Fixing the Image

Still Life with Cantaloupe (detail). Russell Steven Powell watercolor, 11x15

Still Life with Cantaloupe (detail). Watercolor, 11×15

PAINTING WHAT I FEEL about what I see is a mysterious process.

Most of the time I begin with a partially formed idea — an image, perhaps; a color, line, shape, or brush stroke — that is then realized through the collective efforts of my shoulder, arm, wrist, hand, and fingers.

The painting’s energy and emotion emerge on the canvas like a photograph in developer. My job is to find and fix the final image.

Lighting is crucial, of course, and so is my breathing. The same heavy orange shirt. An ice water, black tea, white wine pyramid.

And the music: Fratres by Arvo Pärt; Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (No. 3) by Henryk Mikolai Górecki; or Eat/Kiss: Music for the Films of Andy Warhol, by John Cale. All three are heavy on strings.

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STILL LIFE WITH CANTALOUPE was painted in Euphoria, a dune shack in the Cape Cod National Seashore, June 1, 2010. There was no music, but the smell and texture of the fruit and salt air and a view of the ocean.

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