This painting was created using a lot of texture, from paper to fabric from Jordan’s old board shorts….it’s been interesting using his clothes in such a way, for me it has carried a lot of meaning….creating using something of his, I feel I am sharing with him in the whole process of painting. Jordan has always been involved with my art; from being the subject of Portraiture, to being a model for Jesus for a mural I did once in Bruce Rock….not sure if this one is quite finished, I may add some stardust in the angel’s hand. The angel in this piece has popped up in a couple of paintings now… it always fascinates me when this happens!
Marketing my art has always been the hardest thing for me…apart from dealing with bouts of creative blocks. I guess, after evaluating my long undulating relationship with my art over the years, I figured it was about time I gave it all another go, realising that these endeavours take time and trial and error (and I’ve made loads of them already!).
So, I had an etsy account sitting dormant since 2015 and decided to restock my shop, with prints, paintings (and the idea I’m really psyched about) “art boxes” (I’ve only made two so far).
For the first time in my life, I feel like I have become less critical of my art and more embracing and accepting of my style. I think I am offering something truly intuitive, mostly because of the insights I have gained in my own life from my artwork. Art bears witness to pain, and using a quote I heard on the radio waves; “the purpose of art is to make the personal universal”.
I hold on to the idea that to share artwork is sharing something of value and meaning to the world….and I’m so grateful that I am in a position, financially (due to my lovely husband) that I can pursue this path. (The link to my shop is posted below!)
This week was spent in our house out in Narembeen/Bruce Rock. Our whole lives seem to be stored there, I married my husband, Kevin at the age of 21 and lived there for the first 16 years of our married life before moving to Perth, with Kevin still working the farm part time. So the house has become much of a storage space for all of my art over the years. This week I unearthed a lot of it…from more recent endeavours to things I had created 27+ years ago (I even have a portrait done as an adolescent of our family dog). It’s been a strange journey. There has been many reoccurring themes, a lot of pictures of Kevin and my boys, portraits of those dear to me, dreams, religious art, self portraits..and the best one…I found a precious little sketch I did of my eldest son Jordan when he was about 18 months old.
It made me think, once artwork gets old, it becomes a bit sacred. You don’t want to destroy it just because it contains a piece of your heart, ideas and musings from the past depicted in form and colour. And although it most probably means little to other people, for me, looking at all this stuff has been reassuring. I’ve mustered some compassion and respect for my own personhood. The pictures bear witness to not only the ebbs and flows of my life, but the hard things, the difficult times in the past, that may have otherwise been glossed over as if they never existed. It’s provided a map of where I’ve been, giving a sense of purpose to where I’m going. These things are impossible to see at the time. Often when you create an artpiece there is no conscious, deliberate intent. It’s not til later that you can see the spirit or soul that drives the inspiration. I’ve always said art makes visible the things that go beyond words, and it’s true.
So today, I suppose armed with the belief that life matters, that our interpretation of this life also matters, I set to task to hang as much of my work on our farmhouse walls as I could. Prior to today they were placed on the floor against the walls of our bedroom and Jordan’s old room. None of them are hung particularly neatly, and some walls are asbestos so you can’t put a nail in them. But I did my best- I’m so happy seeing them occupy ‘real’ space on the walls! It’s been cathartic in a way, too. I’m giving space to my self, validating my own art, silencing the inner critic, hopefully also creating a space for future art musings, experimentations, themes and dabblings to occupy.
I’m feeling my pain a lot more sharply these days. It makes me sad that I can no longer communicate with my boy on an earthly level. I feel his presence with me sometimes, and I’ve taken to collecting heart shaped stones found at the beach, a relic when I go on my short, exhausted walks on the beach, usually feeling lost and disconnected with reality.
Yesterday I posted some ‘works in progress’, something unusual for me- I’m a bit shy about showing my artistic ‘process’ because to me it’s pretty klunky. All this productivity, this new sense of purpose I’m finding in creating is overwhelming. Jordan’s telling me I need to “thaw out”, like I’ve been frozen in time. I feel him there, working alongside me, and I’m painting his heart. He helps me, reassures me. I know this must sound strange to some. I have no answers. I know little of the spirit world. All I know is what I feel, and what I’ve observed.
I wish I could recall the name of a poet I stumbled across- also a grieving mother; her purpose now is to create poems that comfort other parents dealing with the loss of a child. She feels her son is helping her too. A partnership of creative energy and love. This is exactly how I feel about Jordan.
He’s shown me moths, butterflies, hearts, angels, beaches and waves…to see meaning in everyday things.
I just miss him so much.
Creating art has changed for me in many ways. My eldest son, Jordan died in a car accident in March this year. He would have turned 26 on the 18th of March. For a few numbing months, lost in the shock of it I thought I would never paint seriously again. I remember in those first few weeks I took to watercolours, but in my mind they were just doodles. I felt I’d lost my mojo. I was and often still am overwhelmed by the grief that can be so intense words alone cannot describe it.
I’m back painting again. I only have a very short attention span nowadays, preferring to numb out emotion through whatever means easily accessible (food, alcohol, Netflix. Anything mindless) . But I’ve come to realise that through creating artworks ‘about’ Jordan, I’m also creating new memories ‘with’ him. This is an important distinction for me, and I suppose it is based on the belief that he is still ‘alive’ in the truest sense.
