Still Life with Orange Vase III


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Still Life with Orange Vase III

Original Painting by Erin Lee Gafill
11″ x 14″ – Oil on Canvas

Painted in Erin’s new studio in Hamden, Connecticut, May, 2024

My aunt Dorcas used to make the best plum jam I’ve ever had.  She gathered the plums from her pastor’s orchard and cooked them down with lots of sugar  (but not as much as the recipe called for)  in her cool kitchen in Pacific Grove, California.  When the jam was cool, she’d pour it off into clean recycled jars, screw on the lids, and freeze them right away.

I asked her once if she’d every consider going the extra step of processing them – which would mean buying new jars, lids, and seals, sterilizing the jars, etc. She looked at me in amazement – or was it horror? “Oh no,” she said.  “I won’t let ANYTHING get in the way of my creativity!”

Sometimes (I confess) I let a lot of things get in the way of MY creativity.  One of the things is “doing things right”.  Doing things right is one of the biggest obstacles we face to just doing things at all.  Until I can do it right, I will tell myself, I mustn’t do it at all.  Countless projects have stalled out waiting for me to feel that I understand it well enough or have the “know how.”

And then I find myself, quite often, months after I’ve abandoned a project (curtains for the new house, for example)  picking it up again and just doing it the way I feel like doing it – upside down and backwards sometimes, but still making headway.

I think even after all these years I still have the fantasy of a “right’ studio practice – but in the end, there is just a practice.  Sometimes a painting happens after a great deal of planning and study, and sometimes it just happens.  By “it just happens” I mean that I was painting, and painting, and painting, and probably struggling, and then I wasn’t struggling anymore.  All the work is forgotten – the pure joy is what rises up and I forgot the journey that. brought me to the destination.

One of the reasons I commonly work in a series of paintings is because perfectionism is the kiss of death for me, and when I struggle to fix a painting I generally lose interest in it and can never look at it without feeling the struggle.  So I’ve adopted my aunt Dorcas’s motto – let nothing get in the way of my creativity! And so I just move on and paint another, and another, and another, releasing the bind of the perfect in favor of the pleasure of the possible.

This painting (Still Life with Orange Jar III) is one such painting – the third in a series of paintings bringing together favorite textiles and objects, setting them in the morning light in my Connecticut studio, and diving into an interpretation of the colors and textures  in oil paint.  By the time I painted this one I’d painted not only two others, but also solo portraits of many of the objects within, including many of the orange vase itself.

This was not the last in the series, but it was the last one I was happy with.  I did paint a fourth which is on a low shelf right now.  I am hoping when I pull it off the shelf I will know exactly what to do with it.  But for now, I am delighting in this painting – the one that “just happened”.





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