Last year, a raft of aquatic wildflowers appeared on the Upper Truckee river. They looked like they were growing out of the top of a fallen tree that was submerged in the water. I rolled up my trousers and waded in, fascinated. The plant is in the buttercup family, called White Water Crowfoot or ‘Ranunculus Aquatilis’. Their branching, thread-like floating root and leaf system is visible in the clear water – a complex web of arteries connecting each flower to the whole plant. They can only grow in slow moving water, so usually the Truckee river is too fast for them. They have to grow quickly, sprouting from the riverbed in one day. They have hollow stems to make the rapid ascent to the surface, perfectly adapted for speed.
The flowers didn’t return this year, after a winter of heavy precipitation our rivers are flowing much faster and deeper than usual. The river is always full of beautiful surprises.
For me, painting is an act of slow looking and responding. The process is a gradual opening, a dilation of the mind. Intimacy with a subject comes from staying with it, and not succumbing to distractions. A form of meditation, painting helps me embrace the transience of nature, and life.
When I try to grasp Autumn leaves, they lose their colour, and turn to dust. Wildflowers wither in my hand, river ripples distort and disappear. Embracing the ephemeral beauty of seasons and light has become a portal to my understanding of the ‘eternal now’. Painting is a synthesis of experience, time and reflection. The slow unfolding of a fleeting moment.