Sisu is a Finnish word. It's not easy to translate - it's a kind of stubbornness, an ability to stick with things until they are done, regardless of the difficulty, a drive to see things through. In Dearest's father's case (and in her case) this manifests itself as unusually strong drive to push through sporting events, hikes, etc. Dearest's father played tennis until he got tennis elbow. So he taught himself to play with this left hand, and played until he get tennis elbow in that arm, too. Gritting your teeth, smiling, saying you're "Fine," and going on to do what you want might be common in many cultures, but it has a certain look in Finnish.
So I recognized some of this in Dearest's insistence that we walk in Duke Gardens today. For anyone tuning in for the first time, she had arthoscopic knee surgery a few weeks ago, and has been gradually getting back to walking normally. She's also a bit anemic. So Duke Gardens was a big challenge. She brought her camera, to document her trek (see her post of this adventure, here - I love that we both have blogs), and she walked in with a huge grin on her face. A Finnish grin. I brought my camera, too. The first shot, above, is of our shadows, enjoying the incredible light, which was so welcome after so many gloomy days in the last three weeks. One of the things we love about NC is the 250 sunny days a year (as opposed to Michigan or NY, where we were born and grew up - where there are 250 cloudy days). This next shot is into the sun, not ideal photography, but it catches some of the golden quality of the day.
Duke Gardens are lovely in any season, because they have beautiful bones. The lay of the land itself is pleasing, but the trees, walks, walls, bridges, terracing, stairs, and other features make this a garden even if there weren't a flower in sight. But, of course, being NC there were at least some quiet blooms. Pansies, winter jasmine, camellias, creeping phlox, a daffodil (so early!) and even some pinks were blooming in the formal section.
Dearest went much farther into the gardens than I expected, and we walked around for the better part of an hour, with only about ten minutes of sitting. Up to now she hadn't done even fifteen minutes at a stretch. Gardens, aerobics, hikes, our children - they all bring out her Sisu.
This afternoon I did some painting prep and then some watercolor. Here are two sheets doused with a hose outside (boards, too) waiting for the three minute flip (when they are re-doused and then twenty minutes later stapled down). These are 22 x 22 - and I've already drawn the 19 x 19 squares that are the largest square I can get out of them leaving enough room for stretching and tape.
Here is a small watercolor ( approx. 7 x 9) that I started back at Christmas, based loosely on the shapes in a painting by Fra Angelico of a Madonna (yellow arches, red arch, blue stair sides, and some blue of the Virgin's garment). It moved beyond that today as I added a lot of red (looks orange on my monitor...) and aqua. I haven't looked at this for possibilities yet - that's tomorrow, and it may be too early, anyway. I've been working this way (paint first, then find what it will be) since Linda got me started on it. And I read this morning in my Nolde book that he worked the same way - paint on the paper first, react purely to the colors, see what emerges, then help it along from there. He called it painting without his brain - I think he meant what we now call painting with the right hemisphere (the right side of the brain, not the left). I was overjoyed to read that his gorgeous watercolors (1300 of them done in secret under Nazi prohibition!) were created in a way that at least sounds similar to what I'm learning.
And finally, this is one of the 19 x 19 squares, before I tape it (I always tape first, before painting). Today, though, I wanted to work on the just stretched surface while the paper was still damp. This composition is based on a landscape photo, but I don't intend for it to stay as a landscape. Starting with drawing or painting from one type of photo (or several) and then pushing the image (maybe after rotating it) into something else is one way I get surprise working for me. It keeps me from falling into my usual very dull compositional ruts.
I'm already emotionally into this image. About half way through the hour or so I worked on it I was hooked.