surrender – verb | \sə-ˈren-dər\
: to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc., because you know that you will not win or succeed
: to give the control or use of (something) to someone else
: to allow something (such as a habit or desire) to influence or control you
I’m not very interested in painting flowers that look just like the flowers in the garden, or animals that look like they should have a beating heart. Don’t misunderstand — I am stymied and awestruck by the artists who can paint so realistically that I could swear I smell that acrylic rose or see their watercolor bunny’s nose twitch. What interests me, however … what pulls me toward painting … is a magical curiosity about color, movement, and magic, and I want to create something that makes a suggestion without necessarily giving itself away.
When I step into my studio, it is usually because I have connected with a thought or idea, either through reading, music, or my own reflections. Something has stirred in me and I want to express what it means. I want to create an image of the idea, not a thing. Sometimes I will find a way to incorporate quotes or poetry — but sometimes not.
All of the materials stand, waiting. My crate full of tiles are there, blank and shiny. My inks stand in a circle, arranged in a full spectrum of color. Canvases, new to the group, congregate in various sizes against the wall. My makeshift air compressor sits on the floor with its long rubber tubing coiled up like the kind of snake I don’t mind touching, and the mini-torch waits patiently on the tray beside my blending solutions. Paper towels, cotton swabs, and alcohol spray are ready, too. Some days I light the big red candle, especially if the sun is not up yet, put on traditional flute music, and just begin. Painting is my meditation.
I like to use the forces of nature to create my paintings. Fire is my favorite, but I also love forced air, movement, centrifugal force, and gravity. Rarely do I directly touch the canvas or tile with tools like brushes or pens, although I have been known to use a blending stick for emphasis or to clarify a boundary. Now and then a gel pen or a fine paintbrush will help to create a tiny, necessary element, like a dot for an eye or the fine thread of a butterfly’s leg. Mostly, however, I prefer to not touch. There is something exciting about watching the paint respond freely. It’s like magic, and I feel like the paint has some say in the matter, making choices of its own. It goes where and how it needs to go with the help of flames, wind, or movement.
Sometimes I stop and look, trying to understand what might come next. I don’t try to reshape or force something different to happen. There is another force, and it’s in charge of me. Sometimes I even cry, the way you can’t help crying when you are finally face to face with someone you have missed for a very, very long time. Sometimes I wonder if this is normal at all. I wonder if crazy is a place, and am I going there? I wonder if my mind is slipping over the edge because I silently ask the painting what it needs and I try to oblige. Then I look at the all of the colors dancing, and I know that, if this is where crazy is, I’ll stay.
This is my art.
Donna Z. Falcone is a painter, writer, and coffee house singer living in the hills of Northeast PA. All of these words used to describe her are pretty new, thanks to a completely unexpected health induced detour. Donna loves to start the day creating with alcohol inks before the sun comes up (if the unheated studio space isn’t too cold). “I’m dreading winter,” she says. “I can’t bring the smelly inks indoors, but am gathering all kinds of ideas and less fumy paints to learn and use indoors. It’s a tiny house, but we’ll just have to work around it all.” She adds, “When I paint, I’m a better writer. When I write, I’m a better artist. I’m not willing to give up either so I guess I need to find a way to make it all fit.”
Artwork photos provided by Donna Z. Falcone. Author photo by Sonia Joie.