As I was putting the final brushstrokes on the little hedgehog heads peeking out of the bicycle basket, I briefly felt a smidge of disappointment. Really? How could anyone be disappointed when looking at a purple bicycle. . .much less one that has a wicker basket filled with freshly cut lavender and cute little hedgehogs? But I did! The vision I had when I initially began this painting was so perfect, so technically correct that my college art teachers would have been proud. Yet, here I was standing before these silly little guys going for a ride doubting, questioning, and wondering if I should keep or scrap this piece. Ahhh, this “Joy Ride” looked so fun as I stepped away from my technical perspective and began thinking of the places I could ride and the smiles that would come. And then, I realized that the painting process is indeed much like the ride. . .it is a journey, a joy ride. I want to learn to let go of the final result. I want to become peaceful with the idea that painting is a journey and rarely, if ever, does that perfect image imagined at first stroke end up on the final canvas. I am recognizing that after the idea is conceived and the paints begin to blend and move, the painting comes to life. . .it is indeed part of the journey, and the joy is in that journey. I am releasing the expectation of technical perfection and embracing the love of the art, the elements of paint and color, and most of all the joy that this blend brings to me and to others. And even though we are taught not to have favorite “children,” certain pieces do have a special place in my heart. They have become mile markers on my journey as an artist and a person. For this journey, I am grateful. . .yes, “Joy Ride” stays. . .but wait until I tell you about galloping away with “Gemini” next week. . .
Like everyone else, my routine has shifted–no Friday night markets, no art festivals. With this shift, has come more studio time. Rather than rushing to ready everything for the markets, and trying to creatively pack my MiniCountryman, I have been graced with the time to fulfill commissions. One such commission was a portrait of a customer’s granddaughter. Human subjects make me a bit nervous, especially when I need to capture the likeness and essence of the person. Doing “Fridas” for my own basic amusement is a lot different than a portrait of someone’s beloved granddaughter so I was enormously relieved when after several days of careful work I discovered this strong and beautiful young woman looking back at me from the canvas on my art table.
But, the space behind her–that negative space–oh my! I can hear art teachers from my distant past pointing out my lack of attention paid to the negative space. It’s a thing, I can assure you! So, as usual for me, I wrestled with how to fill that space in a fun light-hearted way and it made me think about the lack of negative space my day planner use to have… because after all, hasn’t life taught us to fill every moment, every space on our calendar, with a scheduled activity? Don’t we wear our completely booked calendars as badges of honor? How then could I leave the space behind this beautiful young woman blank? And then it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks: life with COVID has taught us that indeed we can survive without old routines, old expectations that every moment of every day be completely booked. Life circumstances has forced negative space on my calendar pages. Ironically, however, this void or blankness has not been void at all but rather has become filled with creativity in the studio. So, what did I end up painting in the negative space of the granddaughter? Beautiful, whimsical patterns. . .patterns that suggest wind, motion, and fun because what else would a creative young soccer player wish for? The negative is positive.