A memory painting… Pheasant hunt with my special Father-in-law

"Pheasant Hunt Day", oil on canvas, 9 x 12", Karen Gillis Taylor

“Pheasant Hunt Day”, oil on canvas, 9 x 12″, Karen Gillis Taylor, click for larger view

I believe that artists have a blessing to remember visual things, even if they become imprinted on their minds and come back to the surface later. I seem to be “wired” to look for color, the effects of light in nature, and interesting shapes and patterns. Other painters and photographers are fascinated with their own special subjects. These tendencies for our found special interests are what make us up as individuals, and they are often changing all the time.

There is a wonderful interaction between each artist and the world. Memory plays a huge role for me. One day I was impressed by the unusually brilliant natural light as I was along on a pheasant hunting day with my husband, his dad and our sweet black lab Bessie, near Ft. Collins, Colorado.

My father-in-law, Bob, was raised on a farm in Nebraska and learned to shoot game at a very early age. Hunting was a food source in that day. He had many jobs in his life. (He served as a merchant marine in WW2, the division of military that suffered the most casualties of all in that war, though many people don’t know it.)

Robert Taylor Sr. in WW2 serviceRobert Taylor Sr.

Robert Taylor Sr. on leave, during WW2 service, right

Bob was a “crack shot.” In older age, his accuracy, came back to him in a moment’s notice without any regular practice. Muscle memory? More than that? … the brain is always working and remembering skills… He so enjoyed that day. I’m so glad I went along.

A memory was made for me that day with the special light over the mountains, and a painting followed months after. I wasn’t actually thinking about anything special the day months later when I made this painting.

Around six months later, and I was just playing around with ideas and colors on small canvases. Who sets out to paint a green sky? Not me, usually. But after this day of free painting, it all came back to me. These were the colors of the fall day of the pheasant hunt. I took a few photos that day. I’m glad I did. The photos were of no consequence. The act of capturing a scene and paying attention to that scene, that view, that light and color became the memory that made a difference in my mind. It enabled me to make a simple painting that was actually unlike most of the paintings I’d ever made before in terms of color and simplicity. It became a new thought, a new creation.

I’m so thankful that we artists have the tools today of photography, research from books, and internet, simple things like paper and paint and canvas, and programs like Photoshop which complete our tool sets in creative ways. I use these all.

But the best thing I appreciate the most is the mind God has given us to create. And to appreciate our loved ones like my dear father-in-law, Bob Taylor. I miss his laugh, and his stories from life and family. I couldn’t have asked for a better father-in-law. Ever.

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