First off, I'm happy to report that the giant paintings (parts of which I've posted here and there) are finally done! Apart from murals done in the past, it was the first large artwork I've had the pleasure of painting. It took quite a bit of room in the apartment and for a few months, the carpeted floor had to be protected with a cut up plastic bag I saved from when we purchased a Yogibo bean bag. And yes, I'm one of those people who tend to save odds and ends for those "just in case" moments. Plus I do collage so I have a built-in excuse.
Back to the painting. The friend who commissioned it asked me to make the painting about Family and Faith. I'm sure she hadn't seen most of the work I've done except for the bags I'd been posting on Facebook so needless to say, I was surprised, flattered, and terrified all at the same time.
When the huge cradled boards were shipped in, I set up the workspace and sat in front of the boards. Sometimes a white space can be exciting because you know it's there for you to fill up. Other times, like this particular one, white space can be daunting. I rarely ever do pencil sketches of what I'm going to be painting unless it's something that needs proportion like a human figure. And now, faced with an expanse of white, I did what I learned was the best way to get over the hump. I squeezed out paint in a color I happen to like and spread it out with an old credit card. I kept picking up paints and spreading them out with different things I had on hand--a brayer, a rag, pieces of packaging foam, and even my Gelli plate.
When I'd covered most of the boards' surfaces, I stopped and I prayed. I always do because I believe in being grateful and I believe in asking for help. I say thank you for the opportunity to create something and for the gift I was given to be able to create in the first place. Then I ask for my hand to be held as I work.
I didn't know what I'd be painting until the weekend came and we heard Mass. The Gospel was about the vine and the branches. Right then, I knew what I was going to paint. The stylized vine started to take shape. When I had it roughly painted in, I wasn't sure where to go next. I wanted to tell a story.
Here's a photo of one of the boards on the floor. I couldn't put both down side by side. There wouldn't have been enough space to get around the room if I did. I had visions of me losing my balance and falling right onto one of them, splintering the wood!
This was how the painting looked for quite some time. My story began to take shape but I still wasn't sure how to tell it. Then I decided to lay one of the boards flat again but this time, I put it on the glass table that our landlady refused to remove (it was a dining table that was way too big for a one bedroom apartment). The other thing I do when in doubt is to doodle. And that's what I did--I doodled with the theme and my story in mind.
I think this was the photo I posted on Instagram or Facebook. One of my friends asked if I used a stencil. I told her I just doodled. The scissors and paper you see were in case I needed to mask out parts. I do like the stencil idea, though. Maybe next time--using stencils that I've cut beforehand can save time during the actual painting. Or I'm just looking for an excuse to buy one of those contraptions that cut out stuff for you.
When all of the black "cut-outs" were painted in, I hit a wall once again. I wasn't happy with the lower portion. In fact, that lower part under the vine morphed about three times. After the third time, I walked away. That's the next best thing to do when you're stumped. You walk away.
However, there was no staying away for very long. Circumstances made it possible for my friend and her husband to be in town soon. If I finished in time, the paintings would be able to make it back to their home in Virginia with them. No shipping costs, no waiting for Thanksgiving which is when they usually drive in.
I blocked off the week they were coming to focus on working on just the paintings. Once more, I sat in front of the panels. I prayed and meditated and then I put on my Spotify playlist of Praise music. I couldn't put on my dance music--as mentioned in a past blog, I tend to dance and not get work done. Besides, I needed guidance so Praise music it was. Now this might sound crazy to some of you, but I felt compelled to touch the painting, to run my fingers along the path of the vine. So I did.
I'm not sure if what I felt then will be passed on to whoever looks at the painting but I suppose every piece of work an artist does, commissioned or not, will always have something of the artist's soul in it. Let me spare you the drama and suffice it to say that when the music ended, I had a smile on my face. I knew what I was going to do.
Out came different colors of paint and another audiobook. I worked on the rest of the painting while listening to Christopher Fowler's Bryant and May and The Color of Blood. I not only finished the painting by Wednesday, I also found myself hopelessly addicted to the Bryant and May series.
When the paintings were wrapped and packed into the box they were shipped in, I tidied up my space and decided my work table was now too dark and dreary. The painting adrenaline had not subsided so here's what I did next:
Now I have a happy table with a gentle reminder from John Steinbeck. My husband said we ought to go to the flea market on Sunday to look for pieces of furniture that I can paint.
I think it's time to look for a bigger apartment.