Painting at the Chama, Lessons from the River

olympus digital camera The Artistic Process: Behind the Scenes of Sara Novenson's Work

When I arrive at my spot in the overlook, everything else in the world seems to float away with the current of this beautiful river.Morning of Joy, Chama RiverWhile in this state of grace, all that matters are the colors, the sounds and the smells that I am engulfed by.  Every single time I paint there, I am delighted and surprised by the diversity of the beauty, the light, the season, the trees.  The color of the river changes from moment to moment. The colors vary from season to season. I feel like a child in a candy store.  One moment the  entire river is a gorgeous turquoise, an instant later a cloud passes over the sun, and the violets show their glory.  The shadows cast along the riverbanks change, according to the fullness of the trees, the time of day and the season.

This river is my old familiar friend. As I sit and paint, I can “feel” the “personality and essence” in every tree, rock and plant.

 Since I return to this spot year after year, season after season these trees are like family to me.   One of them is grumpy and strong.  Another is graceful like a beautiful ballet dancer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis one in the foreground is my favorite.  She leans forward towards the earth, trunk gnarled, her branches spread out towards the heavens yet seemingly embracing the earth at the same time.  Guardian like.  Their subjects, in the form of colorful shrubs and younger trees, surround the mature trees like royalty.

Lessons from the Spirit of the River

As I am always comparing everything I see in the outer world to our lives and inner worlds, I feel the river and the landscape is an analogy that reflects the nature of life.  Every moment changes.  What surprises will it hold?  We ourselves try to hold onto the moment not noticing that the wind has changed or the clouds have just turned the river from turquoise into a beautiful violet. As I sit and paint and observe and feel the blessing of the beauty of our environment, I become aware of this.  More accepting.  Seeing the changes that come upon nature moment by moment, without judgment, without holding on, calms me and I accept my thoughts as passing clouds.  I can easier accept what comes into my life moment by moment without resistance. Many people come by to see what I am doing and to say hi.  Although I am in a “painting trance” I try to remember not to resist. Who knows what I might be missing when I am in that place of resistance? Sometimes I do speak with the people and the conversations themselves are like the river changing, a brief glimpse into someone else’s amazement at the beauty of the river, the magnificence of the color and the majesty of nature.

In many ways the overlook is akin to a place of worship.  Everyone’s attention is on the presence of this awesome beauty spread out before us, and I believe, we  cannot help but to become aware of the invisible intelligence, which from the unseen, this beauty manifests.


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