Have you ever run across something from your childhood that strikes a long forgotten emotional cord? That is what happened today when I came across these 2 paintings tucked among my stashed art resources such as frames and canvases.
As I stared at them I felt nostalgia, puzzlement, as well as deep pleasure of a found treasure. At the same time I was thinking, “What in the world did I save paint-by-numbers for?” Then I saw the initials.
No – that is not e.e.cummings, but these are the initials of my beloved uncle who introduced me to his writings!
Then the memories came flooding back of these hanging on my grandmother’s wall all my growing up years, painted by her son when he was still a young sprite battling polio in the 1950s or early 60s.
My uncle was one of the major influences in my very early artistic endeavors. What a precious find.
So what if they are paint-by-number; there is such a funky charm, as well as deep connected-ness to sweet memories and tender relationships held within these youthful, exploratory strokes. What a treasure.
I will hang them in my new art studio.
“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
― E.E. Cummings
In the early 1980s I began painting Christmas ornaments using oil paints and tiny brushes (sometimes my own hair or a cat whisker was used to make the smallest of lines.)
Most of the time I was painting people’s homes or farmsteads, but occasionally I would do a humorous ornament for my family. This was for my brother, Stephen, who really did not like school.
(PS. No, I did not sell trademarked images. This was for fun. I was a huge Garfield fan.)
Here is one that I did for myself simply because I enjoyed the image. I still own this one.
Two days before my final was due, I had an epiphany and figured out why I was struggling with this painting so much. I spent the weekend re-working and adjusting what I had spent the previous 8 weeks creating. There was a lot of sanding off of what I had put on, then repainting. Fortunately, we were having a 80 degree, summer-like weather and I was able to do this work outdoors.
I can not even describe the amount of rework I did, but thankfully the teacher gave me grace. As long as I promised to complete it, which I will be doing in the next weeks, then he was satisfied with what I had accomplished so far.
It seems that my left side perception must be scewed. I spent my time adjusting that side of the painting, making everything just slightly bigger (well, the guitar a lot bigger) except for Ron’s face, which I needed to make smaller or just move things about (like bring his ear down and nose and mouth up… sounds odd, doesn’t it.) It is like that whole side was just slightly off scale or proportion.
It was quite the operation, and while it is definitely not finished, I was elated once I had created the outlines and positions. I now had a roadmap to the finished piece that I was very satisfied with, and for the first time in my life I believed I might be able to do portraiture- something that has been a very scary impossibility in the past.
The focus of this class was centered around spending our time crafting one illustration. It was an amazing experience in practicing patience, as well as pushing through doubt and the anxieties of “I am not good enough to pull this off.”
About halfway through it, I was struggling with the nuances of the painting, yet loving every minute of it. I was also still hanging onto the belief that I could never be a portrait artist. And as I looked at it, I knew the face was not right. It did not look at all like my brother, the face was all wrong, the proportions of the guitar and boots were off. It was driving me nuts.
Notice the white areas around the steps and boots. These are where I took sandpaper and removed most of the paint and started over, more than once. I was also using an exacto knife around edges and to sharpen some areas. I know it is not possible, but I felt like I removed more paint than I put on!
This is the artist’s angst and I was feeling it all. It felt hopeless as far as catching my vision, but I was learning new painting techniques, and for that I was happy. Sort of a ying yang thing going on… loving it and hating it at the same time.
To me it almost looked more like my brother, Stephen, at this point. He has a rounded face, whereas my brother, Ron, has a more oval visage. So I kept seeing Stephen here, (and it was not that I mind seeing him, do not take me wrong, dear family, but it was not my intention to be painting him at this point), so frustration and artistic despair were mounting.
Stay tuned! It changes once again as the quarter progresses…