New Paintings From The Dunes

Sunset, Dunes, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

Sunset, Dunes, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

Night Vision, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

Night Vision, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

I HAVE JUST RETURNED from two glorious weeks living alone in a one-room dune shack. I did all of the things I had hoped to do, without pressure or distraction:

I painted daily, in acrylic and watercolor (some of the results are posted here).

I wrote daily journal entries, an essay, and three long letters to friends.

I read three novels, three issues of Harper’s (cover to cover), a friend’s poetry manuscript, a work of nonfiction, and parts of two other books.

I walked and swam, and took lots of photographs.

I had just enough food to make it through without once having to walk into town, returning home with half a box of Triscuits and some peanut butter.

Supermoon, Dunes, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

Supermoon, Dunes, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

My two weeks encompassed the longest days of the year, and a full moon. I rose at dawn before sunrise and watched the night sky dim without artificial light, only lighting a kerosene lamp one time (and that for just a few minutes).

Most valuable—and difficult—of all, I did nothing. I drank my morning  coffee sitting on the deck watching tree swallows dive and glide around me and the birdhouses they occupy in front, to the side, and at the rear of the shack.

I resisted my compulsion to activity during this early hour, even to read, listening to the mockingbird and song sparrows, breathing in the pink, fragrant beach roses that rise around the shack.

Swallows, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 16x20

Swallows, acrylic on canvas, 16×20

Without effort, I observed the wide band of continually undulating dune grass—there is always a breeze, from a whisper to a gust—cresting 20 feet above the beach, and absorbed the view of ocean beyond, with its seals and seagulls and boats of various shapes and sizes, and its tides rising or falling every hour of every day.

I watched ocean turn to sky: deep to powder blue, bright pink, menacing green, slate gray.

I practiced doing nothing, several times a day, and I got better at it as time went along.

Weather Pattern, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 20x16

Weather Pattern, acrylic on canvas, 20×16

What happens next is a mystery, of course. But I will continue to cultivate the good habit of beginning my days doing nothing, substituting my ship-like front porch for the ship-like deck of the shack.

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4 thoughts on “New Paintings From The Dunes

  1. Russell, this is so incredibly moving and inspiring to read! Thank you for sharing the highlights of this special time with so many of us.

  2. Sounds like something I just returned from. Home for 4 days and then back again. “The way life should be.”

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