This is my second painting in the Ecclesiastes 3 series, to everything there is a season. I have been a portrait artist for years and love the human expression. Driven by a desire to push myself past faces, I started thinking about doing a series of paintings on hands. Then I thought maybe hands and feet, and I came to the conclusion that I just wanted to be able to paint expressive emotion without the aid of facial expression. So I had all these possible ides running around in my head, day and night. especially at night. I tend to do all my best thinking just before I go off to sleep. After the process of painting “A Time to Mourn” the series was set in my mind. But this painting was of the full body and was a dancer. So then I’m asking myself questions like, if this one is of a dance, does the whole series need to be represented in dance? Do I use the whole body in all the paintings: Or can I still go with just hands, or hands and feet? So many conflicting ideas overwhelmed my thoughts. Then the answer came to me.
In December of last year when my sister was passing away, I sat in the room with her holding her hand, as she was taking, what I knew were some of, her last breaths, I looked down at my hands holding and caressing hers. The artist in me wanted to capture this moment forever with a photo of our hands touching for the last time this side of heaven.The rational side of me, how ever, talked me out of it saying that it would be crass and insensitive of me. For several months afterword I mourned that decision, as my sister and I were so very close and her hands and my hands worked along side each other so many times. She was like an extension of me and I of her.
One day as I sat visiting a friend who had just recently lost a dear life long friend, she was expressing her feelings as she and another friend sat saying their last goodbyes to their failing friend. She looked at me and said, I have something I want you to see. She then opened photos on her phone and showed me this beautiful photo of the three friends holding hands. She expressed to me how she had apprehensions about taking the photo, and had almost talked herself out of it, but her other friend encouraged her to go ahead and take it. As I looked down on this photo, I was taken back to that precious unforgettable moment with my beloved sister. I instantly asked permission to paint this photo, and was graciously granted permission, with my friend saying, “Maybe it was meant to be shown to you!” And I think she was right.
So I started with a sketch up. I changed the angle of the hand on the left as I felt it was leading the eye off the page coming in directly from the left. instead I angled it from the bottom left corner to lead the eye in to exactly where I wanted it to land. I also enlarged the drawing to fit the size of canvas I wanted to use. I did a little shading with my pencil to give myself indications of shape and values needed. I then started by blocking in the sheets and hand furthest underneath it all, working myself to the top hand.
working in acrylics has always given me a challenge full of frustration. It dries so quickly and just doesn’t give me the time I need the for subtle blending needed to paint skin the way I would like. I admit I am a blend-o-maniac! There I said it! Another frustration that was getting the better of me was that acrylics tend to dry darker then the wet paint. sometimes 2 or 3 shades darker. Usually I would be able to press on through and get it done anyway, but this year has been rough when it comes to how much patience and to be honest how much energy and even desire to paint. So any frustration at all will shut me down in minutes. So again progress on this painting stopped for about a month.
I know it’s normal, as I am grieving, to be frustrated and lose focus easily, but it is also very stressful. I have the creative ideas constantly flooding my mind and I need to be able to express them or I kinds get a little crazy. It’s like therapy to me to paint through my pain and emotions. Anyway, I started entertaining the thought of trying to paint with oils again. I had stopped because the fumes would trigger my migraines, and nobody can be creative with a migraine, right? So i did a bunch of research and purchased oil paints with just pigment and oil, and got an odorless solvent which I use very sparingly. I was so blessed to find that they did not trigger migraines and the blend like butter. I am In love!
Once I started painting with the oils I felt like a bird set free from her cage. These paints are wonderful. I am in blend heaven. And I can paint for days with the same pile of paints before they dry up on me. This is going to take me a while to get used to as the canvas stays wet for days too. But this is both good and bad. Good because I can continue to blend and get those subtle blends I want, but bad because I can still blend and get those blends I don’t want! LOL!
Back to the painting itself. In the photo my friend is wearing a silver bracelet that she wears all the time as it is very special to her. I really wanted to get that bracelet into the painting. But as I started blocking it in I realized that my eye was being constantly drawn to the bracelet more then to the hands clasping, where I wanted the attention to be. So I made the hard decision for the sake of the composition to remove it.
Once that decision was executed and the arm was finished being painted, I went over my darks with a couple layers of glaze to deepen the wrinkle, in the hands as well as the sheets. added a few age spots, and glazed in some red to the arthritic joins in the main hand. Showing the painting to my friend who took the photo she says “I love the painting but it makes me cry every time I see it.” This is the highest complement ever! and I have to agree, it makes me cry too from my own precious Last goodbye with my sister. But it’s not the ugly cry that it used to be, it is the cry of being blessed by a women I will never fully let go of!
“Last Goodbye” From the Ecc.3 series
14″x18″ oils on canvas