There are events in life that greatly affect us. They get talked about, analyzed, and then we try to put them on a shelf. But sometimes there are nightmares and the images persist. Then I know it is time to paint my  demons.

For me, there have been rare occasions across my lifetime where an image HAS to be painted. Not for a show, or to be sold, or even to be seen. But for my mental health. So sometimes I paint an image because I have to.  Because I need to. Because there is no other way to get it out of my brain except to carve it out of my heart with a pastel stick. And if someone else sees it, well, I hope it does some good out in the world. 

I admire Taylor Swift. She writes songs about her life experiences. The good and the bad. Men, relationships. It is what makes her admired and yet also a bit dangerous. I think all true artists are like this though. We need to use our voice as an outlet. 

I have painted about being pregnant.  About my mothers’ cancer. About my children growing up. Personal narratives with meaning to me. They are not necessarily my best work. And I don’t care. 

My latest painting, “Underwater” is one such image. It is a struggle I never expected to experience in my lifetime.

Almost 2 years ago I had a major surgery. Long story cut to the quick, it was to reverse a previous surgery where the docs didn’t do such a hot job. I had been living in pain for years and I knew going back in to reverse the first botch job would be risky and involve a major reconstruction of my stomach. (My new bellybutton and I are friends now) but I was willing to take the risk. My lungs collapsed and filled up with fluid. I know what it is like to drown and I am lucky to be alive. I wrote about this experience before in this previous blog.

What I have not written about was how real the PTSD has been. I had trouble falling asleep for months afterward. I would fall asleep only to be jerked awake in fear and gasping for breath. It doesn’t affect me so much anymore, but it still lingers. And so some days I enjoy soaking up a huge lungful of air. 

Because I can. 

To finally dispel the ghosts from that time in my life I realized I had to bow down to painting it. I have had some friends see this image and compare it to Poe. Dark. There was no point to this painting except my own exorcism. It was cathartic. It was necessary. 

“Underwater” pastel, 36 x 24″

And yes, that is my daughter as the model. I didn’t need it to be me to express my story. 

I am happy to say I won’t be keeping it either.  Someone saw it on the easel and before I even completely finished it they bought it. Amazing how art can reach out to others. I had no intention of selling this or putting it in a show.  I finished the image to my satisfaction and am happy to pass it along. I guess now I will head back to happier paintings of children or to just interesting portraits, but I needed to stop everything else I was doing and confront this image and I found that I learned a great deal technically along the way with this one because I didn’t really care about it.  A few blogs ago I wrote about the Japanese artist that dealt with subtle textures and shifts in layering and how it created depth and tension in his work. This was my attempt at trying that while laying out a story in pigment.

Onward and upward. Always reaching to the surface. 

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