The beauty and the power of the Earth are all around us. Even in the poorest and most blighted urban environments trees, hollyhocks, sunflowers and other sturdy plants grow up through the concrete. We are children of the Earth, of the Goddess, who in Her many forms, is the manifest symbol of the sacred Earth.
Most of us love the space we find ourselves in when spending time with nature – hiking, walking, camping, birdwatching, swimming in the sea, riding a bike, working in our gardens – all activities that help us feel connected to this Earth we walk upon; that help us find an inner peaceful place.
As a child growing up in New Orleans I remember vividly my desire to lie on the grass under the majestic oak trees of City Park, longing to merge with the land. Now an adult and an artist, I have found that pleine-aire painting and drawing allow that feeling of merging to occur, bringing me to an inner space of connectivity with the land which in turn creates a connection to spirit and our cosmic source.
It has been part of my art practice for many years to spend time outdoors painting and drawing. During these sessions I feel a strong connection to the land.
Sunser Bar, Molivos
In addition when traveling one of my favorite activities is to spend time out and about drawing and painting not only nature but also the local architecture.
As the pace of change has accelerated, I find that some of my old drawings capture a reality that no longer exists. This small drawing is from my time on the island of Lesvos in the late 1980’s. The Sunset Bar was a favorite spot to sip a coffee and watch the sunset. It no longer exists as depicted in this drawing. What was somewhat rustic and natural feeling has been replaced with urban chic.
With pleine-aire painting, I find an unfathomable connection to the natural world and the spirit of a place. The worries of the world melt away as I drop into a space connecting eyes, hands and nature. Finally after several hours of this work my body calls out to me to stop. I stand and stretch and view my recently observed segment of reality. Now eyes and hands stop their back and forth between paper and view. Now my whole being resonates with my view. Once again I am reminded of why I paint; of how art gives me moments of clarity concerning the spiritual nature of the manifest world – of the indescribable nature of reality.
In recent years I have begun using some of my old pleine-aire drawings as the point of departure for oil paintings. When working outside I usually try my best to recreate what I see, either with a quick sketch or with a more detailed approach. A couple of years ago I found this small quick drawing I did, another one from my years living in Greece. It became the source of inspiration for four subsequent paintings.
Dance of the Olive Grove
But once I have a paint brush loaded up with oil paint in my hands all thoughts and desires of reproducing reality disappear. I strive for the true spirit of that place to be transmitted from my drawing to my continuing and more symbolic exploration of the subject on canvas.
Sheep and Cyprus Trees
In our fast-paced, information laden, constantly changing high-tech world it is easy to feel disconnected from the natural world. The very basis of modernity is built on the concept of nature as something out there and separate from each of us. This disconnect can lead to dis-ease both on the individual and the community level. For me, art helps to heal that disconnect. May each of you also find your practice that helps you feel connected to the natural world, to our Mother Earth.
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork. She continues to be inspired by the Divine Feminine in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints and teaches part-time. She is currently hard at work on a deck of Goddess cards. Her work, which expresses her belief in the interconnectedness of all life, can be seen on her website at http://judithshawart.com