You know that feeling you get when the brush moves on its own? Or it feels like time is suspended, and you could be living in a snow globe -- the outside world is so far away it might as well not exist. Your focus is razor sharp. The only sound is your heartbeat. These times are why breathing needs to be autonomous. You know exactly what to do next.
When this happens I know my muse is there. She guides me, draws me forward, pushes me back, makes me SEE. All my dreams seem achievable in these moments.
Then the moment shatters and the world comes rushing back and you are like a tadpole gasping on shore, not yet a frog, not still a fish. Yet it is the memories of this feeling that keeps me trying in the in-between moments when inspiration is still graspable.
We just had the hottest July on record -- worldwide and in Ontario. I struggled through my last week of work before my vacation and I couldn't wait to head north. I was itching to be outside among the trees and water and I mentally packed and repacked my painting supplies in anticipation.
I finished 2 commissions in July and fussed with some other paintings but I really wanted to get out into the woods and be close to the landscapes I wanted to paint. I decided to make the leap and take my acrylics. I usually only take watercolours when we hit the road but I felt ready to do more.
The drive was over 4 hours. And then we had boat trouble but luckily we had friends to ferry us over to the lake lot. My anticipation finally gave way to reality.
To me the camp is a place of miracles. It is right on a fresh deep lake, one more secluded than the busier and bigger lakes nearby. Rocks and trees ring the shores but at our spot a sandy bottom begs your toes to sink in, the lily flowers grow thick in the little bay and there is room for a fire on the beach. A little more luxurious and permanent than camping, not quite a cottage, the forest is up close and personal but we have shelter from the storms that sometimes whip up. I come to this place to connect with the Muskoka landscape and this is my favourite place to draw inspiration from when I paint landscapes.
The weather was perfect. The wind was flirting with the trees and the water, chipmunks rustled and birds sang. The sun filtered down through the birch trees. The rocks on the far shore glowed a pretty pink. I settled into a chair on the beach. I taped down some gessoed paper to my trusty plywood board, scooped up some lake water into a jar, readied my palette and … nothing. No rush, no feeling, no inspiration, even with perfection under my eyes.
I tried to warm up with a sketch. Meh. I tried slapping down some colour. Nope. I tried mixing some colours, tried to paint a tree, attempted a rock. Uh-uh. My muse just wasn't there.
Where was she? The timing was perfect. I was on vacation, I had no responsibilities, no stress, no distraction. Despite my efforts (meditating, reading International Artist, walking in the trees, swimming, closing my eyes and listening to the trees -- if there is a better music than that I don't know what it could be) she could not be summoned. Even my memory of inspiration was stifled. Vodka didn't help either.
I don't know what happened. Four days on the lake and I couldn't produce anything. The day after we got home I did 3 sketches, turned one of my paint slapping sessions from the lake into an abstract work and completed a portrait of my husband driving one of the boats.
Maybe there were too many people around, maybe the wind was from the wrong direction, maybe my muse's invitation got lost in transit. Who knows! Will I try again? Yes. Will I succeed? I have no idea.
In the meantime I will seize on my muse when she comes and paint when and what I can. I took some great photos. I absorbed some atmosphere. That will have to be enough until next time. I am lucky enough to have a "room of one's own" and my muse seems to like it there, for which I am grateful.
Next time I go to the lake, please come with me. I promise we will have a great time. I missed you.