A little video on a big painting that I completed as a commission, filmed over the course of a few days. I am mainly working with acrylics on a pre-textured gallery wrap canvas. I send images to my patron through out the process, to get instant feedback on progress. This is how the painting process goes, from start to finish. Well, sans dancing. That was an exceptional moment. For more info on custom work, you can read details HERE.
They said that in desperation, O'Keefe reviewed all her previous work and "decided to paint in ways that would please her." This brave choice resulted in the signature Georgia O'Keefe style we know so well. On a quiet morning, I flipped through nearly 300 snapshots of my work, searching for those that speak to me, that I enjoyed painting. The result is a collection of 50 that I think reflect my artistic voice.
Some common elements:
- Vibrant color
- Landscapes, seascapes
- Strong horizon line
- Natural elements
- Messy scrawling areas of paint
- Natural organic subject matter
- Emotional aesthetic
- Indistinguishable brush strokes
Here are some that still stick with me. Do you see any similarities?
I like to think of my hippie-fabulous painting smock as more of a cape, if you want to know the truth. It is thick and I feel like I can fly through the studio when I wear it! I also like to think of my art (and mess) making supplies as weapons, to be wielded bravely and boldly.
I slay the dragon of perfectionism with splats and splatters, with rough textured backgrounds and NO ruler or flat-edge with which to create straight lines. My lines are straight enough. They don't have to be perfect.
The more expressive, the better. Life is messy and scratched up and flawed, yet it is still so very beautiful. I believe art should be the same!
Among my weapons of choice you will see many mess-makers and a few cleaner-uppers. You will also see chalk and a dry-erase marker, as I believe preparing for battle is as much as your efforts during the battle (to continue the metaphor). Also: essential comfort items are on hand to keep me feeling energized and focused.
You won't see music speakers or headphones because it's loud enough in my head. As I showed you earlier, I love to work in silence.
You also won't see paintbrushes, although I do in fact use them. The problem is that I think paintbrushes pull me towards perfectionism, so I use them only when necessary. And when I use them, I often use them in unconventional ways. How? Oh, I can't give away all my secrets, now can I?
I know many of you are heroes in your own day to day activities. What are some of your weapons of choice? (Yes, sticky-notes can be a great weapon -- an effective shield against procrastination.)
So share some of your weapons with us! And wield them with bravery and boldness!
(Wait, don't wield them *at* us, necessarily. Wield them at work. K? Thanks!)
The thing that touches me the deepest is the invitation to create a piece that will sit in someone's personal meditation space. This has happened multiple times, and came at a moment where I dreamt of designing a chapel, a la Rothko in Houston. So someone says that they'd like me to interpret a concept in "my style" that will hang in an area of their house where they will have their spiritual reflection time. These people with their dedicated spaces, they are serious about this environment. And they invite me in. And we work together to craft a piece that gives them hope and keeps their eyes looking forward.
It's the greatest honor: to speak into that space.
My first piece centered around Psalm 46. The one with "be still and know that I am God..." Such a familiar and hope-giving passage. And I knew her reasons for requesting this. I knew the concept of this want for stillness and knowing. I knew the reach for peace, and I wanted to reflect that in the painting. I dug deep into the psalm, peeling back the layers of meaning, and found utter turmoil. Nations are crumbling, mountains are giving way, enemies are encroaching.
Not the "feel good" stuff.
But REFUGE was there, in the beginning middle and end of the psalm. Book-ending the meaning, and sitting at the heart of it. Refuge. Refuge in the storm. The river that makes glad the city of our God. And the fortress. And Martin Luther writing "A Mighty Fortress" in response to this psalm. It's all there. The good and the bad. The calm and the storm. The protection and the war.
This was not what she wanted. In turn, this was my first moment of panic in this process...
I warned my patron that my handling of this psalm might not be as sunshiny as she'd like. Still, she trusted me with the process, so I put paint to canvas and began the stormy but serene process of capturing the truth of this tumultuous passage.
I started with the mountains, knowing I would weave fog throughout. This fog being a "fortress" in its own right, both concealing the hunted, but also making it difficult to see the impending dangers. Layers of fog and layers of trees, pushing into the foreground.
