This painting started life very differently from the end result: I used brushes, as I always do, and was busily trying to replicate the magic of a bewitching landscape I captured in West Cork, earlier in the year.
Staying with a dear friend, we’d taken the children for a walk to the ‘fairy woods’ – a magical nature reserve where, over the years, the locals have made tiny fairy houses in amongst the trees, wedged into rocky outcrops, sheltered under low hanging branches, and tiny little doors attached to the bases of the trees themselves. It was a gloriously warm cloudless afternoon, unexpected for the time of year, and the girls ran along the path, from house to house, exclaiming with delight over the details of each discovery.
The path meandered along the banks of a body of water which whilst utterly still was positively flinging the energising light, and stunning spring colours of its surroundings, back at us in a perfect reflection. I look a photo and determined to do it justice on my return home.
Months later, after starting and stopping and trying again, each time travelling further from my intention and totally losing my way, I had left the canvas sitting on the easel, taunting me with its ineptitude, and my inability to bring to life what I could see so clearly in my mind. Its a perennial problem for me, I am still struggling to reconcile this and find a way to envisage the actual end result from the beginning. Nothing ever matches the initial vision – for better or worse.
After a week in St Ives, I returned newly invigorated and inspired by some of the glorious art I’d seen there, and eager to get back to my own work. I switched from brushes to a palette knife – very rare for me – and again, worked quickly, over a couple of afternoons. I think I was so displeased with where I had got to that I had lost all emotional attachment and attempts at control and just played. I loved it! Then I did a bit more and hated it again, then a bit more still and it seemed to come back round. Its so on-off its exhausting. But 2 weeks on and I’m still happy with it, and not a little surprised at how well it turned out.
I do wish that I found the process of creation easier, less stressful, less emotionally turbulent, but maybe I simply need to stop this desire to look into the future, to know exactly what I’m going to end up with – its clearly a control thing, linked to the ‘hyper vigilance’ that runs through every aspect of my life, even more so since my out of the blue, brutal reminder of my mortality.
Have a plan, perhaps, a loose outline or desire, but to acknowledge and then release it, remain aware if I need to but allow myself to enjoy the journey, to follow the path whatever its direction, to trust in the process and see where I end up.
Its exactly this wisdom that an acupuncture practitioner specialising in fertility issues shared with me, many years ago: “Water falls on the mountains and flows downhill to the sea. This much is certain and indisputable. But on that journey we never know which of many possible channels it will flow down, where it will be diverted around a rock, or fallen branches, or a host of other obstacles – both above and below the surface. The river cannot control the direction or speed of its flow, it just flows, from its start, to its end.”
Its stayed with me and seems to pop into my head again unbidden, just when I need it. Its a great source of comfort in my life, I’ve only just realised that I can apply exactly the same principle to my work.
Here’s to an era of increased open mindedness about and acceptance of my working process.