I started painting in 2010 because I stopped drinking. I literally had nothing to do after that, and I was afraid to go anywhere because I knew I’d just drink a bottle of vodka again and try to figure out what had happened the night before. I was so drained by the pattern. Consumed with self-hatred. I had been in therapy for about a year. The most painful part of thinking I could stop drinking on my own was every time (daily/ weekly) I was smashed again and felt that sinking dread that actually, I couldn’t.
I started painting for the same reason I started listening to The Cure. Because it was cool and I wanted to do that. I’d sit on my yoga mat smoking Marlboro lights with my Folk Art paints and tiny canvas boards, in a living nightmare because I can never hold myself to a standard that I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I can paint for two days of my life and compare it to Android Jones.
On a Saturday morning, Papa came over with donuts. He got me pink sprinkle donuts until I was 30, and he’d whisper “Don’t tell Grandma” because I would whisper that to him when I was little after she passed. She didn’t like us eating three donuts each.
He noticed a painting I had made.I told him the name of the canvas is Roi, Kalliope and Jasper, after my three guardian angels. “This is my guardian angel painting.” I said. Papa told me Roi was roman catholic, Kalliope was greek orthodox, and Jasper was Southern baptist. He got such a kick out of that.
The art looked like a 5 year old had made it but he carried on marveling about it as if it were a masterpiece. I asked him if he would like to have it, and he was so beside himself he got tears in his eyes and said of course. He framed it and put it up on his wall of fame downstairs. He was the first person to give my art a home. Not just any home.
The home of my spirit, that I have memorized by heart. It always had a warm peach glow, windmill cookies, snickers bars and orange crush, a stack of newspapers on the chair in the corner and a tiny chalkboard on the wall next to the army green phone on the wall. Where I’d get my own little bowl of popcorn from the microwave and feel incredibly grown up while we watched The Golden Girls before bedtime. The house had an apple tree, peach roses in the front every year (Grandma's favorite), a ceramic whale sponge holder on the sink and orange corduroy pillows.
Papa gave my painting a home with such love the same way he gave me the memories of his home. In a time when the future was impossible, he gave me a gift of a glimpse of who I might get to be, even though I didn’t recognize it at the time.
When Papa passed, while going through the house Ron came across the painting. What I typed in the paragraph above hit me all at once as he held the canvas out to me. “You should take this,” he said. I remember feeling so frozen. He sighed as if to understand and said “I will bring it home with me and hang it up there.” 5 years and 200 paintings I have started, finished, written out, boxed, shipped, and been paid for. Really I’ve made about 700 but learning how to price, ship and sell my art took a ton of self-work and courage. I have an art career. My art hangs in homes all over the world (weird to say, actually just occurred to me right now.)
Ron sent me the painting recently. I didn’t understand this. He simply said, “It is something you will want to have.” When I opened it I understood. The painting is a piece of not just Papa's house, but how far I have come, and the element of love, grace, and enthusiasm Papa gave to me when I was a long way from who I am now because that is what he saw and treated me as all along.
I made the decision to re-create the painting in the way that I paint now, using the same palette. Really all I paint is frequency to a visual format. I set the intent to create this work with all of the love, memories, grace, and gratitude that the love that Papa received this painting with.
The best thing about being an artist (well for me at least) is when someone else sees what I see and feels what I feel because they can see the feeling in what I have made. Now, I know you have had a hell of a year. This painting is for you. She is a physical reminder of the guardian angels that we share that I respect will resonate with you the way it does me. As the piece came together I was just laughing so much because you are so colorful. I remember vividly your childhood bedroom and how striking our similarities for our love of all things color, glitter, and sequins are. Much like this painting, you have always been one of the best reminders of my spirit and the way my Dad saw me because that is how your Dad sees you too.
Someone told me once that when I feel at my worst and the most afraid, all I have to do is remember who I am. I close my eyes, pray for the willingness to align, and think of Papa, Grandma, and my Dad. Our three guardian angels, Reno, Earlene, and Tommy. They can’t fix everything but they can remind you of the love that is always everywhere for you because it is you.
The edges are quite green but that is intentional, as the green carpet in Papa's living room can still illuminate my mind and make me smile.