How My Paintbrush Told Me About Me (or, my love affair with yellow flowers)

I have a thing for yellow flowers.  In paint.

In real life, I don’t care what colour the flower is, I’ll love it anyway.  My gardens have been home to yellow flowers, orange flowers, white flowers, and even purple or blue or pink or red.  I love them, all of them, big or small.  Doesn’t matter.

But when it comes to painting, I like to work with yellow flowers.  I’m not sure if it’s because it’s a fantastic jumping point: I can work in oranges, reds, whites and browns, and even hints of green.  It could be that it’s more masculine than purple or pink and hence I feel less guarded over the fact that I am painting flowers and not tractors.

When I was first trying to swoon Steph, I painted her two sunflowers – one in acrylic, one in watercolour – and mailed them to her, as she lived in Ottawa and I lived in Toronto.  It must’ve worked, along with the many other yellow flowers I’ve painted for her over the years.  I still remember painting the watercolour sunflower for her … I was sitting in the laundromat, with my bottle of water and little watercolour kit.  It was the first time I was really giving watercolours a go.  This strange lady – I think she was cleaning the laundromat – kept coming over to see what I was doing and would comment on the progress.  But it didn’t matter – I was having too much fun with the yellow flower.

Now I find myself, five and a half years later, still painting yellow flowers.  They brighten our hallways and continuously challenge me as an artist.  This is my latest Yellow Flower painting.

I painted it tonight without any plans or images in my head, which is unusual for me.  I usually have a sense of what I’ll be doing before I grab a brush.  About two weekends ago, Steph and I attacked Michael’s (the art store) with a vengeance … I found, among tons of other things, some little bottles of crackle paint on major sale.  I decided to pick up two bottles to experiment with.  Using an old student’s canvass (the kid never returned to art class so it was a half-finished painting! I swear it was okay that I repainted it) I covered it in two coats of a teal crackle.  The plan: to paint an awesome owl on it.  Then it sat for two weeks.

I wasn’t inspired by the thought of an owl tonight, but the canvass was calling out to me.  “Paint me!  You’ll feel better if y

ou do!”  So I did.  I looked at my paint bottles and grabbed the yellow and white, and started mixing on the canvass as I normally do.  Suddenly, the yellow flower started to emerge.

Only this time, it was darker.  No matter how much I tried to brighten it, it didn’t want to be.  It wanted to stay dim.  So I went with it.  I didn’t pay much attention to the form – I mean, I followed what made sense to my eye, but in the moment I was painting, not analyzing the shape of the flower.  Only after looking back on the many layers of paint and colours did something jump out at me.

It was autobiographical.  This doesn’t often happen to me when I paint, but there it was: the state of my soul, in the form of a sad yellow flower on a crackled background.  Now I’m about to get all psych-artsy on you so stop reading if you think I’m nuts.

The flower is tilted.  One side is more crisp, while the lower side is blurred.  The petals farthest from your eyes are dark – brown.  The petals closest are bright.  The light reflects in white and suggests hope.  The truth is, my life has been feeling unbalanced as of late, with so much of my time dedicated to driving to and fro.  I’m hopeful that there is balance on the horizon.  I know that I am safe in my job for next year, though I yearn to be closer to home.  I know that I am achieving success in many aspects of my life, yet I still feel some darkness when it comes to my innate happiness.  So this unbalanced, half-fuzzy, darkly-bright flower is the perfect reflection of the state of my soul.  It’s crazy, isn’t it, that a painting of a yellow flower can tell me so much about myself.

Am I ever glad I picked up that brush for the cracked canvass.  It was calling my name.


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