“Suddenly a veil was torn away, my destiny as a painter opened up to me.”
I became aware that I was a serious painter during the cathartic summer of 2014. Almost overnight, I changed from being a completely contented and devoted housewife and mother into a passionate, restless, insatiable maniac, utterly obsessed with Painting. Now, not quite two years later, the inner flame has not abated, but at least I feel grounded enough to go back through my diary entries (italicized) from that pivotal time. Here is a real, raw glimpse into my soul; may it empower you.
June 23. “Lately, I’m feeling more and more drawn towards painting. Compelled. Today I called a man who might make a good teacher. But it would be expensive. I don’t know. I feel so good about it. I feel myself chafing a little at being a mother and a wife, not that there is anything wrong with those roles. But it might be that there is something else I need to do, to branch out in this other way, to develop greater skills… What does it mean to be an artist?”
July 11. “What a joyful, golden summer it is! And now, so many good things are happening. I feel like a flower breaking into blossom! I’m so excited that sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, my blood buzzing with excitement in my veins, unable to sleep. Art! Painting! This is what has shaken me!
I ran into an old friend from high school, Graham Preston, who is now a successful artist in New York, and he is going to give me free painting lessons!
.I feel such a swelling of potential in me… a waking-up, like some part of me has been asleep all of these years.
Graham gave me free lessons for a couple of weeks in his studio, which, at the time, was then conveniently located near my parents' house. in New Hope, PA During this time, I felt as if I had been struck by lightning. I was on fire; the fire burned just beneath the thin layer of my skin, barely keeping itself contained. Nothing would satisfy me, except to pursue painting for the rest of my life. Graham gave me a great starting point, and lots of encouragement, and hours of lessons and guidance in his studio. I'll be forever grateful to him!
"It's good to be fearless," he told me. "Be generous with your paints."
Graham is an amazing artist, and it was difficult to pick only one of his paintings for this blog post. I finally chose "Mad as Softness" because I'm especially drawn to his figurative work, and I'm intrigued by the implied narrative, the sense of mystery, as well as an onslaught of emotions: longing, nostalgia, discontent... Anyway, that's how it is for me. Please visit Graham's website and take a look at his work for yourself!
July 12th...Awake again at 2 am. I tossed and turned until 3, then went downstairs to research artists online. Graham gave me so many artists to look up. (I really love Holly Coulis and Lisa Sanditz and Robin F. Williams!) Then I read an art book, and did an inventory of my old box of oil paints. I was so awake and happy and full of energy!
July 27...Kind of unhappy and restless… Mostly happy and inspired. Painting a lot. In transition.
July 31 So tired. When can I paint? I’m too tired now. It’s really difficult. I have ideas. I just can’t carve out space in the day. I feel like I don’t have the strength to do what I am called to do. And yet, at other times, I don’t have to do anything. It feels as though the Universe is supporting me. It’s exciting and exhausting.
August 12...My attempts to paint are frustrated by my household, motherly, and wifely duties. It seems too difficult. I do a lot of “painting” in my mind and in my dreams.
August 15...I don’t really know what to do or how to proceed. I’m having trouble being a patient, attentive mother. (Ian says it is because I’m tired, from waking up at 2 am every morning.) I try to play dollhouse and trains with the kids, and find myself disliking every moment. I’m withdrawing from them emotionally. My thoughts are on painting. And all things related. The household and its needs seem so irrelevant. I seem to have no energy to wash the dishes and prepare the food.
I want time to paint, but I can’t get it until late at night. It’s a vicious cycle of restlessness.
What happened to my old energy, my old enthusiasm for creating a happy household, with crafts, songs, and homemade meals? I’ve got to figure out a way to be more balanced.
August. 18th..All afternoon, Ian played with the kids while I painted, working on my still life, “A Cavalcade of Sea Legends.” The more I work on it, the more complex it gets. I’m really feeling my learning, that is, I am solving a lot of problems and learning a lot about paint, just by working on this still life.
You keep opening your petals for me,
and I, a dizzy bee,
am finding you so sweet!.
I have a good, strong feeling that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing, and what I need to be doing, in order to become a good painter. It’s hard work but it’s also fun and invigorating.
The more I paint, the more I want to paint.
I wish I could just paint and paint and paint!
My maternal and wifely feelings seem to have evaporated, but not completely. I’ve been feeling badly about that, but then I think, maybe it’s not as bad as it seems. It could just be some Cosmic Balancing. For over seven years, I’ve devoted myself to my family and keeping house, and let my Artist Self vanish beneath everyone else’s needs. So perhaps this bout of “selfishness” is just what needs to happen in order to bring everything into balance.
Epilogue: It has been about a year and a half since that fateful July. I'd like to say that I have achieved a good balance of Family and Art in my life, but actually, I'm still struggling with that. I continue to wake up restlessly at 3 am to paint, and my obsession with art has only strengthened with time. Luckily, my family is resilient. My husband and two kids have survived, and in addition, they even provide me with inspiration for paintings! And so, I have a lot for which I am grateful.