I spent my formative years taking piano lessons from 1st through 12th grade. The piano I practiced on was actually in the Quaker Meetinghouse on the property where my family were caretakers. I spent nearly an hour a day filling up the silence of the meeting room with various classical sonatas, minuets, and waltzes. I remember imagining the meeting room was filled with people listening. It became an almost sacred time.
I believe learning the piano shaped me into the artist I am today. It taught me discipline and an appreciation for music I wouldn’t otherwise have. It also taught me how to evoke emotion through something as intangible as sound. With a simple change of touch or emphasis, an otherwise technical piano piece becomes art. It is a gift to know how to play an instrument and I have my favorite teacher in the world to thank for this gift.
I didn’t realize how much I missed playing the piano, until I received a piano as a gift this past holiday. I lived the past decade or so without owning or having easy access to a piano. I am once again practicing on a regular basis. I was a bit rusty at first, but now I am back to challenging myself in learning new songs. The first new song I have spent the last month or so practicing is a piece called “Nuvole Bianche” by Ludovico Einaudi, a contemporary Italian composer I found through listening to Pandora. I love the type of songs that you can close your eyes and imagine them as a soundtrack to different scenes from life. Nuvole Bianche is that kind of piece.
Without making a conscious decision to do so, my latest artwork was influenced by “Nuvole Bianche”. Nuvole bianche translates to white cloud. In my mixed media piece, I added pieces of the sheet music into my composition without intending them to turn into clouds in a landscape scene, but that is exactly what they became. After creating the dreamy sky, I started to create what I thought would be a garden scene with a rabbit or two. I spent a considerable amount of time and effort on painting detailed flowers, but it wasn’t flowing and felt like a real struggle. The balance of realistic details with the dreamy sky was just not working. So naturally, I took some paint and smeared it over the flowers, covering up all of the details and having no real idea what was to come next (this is the beauty of mixed media work, you can always cover up what’s not working).
What I ended up with looked like a sea or body of water and the colors reminded me very vividly of the only glacier I have ever seen in real life, in Whittier, Alaska. Mountains were added and the scene was set for the final addition.
Now earlier that morning before I changed the piece entirely, I was spending some time contemplating where to focus my energy that day. On New Year’s Eve I purchased a set of Animal Wisdom cards by Dr. Steven Farmer. The idea behind these cards is that the Great Spirit (a.k.a. God, the Universe) speaks to us through animals. Each animal embodies certain qualities and characteristics and we can learn from their wisdom. I consulted this deck of wisdom cards and the card I ended up with was the Seal.
How fitting it was that later on that day my painting turned into the perfect setting to add some seals!
Now every time I play “Nuvole Bianche”, I imagine this painting and scenery, and every time I look at this painting, I imagine the song “Nuvole Bianche” playing in the background.