First Day is Fine Art Day

View from Ein Gedi - 22"x 9" acrylic on paper © 2012 Durga Yael Bernhard

Happy New Year to all my readers!  I hope 2012 is off to a good start for you.  “First Day” is “Fine Art Day” for me, so I eschewed all the New Year’s Day parties – including the renowned meta-bash at the “Logstock” home in nearby Woodstock, New York – and set up my acrylics to do my first painting of the year.  My choice of subject was a small painting I started while traveling in Israel last summer.   The warm colors of the Judean Desert were a welcome contrast to the wintery hues that surround me at this time of year.  I worked loosely and quickly – also a welcome contrast to the rigors of commercial illustration.  Fine art replenishes my soul and reacquaints me with subtlety and ambiguity.  It allows for the fresh air of uncertainty and suggestion.  It answers to no laws other than its own – something I observed years ago while gazing at the dizzying freedom of a Matisse painting.  What made each image tick seemed to change from painting to painting.  Yet without a doubt, Matisse bowed to the laws that governed his work, though only he could perceive them.

All my life I’ve walked the line between commercial and fine art.  If you have visited the gallery section of my website, you will see the two categories all mixed together.  Like a shoe lace that goes back and forth, back and forth across a gap, I’ve managed to bring the two sides closer.  The line blurs and zigzags – some of my fine art paintings have been published as illustrations, and illustrations have been purchased as original art – but it never disappears completely.  My Gemini nature seems to demand that I walk both sides of the line.

Pencil sketch for illustration of "Alo the Spirit Giver", a Hopi tale

And the two sides often have a way of overlapping.  My painting of the view from Kibbutz Ein Gedi will serve as a study for a series of illustrations I am about to do for an educational children’s book about the Hopi people.  Here is a sketch for one illustration.  The mesas of  Arizona are not unlike those of the Judean Desert.   In both cases, I need to practice simplifying the complex forms of eroding canyons.  The sheet of light that hangs over the desert is both vivid and elusive.   It is easy to understand why people are drawn to live in the desert, despite its harsh environment – and why artists come here to paint.

I remember the botanical gardens at Kibbutz Ein Gedi as one of the most cheerful places on earth.  The exotic plants and trees lovingly  tended by humans have transformed this arid plateau into what seems like a living miracle.  The color that suffuses the mineral-drenched Dead Sea gives it the look of an impressionist painting that has already rendered itself.   I almost felt like my perception  were being baked in a great, hot kiln – not just heat, but time beat down upon the sun-baked earth, where the history of our present civilization has unfolded for over three thousand years, and is still unfolding today.

Detail of "View from Ein Gedi"

This year, I want to bring more fine art back into my daily life – even if it’s just a pencil sketch or a ball point pen scribble.  Even if I can’t finish what I start.  Even if I waste art supplies.  Even if it never gets published or sold.  You never know what will nourish the wellsprings of creativity . . . or what hidden waters flow beneath the desert, ready to spring to the surface.

Warm wishes to all in the winter months ahead.  May color and light fill your year.

Durga

Walking with my art supplies toward the tree shown in the painting above

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