One of my art teachers once said that there were only a few themes in art and life; birth, death, metamorphosis, love and a few others that I’ve forgotten. Some artists are drawn to one particular theme and some to another; by deep awareness we each discover the themes that to us are recurring and meaningful.
I dream a lot at night. In a majority of these dreams I am flying, dancing on air, leaping over buildings, having great joy in my body. Floating. Traveling. I am always me; never a bird or Wonder Woman, but I can always fly and while it is thrilling and dangerous I have trust that I will not fall. So it is an act of courage, this flying as well as an act of showing off, for in most of these dreams I think I am doing something special and that people are watching with approval. I suppose that is the child in me that still delights in pleasing others and basking in the limelight.
One of the recurring themes in my paintings is of a lone woman in the act of flight. I have portrayed this activity in various ways. The painting I just finished is one of these in which I am traveling with intention; I have my little boat and I am charting a course for myself by watching for signs and heeding my intuition. This is how I see my life nowadays. I am wide awake and charting a course of my own choosing. I am no longer young and confused.
This painting is on canvas, mixed-media; acrylic, alkyd, encaustic, and collage. After I finished it I remembered an etching I did of a similar subject about 27 years ago. I searched my drawers and found the etching (a drypoint, really, with aquatint etched in) and I will share it. Someone recently called my "style" magic realism. I dont like labels in art as each painting is so individual an exploration, but I think this one is suitable because it recalls one of my favorite authors, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who has always been referred to as a magic realist. The etching now strikes me as the work of a very young artist but I think it is interesting how it fortells the painting I just completed.
I think I may have done this etching in 1977 or 78 and it was only the second one I'd done at that time. I wanted to write a story then of a woman who danced into a rainbow and create a handmade book of etchings to illustrate the story but I never got beyond the first two illustrations. After that I learned how to make etchings in color with multiple plates and turned to a more painterly style.
To sum up: life themes. What is your recurring dream? Or daydream. What do you doodle while you talk on the phone? Where does your mind go while you are pulling weeds or washing dishes? These are the seeds that your imagination can turn into art, be it storytelling, song or pictoral. Save them up and nurture them. You have a story that only you can tell. It is a powerful thing and it will change you and the world.