I have been painting from photos that I took on a visit to the Rhododendron Gardens near me.
This photo habit seems to be something we all share these days. Part of the joy of always having a rather impressive camera with you wherever you go.
But what do we do with all those photos?
Sometimes I wonder if we miss soaking in the beautiful sights directly because we are so busy viewing them through the camera lens.
On the other hand, I am delighted by the thought that in wanting to take a photo we are celebrating the tiny delights of our everyday lives.
The desire to record and collect them has to be a very good thing.
As good as our cameras are though, there is always that little something that the camera just can’t quite capture.
The warm breeze on our skin, the burst of sunlight through the branches that makes you squint, and the faint smell of damp earth. These are the things I remember when I paint. The camera may not be able to capture these things, but perhaps the painter can.
Actually, I’m not sure it matters if the painter succeeds or not in that regard. Time spent revisiting the happy places and memories is never wasted. The whole point I think, is the painting experience.
Connecting wth your subject through observation and memory using all your senses if you can is just plain good for you.
Perhaps you will turn out a masterpiece, perhaps you won’t, but either way I bet you’ll feel just that little bit happier.
To paint a thing, you have to really look at it it. The mass of giant blooms of the rhododendron bush is a joy. Take a closer look and you see that each flower is actually a clusters of blooms - a composite flower.
Every blossom a collection of many individually wonderful flowers, each a marvel on their own.
To me, each one is like a little party.
And what’s better than a party? Lots of parties on a huge single shrub.
What is better than a party shrub? A whole garden of party shrubs.
Yes indeed a celebratory place to be.
Choosing the images from my photos let me think about all the best aspects of the garden and of the day. Stunning blue skies peeping over the top of sunlit blossoms.
So many textures in the different foliage.
Ridiculously frilly edges to some petals, variegations on some leaves and for me, possibly best of all the abstract shadow shapes.
I do love a shadow. I love the light -that is the thing that inspires me to paint most of all. Often, the best way to show the light is to paint the shadows.
When you paint something, it is important to connect with what it is about that subject that you like enough to want to paint it. That thing that intrigues, fascinates or delights you. What painting is doing then, is helping us to savour the best moments.
Psychology researchers have shown that having an opportunity to savour the past helps us to be nostalgic and positive about that experience as well as helping us to be more optimistic about the future.
Learning to savour the good moments is a very useful tool in our happiness arsenal.
I have to say that certainly matches my experience painting this Rhododendron Garden series. Sure, I haven’t forgotten the part where the kids were bickering their way up the hill. But as I paint, I can smile more about that and let it fade gently while I remember the sunshine and the laughing more.
Painting the parts of the day that brought the joy then, brings the joy now, perhaps more.
If you can have compound interest, perhaps you can have compound joy?
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