After a death you are still in a relationship with the person, however, now because of the chasm of death, that relationship is connected through pain. That’s why many grieving parents say they will never ‘get over’ the loss of a child, and they don’t want to either. That child is a part of you. A deep and indelible part. A parent-child relationship is an unconditional one where the parents’ role as nurturer causes such a strong psychic connection that their concern is always centred around the child’s safety and thriving.
We are accustomed to, as parents, to worry about our kids. We can be heartbroken and concerned for them. We suffer with their sufferings and rejoice in their triumphs. This doesn’t change after death. Through my artwork in some ways I’m saying, “are you ok Jordan?” “You are loved” “you are remembered” “You are amazing” , and a wonderful quote from one of his friends, “heaven adores you”. I suppose art has given me a way of nurturing him, including him and yes of course, remembering him and his time on planet Earth. I want him to be forever remembered by everyone who knew him. And if you know me I want you to know him, too.
When I studied art therapy I learnt about how art can facilitate these ‘altered states’ It’s not as mystical as it sounds. Altered states are just below the surface of our everyday pragmatic existence. You experience them when you are deeply involved in something. It’s a chance for your subconscious self, to come to the foreground of your awareness. This always happens when we dream, because we have no filter and our minds are not preoccupied with the mundane. When Jordan left us I realised how often I straddle these two states. I long to become aware of the spiritual, to learn how to notice little things he may be saying to me. Yet I am so deeply aware of how difficult this is. It’s frustrating, when we are alive we are truly bent away from seeing anything spiritual. So seldom do we scratch the surface of our existence. The times he has sent me a message, and I have been ‘awake’ enough to receive it, are held very deeply in my heart.
Because being creative helps us access this ‘altered state’ or dreamlike state of awareness, it has helped me understand my own pain, just a little bit. I’m someone who will feel something deeply then minimise things once I’m past the pointy end of my pain. A painting holds up a mirror in this way. When you are very emotional anyway, you develop tools to numb things over, so validating an experience is important. On another level, there’s the things we don’t know about the ocean that is our psyche, and engaging in art can be surprising. It can reveal things previously outside of our awareness.
So many people who have lost their precious children have also lost purpose. What’s the point? What’s the point in doing anything? Everything is meaningless. Life is about surviving until we can be with them again when we die. It’s only been nine months for me. So I have no answers and I feel like this often too. All I know, really on a very basic level, is I’m grateful for my art. I don’t even care what others think about it now. At the end of the day, it’s a comfort. It’s a comfort because of the tangible link it has to the Spirit. Music is the same, as is writing.
I will always remember Jordan saying-not that long ago- “oh cool mums getting her paints out. I love it when mum paints!”
I’m teaching my 3/4 class how to include foreground, middle ground and backgrounds in landscapes. We used tissue paper and paint to make the foreground appear closer. We also made some trees out of torn newspaper. They painted on some recycled lino donated from the Pre Primary classroom. They look pretty cool so far, can’t wait til they add the finishing touches with oil pastel..although, these ones look pretty good as they are 😊
After using exclusively acrylic paint for several years, I was recently inspired to take up the oils once more. I have only done a handful of paintings with oils, and my reason for ditching them was due to impatience. I reasoned that acrylics dry faster, so you can paint over the top creating layers of colour for interest. Oil paints are far more sumptuous colour wise in my opinion, however. For some reason I never realised that you can simply wipe away areas with a turpsy rag or brush, making paintings easy to renovate just like in acrylics (one of my reasons for turning to acrylics).
Oil paints seem to cover large areas of canvas more easily and you feel a bit like a sculptor when using thick paint (note to self: buy a pallet knife, a very useful tool for scraping back paint, adding sharp areas and cleaning the pallet!)
For those colourists who are concerned with detailed accuracy ( that’s me only sometimes), acrylic colours flatten off and change to be slightly lighter. I have noticed this when doing skies or faces, but because my style is somewhat expressionistic, this factor has not really bothered me. I often work on textured recycled canvas anyway, so I see it as part of the overall effect akin to varied brush strokes. The flattened effect of acrylics is something I address using loads of glossy varnish. The reason oil paints don’t change in their colour or consistency is because oil paint doesn’t actually dry, it cures.
I was confused about the mediums to use to thin oil paint down, but after asking a few knowledgable people, I decided to keep it simple: odourless artist quality turps to was brushes and wipe back areas of paint, and the Art Spectrum no.1 medium for mixing. The mediums are a mixture of linseed oil and artist quality turps, so it’s just more convenient than doing it yourself. The no.1 medium is the thinnest (paint will crack later if you apply to much linseed oil under thinner applications).
So… The verdict? At the moment I am in love with oils but not inclined to give up acrylics either. If I do plein air work, I will go for oils because you don’t need water, and you don’t have the problem of paint wastage due to speedy drying. Acrylics are wonderful when I want to paint lots of layers quickly… And just when the mood takes me, they lend themselves to different marks, and are great in mixed media operations.
Acrylic paint. I use atelier interactive, usually. At times it’s anything I can afford. I bought some cheapies recently (global) which were not very opaque, so a bit frustrating to use. I’ll probably use them with my kids.
My oil paints. They are art spectrum mostly.