#1 Aug 15, 2019: “Accidental Center of Attention”
Grizzly Giant Sequoia Tree, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite NP, California
I started this painting knowing it was supposed to be the first in this new series I intended to publicly sell. Knowing this was supposed to be the christening event of a professional series thrust my self-doubt to the foreground of my own attention. Making the choice (for maybe just the second time ever), to setup along a highly trafficked path, with lots of people stopping to peer over my shoulder, turned the dial on the insecurity voice even higher.
“What the hell are you doing, thrusting yourself into the public eye like this? You’re just going to hate your work, now that you’ve taken on this project. It was only fun when it was in your own private notebook, and now everyone’s going to be looking and judging every little thing you do”.
The first 30 minutes or so of work on this were completely excruciating. When I paint for myself, I know every piece looks crazy as the undertoning and lay-in processes happen. Agonizing through the early awkwardly bad-looking stages, in something that was supposed to be professional quality, with an audience, felt like it might be torture.
But surprisingly, as the painting little by little emerged, I found I didn’t feel judged. Little kids stopped with visible awe in their innocent eyes. Folks broke out of their distant-languaged conversations to struggle out an english “Is very beautiful” or “so nice looking”. They took a risk, breaking themselves into my language, risking interrupting me over my little canvas, just to express some appreciation. And where I had been fearful, I found myself really touched.
As I gazed at this massive tree – the first big focal point of the grove, I realized that it too had been thrust accidentally into the center of attention. It was just out in the woods, growing away with its Sequoia buddies, and it just so happened it grew really tall. The Mariposa Grove, with its big parking lot, constant shuttle busses, and fenced interpretive trails, just openned in the park last year. I wonder if that tree felt a little shocked that it was newly in the public eye, too. I wondered if it felt any of the same self doubt that I did.
I decided it probably didn’t. It was an old and massive tree, after all. As I painted, and felt my own fears shifting into warm gratitude for the appreciation of passersby, I decided that this connected warmth must be how the tree felt… in that moment, we shared something in common. The painting that emerged from our afternoon together became a reminder for me, if any more doubtful fears might arise on this new painting adventure, to carry the calm acceptance of old Grizzly Giant.