Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Legacy

I few years ago, I attended two workshops conducted by a well-known South African artist, Judith Mason. Our project for the second workshop was to create an oil painting, called legacy. Our painting had to show something about our lives at the time, so that our grandchildren may in years to come, have a glimpse into the year 2004.
Initially I placed a large tree with huge roots predominantly in the painting. My newly deceased dog also was centrally placed, with images of my significant others being reflected in shards of a broken mirror. This painting is about the changes that occurred in my life at the time of the workshop. Both my children decided to live permanently in the UK, my lovable, faithful dog died and we moved out of our large family home into something more suitable for two people. On the fourth day of the workshop, I became so choked up with emotion, I couldn’t complete the painting. Looking back, I was not used to painting such emotive subjects; I painted boring landscapes and still life’s that were devoid of any special meaning to me. I wanted to destroy the painting, but couldn’t throw away the images of my loved ones so I merely cut that part of the painting from the stretcher and kept the piece of canvas in the cupboard of my studio.
Recently, I have taken a more intuitive and personal approach to my painting. I retrieved what was left of the painting and decided to complete it. I moved the image of my dog to the right side with him looking over us as he always did. I painted a self-portrait in the centre shard, since this painting is really about me; and painted an image of our family home over the roots of the existing tree. The sky above the house turns from sunny to menacing, shards of a broken mirror fall to the left of me, completing the circular composition. It is strange to try and remember how I felt at that time and how my life is so different now. It has been extremely therapeutic completing this painting!

17 comments:

Kathy Hebert said...

Hi Dianne:
It really touched my heart to read this blog and to see you painting. You are such a skilled artist and such an articulate writer as well. It takes a lot of courage to look at our own lives and I think it takes even more courage to paint and write about them. You continue to be my inspiration. Thank-you, Diane.

Dianne McNaughton said...

Dear Kathy, thanks so much for your kind words. When I started this painting, courage completely failed me, I think I was feeling too raw, it felt like I was having a nervous breakdown on the canvas!
I was only able to finish it, once the healing was done!
I think it is so important to paint about what we feel strongly about, it hopefully gives us a unique voice.

Kim said...

Dianne, your post has really touched me so much. I feel as though I can point to a time in my life when these kinds of things have gone on, as well. I know the feeling of painting something which holds a deep meaning and the emotions of not being able to even look at what you have painted for years. Painting my way through these incredible events live presents to us helps us grow stronger than we can imagine. Being able to turn and look our issues in the face builds strength, but when we can creatively express these while they are happening that strength increases profoundly.

I have to say I absolutely love this painting. I could never paint this way, but the incredible meaning behind it brings forth a gush of memories and emotion. This is beauty in a way just any landscape could not be. You are this painting.

Great Post! Thank you for sharing this part of you.

WILSONART said...

Hi Diane,,
A wonderfully rendered painting!
(you do beautiful realism too, I see)
Oh, the empty nest syndrome,,,and changing nests too,,,that's a hard one,,,throw in losing your dog,,,,,,breakdown on the canvas!

So glad you have been able to take these situations and turn them into the positive,,, something not so easy to do.
Congrats!

Dianne McNaughton said...

Dear Kim, thanks for your wonderful insightful comments! Recently completing this painting, even though my painting style has changed since I first worked on it, was incredibly cathartic. I think powerful paintings can eventually come from painting what touches us at our very core. I am much stronger now and think I can handle delving into my subconscious.

Dianne McNaughton said...

Hi Babs, yes, this project was extremely difficult to complete at the time. I used to paint in this style, at the time of the workshop and so felt to make it authentic, I needed to continue in the realistic style until it was finished. I now prefer abstracting my images. I just felt I would like to share the process with you all.

Carol said...

Di this is a magnificent painting! So real you feel that you want to stroke the dog and talk to the people! How long have you been painting? I think that this is a very special time in our lives, (once we have come to terms with the empty nest syndrome) when we can become closer to our partners, (those of us lucky enough to still be together) and explore ourselves as we never had the time before. Life is so short and there is just so much still to be done.

Dianne McNaughton said...

Hi Carol, I have been painting for about 15 years. Are you still going to Margie for lessons? She taught me so much regarding technique in oil and watercolour. Yes, I am now enjoying being part of a couple again, we have been married for 30 years and are the best of friends! I can now spend the time developing my creative pursuits and am really enjoying myself.

Carol said...

Yes, Still with Margie. I have been with her for the whole year now and have learned just so much! It has been a year of growing and changing in unimaginable ways. Next year I must spend more time in my studio putting into practice everything that I have learned.

Sharon Wright said...

You really set yourself a task, Dianne, but the result is well worth the effort, it is a beautiful painting. I admire your ability to take so complex, personal and emotional a subject and create a universally appealing image. Magic!

Dianne McNaughton said...

Hi Sharon,
Thanks for the comments - you are the master of portraits - I enjoyed painting the self portrait, using a mirror and think I will have another go at that. I used photo's of my husband and children for their images. I don't want to paint so realistically, but am not sure how to abstract a face. My big problem is little brushes, if I have them, I fiddle and put in all the detail!

Carolann said...

I don't know what to say about your painting except that it made me cry... I had a house much like yours, a german shepherd and children,,, now sadly since my divorce it's all shattered and just a memory. Positively I have put my life togeher in a new life but your painting stirred up my emotions. Happily your life is not shattered you still have a lovely husband and even if the nest is empty the family unit is still strong. I love this work.

Dianne McNaughton said...

Oh Carolann, you made me cry ... I am so sorry to have dredged up all those memories for you. It must have been a nightmare to have your life so completely shattered. You are obviously very strong to have created a new life for yourself, I see you have recently completed a Fine Arts degree ... I am full of admiration and in awe of your achievement! I think you mentioned in your tagging that you have three wonderful children who have grown into successful adults, they are living in the UK with you and hopefully you have regular contact with them. My children live in a different hemisphere and I miss them dreadfully. I am trying to live in "the moment" or in the present and appreciate what each day brings. This is not easy for a worrier, who is usually fretting over what has gone or what might be! I see my art as a meditative and cathartic process.

Carolann said...

I know we have to count our blessings. I don't see as much of them as I would like to. Still I try to stay in contact by phone and text. It must be difficult for you as they are so far away, and you don't get to see your grandchildren regularly. Especially as both of them are here. A good excuse for trips to the UK though.

sukipoet said...

Everyone has said it all I think. This is a beautiful story. I have never heard anyone tell of being so moved by a painting they were unable to finish. How wonderful you brought it out again, after some distance of time, and reworked the images. It is beautiful. And the process speaks so strongly about the healing power of art.

Dianne McNaughton said...

Hi Suki, thanks so much for your comments. Yes, the healing power of art is very strong, we are so lucky we can express ourselves visually. Sharon Wright writes in her blog about loosing a son 20 years ago and she has recently painted him from some photo's. She describes the healing process and says she can now look at his photo's without getting choked up.
See her blog in my blog list.

Tereza said...

Dear Dianne
You wrote this section of your blog some time ago. Today is 6-04-10 and it has touched my heart to.

How lucky you are to have just met Judith Mason let alone haveing had an art class with her. She has been a star in my sky for many years. I would love to meet her!
Tz