I am sitting here with my cup of coffee this morning pondering a very large painting that I just completed. It is only the second time in all these years of being an artist that I have painted a piece this large – 4′ x 8′ – which is still the largest size I have painted to date.
But size was not the only challenge to this undertaking.
It was commissioned by a couple who asked me to “tell their story” – visually. This story includes beauty, but also a lot of pain. And among that pain is the death of their oldest son.
I was honored – yet humbled.
I was confident – yet riddled with doubt.
There is a lot of responsibility that comes with a commission such as this. Obviously there has to be a strong visual appeal because the viewer could possibly know nothing of the story it contains and sees it only in relation to color, form and composition. It must stand on its own as a painting. But most importantly, the story has to be treated with great respect and accuracy as far as the facts AND the emotions.
It was a daunting task, but one I accepted by faith knowing I would be given all that was needed to complete such a challenge. But maybe I hoped that, by faith, I would pray and all things would fall into place in a very fluid sort of way.
I did pray. I did receive. But not as “painlessly” as I would have hoped. The choice of elements and their composition was an enormous challenge. The air conditioning went out in the studio for two weeks during high 90° weather. I developed some sort of stomach bug during the last week and my body was in great pain due to the weight of responsibility involved and the long days and long hours.
But I knew without a doubt that all of this “discomfort” was an important part of the process for this particular painting – and I was able to rest in it. I somewhat “embraced” it. I was confident that these discomforts were necessary as I painted through the pains of someone else’s story.
This could seem so dismal at this point if you believe that’s where it ends. If I believe their story ended with death, pain and misery, I couldn’t accept the commission to paint such a “hopeless” image.
Therein lies the answer. This story is not without hope.
Because of hope – real hope – I can paint of such pain.
Pain is a part of the story – NOT the end of the story.
I feel it a great privilege to be trusted with something so “near and dear” as a story – that someone would even allow me to handle with great care those raw and tender places in their soul.
Yes, I did have to step into the dark places…….only so I could reveal the light.