Patience is a wonderful attribute in life, which I thankfully have lots of. Paintings that were conceived in thought but not able to be produced relied on a plethora patience. In fact this photo here was taken only 11 days before becoming sick with a virus from a student in my class that would change my life forever. I have been in limbo, a place of nothingness waiting to work on this 36” x 36” painting since January 18th, 2018. If that doesn’t demonstrate an outstanding application of patience then I don’t what does.
The concept for shadow formation paintings came to me before I could even hold a paint brush during my healing. There was a time in the early days of my chronic illness that I lived daily with undiagnosed extremely high levels of full body pain. All I could do when not sleeping in my bed was sit with my legs up on my couch in my south facing living room. A period in my healing and life I refer to as the days of nothingness. During winter months the warmth of the sun was lovely on my aching body but what really intrigued me was the natural light from the bright sun and vivid shadow formations.
Natural light and shadow formation took me somewhere in creative thought away from the pain I was experiencing for a few moments of time. I began visually exploring and discovering the natural light of shadow formation from my garden. Time was an obscure concept to me during my healing as it had no use to my life with chronic illness and only was a memory of a stressor that caused much daily chaos in my past life.
However, I did begin to explore the light patterns within the house and approximation of time, as it was something to look forward to in my simple life during this time in my healing. My life was beginning to take on the natural rhythm of the day as wise ancestors once followed natural light and weather patterns to direct their daily experiences and routines.
Technology during this period of time was a no go zone, thus I only have memory of my experiences, it seems as I embark on this large scale painting my memories are whispering to me through cracks. On a day when I felt a bit less pain and had some energy I tried to work on a painting exploring this concept of light and shadow formation from my garden, at the onset of chronic illness I was working on large panels. What I didn’t understand was the nature of my chronic illness and that I was disabled from it. This painting was far beyond my physical abilities of this period of time and sat in my storage room for several years time. I was still awaiting a diagnosis of disability that would change my life forever.
One day during healing, I set my pain aside and with the help of my partner stepped into the front yard to trace shadow formations of the Norway maple directly onto a large scale birch panel. I needed help to get down to the ground and be helped up as my chronic illness had effected balance, joints, nerve as well as muscles and muscular strength in a shocking way. Although I never thought this would last for years of my life, in the beginning I certainly thought I would move past the disability I was experiencing. Eventually I was officially diagnosed as disabled, which remains to date one of the most shocking events of my life. I persevered on this day as it had been my norm prior to chronic illness becoming my way of life.
However, as chronic illness does this act led me into a flare lasting for weeks and months. Leading me away from large scaled panels altogether and for a period of time any painting at all. I should point out that the Norway maple I have know all of my life was a gift from the King of Norway which Leaside benefited from for many years. The decay of the trees has set in and short time remains for those that are still standing. The flare allowed for more time in observation of natural light patterns an shadow formations within the house. Although I was not yet practicing my exploration I was certainly deeply engaged in mind and thought exploring this concept.
Until now, a time in my life when I have learned to live housebound to manage my chronic illness symptoms, pain and disability. In fact, I use painting as a form of whole body and mind therapy to heal. Painting has become my most effective treatment for whole body. I am thrilled this fall and winter to begin exploring the concept of shadow formation, natural light and the relationships of colour in my paintings. The shadow formation in the large scale painting I am referring to comes from the old Norway maple tree on my front lawn. I first met this tree when I was one year old in 1973 when I came to live in the house that I have and always will refer to as home.
Observing the seasons come and go through my Norway maple have been long and plentiful, 49 trips around the sun in total. Painting this piece now as we approach 50 years of life together means a good deal to me. I know there is a limit to the autumn leaf drop, making the tree more meaningful in my life. I wonder how many paintings I can create while their is life still in my beloved maple tree. I plan once the leaves drop to take plenty of nature photos capturing shadow formation and documenting its later life. Also, I will do a series of sketchbook drawings focused on the trees formation from various perspectives so that I will have reference material for paintings.
All my thoughts have become consumed by the theme of shadows in my new body of work. As I weave it into my creative process, thoughts are many. I find myself checking the windows often as if I am chasing shadow formations in the garden, like a shadow chaser. This morning there was a simple shadow outline on the front window, featuring the trunk limbs on the lowest branches. I snapped a photo with my inferior iPad camera, but it is useful as a memory, I cherish my Canon camera beyond words.
There is a deep connection for me with this body of work which in time will likely reveal itself to me. Although I do believe it is connected to the acceptance of the trees nearing the end of life, standing as a strong symbol of nature in front of my home and the loss I will feel when it is gone. The documentation of its final existence becomes meaningful both personally and to my art. However, I know that my connection to nature found in my garden is integral to my painting. Interestingly it has also been one of my most effective treatments in healing, spending time in my garden both in mindfulness and with hands in dirt. The connection to nature both in physical body and through natural rhythm of the universe in seasons and weather patterns is important to the theme of my paintings.
As I begin a new body of work exploring Autumn Shadows I am excited and looking forward to painting through the seasons. I have many intriguing thoughts for ideas to work into my next paintings. As I heal, my garden grows and my paintings evolve. The universe seems to be connecting me with the seasons, my garden and paintings.