It’s been quite a year, to say the least. I’ve spent most of it hibernating and painting. In the process, I’ve produced a body of work that has taken me on quite a journey, and I’m truly excited to share it. These paintings were a challenge and it’s been emotional and I wouldn’t trade any of that for anything. I turned my overwhelm of emotions that came from so much of the things that happened this year into a mode of contemplation from which these new paintings were spawned. I’m sharing just one finished painting here now and will share more after the new year. This is the first of many more:
There has been a silent gaping mouth inside my head every day, and these paintings were the answer to its existence. They are a doorway into gratitude amidst this ongoing search for truth. They are a silence in which another voice can speak. A voice of multitudes. It’s here in these works that I’m most alive because this is where I am folded into everything else. These images are the words I thought I’d lost. They are the romantic poem I wanted to write to the darkness, the chaos and the unknown. These are where I can vanish many times over into something else and do the work of listening.
There was another thing I did this year that helped quite a bit with the transference of emotion to imagery. I kept a list of things I wanted to paint, simply starting it with “I want to paint…” and then writing something down whenever it came to me. These phrases were more about noticing and attentiveness, more conceptual and less practical in the painting sense. I was doing this because I was finding it difficult to envision how these thoughts and emotions would take shape. It was a way to try to keep track of things I felt were relevant, important, real, and raw, but intangible and emotional. These phrases were a way to take notes while immersed in the motion and shapeshifting of everyday occurrences just so not to forget a point of reference at times. The list itself has unfolded into quite an enormous doorway into gratitude as well, and these phrases helped me sift through my own perspective to find my sense of belonging and humility. I found these simple kinds of exercises helped me uncover a new path to take. I ended up with hundreds of phrases and sentences over the course of most of this year, but I will share just a few here as an example. You may recognize or feel familiar with many of these yourself:
I want to paint the right things to say
I want to paint the strangers’ voices singing together in the alleys
I want to paint the deep understanding of another’s perspective
I want to paint truth
I want to paint the empty streets
I want to paint them all alive and well again
I want to paint the difficult talks we’ve had
I want to paint the sound of your laugh I miss so much
I want to paint all the homes before the devastation
I want to paint the passion of the protests
I want to paint the longing
I want to paint the strength it took to get through the day
I want to paint how being smiled at feels
I want to paint how distant we’ve felt during isolation
I want to paint the comfort in being alone
I want to paint connection
I want to paint the sensation of physical touch
I want to paint you here so I can hug you
I want to paint how it’s felt to spend days in silence
I want to paint the depth of the music in my ears
I want to paint the support of a community
I want to paint a louder voice sometimes
I want to paint away the trauma
I want to paint love
That is just a short version of the list. I’ve got hundreds more and I plan to keep adding to it. It grew from a simple personal challenge and expanded into quite a wonderful thing in and of itself, but as a whole this list is the caption for this new body of personal work I’ve been painting. You can see some of the WIPs I’ve posted of these works in a previous post here on Muddy Colors.
I recommend making your own list of goals in this way – a list of intangibles – and seeing what develops.
What do you want to paint?