The Story of ‘Daybreak Dance’

by Kent Paulette

I painted Daybreak Dance in my home studio from November 2018 to March 2019. This is a story about Home, Family, and Wild Nature.

Video of Me Painting in my Studio

I took this video in my studio as I was painting Daybreak Dance. I was painting to music that you can hear in the video.

I had a strong emotional connection with this painting like I did with My Heart is a Blue Ridge Mountain.

Breakdancing Title

It took me two months to come up with the title for this painting. I wrote several pages of ideas for titles in my notebook before coming up with Daybreak Dance. It makes me think of everything in nature dancing at the break of day. I knew I had the perfect title and started laughing when I pictured all the little trees in this painting breakdancing to the sounds of the dawn chorus during sunrise.

I used my Whispers brushstrokes when I painted Daybreak Dance.  That’s when I whisper paint lightly with my brush and it leaves a trace of many tiny lines. I also used my Building Blocks, Scratching Thoughts, Windows, Kisses, Slaps, Screams, Spells, Creek Washes, Jellyfish, and Leafing brushstrokes.

Texture Close-up

I used the same rough texture on Daybreak Dance that I first used on Galaxy Bear. I painted the texture with a huge palette knife…the blade is 10 x 5 inches, not including the handle. Then on top of that, I used a brush to apply many layers of paint, revealing the texture below.

“I love the depiction of the sunlight spilling into the valley. I’ve seen this many times over the Blue Ridge and he captures it so beautifully in his painting. This painting truly speaks to my heart. I’m not an art expert, I just know something special when I see it.”

Comment about Daybreak Dance by Amy F.

I think of home when I see my Daybreak Dance painting…home in these Blue Ridge Mountains.

Awake My Body

I began a series of paintings in 2017 called Awake My Body. It’s all about being vulnerable and putting myself into the painting in a physical way. The series started with my painting Awake My Body.

In this series, I scratch with my fingernails through the wet paint. I call those “brushstrokes” Scratching Thoughts.

I also smear the wet paint with my fingertips over the rough texture.

Conquest of the Irrational

I began another series in 2015 called Conquest of the Irrational. It’s all about wildness, irrationality, and being spontaneous. The paintings feature whimsical shapes and a Zen state of mind. The series started with my painting Conquest of the Irrational.

Daybreak Dance is a combination of my Awake My Body and Conquest of the Irrational styles of painting.

I make brushstrokes in several different directions over the same area of texture. You might see one color when you look at the painting from the left and another color as you move to the right. This helps bring the painting to life…it becomes a real thing that changes when you move around it.

The Sky

I painted the early layers of this painting using a large 6-inch wide brush. You can see those large brushstrokes in the sky. I call those Building Blocks.


Preparing for the Painting

Creek

Before each painting, I go to Laurel Creek in my backyard to collect a bucket of creek water. I wade through and stick my face in the water even if it’s the middle of winter. The cold water really wakes up my spirit and I put that energy into my paintings! I come back to my studio with mud between my toes and feeling very connected with nature. I then add the creek water directly to paint and use that to stain the canvas with my transparent Creek Washes.

You can see the early layers of Creek Washes covering the canvas in the video of me painting Daybreak Dance above. They still peak through the texture in the final painting and they can be seen throughout the sky.

My Brother Tate

My brother Tate recently moved back to NC after having lived far away for many years. He an archaeologist teaching in Raleigh so he’s been able to come visit much more often now. We love exploring the creek together and our creekside chats have a big impact on my paintings.

He’s my only sibling and we’ve been best buddies since the beginning.

My Parents’ 50th Anniversary

Our parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary during the time that I was painting Daybreak Dance. We’re a close family and we get to spend a lot of time together. Their anniversary got me thinking about everything they’ve taught us over the years.

My mom teaches us childlike joy and curiosity. We splash in the creek and find magic wonder in these woods. She filled our home with music. Now we sing songs to the animals and dance like there’s music in our blood. She grows beautiful gardens and we see how many wildflowers we can spot on our walks. She teaches us about fairness and how to forgive. She teaches us not to worry too much about what other people think. We let our freak flag fly. She teaches us kindness and to always care about how other people feel. We give away our love freely. She teaches us about determination. We keep walking up that sledding hill and find a way to finish the painting or the dissertation. She teaches us how to fly!

