Keep a Beginner’s Mind

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“The Masters Bouquet” (pastel, 20 x 24 in.)

Although Lorenzo Chavez is deeply practiced at depicting his own vast backyard in the Rocky Mountain West, which holds an overwhelming amount of visual data, he is not beholden to one region or environment to inform his art. His time spent in the Pacific Northwest exposed him to soft edges and problem-solving plein air efforts in the drizzling rain.

“When we paint one area or one climate, we get a narrow vision,” he says. “The edges of the Southwestern United States are harsh. But you are enabled to see with new eyes if you go to another location. The Northwest has soft edges, and when you look at the desert again after returning from that rainy environment, you have heightened your ability to see.” 

“Here Comes the Sun” (pastel, 19 x 25 in.)

He looks at the extremes of a hot day and a cold day in a similar way. “We paint winter scenes so we can better express how to paint hot desert scenes. They work together; one exists for the other.” Certainly when it comes to the filtration of light, witnessing one extreme versus the other aids in developing the artist’s manner of seeing, and the way details are processed. 

The inverse also rings true. Chavez points to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and an  assignment within those pages. She encourages sensory deprivation, and one of her lessons is based on eliminating reading from one’s daily routine for a full week. Her intent is to encourage using time for other pursuits. Ideally, we should be creating or allowing the brain to rest from the noise that is presented by the external environment.

“Golden Hour Along the Blue River” (pastel 18 x 24 in.)

Exposing our sight and other senses to situations that may not be part of our existing routine allows us to step out of our pattern, breaking norms of creative comfort. It encourages what Chavez refers to as “a beginner’s mind” (full of curiosity and wonder), and allows us to take on the unknown in order to grow the seeds of what is already feeding an artistic practice.

Lorenzo Chavez painting at Mesa Verde

Paint along with Tony Allain, Carol Peebles, Daud Akhriev, and other top pastel artists at Pastel Live, this September!


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PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.

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