Thursday, December 26, 2013

Painting Through the Emotional Stuff

It's December 26th and I've survived yet another onslaught of holiday crazy. 4 family birthdays were celebrated along with the winter solstice and I still managed to renew my car tags in time. Go me! Yes, me and my husband both are Christmas week birthdays so we both have to renew the tags.

In looking at the year ahead and looking back at the year just past, I've been thinking about what to share on this blog. Of the art stuff, that's pretty obvious but I've wondered about sharing more.

The painting above was the first one I did in the Silent Voices series. It's the only one done with colored pencil on illustration board. The others are acrylic on canvas. Anyway... this piece started with a pencil sketch on newsprint that I had done years before. The sketch was like my way of getting some thoughts down about my experience with adoption. I've mentioned in other posts before about being a mother of adoption loss and I have the other blog that's specifically about adoption if you're interested in reeeeaally delving into that topic. For a long time I thought it would be best to keep the two blogging worlds apart but they overlap so much anyway and they're both such a humongous part of who I am that I figured, what the hell, let the worlds collide. What's the worst thing that could happen? People get to know me and why I'm painting some strange things. Some folks might not like it and that's ok. Not everyone is going to like everything I do. Some might find it disturbing or depressing and some might relate to it or find it touches them in some way.

So...... back to the piece above. Have you ever had a painting experience where you go into the studio and about 9 or 10 hours later you come out - you haven't stopped, you haven't eaten, you haven't even left the room? While you were working you were excited or you cried or you were just so intent on the work that you had no concept of time and it was like it wasn't even you doing the painting. For me, doing that piece, it was all of the above. All I remember is standing over the drawing board grinding color in with the pencils and mashing color around with brushes and mineral spirits, sometimes wiping it away and then grinding more color in again.

There are 3 letters in the painting......

They stand for Baby for Adoption. Those letters were written with black marker on a piece of red construction paper and taped to the door of my hospital room when my first child was born. That let the hospital staff know that I wasn't supposed to see or hold my baby. You see, she was taken from me in the delivery room and whisked away. That's what happened to mothers like me years ago when we were forced to surrender our children because we were single.

It's a soul shattering experience. It left me broken and this fractured image of myself is what came out on paper. The painting was like a compelling, self imposed therapy and I'm truly fortunate that I have a way to get this stuff out! How do you cope with a tragedy this huge when you don't have a creative outlet? Do people just slowly go insane? Who knows where I'd be if it weren't for art. During that pregnancy is when I got my first set of colored pencils. Coloring was a way to kill time when I sat in the home far from my own home. I had to be hidden when I started to show so I left for another town and hunkered down till it was over - just me and my colors stashed away where no one could see us. I painted with bright color, day in and day out. Maybe I was hoping for some glimmer of brightness to show up and rescue me- don't know what form that would have taken. All I could think to do was bury myself in the forms so I wouldn't have to dwell on what was about to happen. Strange organic shapes showed up on the paper. I don't remember ever making marks that resembled anything. They grew across the paper and morphed into more weird bulbous things that were red and purple and blue.

Over the years those shapes changed and became the ideas and images in this series. Instead of just odd forms, words and symbols became the basis of the work. I kept a journal and started making lots of notes, writing lists of words, doing research about the adoption industry, and just remembering. I still work this way and sometimes as I do this I'm angry and sometimes I cry. Sometimes when I finish a painting I just sit and stare at it. I keep the journal with me most times when I'm working on the series because phrases will come to me and I might end up with a narrative poem that fits the work.

Now here I am, decades later and I'm not only back to painting about adoption but blogging about it, writing about it and talking about it. You'd think I'd have wound down by now but I guess when something this emotionally charged happens to you it overflows into the rest of your life. It changes so much of who you are that it can't help but affect everything else that you do. If you want to see some more of the work in this series just click on the Silent Voices tab at the top of the page.

Does anyone else have a personal experience - happy or sad - that played such a big role in their painting life? I'd love to hear about it. Better yet..... share pictures with me! I'd love to see!!

I hope ya'll had a good holiday, whatever you celebrate, and I refuse to get all worked up over which words of a happy sentiment are being offered. Just ignore the nonsense, be happy and Happy/Merry (insert season or holiday of your choice). 


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