Michael Divine

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Know Your Brushstrokes

The thing is – you need to know your brushstrokes. Not the ‘meh I don’t know what I’m doing’ brushstrokes – not ‘these are just the unimportant brushstrokes til I put the important ones on top’ but EVERY brushstroke. The very first to the very last are all part of the same rhythm.

There is no underpainting. The underpainting IS the painting. The overpainting is the painting. It is all the painting. It is just the painting.

The rough hewn strokes should be just as intentional as those fine dashes painted with your finest brush and the more you practice that the more you see the visceral beauty – like a peal of lightning, a tumble of rocks, the mad dash of a blade of grass – that exists – or CAN exist in every dash and twirl of paint.

You have to learn how each brush of yours holds its paint and then be able to choose on a whim which one you want because of how the bristles separate or the bounce of their spring and then load the paint on the brush with that in mind.

Ride the rhythm of your thoughts and your heart and the cascading waterfall of emotions: from the mindless minutiae to the heart opening peaks as they twist and turn to the rhythm of your music, the beating of your heart, the depth of your breath. All along the way you must shepherd it along within the boundaries of your intentions.

No free for all is this. It dances within the parameters you’ve set out. Your chosen color spectrum and the core of the emotional thrust. Practice on small canvases. How does your hand dip? What is the arc of this very important dash?  What is the the action of the brush vs the way you hold your hand, your arm, your back, your mind?

Every brushstroke tells a story of the entire painting. When we look up close at the finest works, we see the rhythm of the vision all the way down to the patterns in the layers of gesso underneath it all.

You walk through that door of creation and, setting upon your canvas, and say ‘this is the vision I’m going to hold,’ and you find one that is worthwhile to you, something worth meditating on, something worth following every thread as you weave it out of your being and onto the canvas, the movement and momentum breathing within every brushstroke, every layer telling a story, an expression, an extension of yourself and your rhythms, your breath and your thoughts. Your shadow and light. All of it a dance of expression of what it is, in this moment, to be human.

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