To watch night become day is a wondrous moment. It is a time of awakening. Even more mysterious is a sunrise after the morning rain. As the sun's rays peak over the horizon, water droplets refract the sunlight transforming the earth with vibrant colors.
In the depths of winter, spring remains vigilant in our thoughts. While the yin of winter is mighty, yang is weak. Though just like every cycle, the season turns and yang strengthens. In February, when harsh snow covered Michigan, instead of working on the Winter Series, the longing for spring inspired my art.
Winter is a time for reflection in Chinese philosophy. When it is cold and dark outside, we must keep warm. It is also vital to replenish our bodies with warming foods and fluids. As well, it is an excellent time to take notice of our thoughts.
I like to process my thoughts by painting. I imagined the days growing longer and the sun rising on a mysterious morning. For this painting, I chose paper over canvas. I had a vision, a landscape conceived from the introspection of many sunrises.
The painting reveals an early morning scene in a mountain village. The rain has stopped leaving behind a misty morning. Behind the woodland forest, the sun is rising. Its warm light shines through the trees to reveal a pond with buildings in the background.
How a mysterious morning emerged
On paper, it is not as easy to build layers of ink as it is on canvas. I still use layers, but not as many. With the sun in mind, I spilled orange ink first. Its warm tone contrasts magnificently with cyan and its opposite color, blue.
Before the first layer dried, I softened the color across the paper with a wet brush. Using water to smooth a layer gives the painting a light wash effect. I applied the wash to imitate the morning sunlight behind the mountains as it lightened the sky.
As I paint, I intend to capture the life-spirit of nature. By using a rich variety of brush strokes, I produce different textures. The sharp point of a Chinese calligraphy brush delivers a fine line, but its unique structure also allows the line to be thick for broader strokes.
In the extract below, a mix of different brush strokes give the painting its energy and create form. At the top of the extract on the right-hand side, you can see the wash effect used on multiple layers. It establishes a misty feel as if rain clouds linger on a mountain range.
While the idea of capturing a sunrise after the morning rain inspired my painting, the fall of the ink guides my artistry. My brushes augment accidental discoveries.
However, though the imagery makes use of spontaneous splotches of paint and broad strokes, I also employ a broken ink brush style. The painting displays my signature technique of intricate lines. You can see these etched into the lighter blue on the lower left of the above example.
One of the fascinating aspects of a using a free painting style is how readers can discern different details, such as three howling dogs in the lower right corner.
A compelling sunrise after the morning rain
The instinctive composition of elements that form the trees, rocks, animals, and pond furnish the panoramic landscape.
A single brush stroke through the spilled ink produces different degrees of color, movement, and rhythm. The lines express my inner thoughts and feelings but also capture the spiritual energy of the scene.
Often the first aspect to carry the viewer's focus is the sharp contrast of color seen in the second extract below. The different layers of color produce depth and contrast between light and dark. The sunlight illuminates the damp and misty trees from behind.
Some viewers recognize the dark blobs of ink or boneless shapes attached to tree branches as birds. For others, their first impression is the vivid energy that stirs in the woodland and sweeps across the pond to the distant village. It is as if the earth awakens, coming to life once more.
In a similar reading of the painting, a viewer with Celtic and European ancestry remarked the scene reminded her of the mythical Wild Hunt. There are many variations of the Wild Hunt; however, when it is associated with winter solstice, it announces the changing season and the return of sunlight to the northern regions.
A winter reflection on a mysterious morning in spring
When it feels cold and bleak in winter, I find myself contemplating spring. In the I Ching (the Book of Changes), winter begins when the dragon, which embodies change, hibernates beneath the water. When spring returns, it awakes and rises into the sky.
In my previous post on The Golden Coast, I mentioned the five-element theory of Taoism philosophy. Each element also represents a season. Water signifies winter while wood symbolizes spring. Both forms appear in this painting of a mysterious morning, with water rising up from the earth to rejuvenate wood.
While reflecting inwards in winter, my meditation revealed the images of a sunrise after the morning rain. My thoughts were a blend of recollections from experiences in China but also my travels in the USA, particularly the Carolinas and the smoky mountains in Tennessee.
Though the painting has many layers of meanings and variations, perhaps the mysterious morning sunrise also expresses a longing for the rebirth of life and springs return.