Today I have been painting again. I had been feeling that perhaps I might not ever want to paint again, or at least, might not ever find joy in it again. A daunting prospect, given it’s such a huge part of who I am. I was afraid that it was another lost piece, gone forever.
My first memory of painting is as clear as though it happened yesterday. I was three, and it was my first morning at a local church playschool. I recall crying like I’d never done before as my mother bumped my younger sister up the wooden church hall steps in a blue silver cross pram.
But then there was a large wooden easel, with huge sheets of paper, bigger than I’d ever seen. Pots of thick poster paint – still now it brings the memory back instantly whenever I smell it. And brushes. One for each colour, wooden handles sticking out from brightness, waiting. For me. I remember the feeling of being lost in the sweep and flow of colour over the surface of the paper.
Painting has been enmeshed in the very fabric of my being ever since. It has been my joy, and a deep, constant meditation. When my brother died, I skipped lessons for nigh on 3 weeks, spending my time instead painting scenery for a school production. Loosing myself and my grief in the movement of colour. The sweep of the brush. Finding solace in solitude. When my father died, in the summer of my first year at Uni, I channeled my grief into my work. My degree show three years later was a summing up and letting go of so much of my tangled relationship with the man whose genes connect me to the Highland landscape that appears now so often in my work. When I finally un-boxed the loss of my oldest friend, somehow more than all the words I had written about him, it was painting that brought me through the emotional turmoil to a place of peace. Love and loss are tied into the fabric of my creative life, and I had not imagined that would ever change.
After my separation from my children’s father last year, I found it such a challenge to even think about picking up a paintbrush and creating a picture. It was as though the switch inside me had been turned off and I couldn’t work out how to turn it back on again. It has been a joy to rediscover that part of myself, when I was feeling that perhaps I might never paint again. I have always considered that the most precious gifts I have ever given have been paintings, and perhaps now recognizing that painting and the quiet meditation it brings is my gift to myself too. A way of untangling whatever muddled fibers of my life need straightening out and working through. Maybe even more so than writing, I see now that my art was in paint, long before it was in words, or in fabric. I was a painter before any of these other things, and it feels good to be able to express myself so once more. Like I am home again.
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