Proceeding Through the Heat

Remembering the Rain
copyright 2018, Molly Larson Cook
Acrylic and ink
24 x 18

“What veteran artists know about each other is that they have engaged the issues that matter to them. What veteran artists share in common is that they have learned how to get on with their work. Simply put,
artists learn how to proceed, or they don’t. The individual recipe any artist finds for proceeding belongs to that artist alone…”

— Bayles & Orland, Art & Fear

As we soldier through blistering heat in my neighborhood and maybe yours, missing the more usual rain, I pulled out this painting from a few years back to offer a little painterly solace.

The escalating summer heat has become part of life over the last few years, and I praise the gods and goddesses of art that many of us in this heat wave have air-conditioned studios. Creativity, of course, can and does happen in all kinds of weather and circumstances, but for many, the heat wilts us like unwatered flowers in the garden.

So what does an artist do when the temperature soars? We do what every other sane person does – we seek cooler shelter.

Plein air artists can take to the woods or the shore. Studio artists, not so much. We are encumbered by the trappings of our game – the easels or large painting tables. The stores of paints. The tools. The blank canvases that are too large to easily carry in the trunk of the car. And just as necessary, the light and the view with which we’ve become accustomed.

For myself, the answer is often my sketchbook. Even an abstract artist like me feels the push to sketch now and then. A stone. A leaf. A shell. A couple in the cafe. A flower. A window box.

Window box, Bellevue
copyright 2014, Molly Larson Cook

Meanwhile, I remember the rain and assure myself it will be back in this usually rainy place. Artists long before me have responded to the weather and geography in their work.

Years ago when I saw the Van Gogh in Arles exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, I was so pulled by one painting that at the end of my time in the gallery and about to exit, I swam upstream through the crowd to get back to it for one last look.

Vincent van Gogh, 1889
Philadelphia Museum of Art

By this time, van Gogh was at the sanitarium in St. Remy, troubled and near suicide. The melancholy here is tangible, an artist affected by the weather, painting his very heart out.

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