I’d love to know where she ended up. If she ended up anywhere. I’m sure I’ll find out Monday. Maybe no one would want her. But I believed that at least one person would. I had to believe it, or I would never succeed. She was such a joy to create. I was literally in another world when i made her. Especially her hair. I started drawing her two weeks ago today. It was Sunday. A sunny, cozy, Sunday. Her top and bottom half were drawn on two pieces of scrap paper, and attached at the hips.
Just to clarify… when I say draw, I mean draw, erase, draw, erase, erase, erase it all, draw erase some more, erase the whole thing, start over, almost finish, erase the entire face 14 more times, look at the clock, realize its 3:30am, draw it once more, and…. done. Well… as done as a person who makes art can feel. Basically, I knew I had a deadline and the pressure was on. In fact, she started as an entirely different painting, an entirely different girl, which I worked on all day Saturday, only to toss aside. That canvas now stands with the other misfits and orphans that lean against the studio wall, wondering if they will ever be loved again. They will.
But for now, I am focused on Brave Girl. She was still just a flimsy drawing, detailed with colored pencils, carefully cut out, sprayed with fixative and set to the side, while I began to create her ground… her world. Paint, glue, tissue, little scraps in my studio… Three canvases later, one milky blue, one awful pea green, and finally it started to emerge. The whole time I was trying to stay away from a Pink background for a few different reasons, but I eventually I gave in. Red, White, a little Titanium Buff, and off I went into her world. Layer after layer, more red, some orange, lots of yellow… a little purple. Cutting, gluing, drawing, gluing, painting… until the world was ready for her. She settled in perfectly, with some minor gluing drama…OK… it was a disaster. I am a mess with the glue. How do I get it in my hair?!! Luckily I was able to overcome the glue monster… I took a deep breath, followed the gluing protocol, and laid her in place. I knew she was home. Still bald, but home. I loved her. I didn’t “love my drawing”. My drawing skills are mediocre at best. A little shadowing and perspective I learned from Miss Mailette, but still drawing with the skill level of a first grader. No, I didn’t love the drawing. I just loved her. And it didn’t matter to me if anyone else did. It didn’t matter if she wasn’t perfect. She was loved.
During the week, I worked on her here and there. The circles of text and music were originally cut out to be hair. Crazy, quirky, pretty, bubble hair. I thought about leaving her bald… she was pretty that way. I do sometimes leave my girls bald, but she was going to have hair. I arranged the shapes in dozens of ways. The bubble hair wasn’t working for her though… I was trying too hard. And I hadn’t even thought about the flowers yet. There’s always flowers. I was running out of time. So I moved the bubbles of paper down to the bottom and i just said, heck, I’ll just make these into flowers.
The flowers emerged, different sizes and colors…nothing too crazy. I tend to get overly involved in detail, and I don’t really have time for that now. But in no way did that mean the flowers didn’t have to be right. I just had to work differently than I usually do. I had to just go with it. I groomed her flower garden for a few hours during the week. And then Saturday… my favorite day of the week since I was four (in my day you could only watch cartoons on Saturday).. this day I would now go back to her hair. No thinking, just grab your sh*t, fill the water and today we are going outside.
There’s nothing like working in a colorful, sunny studio surrounded by art supplies, furry friends and books. But working outside with the sunshine tops that by far. The morning light shows you colors you never saw before. I set up my easel and all my supplies, and got straight to work. The voice of my nerves tried to creep out of my brush. Your running out of time. Tick Tock. You only have two days. What if you ruin it? You don’t know what you’re doing. What if you can’t finish it. You should start over. This is cr*p.
“Shut up”, I told the voice. So I just sat there and got to work. I played with the flowers, mushed colors around in the background. I was still procrastinating a bit, not sure what her hair was to look like… the hair is important. I started to sketch around her face in yellow chalk. A little curly, a little stringy, down pasted her waist.
I sat, I listened, I looked, tilted my head. Nope, that’s not it. Listened some more. And then the wind came out of nowhere. It was probably there all morning, and I just hadn’t noticed it, but when the wind blows in my yard the trees make some serious noise. I am certain it would register on my husbands trusty decibel meter. I stared at the painting, I looked up at the trees for a while, closed my eyes, then I saw her hair blow. This would be her hair. The hair that evolved over the course of the day was trying to capture that moment. That obnoxiously (but beautifully) loud gust of wind that almost knocked her over but she stood firm with her handbag. Everything she needed was in that handbag. Her strength, hope, family, friends, love, creativity, courage, cats…a little money for food, coffee and health insurance… they were all right in there. The wind was powerful. She was definitely more so.
My parents came over and hung out while I worked, and then I finally packed it in for dinner. One more day. She was getting there.
The next day I woke up and I was pumped. I couldn’t wait to spend the day with her. First things first, coffee and couch time. Then I put the music on, I got my yoga on, and we did our thing. Brave girl and me. Girl time! We hung out all day and well into the night, until there was nothing left to talk about. Later girlfriend. She was complete.
I don’t usually write play by plays detailing my paintings in progress. This is possibly the first. Photos are easier to share since you can always say “I know it sucks, it’s not done yet”. It’s definitely strange putting this side of my art out there though. I guess some people will think I am utterly weird creating the way I do, but this is pretty much how it goes every time. Except for the “finishing” part. Signed, sealed, varnished, ready to hang. Very. Rarely. Happens.
There are two jewels that were added at the end, which had their own separate gluing challenges. Apparently gravity is still stronger than mostly dry glue (meaning, you must lay the painting flat until glue COMPLETELY dries, or her ruby necklace might end up as a belly button jewel). But it all worked out in the end, and I was ready to let her go. Let’s do this.
I boxed her up and sent her out into the world.
Brave Girl was created for a fundraiser which would raise money for breast health initiatives including the Beekley Center for Breast Health and Wellness, and a free mammogram program, in Bristol CT. I couldn’t make it to the fundraiser this year, but my heart was definitely there. Literally. She hopefully went home with someone last night. 🙂
Update ~ Brave Girl ended up going to a wonderful home and resides with a private art collection in Bristol, CT.
Connecticut Folk Artist Skyblue is Erica Lubee (formerly Erica Moreland). She writes this blog from her studio in CT to share her love of art, creativity, photography, nature and all creatures big and small, real and imagined. Her passion is for mixed media, whimsical folkart, illustration and the feminine portrait. Visit Skyblue’s gallery for more of her paintings and artworks. Some prints available at Redbubble. Original drawings, paintings, and more will become available soon! Follow or subscribe here or on Facebook for updates and more artsy fun.