I’m often asked how I conceptualize and start work on a new painting. Facing a blank canvas can be intimidating! Sometimes, I just load my palette, prep the canvas, pick up a paint brush and see where it takes me. More often, a painting starts with a title that comes to mind, sample colors or pictures sent to me by a client, or something I’ve seen on one of my early morning walks with Daisy, my Australian Labradoodle.
On one of these recent walks, the title for a future painting seemingly popped into my head out of nowhere: Love Hurts. My thoughts turned to my father and my nephew who both died last year; two people who are and always will be very special to me. My mind filled with thoughts of love: how we sometimes hurt and are hurt by those we love through words or actions, and the deep grief we feel when loved ones are no longer with us. Love does hurt but is often the price we pay for loving someone deeply.
Over the next few days, on my walks with Daisy and during quiet meditation, I thought about this shadow side of our hearts—the place where sad feelings, hurtful memories, and the pain that inevitably comes with living reside. I thought too about love’s ability to radiate through pain and loss to find resolution and peace. This light side of our heart stores good memories, happy thoughts and is the well we draw from when hard times come along. Living a full life with purpose and meaning means living with both light and shadow. This is the resilience I’ve worked hard to practice myself and teach to others. And so, I began to wonder, should the title of my next painting be Love Hurts or Love Shines Through? Both are true.
My mind is busy and full of thoughts and ideas before I begin a new painting. My paintings are often driven by my energy and emotional state. Someone who bought one of my paintings described my work as “energy and emotion on canvas.” This rang so true for me that her observation became the tagline for my online gallery! With thoughts of love and light and shadow, I went to my easel and turned my creativity, energy and emotion loose.
First, I sketched a part of a heart in charcoal on the canvas. In order to make a flat circle or shape appear to have volume, shadows must be added so I charcoaled in some shading. As I continued to work, the painting evolved and now the heart is buried under layers and layers of paint. I work on my paintings until I feel they are complete and sometimes my initial concept develops and morphs into something on the canvas that surprises even me! In the end, Love Shines Through won out as the title for this painting. The creative process fills my spirit with joy and sharing my work with the world only amplifies that.