I had intended today to return to the full figure painting of my daughter, but as usual I got side tracked. Nothing horrible, but something I had intended to follow through on years ago. Six years ago on July 22, my Mother died. In the horrific three weeks that she spent in ICU, I passed the time by painting and drawing. I did a series of small, 5×7 paintings that I hung around her hospital bed. All of them painted with her in mind, two of them depicted the area in Southern California where I live, both inviting her to visit when she recovered, which of course she never did. There were two others, a get well card signed by all of us, my Dad, my three sisters, all of our husbands and her eight grandchildren. The other was a vase of sunflowers. I wanted something pretty for her to see when she woke. She did wake, but had sustained a brain injury, so our Mother, as we knew her, was gone. When she passed away and we were taking her things from the hospital, my Aunt Rita asked me if she could have the painting of the sunflowers. I said I would send it to her, I never did. I had intended to mail it as soon as I got home to California from Chicago, but I couldn’t send it. It was one of the last things I did for Mom, and I hoped that on some level she knew about it. I was recently messaging with my cousin Lorna. She has been wonderfully supportive of this artistic and self-searching journey I am on, she is also Rita’s daughter. It reminded me of that painting and I told Lorna I would send it to her Mother. Two of the other paintings are hanging in my studio, the get well card is framed at my Dad’s house. I have looked for the last several days for the sunflowers and I can’t find it. I know it was there, it has been for six years. Dan said that maybe I’m not supposed to give it away. So today instead of working on Jessica’s portrait I worked on something to send my Aunt Rita. Something pretty, something I hope she will like.
All of the above got me thinking about how often in my life I have taken refuge in my art. As I have pointed out in my earlier writing, in all the years I neglected myself I always did something creative. It has always been my lifeline. As a painfully shy child it was my companion. When my Dad has had surgery, and there have been a few open heart surgeries, I am at the hospital with my pad of paper, pencils and watercolors. I take those same items with me whenever I travel. I don’t sleep well away from home, and I will sit on the floor of a hotel bathroom, drawing in the middle of the night. When I had my last five knee surgeries (I know…you don’t have to say anything), I prepared for them by organizing my “art cart”. A three drawer plastic cart on wheels, each drawer filled with pencils, markers, paper, paints, and whatever else I can think of, all to fill my recovery time. Propped up on the couch, painkillers and ice close at hand, I ask my family to wheel over my supplies. I am never bored when I have something to create with, and I can create with just about anything. When my Mother died I came back to California and made a small piece of art dedicated to her. For me art is so much more than what you see on the paper, on the canvas, in the photo, or the sculpture. It is my lifesaver, my friend, my rock, my comfort. I am only sorry that it has taken me so long to appreciate the gift I have been given. And sorry too that it has taken me six years to fulfill a promise.