Peace is a calm feeling in the gut. Olive leaves seem to swirl around when content. But when our sense of peace is shattered it can take a long time to bring together so many shards and rise back out of despair. 

When my kids were younger, right before the holidays they would ask me, “Mom, what do you want for Christmas?” 

And I would always respond, “Peace and Joy.” They would get annoyed, but then I would get funny gifts wrapped up in Christmas paper or gift bags with the words “peace” or “joy” on them. 

If you have peace and joy in your life, what else matters? 

If a color was to represent peace, then to me it is mint green. Cool and calming. I knew that had to be a dominant color of this painting.

Broken Vessel #5 / Peace

The model is a friend who got married last year. A beautiful wedding. And then 2 months later her husband was killed in a car crash. I attended the funeral too. Peace shattered.


Cutting up this work was emotional for me. I had actually finished the work a year before her wedding, so this painting did not come from her story. I had planned this out 2 years ago and she came and posed for me over a year and a half ago. But I did not cut it up until this past summer. I kept putting it off for obvious reasons. This image became so much more powerful after it was put back together though…. and sad. The original plan was for it to be cracked like a mirror and shattered across the bottom half of the image emanating out from the solar plexus. So she would be criss-crossed with gold.

When I was having her pose, I used a flood light shining up on her face to get a glow hitting her on the chest, solar plexus, and upwards on her face. At one point I realized I did not want to paint her robe very detailed, but I still wanted the upward glow. In a spontaneous moment I mixed up that light mint green color and grabbed a rag. I dipped the rag into the oil paint and then very quickly just scribbled the green “light” onto the front of the figure with the cloth.  It worked. No more need to fuss with it. The details were kept in her face. 

I knew I wanted olive leaves swirling around her.  At first I was trying to paint them very detailed. But then I got annoyed and found myself asking why did I feel the need to do that?  I grabbed a palette knife and basically just swiped them in. They feel like fish swimming around her now. As for planning the “path” of them swirling around her, I tried to figure them out initially with white pieces of cut-out paper taped onto the painting. (below) Then I printed out some photos of actual olive leaves and tried those. That seemed to work best and as I painted along I kept adding more leaves for more motion. I finally decided to just follow the path of the fibonacci “swirl” and the leaves roughly follow that.


As I mentioned before, I was having issues with the saw leaving marks on the surface of the paintings. So this time I completely covered over her face and masked the areas around the cuts. This saved me a lot of time cleaning the pieces later too. I learned to draw the cut lines on the paintings with a yellow pastel pencil (below) this gave me a clear path for the saw- and the pastel was then easy to rub off from the surface. Here you can see the masking around the channels that needed to be cut.  I used soft-tack artist tape. Laborious, but the tape then protected the surface from the feet of the saw. It worked really well. 


The other issue was that the paintings became COVERED in fine sawdust. I had to carefully clean each piece (it took hours) to get them back to a clean surface so that eventually varnish could adhere to a completely clean surface. After I took the tape off, I had to clean each piece very carefully using cut-up pieces from a soft, white T-shirt dipped only in water. 

Then came the filling in of the cracks with gold acrylic paint…


Yeah, it was boring and very slow work. Once the wet paint settled, I then kept going over the cracks with more acrylic paint like this until it was filled in. Then came a “top coat” of gold leaf paint painted over each crack with a fine brush. Then later came the actual 24k gold leaf. I love this piece so very much and I hope you can see it on October 8th 5-8 pm for the Exhibition Opening at the Christine Frechard Gallery, 5126 Butler Street, Pittsburgh PA 15201. The brilliant painter, Patrick Lee will also be showing his new work as well! The night is free and open to all! Join us! 

Next week is the “Beauty” panel and how we see ourselves… 


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