rainforest abstractly, with believable figures, and a monkey (which we saw many of) to add to the narrative. I knew what I wanted but I didn’t know how to get there. Consequently this painting took quite a while to finish. I had made a small painting, Rainforest Rhythms, as a study of sorts for the background. I like the painting and certainly working smaller was easier and more forgiving. Some of the earlier versions on the large canvas leaned more towards the looser flow of this smaller piece, yet in the larger piece the experimentation with different marks is what got me most excited so that is the direction the painting ended up following.

Rainforest Rhythms, Acrylic on Canvas, 2018, 14 x 18 inches

The Dreamers, DETAIL

I struggled most with the transitions and edges. It was especially frustrating when I would get stuck in a seemingly continuous loop between long hours of working on an area and being happy with it, but then finding I didn’t like the area next to it as much anymore, so reworking that area, then liking the way I painted that better and so going back to rework the previous area, and eventually often painting over both sections super quickly since I just couldn’t seem to find what I was looking for, only to be be super excited by the immediacy of those very fast marks, but now creating a whole new set of problems to tackle in order for those marks to make sense with other areas of the painting. That’s exhausting just writing it, let alone living it. I felt like I kept pushing and taking risks which resulted in momentary highs and many lows. Needless to say, the painting was on the verge of complete disaster many times, and even now in what I believe is its final form, it’s a rather crazy, complicated painting, which I do like, yet comes up short of my grandest notions. Such is the path of dreaming big. I also discovered that in the right light the visible texture on the surface from all of the painted over failures adds to the shimmer of the piece. Form becomes content. Bingo. Small successes!

The Dreamers, DETAIL

The Dreamers, DETAIL