* "I see Angels in the Architecture,
Spinning in Infinity...."
** "Paintings are like windows opening to the world," Pablo Picasso
New to Old, a matter of perception
Sr. Mary's Abbey in York, England presents itself as a shiny new surface on my painting "completed" years ago, but in reality, the Abbey itself is old and in ruins? How did this happen? Why did I paint the Abbey Church as if it were whole and new?
One evening my son, Rob, and I caught Rick Steve's Europe Travel show while waiting for another program. All of a sudden I shouted and pointed to the TV! "There it is! There's St. Mary's Abbey in York, England! It's a ruin, a skeleton of stones." Based on Emilie's photo, I thought it was an Abbey in operation today.
The Big Picture
I quickly retrieved my painting of St. Mary's Abbey and pondered it. Emilie had photographed the Abbey, standing near it. She took the shot straight up the building and tilted the camera on purpose, giving a mystic effect. Painting buildings definitely are "new" to me, with detail and straight (or not so straight) lines. St. Mary's Abbey is a big canvas, 24" x 30." A smaller surface is so much easier. My husband always tries to stretch my imagination and level of comfort zone by taking me out of the box and into a challenge. He does this by buying large canvases for me to tackle. He knows I will be on task.
This painting began to haunt me again. The perspective always looked jumbled and tumbled about. I set the art work on my easel and viewed it from a distance in the living room. I noticed the smooth appearance of the brush strokes, so different from the crumbling "off center" look of the rock ruins. Still the painted strokes called me to take a brush to it! Something I "never" do....
Old to New, a fresh coat of paint
One morning, the energy felt just right for painting. Painting energy is turned on right now (but not all the time). Picking up the correct window of inspiration for painting and creative play is fun and relaxing as well as a physical work out. I do a lot of walking around while I paint. A few Tai Chi warm ups and I am ready to go.
I select the frequency of the day, Chants of India. I hear healing tones, hums, and words in the music. Ravi Shankar plays the sitar.
Sasha the Cat stares carefully from her leopard blanketed chair. I am circling around the painting, preying, hunting, watching, waiting. I visualize finished effects of rough cut stone and subtle shadows. I want to keep the ethereal blue of the original intact. Stepping back for a distant view then stepping close for a brushstroke or palette knife scrape, I begin to carve in the new look, a painted makeover. How about a bit of facial tissue for softness as it wipes and blots across the surface of the fresh oil paint? How about a Q-Tip for a soft blended touch? I relish picking up my large ancient worn brush from college classes.
"I need another brush! A small chisel brush! Here it is!" A chisel brush paints fine lines as well as larger areas of paint.
With a palette knife I scrape blocks of rocky strokes across the once smooth painted surface of the original painting. The building ages in seconds. With nature's paintbrushes of wind and water, the process takes eons.
My husband joins to help. Like scientists, we study computer images of St. Mary's Abbey, the stones, the arches, the sparse statement of rock solid blocks interspersed with lace-like crumbling. We feel the energy of prayers and chants from the past. I have a few Lindor Truffle Candies during my study break. I am hypnotized by the images. I recall that when the original painting was done, there were no everyday home computers or mobile devices, and I had not yet practiced Tai Chi!
We work as a team! My husband helps me straighten a very crooked part of the building..."Paint it here! Put the line from this point to that one!" Together we work on the "hole in the wall image?" What is that? We even put in a few stress fracture cracks.
It feels from the computer photos, that there may have been an angel, sculpted in relief near the mysterious dark spot. To my surprise, I had already sketched in the angel, wings and all, years ago. I enhanced her with sculpted brushstrokes rather than carved stone.
When I stepped back, to my surprise, a small figure had painted himself with outstretched arms walking along a ridge of stone in the middle left side of the painting!
Five hours I painted all at once! fFueled by chocolate and ambition, will power and adrenaline, "I quit, I like!" Knowing when to quit is the hardest part of painting. Overpainting and fretting will take the intrinsic life right out of color, line, and shade.
I sat in quiet rest and pride of accomplishment, practicing cool down Tai Chi routines. Time had slipped by so quickly, I was amazed at my stamina. Usually two hours are my limit for painting and often shorter than that. After this session I wasn't even sore or stiff! ***Tai Chi practice helps me to feel better building greater flexibility and range of motion over time. I am much stronger and more flexible today than yesteryear. I smile to realize Tai Chi is a means of social support. I have a circle of positive friends now.
Journey to Forever
What have I learned? I pay more attention to the builder and the stone cutter. I feel a deeper process of vision to achievement. I will never look at edifices or ruins in the same way again! "All is process," my son, Rob reminds me. Yes, I plan to paint more large canvases.
Intent Leads Energy: A Sacred Journey of a Painting takes Another Step.
I hear a silent voice: "Paint Another One!"
** "As a child, Picasso learned to paint like an adult. As an adult he learned to paint [play] like a child," Rick Steves.
Tonal Vision, The Power of Music in our Lives (Jan 2011), Encounters with Michael, The Artist Meets the Archangel (Mar 2011), and Sacred Destination, Sacred Geometry (Sept 2012)
* Paul Simon, singer songwriter, Call Me Al
Chants of India by Ravi Shankar produced by George Harrison
** http://www.ricksteves.com Rick Steve's Europe on PBS. Quotes from Rick Steve's show about Montserrat, Picasso, and Salvador Dali. Take a tour with Rick, relax and learn, TV or online.
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres by Henry Adams. Published in 1910, take a pilgrimage into time, discover sacred sites. Thousands of free full text books and illustrations online at
*** The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi, Peter M. Wayne, Ph.D., with Mark L. Fuerst contains the chapter, Enhance Your Creativity with Tai Chi.
Visionary Artist, Author, and Tai Chi Instructor
Images by Dahlis:
St. Mary's Abbey, York, England, 4 photos:
Original painting (1994) smooth stones
Original painting, Angel in the Architecture
Re-painted rougher stone work (2013)
Close up, Angel and Walking Figure
Sasha the Cat, "contemplation"