Magical Helpers

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. “ Joseph Campbell
(Continued from yesterday…)

If you’ve read my blog before, you will know this isn’t the first time I’ve used Campbell’s hero metaphor. Plein air painters are a kind of hero in the sense that he uses the word, leaving the common world, entering a region of wonder, beauty and uncertainty, struggling with forces both internal and external, often helped along the way by magical helpers, fighting a good fight, and, having prevailed, bringing back a “boon” to mankind in the form of a piece of beauty. After all, the paintings they bring back are a boon, and the one who brings it back is the artist—and no one else. Plein air painters who see themselves this way can use this image in the toughest of times.

What about the magical helpers? For a plein air painter, this could be as simple as a passing stranger who encourages you at your moment of despair, the person who gives you a snack just at the point where your blood sugar has dropped, or the one who helps you repair your easel by lending duct tape, or the helper who tells you about a secret place that no one, other than the locals, knows about. In my case, my magical helper was my little son who, once we had moved to California and I had begun to paint plein air on the weekends, accompanied me every time. He was only 5 at the time but he was a good and patient son, considering there was little for him to do while I painted.

We started off our Saturday mornings with a stop for a cappuccino. I let him eat the foam off the top. Then we would head off down the highway toward the farmlands south of San Jose, or up into the rolling hills above Santa Clara valley, or over the coastal mountains to Pescadero along the coast north of Santa Cruz. His magical help to me was an inherent feature of his age, an attention and patience span that had certain, shall we say, limits. As a result, I learned to focus and to paint very fast, to apprehend what I saw and get it down in paint quickly, before he became miserably bored. This discipline, forced upon me by necessity, is something I have always appreciated, although now I have difficulty slowing down when I am painting in the studio. Now, Skyler is 15. He occasionally accompanies me as in the days of his youth, but now he paints alongside me —and I am his magical helper.

I will be traveling tomorrow to Maryland. My next post will be Sunday, July 19, 2009, the day before Plein Air Easton.

Posted via email from Robert Lewis’ Sketchbook

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