My 2013 Painting Story... To Paint or Not to Paint?

This may seem a little long, but please bare with me because I believe there is a message in this account of my 2013 painting story.

The Question
2013 was a year to remember. It began with a lack of inspiration to paint so I questioned if I was to continue creating art. For the first time in 10 years, I had no desire, no vision, no energy to paint. Creativity was at an ebb. Every time I tried, nothing worked. Life had become encumbered and demanding leaving me with very limited studio time and resulting in exhaustion and discouragement. Since I have always been an artist who paints from the heart, conveying emotion and feeling, these were major obstacles. I’ve always known my artistic talent, desire and painting ability were gifts from God and since the gifts were not flowing, there must be a reason. So, I asked myself, “Do I continue to paint or do I let it go?”

The Decision
I decided to let it go and stop fretting over it. I had no desire to paint if it was out of my own ability. I was at peace about letting go. I knew that if I was to continue, it would be in God’s timing. That He would give me the desire, ability, strength and the inspiration. So I decided to take a sabbatical from painting. I cleaned up my studio and put away all my paints, brushes and drop cloths. I needed to take time to be still, to focus my attention elsewhere. I needed to put God first. It was vital to get direction for what was next in my life and discover if painting was even to be in the equation. Art had been my life long desire but now I was faced with the question if that was what I was to continue doing.

I thought once I quit painting, it would be easy to focus but every time I desperately tried to set aside quiet time, it was consumed by daily demands. I continually found myself becoming frustrated and realized there was a need to set some boundaries in my life. It’s interesting, almost comical how, when you try to set your priorities in order, the universe seems to come against you with both barrels blazing.

Testing the Waters
April arrived with an unexpected email announcing the Town of Chapel Hill’s Juried Exhibitions Series for 2014. Since it had been a desire of mine to show in Chapel Hill and the exhibit was a year away, I decided to send in an entry. I guess you could say I was testing the waters. May came and went with no news and I had forgotten about the Chapel Hill entry application.

The end of June I received notice my artwork had been approved and I was scheduled to exhibit 15-20 paintings in Chapel Hill Nov. 2014 thru Jan. 2015. Wow! I had no idea they would want that many! A moment of panic struck but I took comfort in the fact that I had over a year to meet the requirement. After inventorying my paintings, I thought there were enough suitable ones on hand for the exhibit so I felt no pressure or urge to start painting again. I could remain on the sabbatical in the coasting mode for a while. At least this opportunity provided one of the first glimmers of hope that I may paint again. (Side Note: During the 2013 summer flooding of Chapel Hill, the Town Hall where I was to exhibit suffered extensive damage and is being totally renovated; therefore, the exhibition dates have been pushed back to 2015-2016 allowing even more time to complete new artwork.)

Dealing with priorities continued. The first week of August two paintings, AFTERNOON JOY and JOY UNLEASHED sold. The painting titles seemed significant since the sale certainly did bring joy along with a spark of encouragement.

Inspirations for new paintings still eluded me but I began to feel a nudging desire to get my studio prepared for painting again, so I did. I also purchased a daily art journal to try to stir up some creativity but before I could get the first journal entry done, an email arrived with an inquiry from California for a commissioned painting similar to my RIVER OF HOPE abstract. How significant is that? It was a river of hope that I needed to flow again to encourage me to paint and to see the titles and descriptions of my artwork bring a bit of encouragement to others once again. I could not help but believe God was directing my steps and reassuring me to move forward and resume painting.

The Commission
In the past, commissions have been a bit intimidating and scary for me. I have a tendency to put too much pressure and stress on myself which can sometimes hinder the creative freedom of painting. The commission was for a larger, custom size painting similar to RIVER OF HOPE. This offered a different type of challenge. I pushed past the anxious feelings and agreed to accept the job. I still had the original painting in the studio for referral purposes so that made it seem more doable. (Side note:  Most of my paintings have 20+ layers of texture and paint and there is no set formula or order of application. Each one takes its own direction as layers are applied producing different end results. Therefore, to recreate one that is similar in texture and color can be challenging.)

I explained the painting process to my client and promised I would try to get as close to the color and design of the original RIVER OF HOPE as possible, but there were no guarantees; meanwhile secretly hoping could measure up to the task. This was a new undertaking which I admit triggered a bit of excitement.  

