Thursday, 25 November 2010

Death is always one hair's breadth away

That is the title of this painting, which is a study for a larger painting I am starting. I am sharing it today to honour the passing of my cousin's husband, Colin Slee, who died peacefully early this morning. He was only 65 years old and only learned weeks ago that he had cancer, and now he is gone.

Death is always only one hair's breadth away. You or I could go at any time. On journeys with my Spirit teachers they have impressed this on me - think how fine a hair's breadth is , & Death can move his hand a fraction.. and take you. Just like that.
And then they told me to do this painting.

I am reading a wonderful book at the moment called 'Being with Dying' by Joan Halifax. She has worked with shamans from different indigenous cultures & runs a Zen Buddhist centre in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has 40 years experience of sitting with people who are dying. The book is very wise & full of buddhist meditations about death , & preparing for one's own , & caring for others. I find it a great help to think of death as something we can all be preparing for all through life . That great step on over the threshold into the mystery...

I know Colin's christian faith will have helped him & those with him prepare for death. There are so many paths.. but I think it behoves us to prepare. Old language seems the best here. And I thank Colin for all his life gave me.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Fir Trees Knew

Well here is another newly finished oil painting. I haven't mentioned sizes - this one, and 2 others called "Hedgerow Song" & "What the Hawthorn told me " which I posted earlier, are 20'' x 16'', and they all go round the deep edges of the canvas, too. Its becoming a series..

Each one starts from being in a specific place on this land. I go to a place that seems to pull at me, and I take a canvas & a pencil, & I draw particular shapes I see there. I love this part of the process, its like a dance. It requires really looking , & reproducing what I see carefully, & yet it requires care-freeness too, the feeling of dancing with the many Spirits of that place. I have to lose control to allow the dance in, but if I am just slapdash, I will lose the tautness of the line, the specific beauty of what I am recording. There is a lot I don't know yet about the craft of drawing, but using it for this particular purpose is both a discipline and a playing.

This painting started early last summer - this drawing stage usually doesn't take very long - an hour or so perhaps. I knew the painting required lots of dark tones out of which the brighter, richer ones would spring. But when I had painted a 1st layer across the canvas - a long slow process - it just didn't work, didn't come together at all. All that mixing of colours, matching of tones - now what ?

Well, as often happens with paintings , it sat in the studio for months, troubling me. Until sometime last month I realised that something, someone, had whispered in my ear what to do next. When I moved the painting round 90 degrees I saw how to continue it, and after a relatively small amount of further work.. there it was complete .

The Place that called it into being is where big fir trees stand at the edge of a field, where the land drops into a cwm. When I look at the painting now I remember how the needly branches catch the light & dance in the wind.
I had fun photographing this painting both outside and in the studio, so here are 2 pictures of it.