The story behind the painting . . .
The day after my daughters announced to her Dad and me that she had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, I knew that I needed to free myself from my ever increasing gray depressed thoughts. Creating a challenging painting would help keep the hopelessness from creeping into my mind. I went through my photography file and selected a photo that I felt would be a good challenge. I clipped it to my easel to look at while I cleaned out my work area. This photo stirred the creative spirit in me. I knew working on this painting would keep my thoughts from escalating into crippling hopelessness.
The photograph I chose was taken in Raymond, Maine, where my group of walking friends and I had been invited to hike the trails on land belonging to a woman who was a heart transplant recipient. As I looked at the woodland photograph, memory brought me back to the day of that walk. It had been an early spring day. The air had felt crisp as I inhaled the spicy earthy scent. It was quiet in the woods except for the crunch of ice crystals still very present beneath the shelter of the half decomposed leaves under my feet. How quiet the woods had been. Nature was still asleep, surrounded by a cloak of depressed gray.
On a new piece of drawing paper clipped to my easel, I started the preliminary drawing. Soon I was transferring the sketch to a prepared 18 x 24 canvas.
As I mixed paint in colors of gray, Prussian blue and purples, my thoughts were of my daughter and the struggles she would be facing. The colors were somber, bluish grays and grayish lavenders, exactly the way I was feeling.
I said a prayer asking God to help our daughter during this time, to walk with her and to lift her when her days were extra hard and challenging.
The doctors began a challenging and vigorous chemotherapy treatment. After several months of the harsh treatments, Shalimar’s body could no longer tolerate the invasion. The doctors had to develop a less difficult treatment plan for her, which allowed her to function and teach at least part of the school day.
My painting palette was covered in solemn hues. Dark imposing trees appearing on my canvas like phantoms in the gloom.
I prayed to God, asking him to fill my daughter’s mind with positive thoughts and to keep her husband strong so that he could fill her quiet moments with cheerfulness and optimism. I asked God to send only positive thoughts to me. I didn’t want my daughter to ever see me in a hopeless state of mind.
As my daughter and her husband struggled with this disease, the support from everyone was heartwarming. There was a steady stream of cards with prayers and encouragement. Packages arrived containing pretty colorful hats to cover her thinning hair. Students organized benefits to raise money to help pay the mounting medical bills. Colleagues, friends and family donated items for auction. The Red Barn Restaurant, in their community, held a benefit dinner donating a generous part of the take to help with mounting medical expenses. It warmed my heart to see how much our daughter was loved. It was indeed humbling.
A bit of ochre, cadmium yellow and pale blue found their way to the surface of my palette. My paint brush applied a soft light to the horizon line of the sky in the background, pale blues in the upper areas of the sky.
After many months of medical therapy, our daughter was close to the end of her chemo treatments. With tears in my eyes, I thanked God every day for His constant presence in our lives.
The little path in the painting, that had started out with so many roots, stones and fallen branches was becoming smoother. The sky, at the crest of the path, had changed to a golden glow inviting the viewer into the picture. That same rich warm color found its way to where the sun was casting its rays.
My painting was now bright with warm yellows, golds, sparkling greens and burnt umbers! Little puddles in the path reflected the soft blue and yellow of the sky! The puddles were reminders of the tears that rolled down my cheeks whenever I thought of our daughter and this horrible disease.
I propped the painting up in the living room where I could study it. Then take it back to my studio to adjust colors and tweak here and there.
I felt there was something missing in the painting.
I picked up my brush and played with color. The color of lavender appeared on my pallet. The color was just a bit darker than the forest shrubbery in the depth of the painting. As my brush played on the canvas, a solitary silhouette of a doe developed within the quiet distance in the painting.
As I continued to work on the painting, an abundant radiant peace filled me. I soon realized that the golden glow in the painting is God. I know that the small delicate doe, in the painting, is my daughter. Sometimes, when I look at the painting I wonder how I was able to produce such an inspired piece. Yes, I held the brush that created this painting but I know without a doubt, that God guided my hand. He also held my daughter and our family close in his embrace during a year full of stress, doubt and fear, giving us hope.
Anita F. Poulin - Copyright 2017