on running and getting hurt and painting

I started running when I was 11 or 12. My dad and I would run down Highway 115 and at the Davidson College track. He taught me to kick at the end of a run and to stretch out stomach cramps on the move. I raced him to imaginary finish lines and we’d laugh  because we were having fun and we both knew we were trying to outrun each other. He’d let me win sometimes.

 

I ran track and cross country in junior high and struggled with shin and knee injuries until one day when I couldn’t move without excruciating pain in my knees after a long run. As athletes we learn to differentiate between discomfort and pain. There is a level of discomfort and sometimes even pain that comes from pushing yourself. And then there is the kind of pain that leads to injuries, and unfortunately it can take a while to figure out the difference. After that long run, I did months of physical therapy to try and solve my nagging knee problems. This competitive streak – with others and with myself – is possibly what has continued this cycle of running and hurting myself over the years.

 

There is a popular quote incorrectly attributed to Einstein that says “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Don’t ask me who actually said this, because I checked on the internet, and apparently no-one actually knows.

 

I’ve dreamt of running marathons since I was 14, and I have yet to run one because I keep hurting myself. I still want to run a marathon, and I’d like to do so comfortably. Also I’d like to be able to keep on running for as long as I am able, so it’s time I do things differently.

 

Last weekend I started running again using a new tactic: running and walking intervals. Coming from an old-school “no pain, no gain” type of mentality, where walking while running is a sign of weakness, I am having to change my way of thinking about running and remove my ego from the equation.

 

In my current body of work, Searching on the wind, I am also pushing myself to try new and uncomfortable things in painting. My vision is still the same: Ultimately I’d love for my work to get people excited about the outdoors and to get out for a hike or run or ride or really anything outside – and better yet with others.

 

While making these paintings, one challenge I set for myself was to stick with acrylic paint rather than switching to oil paint part of the way. With acrylic it’s more challenging for me to make the paint do what I can rely on oil paint to do – to easily push it around and for the paint to still have presence on the canvas. Oil paint has more body (it’s thicker and well… more oily) and is naturally more opaque than acrylic paint. While I am able to make paintings that are not obviously either acrylic or oil (a skill that I value), acrylic has traditionally not been as satisfying as oil for me to use. With these paintings, I resisted the urge to switch to oils because I wanted to see if I could get the same paint-feel for myself while sticking with acrylics. This is more of a personal goal rather than something that others will notice, but I think that for my art practice to be sustainable, I have to set parameters, rules or challenges for myself to keep things spicy.

 

As for the ego thing, this can come into play as an artist. We sometimes want our work to be more than what it is or to show off our skills or to be high-concept. While it is important to me that my work be transcendent  – that the finished piece be more than the sum of its parts – it’s also important that the work be honest and not try too hard. The finished piece should feel like it happened naturally, that no elements are extraneous and all are essential. While sometimes maximal is the way to go, with these particular paintings, I wanted a simpler, more elemental feel. I think of these as meditative, poetic paintings that whisper rather than shout.

 

You can explore the works in the Searching on the wind collection here.

On running and walking

2 paintings and a dog in living room
“Go Easy” and “Pilot Mountain 3” bringing a breath of nature into this living space

A couple weeks ago, I pulled the plug on running. I’ve been nursing hamstring and hip injuries for the last couple of years, and figured the smart move would be to stop running and to walk instead. So last week I resumed my daily morning walks.

Before getting back into running a few years ago, I used to walk every morning. First it was to walk my son to preschool, and I loved sharing that time with him: walking slowly, talking to neighborhood cats, picking up tiny sticks and stones and plants to collect. When he got older and went to elementary school, I’d walk after dropping him off.

I’d look at the patterns of tree branches, and the colors of leaves and the shapes and colors of shadows on the grass.

After a week of returning to daily morning walks, I realize that during my runs, I don’t engage with my environment in the same way. When I’m running, my mind goes straight to my thoughts or to how my body feels. Whether on the road or trails, I’m paying attention to my environment, but it’s to make sure that I’m not going to get hit by a car or trip on a rock.

When I’m running I’m not looking at the landscape with my painter brain.

I’ll give you an example of how I look when I’m walking. Yesterday on my walk, I noticed the dark shape of the trees behind a meadow, the large expansive green shapes of those meadows, and the way the sky cut into the tree line.

This morning on my walk, I noticed patterns in trees: the v-shape notches between branches and the shapes of the trees before they transition to sky. I also took the time to photograph piles of branches (my current obsession) and to root through them for sticks that might spark my imagination in the studio. Who knows? Those piles of branches might be the jumping off point for a series of drawings or paintings.

So I’m enjoying my walks right now. I’m relishing moving more slowly through space and observing all the changes happening as winter transitions to spring.

Above, you’ll notice my paintings Go easy and Pilot Mountain 3. Going easy sums up this shift to walking from running, and the Pilot Mountain series is inspired by my family’s favorite hiking spot. Find them both in my shop. 

Open post

Project 62

DailyProject62Today’s run drawing “Run 1.23.13”. I also did some stair runs and other strength/power stuff while at the oval, which gave me an excuse to add small details in the red ink. In yesterday’s painting, I used the map of my neighborhood as a grid. I did that again in this drawing.

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