And of course: the river making glad... And there's the tiny fortress, nestled in the farthest mountain, barely visible except through its strong reflection in the water.
And then I laid awake that night and panicked. Panicked at the messy flat elementary look of it all. It needed more: more grit, more truth, more layers. But how? It's so cold, stale, sterile.
Destruction rushed in me. To bury it all and start over. I imagined a thick layer of gesso over it, a new beginning. But, then came the pattern paper. Warm. Engulfing. Thinly covering over those layers of fog and mountain and tree and fog. Bringing a dynamic depth to the painting, while also reflecting motherly love, caregiving, nurturing. Sewing, making, building. All wrapped in that pattern paper.
This was the foundation it needed. And in big strokes and splashes of energy, I pulled the foreground, with heavy blacks and shadows and layers. Splatters and details and messes, and the piece came to life.
My emotions were high at this point; I was taken in by the intensity of what was building before me. But yet, I couldn't take my mind from the word "refuge." Throughout the process, I kept in my mind the intent to include the hebrew word for "refuge" in the painting--prominent and demanding. Overpowering the rest of the painting. Sitting in it. Resting in it. But where would it go?
I buried a layer of soft blue in the mountain, and stacked "refuge" on top of it. It settled in, declaring piece over the harsh conditions of the painting.
I stepped back and asked myself if it was done. NO. And then came a fresh wave of panic. The blacks were too black. The look was too "complete" -- I felt a sense of destruction roll over me again. Strong. I grabbed the watery white, used in creating the fog. I buried my brush in the milk mixture and started slinging. And the storm came. The torrent of rain.
I knew that this was it: the final layer of the painting. Refuge from the storms of life.
- Joy and Sorrow.
- Pain and Contentment.
- Light and Dark.
And The Shadow Side Series reflects the darker side of what I have struggled to accept in faith and life. These are not declarations as much as they are admittances. The truths sit on a dark watercolor paper background, with the high contrast of red, blue, and white pushes the truths of these darker sides to light. They are simple, but strong. Much like truth, when it stares us in the eyes in an undeniable way. It's there. It's not ornate or flashy. But it's so very unmistakable.
At seven, I feel that this series is at a place of rightness. I am not sure if I will continue to create more "shadow sides," so I wanted to offer a collector's cut for this piece: 25% off the purchase of all seven prints. You can see the full collection HERE.
Just let me know and I will set up the purchasing details for you. Comment or email works for me: email@example.com
I take pieces of my life (and self) and smatter them on canvas. I arrange the chaos in a fashion that feels often wandering and haphazard, but often comes out grittily "right." Resolved.
Even with all the questions and confessions and shadows—scratches, tears, smudges, stains, splatters, and drips—there is harmony. There is light and grace and acceptance and some strange roaring beauty.
I see it. I stand up and step away from the work feeling resolved, as if the troubles of life have been set down. Placed aside. Moved past.
Then those canvases, they are transferred from my life to someone else's life. Maybe the patron sees a bit of her own shadow and turmoil in all my mess. Maybe he sees some way to synthesize his own questions in my questions. Maybe they can even rest in the midst of the storm after seeing a path of peace in mine.
Often it's just an awkward sterile exchange of money. One hand to another. Payment to painting. And then a piece of me is gone. And I don't know where it now rests. I don't know where I am.
The treasured moments come when they say, "Tell me why you created this one. Tell me what you were thinking." I oblige with as much vulnerability as I can afford; and I delight at the chance to ask them, "Tell me why you want to take this one home."
And the beauty of their story mingling with my story, it is a powerful work of art in itself. I walk away with the illumination of knowing these pieces will hang on the walls of their lives, bringing some light to their shadows. It is the full circle of resolution—knowing the further purpose of that piece of my life. And knowing: I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
So today I want to offer a unique giveaway: a chance for those who can feel deeply the light and darkness of this painting, to win a print of it.
Just email me with a name and address: firstname.lastname@example.org. The first three who do so will have a 5x5 print shipped directly to them.