The other day I was in quiet thought, a place where I often find myself peacefully drifting towards. A reflection came to me, related upon the act of painting. It was rather like a Winnie The Pooh moment in time deep within the quiet serene Hundred Acre Woods. I quietly enjoyed the moment as I enjoyed these stories immensely as a young child being read aloud by my father. Why do I put paint to panel? What does this act of creating through paint provide me with? How is it that I am drawn to paint? Perhaps you might like a hot tea in your favourite cup and a delightfully yummy sweet treat. Take a comfy seat, perhaps in the warmth of the winter sun, as I will share with my story with paint.
To begin reflect if you please on your own aptitudes, perhaps ruminate on the one you are most passionate about. The one that draws you in like magnets attracting to a cool shiny metal surface. We are all given natural aptitude in our life, our duty in life is to honour, nurture and support these natural gifts and talents. Mine has been drawing and painting since my earliest days. I loved the vivid colour when cracking opening a new deep yellow box of Crayola crayons for the first time, not to mention the wax crayon smell escaping the opened cardboard box. Markers intrigued me as the colour was saturated and vibrant, they needed to remain as such or the marker would sit unused in its weakened colour lacking state. It was clear that these were my tools and I was naturally gifted in using them. As a young child, I could always be found drawing, colouring and making art in any spare time I found myself within. This continued into High School where I would bring my black hardcover sketchbook and Staedtler pencils along with me to the small community based business I started up, babysitting neighbourhood children. Looking back I created a good little business enterprise in my very early teens and never stopped working, until now when an unhealed virus took me out at nearly fifty years of age. I paint because I adore the tools of the artist.
As adulthood does, the spare time for drawing and painting waned. As a former teacher, much of an evening or weekend is dedicated to prep work for teaching. My art was definitely on the back burner often, although always top of mind. As I dedicated myself to Arts Education in Toronto. Early in my career I established and co-owned an Arts Based School, enriching the lives of neighbourhood children. I shared my gift with children and this was fulfilling. After this ended I went back to University of Toronto for more enriching secondary education and began my career of teaching children in inner city schools within Toronto. Several years back I proposed, developed and opened an enriching curriculum based Arts Program and Room in my school where I had worked since the beginning of my teaching career. I wanted to share the Arts with my students who were drastically lacking Arts enrichment programs within the neighbourhood as we were part of the Model Schools Program. A program that provides extra funding to high needs Toronto families. At this time I was back in University through my summers working on my Visual Arts Specialist. Happily during my courses I was able to create some pieces. This lead me to take a course using a new medium non related to teaching. This was the beginning of bringing art more regularly back into my life. More importantly it was the beginning of working with colour as my subject. I paint because I happily see the world in colour.
It was fall 2016, not long after my art course. I was practicing my art and teaching art to all ages including developmentally disabled children and I was happy. I caught the dreadfully violent Norwalk virus from a student. It recklessly took over my body, hospitalized with dehydration and when I finally began to recover after much cause for worry, it had mutated in my body. Leaving me with a variety of deficiencies, anemia, and severe post viral fatigue. While recovering I often would use art as therapy drawing, doing abstract drawings and using colour to brighten my days. It filled my mind, gave me peace and joy. I learned mindfulness practically during this recovery as my several years of practice prior was nothing compared to the mindfulness I need after the shrapnel the Norwalk virus left in its wake. I paint because it stills and quiets my mind creating peace in my body.
When I caught a virus in January 2018 from a student consistently returned to school extremely unwell for a period of three weeks. The poor kid could only ever lie with his face down until someone came to pick him up from school. I never healed, the virus still lives inside of me several long years later. It caused Myalgic Encephalomyelitis a chronic condition which I now live with daily. Subsequently, I developed Fibromyalgia and was informed by my specialist in a frank matter of fact tone, that I am disabled. That explained my lack of abilities, movement and severe pain I was living with.
