Moss Dance

Version 2

Moss Dance, © 2015 Alicia R Peterson. Acrylic on linen, 22 x 28 in. $900.
Photo by: Erika Kuciw, Shuttergirl

I was seriously angsty. The Wet Paint Festival was my public painting debut and the voices of doubt stormed my brain and would not be silenced. “I can’t paint in front of people.” “I’m going to be the only abstract artist there, no one will get me,” and loudest of all, “My work will be horrid.”

I had only three days to create a work of art worthy of the silent auction at Gallery North. At the end of day three, we were required to submit our work for hanging, ready or not. I so did not feel ready.

Day One: We got to choose our spots for plein air painting on the grounds of Gallery North and the Three Village Historical Society. I watched undecidedly as many artists sought out (even seem to run for) private cover. I took a deep breath, stood tall and picked the most public spot to set up my easel. I said to myself, “If I have been losing sleep over this for months, I’m going all in!”

Version 2I set up in front of the historic Thompson House, across from Gallery North. The weathered structures and moss on the roof called to me. I placed my hands on the building as if I could hear what Thompson House was saying.

Full swing angst set in. I paced the grounds. “Is someone looking at me?” “I can’t do this!” I felt constrained and despite returning to my touchstones of painting (grounding, visualization and meditation), I could not shake the feeling that I was in a very small shrinking box with everyone staring at me with critical eyes. Finally I put paint on canvas. But my work was somberly flat, not worthy of wall space.

A close friend familiar with my work commented, “You should just paint over that one.” I went home disheartened, sure that I could not paint glory in public. What stayed with me that night was the light and shadow play of the moss on the roof of the Thompson House.

Version 2Day Two: The day started with me staring dejectedly at a new blank canvas. Then bright colors burst in when two young girls, accompanied by their mother, stopped to talk. The exuberant youngsters were wearing pink and sparkles. As we yakked about how I paint one said, “You can’t throw paint.” With that dare my batteries charged. “Yes, you can and I will show you.” I asked them to come back later and I painted ground, the first layer, of various hues of pink in honor of their brightness. When they returned I was ready to throw! Again I had stage fright and just could not get the movement I was used to. Like any veteran painter, I know about “happy accidents” so I gave in to the more subtle pockets of movement I was able to create. Sap green was prominent in my palette.

After a period of percolation, I was pulled to work on the ground and added flow release, a medium that changes the viscosity of the paint.  Colors melded and swirled; drama reined on my canvas. It was as if I was making shadow and light dance with slight tilting and turning movements of the canvas. I found my stride. I was in flow.

Version 2

Day Three: One of the most important skills as an artist is to know when to stop. It is an inside, soft calling that I can miss and then the painting becomes over worked. And yes, this is true of life as well. Sound familiar? But I heard the call loud and clear and stepped away. I expanded into myself and moss was dancing on my canvas.

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