The ballerina and I are alike. She didn’t know she could dance and I didn’t know I could paint.
The ballerina was badly hurt and traumatized as a young child in a car accident. In the next few months she began imagining herself as dancing. The images quelled her fears and pain as she grew up.
She never danced for real when she was young, only in her imagination. Then one day in her 20’s she got up and began a most beautiful and skilled dance as expert as the ballerina she imagined in her mind all those years.
When I was a child I imagined myself drawing and painting, especially when I felt sad. I tried to draw for real a few times but my fingers would not replicate what my imagination created. Besides, my sister Julie was the artist in the family. My sister Lynn was the creative sewer. I was the straight A student and for sure not the artist.
At 18 I left home to marry Bruce. By then I no longer painted in my head for my world was adventurous and filled with peace and love. Eventually I forgot about the mind paintings I did.
I tried on and off to draw with my own children but again I had no skill. Yet I had this sense that something was missing in my life, as if a part of me was wanting to blossom.
One day in 2002 my granddaughter Kaylee asked me to draw with her. We got out paper and crayons and surprisingly I drew a rock that looked like a rock.
I was so amazed. I called to my husband, “Bruce, look, I drew a rock.”
That day was the beginning of my drawing and painting, at first simple and then more complex pieces of art. Looking back I think the artist in me that helped me create beauty as a child knew it was time to open the door of creativity.
I like to think the art spirit that lives in all artists was protecting me for my life was about to change.
Over the next two years I drew and painted 1000’s of pieces. I tried pastels, melted crayons, charcoal, colored pencils and acrylics. The first ones were childlike and innocent.
I particularly liked drawing faces for the eyes seemed to tell me stories of the beauty of the soul.
I painted on any flat surface I could find including my kitchen counters. My sons kept their cars away from me!
Every night after work I drew and painted, sometimes 20 a week. I sketched at work too, the doodles a counterpoint to the sad stories I heard and saw working in Child Protective Services.
2004 AND 2005 – MY WORLD SHIFTED How do I accurately describe those two years? I never knew such unexpected loss and such love at the same time.
And this takes us to the story of the Four Paintings that Healed Broken Hearts
In the matter of nine months my home had burned to the ground and my husband Bruce was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. He would die at home on April 21 2005, his family surrounding him.
Though 800 of my paintings were physical destroyed by the fire, the spirit of art was a lifeline of color and light during that time for both Bruce and me. We would share ideas and thoughts as I painted of hope, of our love and of the world in the “land of after loss.”
We lived in a tent the first nine months as we cleared the land and began to rebuild. All of my art supplies were gone so I drew mostly with pencil and pen on lined paper.
I had one canvas that had been at my workplace so I brought it home and propped it up in the grass by our tent.
I began to paint the gray and dark colors of anger and loss. Then I began layers of color upon color of hope. The more color I added the stronger I felt. I remember thinking I could handle anything.
Bruce enjoyed sitting with me as I painted, talking and smiling at my joyous intensity and paint smeared clothes. I treasured having him close by, the summer sun on his face. It was a time of transition and togetherness.
I finished the painting the day before Bruce was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Looking at it again I am reminded how it spoke to us of the beauty that surrounded us, even when we did not see it. It was there, it always was and it always would be. We would need that sense of peace and beauty in the coming months.
Our sons had returned home on and off for weeks as we cleared the land after the house burned. When their dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor they took more time off from their jobs to quickly build a home for us. We could not live in a tent in the winter!
They took turns with their wives and families to stay with us over the next nine months. I have written of that time elsewhere on this blog and shared pictures of our very basic shelter. It was filled with more love than things.
I did have a few art supplies so once again I began painting and drawing our emotions and fears, our hopes and love. Together we found comfort and strength to deal with the surreal world of Bruce having a brain tumor. I painted the strength we created together.
I would paint late at night near Bruce as he lay in bed, especially in his last few weeks with us. He liked to watch me and talk with me about the wonder of life. His words became woven into what I painted. We talked about the love we shared and how our love would exist through our children and their children.
Those evenings in early spring of 2005 were a world of our own where love would always be so I painted that world where loves always is.
This was the last painting we did together, Bruce talking and me painting. He said he wanted everyone to know they were not alone, not ever. They are surrounded by love.
Bruce talked about dying as everything he could have hoped for as was living. He told me he would be the warmth on my back and he would be there waiting for me by the ocean.
I listened and I painted us by the ocean at Sunset Bay, weaving his spirit into the painting. Bruce smiled and said there he was with me.
He looked at the painting many times during the next few days as he gently slipped away. The painting healed us both, allowing us to create an image of “after.”
I cherish the paintings we did together. After Bruce died those paintings reminded me daily of the power of imagination of his spirit.
Art continues to provide me with a way to create joy and connection to a world of wonder. Art fills my home and fills my heart.
(c)shaun brink 2015
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People have asked to purchase my paintings and some are for sale as well as posters and prints.Posters and prints are available here