The Journey
The client wanted the commissioned piece to arrive in time for Thanksgiving, so we immediately began moving forward. It took several weeks to process the details of invoicing, waiting for the deposit to arrive and clear, ordering the custom size canvas, texturizing materials, paints, etc. I was thankful Thanksgiving was falling on the last Thursday of November in 2013 instead of the next to last; this gave me an extra week to meet the desired delivery date.

Canvas and supplies finally arrived the first week of October leaving only seven weeks for the painting process and curing time. I immediately embarked on the journey of painting RIVER OF HOPE II. My abstracts normally take anywhere from 3 to 12 weeks to complete depending on the size and amount of layering and an additional 2 to 3 weeks is required for drying and curing especially if the painting has to be shipped. Weather can play a major factor in the process. If it’s rainy or very humid (we have a lot of high humidity in North Carolina), it can definitely affect and extend drying times. It is important for the paint, texture and sealant to cure properly so the finish will not be damaged during packing and shipping. With all that said, painting commenced and I began applying layers of texture and paint. It progressed at an amazingly rapid pace and quicker than expected making the requested pre-Thanksgiving delivery date more feasible. This in turn provided me with a much needed sense of accomplishment and encouragement. I was aware of God’s hand in the process.

Perfect Timing
Two weeks into the commissioned project I received an inquiry from a client in Massachusetts wanting to purchase the original RIVER OF HOPE abstract. Thankfully RIVER OF HOPE II was almost to the completion stage and for the most part finished except for a few final touches. WOW!!! Talk about perfect timing! If the MA client had wanted the original one a month or even two weeks earlier, I am not sure if I could have painted the commissioned one. To say the least, I was very encouraged and felt I was being inspired to paint again.

RIVER OF HOPE II commissioned painting on top and RIVER OF HOPE original abstract on bottom.

PEACEFUL WATERS original abstract on top and PEACEFUL WATERS II commissioned painting on bottom.

Giving Thanks
I am thankful I decided to take on the River of Hope 2 commission. It went extremely well and gave me a new level of confidence where commissions are concerned. That confidence led me to accept yet another commission request for the Wake Forest Baptist Health Cancer Center while I was still working on River of Hope 2. The Cancer Center commission was for a larger version of my Peaceful Waters abstract and was also due by Thanksgiving. The day River of Hope 2 was finished and set aside to cure, I started painting Peaceful Waters 2. I was thankful this one would be hand delivered and didn’t have to be shipped; therefore, the curing time allowance was not as crucial.

YAY! No, make that a DOUBLE YAY!!!  River of Hope 2 shipped and made it to California in plenty of time for Thanksgiving and the client was extremely pleased. Peaceful Waters 2 was completed and hand delivered the day before Thanksgiving to Village Smith Galleries in Winston-Salem. The gallery was responsible for framing it in a floating frame prior to installation at the Cancer Center the first part of December. WHEW! All deadlines were met. I admit I was amazed and never dreamed it would be possible—5 weeks from start to finish on River of Hope 2 and 2-1/2 weeks on Peaceful Waters 2. I reminded myself that with God all things are possible. Once again I could sense God’s hand throughout this whole process. 

An Answer
Yes! It was time to pick back up that dream I had so very long ago of being an artist.  And, yes, I believe I am to continue painting. So, as God enables me, I will do my best to be obedient to His calling.

The Message
After all three paintings were delivered, I had an overwhelming sense there was a message in the timing of these abstracts. One river of hope was in Massachusetts and the other in California with peaceful waters in between. So, there is now a River of Hope on both east and west coasts of the United States—from the rising of the sun to its setting. And…there is Peaceful Waters 2 in between.
I believe the symbolism in this message is for those who will choose to hear, believe and put their faith in Almighty God. I believe He is encouraging America to hold on to the River of Hope which flows continually from His throne of grace. It is by His grace and mercy that we live and breathe and by His grace and mercy that we are not consumed but can continue to have hope for our future. He is the One Who gives us peace in the midst of trials and turmoil. His love is unconditional and never ending. He is for us and not against us. So, look up! Put your trust and faith in God. He is the same yesterday, today and forever!  He will never leave us or forsake us. He loves us with an everlasting love and He will make a way where there seems to be no way. It is in Him that we have a River of Hope and through Him that we can dwell beside Peaceful Waters.