Natural Inspiration

My recent painting retreat in the seacoast jungles of Mexico, was truly transformational. Yes, there have been lots of adventurous trips in my past, but nothing quite like this.

Artist Shirley Williams at Haramara, painting workshop in Mexico

“Life is Beautiful in the jungle.”

Working with other artists, sharing ideas and experimenting was so exhilarating. Painting days were long and intense.

Some of us even painted late into the night, wearing headlamps. We looked like weird aliens, but it worked. 

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The winding path carved through the mountain-side, offered surprising variety and breathtaking views at every turn.

Maneuvering this path at least five or six times a day, never got boring. Each time, I would notice some new plant, flower, bird or butterfly and the feeling of connectedness to the earth. 

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The variety of shapes, colors & textures of the natural surroundings was astounding.

I took hundreds of photos during the week as inspirational reference.

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“How exactly did this experience transform my art?”

FIRST   ……  after getting home

I pulled out all my older paintings and studied them with a critical eye. Some still spoke to me, but many others didn’t make the grade. 

Rather than agonize over my old “failures” I simply slapped a coat of gesso over them. Letting go of the old and deciding to begin anew with a fresh perspective is always extremely liberating.

SECOND 

I decided I want to use more collage and mixed media in my paintings. I scoured my sketchbooks for old drawings and sorted through the various specialty papers I have on hand.

Then I began the process of enhancing these papers with drawing and paint to make them more interesting to use.

THIRD 

I prepared brand new canvases in small, medium and large sizes and reorganized all my paint and materials. 

Shirley Williams Art Studio FOURTH 

I dove right into a new series, starting with eight canvases of various sizes.

As you can see above right, the first active layer of collage, paint and imagery was intuitively added to these canvases. 

Of course there will be many more layers to come.

My biggest creative breakthrough has been in my approach. 

Before it was:
“Think first – paint second.”

Now it’s the reverse:  
“Paint first – think second”

Sounds simple. But it makes all the difference in the world.

Until next time, keep your eyes open to the beauty of nature in the world around you.

 Shirley

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