Sunday, October 26, 2014

Murmuring Sweet Nothings

Cottonwoods at River Edge, oil on linen, 14 x 18 inches, by STEVEN BOONE
To be a landscape painter is is to marvel at the beauty of nature and be its lover. An artist can stand in one spot for hours, looking fondly at his subject . . . caressing endlessly with his eyes, and murmuring sweet nothings.

There are two spectacular fall happenings here in Northern New Mexico. The first is the changing of aspen trees. Aspen are known to be one of natures largest phenomena, since many trees are in fact one—they are a one root system, spreading and sprouting up out of the earth in mass, covering mountain terrain. The “quaking aspen,” are called that because their small heart-shaped leaves tremble and shimmer in a breeze. They turn vibrant gold in the autumn. Here in Santa Fe, entire mountainsides blaze with their color. The show lasts about two weeks. 

About the time that display ends, another is beginning. The mighty cottonwood trees that need more water and grow along the Rio Grande River turn bright yellow. The cottonwood is one of the largest hardwood trees in North America, with thick, fissured bark, and leaves that are flat and diamond shaped. I love to listen to the leaves when they have turned dry and brown, and some remain on the tree. When a breeze blows, the leaves bump each other and make a pleasant clacking noise.

 Yesterday, Heidi Of The Mountains worked half a day at a local art gallery, then came home and we packed up the car to go out painting. We drove north, toward Taos, and at one point the two lane road enters a narrow canyon that follows along the Rio Grande River. And this is where cottonwood trees live. They make a breathtaking display in the brilliant New Mexico light, especially on clear days when their boughs form a fan shape of golden leaves that shout with glee against the deep blue sky. The canyons, purple and grey, and spotted deep green with low lying juniper and pinon trees, lurch downward toward the blue Rio Grande River—and this completes the scene. 

Heidi's River, oil on board, 9 x 12 inches

We found our spot, set up our easels and painted. My wife had never painted a river before. I have thirty years of practice. Once started, she went non-stop until I looked behind and saw that she was half done while I was only beginning. This is her enthusiasm that makes her throw herself into something with all her weight. I relaxed, and let myself be led by pleasure and the dance of my nervous system playing with the paints and making song with colors and brush.

The air temperature was perfect, and the gurgling river accented the silence. Nature blazed all around, giving itself to seed and glorious sight—swooning at the end of gay summer and the entrance of frosty winter. Before long, the shadows had lengthened and the sun was setting behind the plateau. We stood back and examined our efforts, gave thanks for a satisfying adventure and headed home.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Deserved Praise

“Welcome everybody, and I am glad you are here today. We are going to have fun!” And with that greeting, I began the three hour session called, Palette Knife Painting The class was offered at a four day art expo, occurring at a sprawling resort and casino complex called Buffalo Thunder, on an Indian reservation outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Oil on canvasboard, 16 x 20 inches
Twelve people participated, and took chances exploring territory they had never been before. I insisted that they not judge themselves, but let the creativity flow and experiment. In front, elevated so all could see, I put one of my paintings—a simple composition of a sunset, with a bit of landscape at the bottom and the greater portion of the canvas, swirling, flaming sky, in a sea of blue.

I demonstrated and talked as the class proceeded.

The trick with palette knife painting is to be able to mix proper colors and then apply them on a drawing, keeping fresh and not muddy. It is a great way to show texture, and flare in handling of the paint. 
Each person had something in their work that warranted praise. I could see sometimes that they were lost, and in some case the colors had been muddied, but then, I could find some marks that showed resolve and freshness. So I gave praise. 
In some instances, the person was more adept, and the creation was more pleasing and harmonious. 

Everyone deserved praise for stepping into the unknown with me, and learning.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Died and Gone To Heaven

Occasionally I make an acquaintance and they ask me, “How many children do you have?” I always answer two, although only one is living. My oldest, Naomi died of cancer when she was nineteen, and Sarah is a young dancer. I know that one child is ahead of me, and the other behind.

I visited Naomi's grave this morning and after praying and remembering her, I took a step to leave and had the sudden realization that I would also be laid to rest before long. I thought of my body in the earth, and wondered could I be buried near Naomi? But no, that area is filled. Then I wondered, where? I do not know, especially since I am Baha'i and Baha'i law requires that a person be buried no more than one hour distance from the place of death. Since I love to travel, I cannot know where I might be when I die.

Just the realization of passing into the spiritual realm brought a surprising feeling of relief. I imagined the time of death; feeling great satisfaction of having lived fully, completed a cycle, and then entering a vast spiritual domain that has been my goal all along.

In a small way, I had similar feelings recently when I returned from five weeks of arduous and concentrated traveling in Egypt, Morocco and England. I had tremendous adventures, endured many discomforts as well as joys, was transfixed and dismayed, lived high and low, and in sum, felt the broad swath of life in a short time. It satisfied my wandering urges and reinvigorated my imagination, while fulfilling my soul. When I returned home, the first day felt like I had died and gone to heaven and now could start anew.

Sunday, October 05, 2014


Destiny is turning me in the direction of home. A steady hand guides me as the compass turns west, from London, England to Santa Fe, New Mexico, Unites States of America.

Looking back to when I left on my journey, five weeks ago, I realize there are many layers of experience that have been added to the pages that make up the volume of memory that archives my life. It is because of living intensely that the annals of one month can fill the pages of a book.
A magic carpet ride whisked me to Egypt, settling me at the foot of the Great Sphinx next to the pyramids. I touched the stones that were carried to the tombs of Pharaohs five thousand years ago. The teeming, dirty streets nearby are crowded with restless men, struggling with a poor economy amid political unrest. Nevertheless, I found friendship and cordiality that took me into homes.
Further south, in Luxor the Nile River calmed and refreshed my spirit, even as the sweltering heat limited my daytime activity. New friendships were struck, and old friends emerged. The simple life dazzled me like a poem from the hands of a great writer—Rumi comes to mind. I floated on the timeless river and broke bread with the best of humble company, while seated on nothing but earth and straw.
The wings of flight took me onward, east across Northern Africa, to Morocco, where French is spoken as companion tongue to Arabic. I speak neither, so maintained my silence amid the changing episodes and kaleidoscope, flickering pictures that continued to beguile my senses. I rented a car, and drove across the north of the country, from Atlantic Ocean, over mountains and plains, through towns large and small, to the border of the Mediterranean Sea, and back to Casablanca. Always the readily available cup of tea, fresh orange juice, olives, spiced foods—and bottled water, except when I felt assured of drinking from taps that would not make me sick—like in Chefchahouen, the mountain city of ancient narrow passages and blue walls and gates.
Along the Atlantic coast, I dove headfirst with joy into the onslaught of unending waves, clearing my pores, flesh, and bones of the weary effects of travel. 
When I could, I painted, and always photographed, using my camera as a third eye. 

At the end, my wife arrived in Casablanca and we continued as a couple for five days. I had someone to talk to again, and hold. We flew to London, a major outpost of world civilization, and found entrancement in the well organized bustling streets and attractions. We visited art museums, and became full of ideas and possibilities to take home. And so we will arrive from where we began, in the course of this one day, traveling eastward with the sun.