My body was locked almost fully for over a year and half, until I was diagnosed after a 17 month wait to see a specialist doctor who provides diagnosis and focuses on treated my conditions. Once I began treatment from diagnosis nearly 2 years after becoming unwell I was able to begin unlocking my body. This was an enormous relief as I was unclear if I would remain locked in rigidity for a lifetime. When I say locked my body was once very pliable as stated by my massage therapist, I had extensive movement and flexibility. I became locked like a slab of cement, everywhere and anywhere. Solid flesh, cartilage, muscle and joints, locked. It was beyond scary to experience such extremes in a short time period. I barely could move in any direction or way within my body.
Once able to move my shoulder and arms with minor movement I took myself back to my drawing and painting as rehab for fine and gross motor strengthening, recommended by my specialist. I had to do many modifications for successes and I did. Always doing whatever it takes to make the best possible recovery, whatever that may be. My hands had been severally inflamed for 2 to 3 years, quite scarily I observed them daily. My Irish handmade engagement ring quickly didn’t fit one finger on my hands. It caused much problems with fine motor activities. I paint because my fingers and hand muscles needed movement.
In order to draw or paint I had to work the fine hand and wrist muscles to develop some movement once again. Drawing and painting was the perfect task. Also being a former art and kindergarten teacher was monumental, it was the last time I used my five years of University studying education of young children. I began painting regularly when able, I have increased my fine motor skills and been able to work some inflammation out of my hands. Though sadly I will have to resize my Irish ring one day when I feel like my body has settled into its true form. I paint because it is what I know and a natural act to me.
With much dedication to painting it has rehabilitated and strengthened my fine and gross motor skills, some. It has been my physical therapy. It has also been art therapy giving me quiet peacefulness in mind, when living with such pain and suffering. Mindfulness in the most present state. I paint because it is mindful.
Expression is important to an artist. We have something to share. We share through our art. My paintings are an experience of colour inspired by the essence of flowers in my garden. I share a moment in time, a feeling in each painting through my subject which is colour. In experiencing a painting the viewer is evoking an emotive moment. Positive in nature I share my paintings with the world to kindly spread peace, love and happiness. This is what I express through each painting. I paint because I kindly share happiness with others.
After having my life ripped from me, like a birthday balloon that pops as you gently reach for it. Being treated as I am nothing, invalidated and of no use to society as a chronically ill disabled person. Simply left in my house to suffer invisibly and isolated, like I don’t matter. When nothing you reach for supports you, causing pain and suffering just to manage the once simple task given to you. Painting has been my sunshine on a stormy cold windy November day. I paint because it gives my life purpose.
May you find peace, love and happiness in your days.
7 thoughts on “I Paint Because …”
So very proud of you
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Why thank you kindly you lovely gentleman. Or shall I say, Fella!
I cant get my head around what experiencing a “locked” body that was like a slab of concrete must have been like for you. I know that building up the wasted muscles in my left leg after 6 weeks of being immobilised took over a year. Actually the left leg is still not as strong as the right one despite daily exercises. It’s incredible that you have got your fine motor skills back in your hand. Well done. We all need meaning in out lives and art provides that for you and me. I found Viktor Frankl’s book very interesting – have you read it? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man%27s_Search_for_Meaning
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It was actually very frightening, especially with no doctor support for 17 months later! It was really hard to move at all, not to mention painful.
I wasn’t sure how much fine motor I could develop. I used to have very strong hands and grip. More than an average woman, similar to a man’s actually. To go from that to not being able to tie a shoe lace or pick up certain small objects was shocking.
Glad your doing better too!
I will check out the book for sure!
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I should think the lack of support (and not knowing what was going on with you) was very frightening in itself!
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The lack of support has been astonishing! From all areas including friends & family. I was a strong independent career minded woman, the constant income for my small family, who was banished from society with no outreach! Almost inhumane in my eyes. What if I was a man? Things would be very different!
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I am not sure support would have been any better for a man. You were in a traditionally male role as bread winner (as was I, once upon a time) and that has pressures of its own. A few of my work colleagues (2 female, 1 male) came to visit at different times when I had my break down, but I wasn’t really in any state to see them. Looking back, I do appreciate their efforts. It is difficult to know when you are intruding and using up someone’s energy.
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