My dad teaches us childlike silliness and laughter. He giggles and we remember to smile. He filled our home with song. Now we dance to that rock’n’roll music and can’t help but sing along with wild exuberance. He teaches us warmth and compassion. We remember to be human in this age of the machine. He teaches us to contemplate the facts and the courage it takes to change our mind. He’s steady and he teaches us about persistence. He teaches us a strong work ethic and how to focus. But he also teaches us about prioritizing family over work. He was there to teach us how to throw a baseball and also in the stands cheering us along. He teaches us creative thinking and that’s something we use everyday in our art and archaeology. Most of all, he teaches us how to let our little love light shine!

Snow

Not only did I add creek water to Daybreak Dance, but I also collected snow to add to the paint. In December 2018 when I was painting Daybreak Dance, we got 16 inches of snow. That’s the most we’ve gotten since I’ve lived here and the sledding was amazing!

“8 hours of sledding alone on the side of a mountain yesterday… best sledding of my life! Went down a few times in the dark with only the moonlight to guide my way. This is how I get inspired for painting. The thrill of sledding and the long quiet walk back up the mountain. On the way down, it was a mix of extreme focus and pure joy. On the way up, I’d stick my face in the snow and tickle the earth’s tummy with my laughter and love. I hugged the Mama Beech Tree and also by accident, the poison ivy vine going up her trunk.”

K. Paulette 12/14/18

My parents came sledding me with one day too…you can see where I get my child-like spirit from!

Trees

I love trees…I hug them, talk to them, and miss them when they’re gone. We used to read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein when I was growing up and it’s had a lasting effect on me.

“Suzy Sycamore was washed away this weekend but she lives on Forevermore in our hearts and memories. 8 years ago when she was just a little sapling, she was leaning over so I propped her up with rocks and love. I kept doing that until she grew to be 30 feet tall in the middle of Pebble Beach. She made it through many rain storms like in the lower left photo from 2013. When my brother was here in May, we all got to spend one last sunny afternoon with Suzy. The bottom right photo shows when I hiked down to the flooded creek in the pouring rain and discovered that she had washed away. We love you Suzy…thank you for all the cool shade and friendship!”

K. Paulette 2019

There’s another sycamore tree by the creek that is hollow at the bottom and the cavity leads to a hole higher up. My brother and I speak into the lower hole and in a deep voice we say “Ancient Sycamore” and it reverberates throughout the tree!

I wake up each morning to the sights of the trees breakdancing at daybreak.

Wild Animals

My home studio is out in the woods here at Powder Horn Mountain so I get visited by animals often. They’re my buddies and they teach me about wildness.

“Betsy the Bobcat! I snapped this top photo of Betsy from my hammock on my deck. We’re buddies…she comes to hang out & listen to bluegrass music with me for hours at a time. One day, she was 10 feet away from a male wild turkey & they were having some kind of standoff, or dance off, or sing off, or somethin’. Another day I saw two deer chase off the bobcat. They walked towards Betsy while snorting and stomping their feet.”

“We just sat and looked into each other’s eyes for a long time. It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to such a wild animal.”

K. Paulette 2019

“The bear came back yesterday and we hung out for an hour or so. I took this longer video showing the bear climbing and looking for more birdseed. As it turns out, it didn’t need that ladder after all. We chatted and I told the bear how much I loved it and appreciated being able to paint bears for a living. I got to see it up close and from every direction though I’m still not sure if it’s a girl or a boy.”

K. Paulette 2019

On TV

“The Tar Heel Traveler featured my artwork last night on the NBC TV station in Raleigh. They interviewed me at my gallery and filmed me painting.”

K. Paulette (1/25/19)

Painting Finds New Home

My original Daybreak Dance mountain painting “danced” 5 miles west to its new home when it was purchased by one of my collectors in September 2019. It hangs in the same home as Galloping Sunlight and Conquest of the Irrational. Next up, read The Story of Conquest of the Irrational and The Story of Galloping Sunlight.