20 years ago, when I first drove through Arizona, I knew it! I knew that I was in love! The vast open spaces, the empty deserts, the mountains , cacti and Saguaros, and to be able to see as far as you can and no signs of humanity, wow! Growing up in India and raised to follow the rat-race of civilized society, I never knew I could feel this way. I felt a special place opening up inside my heart as I fell in love with nature! But it still took several more years to realize how I could feel even closer to Nature than just “being” in Nature.
Art to me is a ways of finding and defining who I am most. I have been an “artist” -as we all are in our own rights- on and off, most of my life. More intensively in last 10 years, I focused on “being” an artist. It began with trying to paint from photographs, etc. We all start that way, when we forget that we were born as an artist and we get “caught up” in life and don’t remember any more what it is that makes us feel alive. I spent countless hours indoors, painting from pictures, it was fun in the beginning, and even though I enjoyed the process of painting, I did not know why I was doing it or who I was. I had several successful shows and got some recognition, but I was not alive inside.
Then I discovered French Impressionism. Impressionism is about what is truly in front of us, Our impressions of it, the vibrations we feel when we stand in front of Nature and we put them down on the canvas. How I like to say, Impressionism and painting from life, to me, is veneration of Nature; it is a step closer to being able to touch – to really touch – Nature.
Several years into my art journey, while loving painting but not really feeling alive, I came to the conclusion that I was done painting locked up in my studio from photographs. I was only going to paint from life – plein air, still life or humanity. Through wind and cold, or sunshine and fair weather, I can be found looking for the play of light and shade, colors and lines out there in nature that catch my fancy and beg to be painted.
No, It’s not easy by any means! The weather, the fast changing light requires coming back, over and over, day after day to catch same weather and light conditions. The hikes and clambering over boulders and rocks or long trails that have to be endured to find perfect view that sings to me while lugging 10-15 pounds of painting gear keeps me searching for the beauty that I want to capture; a lot of the times I have to retrace my steps back to my car because nothing was “poetry” to me that day.
But when I find it, when I am enchanted by the nature, there is nothing else that makes me more alive, gives me the same frisson. It’s a bubbly feeling of losing myself and at the same time finding myself and being a part of the life energy, the life force. It shows up here and there but when I find it I know that I am touching Nature. This is what I am here for and this is what I am looking for.
What I paint are the “Impressions of Life” that Life and Nature herself presents to me.