Tonight I lovingly packaged up my most recent commissions for two very dear blogging friends Tori and Imelda. I am learning rather quickly that it is impossible to know in advance how long, exactly, it will take to paint a portrait. Every painting I have ever done has always been a new experience. And this was no exception when it came to painting portraits of Adeline (top left) and Trixie (bottom right).
I am still amazed by how much emotion I can have for a dog by the time I am done painting it. I suppose if you look at something long enough, you can walk away with a greater familiarity of it, no matter what it is. But it's hard to explain. It's something more than that. I am sitting here right now struggling with words to explain what I mean...and finding it impossible. Something extraordinary happens when I paint dogs. It is an intuition, an understanding, a unexplainable connection. All I know is that I am grateful that this happens because, somehow, it feels very much like a gift.
As I worked on Adeline's portrait what I felt was an absolute, pure, complete trust. I can tell that she loves her people with her entire being. You know that feeling of loving someone so much that you can barely stand it? That feeling of wanting to be close, so close that you can never get close enough? In painting Adeline's portrait, it seems to me that she has given her whole heart to Tori and B. and they have given their whole hearts to her. I mean, really, how many hours did I work on her painting, feeling that powerful love the entire time? Do you see why this work fills me so completely?
In painting both Adeline and Trixie, what I saw (or rather, felt) was the great amount of love that they hold for their human companions. Trixie (Imelda's dog), has sadly passed away. Still, I could feel her life stretching right past the canvas and into our living, breathing world. Funny how that love and energy doesn't go away--even after one dies. I smiled often while painting Trixie's portrait--mostly because of the goofy little grin she had on her face, but also because I could sense her body just barely able to control her eagerness for love. Several years ago, my dog Abe passed away. If one could ever have a soul-dog, then he was mine. He was what one might call my familiar. When he died my whole world just sort of fell out from under me. He might have been "just a dog," but to me he was much more than that and his loss was the most devastating experience of my life. Adopting Louie has helped to heal my heart in a hundred thousand ways. I was even starting to forget that tender spot in my heart. That is, until I started painting Trixie's and Adeline's portrait.
The thing that blows me away is how everything in my life has brought me to this work. I have struggled often these past couple months in maintaining a belief in myself that is strong enough to get me past this time of "in between." That is, this time between stretching myself too thin between both work and painting...this time before taking the necessary next step into full-time artistville. There have been many days when I was the only person that actively believed in myself (or at least that's how it felt). There have been days when even that belief became dangerously nonexistent. If I wanted to play it safe I suppose I could get a job with benefits and a steady pay-check, but then I pick up my paint brushes and am filled with such...aliveness.
What would it take for me to believe that this work will take care of me? What would it take for me to have greater faith that my heart knows the most financially/ emotionally/ mentally/ spiritually/ physically satisfying path? And what would happen if I allowed myself to feel as connected to me as I do the subjects I paint?