Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Every Painting is a Journey

Every painting is a journey for the artist and the viewer. Never the same journey though.

As I was working on this painting I was dealing with the imminent death of my dear friend Yolanda. The painting didn't start out to be about Yolanda. In fact the painting was started as a demo piece for my Monday night painting students at the Y. I was initially drawn to the imagery. The play of light and shadows across the empty bench, surrounded by Fall blossoms begged to be painted. And the fact that I would need to subdue the overly busy background in the photograph would provide me with some really good teaching points.

So I began the painting with one intent and ended with something entirely different. As I painted I found my mind wandering often to Yolanda, to her family and the pain they were going through. But I thought often too of all of the good times I had shared with Yolanda. We were involved in a number of art organizations and spent numerous hours involved in planning events and solving problems. And after we were done with all of the "art issues", we always talked about our families and especially the kids. Great memories, usually accompanied by a good cup of coffee or a nice glass of wine, depending on the time of day.

I realized at one point as I blended colors, working wet on wet on my canvas that I was painting away my anger at the loss of my friend. I was painting from the heart. Later, I urged my students to do the same "don't be so concerned with getting a color just right, just paint!" And of course I immediately realized that painting from the heart doesn't usually happen in an Intro to Painting class. I hoped they would store that thought away for future reference.

I had nearly completed the painting, when I thought of one thing that I wanted to add; something to let the viewer know that there had been someone in the picture earlier and had perhaps just stepped away. On the bench I painted a copy of The Healing Muse. For many years Yolanda and I had been strong supporters of this literary and visual journal from Upstate Medical. We had both contributed artwork and Yolanda had also written an eloquent piece about her struggle with cancer. It seemed fitting that the Muse be part of the painting.

The piece was finished in time for the Central New York Branch of the National League of American Pen Women show. And although I felt that Yolanda was the inspiration behind the piece, I mentioned it to no one, preferring to keep that thought to myself.

We hung the show and had a wonderful reception the next evening. At the reception I noticed a gentleman looking intently at the painting, and I wondered if he could sense the emotions I felt as I painted. I remember thinking "gosh I hope not! I would like him to see a peaceful garden, not the emotional turmoil of an artist coming to terms with a friend's illness and death." I later learned that he had purchased the painting as a surprise for his wife; an anniversary gift. So evidently he saw the peaceful garden.

Every painting is a journey for the artist and the viewer. Never the same journey though.