I have several methods to juggle my imagination when I need a jolt. My favorite is to select a book from my shelf, open it randomly and begin reading. This morning, I found this:
“One great thing about fly fishing is that after a while nothing exists of the world but thoughts about fly fishing. It is also interesting that thoughts about fishing are often carried on in dialogue form where Hope and Fear – or, many times, two Fears – try to outweigh each other.”
Dependable Norman Maclean penned this observation in “A River Runs Through It.” I’ve read it cover to cover several times, discovering fresh inspiration with each reading. As he did so well so often, this passage has defined a universal truth with a minimum of words.
It is also true that fly fishing is like painting, especially plein air painting. After a while, nothing else exists. The challenge to capture the moment is immediate and all-consuming. While trying to describe an indescribable sensation with paint, nothing else exists. It becomes a meditation beyond time and space. Hope and Fear are real and constant. I Hope I can re-present this incredible experience in two dimensions. I Fear I will overstate it. Understate it. Overwork it. Turn light into mud. But, even Hope and Fear do not exist really. It’s just me, paint brush in hand trying to apprehend a fleeting experience – the color of light, the reflections on water, the shapes of clouds, the staccato dance of the ouzel, the color of moss, the depth of shadows, the breeze with a hint of sage or juniper or pine.
And then, nothing else exists. Instead of conjuring a trout to rise to a fly, I cast pigments onto paper with the Hope that I can recreate magic.
Thank you, Norman Maclean. I’ll return this afternoon to one of my favorite river spots. I’ll think about that trout hiding beneath a riffle shielded by reflections of leaves and clouds. I’ll think about which pigments will describe it best. And then, nothing else will exist. If, in the end, I am successful, I’ll have something to take home. If not, I will at least have had the moment and the memory of the one that got away.
Ashland Creek will be among the paintings displayed during the Portland Open Studios Tour October 11, 12, and 18, 19 from 10am to 5pm.