When a painting has something it really wants to say…

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One canvas finished…one just started

Its been a transition week in my studio (no less the world)…one major painting finished, another started. In fact, I thought I had finished the previous one many times, having already spent numerous hours tweaking it…then a sudden urge had me spending another few hours on it on Saturday afternoon (when I wasn’t even meant to be painting). This time, I really felt it was done as I kept scrutinising it all through the emotion-laden days in the run up to the election and it seemed to encourage me, seemed like it was  more than “enough” to serve its purpose in the world. In fact on Sunday, when my heart felt heavy “for no apparent reason”, it seemed to shine out at me from the gloom of the rainy October afternoon and so I started planning my next work.

I knew I wanted to paint another swan and had one lined up ready to go…but then, in Tuesday’s high-octane energy, I saw a different painting in my mind’s eye and decided I needed to start work…immediately…on one I had previously saved up for “the future”. This canvas would be bigger and would include the swan risen up, wing’s outstretched…and I already knew it was my “masculine and feminine”, “left and right” theme coming together, ready to fly; so I spent all of Tuesday evening preparing it for canvas while American’s voted and we all held our breath.

Wednesday’s news both turned my stomach to liquid yet, at another level, didn’t seem to surprise me at all. I knew I had seen it coming, whence my dark-heavy mood since the weekend and even…if I’m honest…for several weeks before. Everyone seemed to be professing surprise; was it only me that knew this “had to happen” to shake us all up out of complacency and the endless status quo? At the level where I knew this, I found I also knew what felt like darkness was our quickest route to the light.

When I set about painting that new canvas, as I had intended to do on Wednesday afternoon, I found I simply couldn’t…it was like there wasn’t another breath, an ounce of strength in me; like most people, I discovered the wind had been taken completely out of my sails. So I prepped the canvas extra thoroughly with layers of gesso and saw in that monotonous act the laying down of sturdy foundations that would guarantee the strength and longevity of my next creation.

Then I sat down to start work on it on Thursday’s shining new morn; which brought with it a renewed vigour and a longing to paint. But no…yet again there was still something blocking me and I knew it was the so-called “finished” canvas propped up across the room still calling me, like it had something new to say. Looking it over again, it was like it had completely changed over the previous two days (or so my perspective had altered) and what I was seeing was no longer “good enough”. It was no longer quite what was required in the light of this new reality we had found ourselves in and I knew just what had to be done so back it came onto my easel and I looked at it again, as if with brand new eyes.

It needed softening…it needed more light…these were the things I worked upon for the next hour and a half that (finally) brought it to conclusion. What I had created before felt brazenly light filled, almost garishly so like it was so self-assured in its mission of light yet what it called for was something softer, more authentic, less pride-driven and more gently treading. When I was done, I saw that none of this detracted from my vision for this painting, which is that it conveys what happens when we progress through life’s waters driven only by our lightest aspects. I’ve known for several weeks that it wants to be entitled “Where Grace has been” (with a nod to my 2013 painting “Grace”) and I knew exactly why.

Just like those situations where grace has passed through in our lives, she creates movement only in such a way that the light is amplified, made more of; turning the everyday materials of life into rainbow sparkles where once were placid patches of white stood against black. She generates beauty by mixing things up. Yet she doesn’t avoid what seems dark but passes through the rays of light only to continue into those darker places, trailing her light with her, creating gentle currents of movement that invent new realities and transform the whole scene. She knows where she is headed and she trucks powerfully ahead (if you’ve ever seen a swan move across water, you’ll know just what I mean). Above the surface, she is all elegance, softness, ephemeral textures and femininity yet beneath that water…you know…super-powerful legs provide the engine house of where she wants to go. The effect is both unifying yet cathartic; she brings together as much as she reinvents from scratch and the resultant “picture” is sublime; seeming effortless yet conveying so much more than you might realise. This is what we need in our world; grace-driven folk on a mission to beautifully, elegantly, definitively change the world picture to incorporate more light; not through destruction or stand-off but by mixing up what we already have!

Once this was done, I was able to set about my new canvas and lay down the first fluid outlines of what I intend for Grace risen; Grace poised; Grace in touch with herself at the highest level (you will see what I mean when I finish this one…) Here, she has brought together both sides of herself, left and right hemispheres, yin and yang, all those things…and their seeming polarity have become the wings with which she is about to take flight. This, as I see it, is us…and I intend to paint into it every ounce of my vision for what we are capable of.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo here they are, side by side…and though the laser-beam of light in the second shot is a flook caused by the lamp that I work by, its message was received by me loud and clear; in fact I find the two paintings, side by side, have a narrative to deliver together. I see Grace “apparently” leaving the light to swim into the dark (isn’t that how we all feel this week?) and yet…see where those golden lights shine the most distinctly in her so-called shadow in the choppy water. By the next frame, she is risen up against the night sky…and in that sky, she finds herself more definitively than ever before (again, you will see what I mean) and, already, she is beaming light like a beacon to all, reminding us this is where we are; for in our darkest moments we get to know ourselves far better than we ever did before.


“Where Grace has been” will be added to my website just as soon as she is dry and the new work…well, that will take just as long as it takes but it will be worth it (and I intend to relish every brush-stroke of the process)!

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