She’s been a painter since she first dipped her fingertips into tempera. Over the years, I’ve seen her work evolve. Her early work was more realistic – good, strong, proportional and deliberate. Now, as she’s matured, I see more of her soul in her work. The colors are richer. The light has depth. I can see she’s more confident in her style.
I got to introduce her to Jen and Will.
We stumbled through the small talk about how crowded the art show was, how many years had she been doing this, and Gee! how about the weather.
Once the awkward was out of the way, Jen shared how she doesn’t like the pressure that comes with a commissioned piece. I know she was relieved to hear that this artist felt the same way. When working on a commission, it’s as if the Universe is standing by, ready to put the brakes on the flow. You could be tuned into your playlist, in the zone, broad brushstrokes creating magic, and suddenly you remember that you have to please someone with this piece. *Cue the sound of screeching brakes.* Now the process isn’t full of ease. You become overly critical and self conscious. The harsh words line up to whittle away at your confidence. “They’ll hate that color. That’s not what an owl has ever looked like. Who said you could paint?”
When you are passionate about something – the kind of passion that happens when all you want to do is think/talk/breathe about that thing – find another who is passionate about the same. Talk of that thing together. Feel how the air is sweeter and your lungs fill all the way up. See how when they mention something that you’ve experienced, you feel like you are now a member of a secret group. Finally, you belong with others who speak a private language that not many others understand.
If your kid is passionate about something, and you are privileged to watch her engage with another who is passionate about the same thing, then you will get a glimpse of why this passion lights her soul.
We talked of style changes. We talked about color and layering and subject matter and technique. We talked about when it’s hard to create – commissioned pieces. She told of the few times she gets inspired and starts a piece in the late afternoon, finishes the next morning, and has this crazy desire to look over her shoulder and ask, “Where did that come from?”
She laughed about how she might dislike something she’s created, only to have someone call her, months after they’ve seen it, to tell her that they can’t quit thinking about it, and ask if it is still for sale. She could drive herself nuts trying to figure out why that happens, or she could just keep painting.
I asked how she would describe the evolution in her work. She mentioned that when she looks at older pieces, she’ll either be horrified or amazed. “Who painted that? Or, wow… that’s good! Really good!” She grinned as she said that her work has always reflected her different moods. “You can tell when I’m in a happy place, or when I’m in a funk, based on the colors I’m using at the time, but I don’t really know what explains the evolution.”
We thanked her for taking the time to share with us.
The three of us talked of our favorite styles as we walked back to the car. Will wants to learn to print larger photos. Jen likes the miniature watercolors.
As I drove across the bridge, I started making comparisons between painting and writing, and that led to life.
I thought of the different chapters of my life as different artists. There was the Jackson Pollock phase in college when I tried everything I could think of to see what would stick.
I enjoyed the single mom’s version of a Norman Rockwell when the kids and I were on our own and enjoying a simple rhythm and a set routine.
Then, of course, there was a brief period that I would categorize as The Scream. Okay, maybe more than one period.
Several years remind me of a Russell Chatham – pleasantly hazy, comfortable to look at, evoking a certain mood, and not sharp enough in detail to make me want to look away.
If we are lucky, we evolve, like the artist’s work. Many times, we look back and we’re shocked by some of the “work” we’ve done. Other times, we may be pleasantly surprised. Like the artist, we often don’t know what explains our evolution.
When you look back over the years, what comes to mind? Can you think of a particular artist’s style that represents a group of years, or maybe a single year? I’m betting we all have our own version of The Scream.
We are all works in progress.
It’s good to think of ourselves as works of art in progress.