by George Allen Durkee


Standing in the undergrowth, I mouth the words, "How could anyone even think of trying to capture this?" The riverbank scene before me is complex beyond imagining. Simplify. Pare down to essentials, conceive a basic structure - like seeing a Christmas tree stripped of ornaments, evergreen needles and even smaller branches, so that what remains is only the trunk and a few heavier limbs. "Can I paint just this much? Yes, I know how to do this much." What about all the rest - the branches and twigs, the millions of randomly placed fallen leaves, rocks covered with fuzzy moss dappled in sunlight, constantly changing?  "Oh that. Just begin."

After arranging colors and utensils, I brush a mark onto the canvas, then another while seeing myself bolting headlong through grasping vines, over building-sized granite boulders, up the bank to the safety of my Plymouth parked in a turnout alongside Railroad Flat Road.  

I mix the next color, brush on a few more strokes and then wipe it out and start over. After several attempts, cobwebs of scrapes, splatters and deliberate strokes merge, and something not yet nameable looks out from the canvas.

Painting at my growing edge, there is a magnetic pull to revert to a less challenging subject. I feel the urge to mix colors and manipulate pigment in familiar and comfortable ways. Or to simply run away. I can't say how many times I've gone out to paint and then returned home without even setting up my easel. How many times have I crossed the boundary of my own knowing, only to pull back?

Some how-to painting books infer, "Here is step one, then two, three and . . . look! A finished painting! See how easily I've done this!"  

Uh Huh.

George Allen Durkee

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