I have never been an abstract artist. On the rare occasions I have made something abstract, it’s always been by total accident. Realism has always been what I was after. I like watching a piece slowly come to life. I like working almost tediously and being sure to capture every single detail. The process is meditative to me.
But as I’ve been trying to find my artistic voice after losing my husband to cancer, I found that I was having trouble making art as I used to. Something just wasn’t the same. I still wanted to create but had no idea what. I continued to make things centered around subjects that seemed to fit my old life. But even though everything came out just as finely detailed as ever, I found myself staring blanking at the result and feeling kind of empty inside.
An important part of the grieving process is supposed to be nurturing yourself. Art has always been my friend – a way of feeding my soul. But something didn’t seem to be working this time. I wanted to have a project, a series of some sort. Something personal that I could look forward to each day. Something for just me.
After trying a bunch of different things, I got totally fed up. Everything either made me feel bored or empty or tortured. In general, my art felt forced. And I was sick of it. I wanted it to go back to being fun.
Remember how I said above that the times I have created abstractly have been by complete accident? Well, that’s kind of what happened here. I usually work with colored pencil. There is no prep or clean up and I can start and stop at any moment. Also, I can be a total detail hog if I want to be.
Well, I shoved my pencils in a drawer and pulled out my oil paints and a canvas panel that was still in its packaging. I hadn’t used oils in ages but luckily they were still in great condition. I don’t have as much painting experience as I do with graphite, pencil or clay. But I just wanted to do something totally different. I spent an hour spreading the paint over the canvas, not thinking about anything in particular, just making the entire process an intuitive thing. I had no subject, I just wanted to see a lot of colors.
And I liked the result. More than that, I liked the process. I had just let everything go instead of trying to control every part of the picture. When I thought about it more later, I realized it was more than just the canvas. I had spent so many years trying to control every detail of my entire life. I fretted over everything and half the time couldn’t even act because I worried too much about whether I was doing the right thing.
When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, I spent years trying to control every single thing even more. That’s what that kind of thing does to you anyway. But cancer isn’t anything like art. I couldn’t control it that way – which was insanely frustrating!
I realized that after doing all that for so long, my soul was just plain tired.
So, Abstract 88 is my gift to my soul. I’m saying to it, “Hey there Soul, just be free for awhile. I think you’ve earned it.” And maybe others will look and be inspired to free themselves too.
If you’re wondering about the 88 part, it’s because eight is my favorite number. I mention why in my article on 8 Reasons Why It’s Okay to Be You. However, I wanted a bigger project than just eight paintings. So, I thought, hey, two eights are even better than one.
Here’s to letting go…
How do you let go?