Monday, January 7, 2013

Amazing grace

Underpainting on a 36x36" piece I am starting for the purposes of
I finally painted something worth painting more of this weekend. I did it Sunday night to be exact. Amazing how it took me all last week and then all this weekend to finally put brush to canvas and paint the way I know I am supposed to. It's a darn good thing that I don't do this full-time seeing as how long it takes me to do something as (seemingly simple) as underpainting.

In all honesty, I really didn't intend to paint this. My plans were actually to paint a picture of an elephant. Yes. You read that right. My goal was to paint an elephant. (Elephants are a bit of a thing for me and my life. I don't know what it is about them but it's just happened that way.) And all weekend long I have known that I needed to get started with painting but I haven't been able to motivate myself to actually do it. Essentially, the whole business of painting became a bit of an elephant in the room for me.

So... I finally got to painting and did the above and it just wasn't working. I mean... it was well and good enough but I just felt unsettled before, during, and after it in a way that I cannot explain and also feels completely foreign and out of the ordinary. I finally stopped the process right after I snapped the photo and then I went about the rest of the evening - putting away Christmas things with my family, getting my daughter into her nightly routine, etc. etc. etc.

And I just kept thinking of elephants the whole time. I kept picturing them in my mind and feeling completely and ridiculously uncomfortable until I put the above canvas aside to dry and got out a new one because I thought, "OK. I will do a stinkin' elephant painting and just get it out over with already!!!"

Thank the good Lord above I did because almost immediately I felt that peace and JOY in my heart that I get from being in my "happy place" that painting almost always brings to me...

I think this one is going to be a mother-daughter joint effort because I invited my little shadow to block it out and underpaint it with me. She did such a good job and it was such a joy to have her alongside me at the easel.
After I completely the blocking of the elephant piece, I realized what my problem was. My whole business of painting needs to be something that my family is in on. It simply cannot be separate.  When I did the "Covenant Revisited" piece (on the front page of my fine art portfolio site) it was accomplished only because my husband was alongside me helping to figure out parts of it. But tonight when I was trying to do underpainting on the first one? Well... my family was here with me but I was really more working around them and they were hardly a part of the process. As it goes, I think they have to be a part of the process rather than being a problem that I have to contend with during the process.

One of my art mentors from long ago used to tell me about how they had such a hard time painting and creating sometimes because it competed with their role of being in and of a family. There was always a husband that they weren't spending time with and three children begging for attention. What ended up happening was that they weren't able to really do great work until after they had found themselves in a different time in their lives when their familial relationships were quite something that they had to choose to focus on. And while I listened to their stories of struggle as an artist, I couldn't help but ask myself over and over again, "Does it have to be that way though? I mean... Can't I have a family AND be an artist? Or... Do I really have to be sentenced to a life alone in order for me to be able to create and paint?"

I have spent a lot of years before now alone. I remember sitting alone in my apartment in between hour 10 and 11 of a 15 hour painting marathon of an over six month stretch of working on one piece that was hardly noteworthy and thinking, "This can't be all there is to this. This can't be it." And you know what? I was right. I was right about that.

I do believe that I finally found my voice as an artist and especially as a painter as a result of me being married and having my little girl. Despite the suggestions long ago from not only my previous art mentor but from many others as well, art doesn't have to be something that can only happen separate from the way I want my life to be. My family doesn't have to be something that I have to contend with and I don't have to take things away from them in order for me to enjoy the joy that is creating and painting. In large part that's why photography (as both a business and an artform) have not worked for me. It was something that created a competition (with my family) and I always ALWAYS let it win and my family lose miserably. But that's not my life anymore and that's definitely not my art. The way I understand it, if my family loses, I will lose and you can best my art will be lost as well. It doesn't have to be that way though.

I am not sure entirely how it works out like this - because logically it makes NO sense - but I think that the way my life will go will not require me to juggle anything. I think so long as I put my family first and remember to preserve and maintain the covenant I have with them because of what the Lord has called me to do (being a wife and a mother) I will end up turning out some of the greatest works of art of all of my life. I mean, I am just barely a week into the new year but... well... something tells me this is how it's going to work out.


  1. So inspiring. ;) I believe you are right! Can you talk a lil more about underpainting? I've taken several oil painting classes and they never really emphasized underpainting.

    1. It's my understanding that you don't have to do underpainting but I do because of the style of painting that I do (that leans toward glazing with oils) and also the effect that I am trying to depict (which is layers of color as it is illuminated by light). My purposes for underpainting are so that when you look at an area, you see many more than just one or even two colors in that space similar to what you see when you look up at the sky and you realize that there are multiple colors in one place that are very subtle in their coexistence together.


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