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Painting a New Life

Musings of the day

Life Isn't "Still"








Life isn’t still so why paint a “Still Life?”


My first painting class was from a private teacher my parents had found for me. I remember her as an older woman in a stuffy studio with the smell of oil paints and thinners permeating the room. It was dark in there.


I was one of about 4 or 5 students, all of us fairly young and green when it came to painting. At the time it was the thing to view art as a representation of something in “real” life. So the better I could replicate what I saw in front of me, the more praise I would receive, not only from my teacher, but from my parents as well. They were all about replicating reality as they saw it. Anything outside that box was not acceptable.


I began my life as an artist out in nature among the critters and trees and rocks. The more dirt I had on me, the more sand between my toes, the messier I was, the better. That was where my spirit felt alive, certainly not “still.” Life wasn’t about stillness and replication. It was about creating anew from what I sensed and felt with my heart. But I painted that first still life as perfectly as I could and my parents praised my efforts, framed it and hung it just inside our front door. They were clearly pleased. I wasn’t. After that first painting I didn't want to go back to that stuffy room with no light.


My next teacher, an older man that I remember as having a thick Russian accent, was the one who introduced me to an entirely different way of expression. His studio was light and airy, open to the outside. I could breathe in there. This was a place of joy and freedom. I felt it each time I entered the room. There were times when he told me to go outdoors to paint, not to replicate nature, but to feel the sun on my back and the air across my face as I played with textures and colors. It was all about freedom and I couldn't wait for my next lesson.


He put my hands into the paint, into the mediums and freed my spirit to play. It was then that I found my love of creating surfaces, textures and bringing my kinship with the natural world into my work. I sculpted surfaces. I painted on textured papers. I used acrylics and inks and gesso and sand creating what had never been seen before. I used my entire body to paint. I moved. I laughed. I found my way.


But that didn’t bring me the praise from my family. Nothing I created looked familiar to them. “What is that supposed to be?” they asked me, but I couldn’t answer. It wasn’t supposed to be anything that anyone had ever labeled before. It was my emotion, my spirit, the world through my eyes and heart. Some of my paintings wound up on my parents wall, but they never acknowledged the value the way they did with that first still life. I learned early on that if I didn’t give others what they had already seen, what felt familiar and “real” to them, then I wasn’t really an artist at all.


That brings me to this painting, “Earthbound”. I won an award, best in show, for this piece. Somehow it never really registered though. Now I see it is because others saw it as a still life and my association with that label was tinged with pain and dismissal. It meant that once again, if I painted what others thought was “acceptable” then I would be acknowledged, but MY vision, MY truth, had to remain hidden away. Until now.


I was browsing through photos of my work and came upon this one. The old feeling niggled at me. Then I took another look and I saw something I had never seen before. There is nothing “still” about this piece. This isn’t about still life, it’s about the movement and flow and sensuality of life. That is my truth. I composed it, something I rarely do when I paint. I planned it out. But when I went to paint, the planning disappeared and I brought my vision, my truth, my life to the canvas. Since then I rarely, if ever, plan a painting. I trust my instincts and allow myself to be guided by forces beyond.


So now, all these years later I am celebrating having won Best In Show for this painting. Life to me is all about movement, flow, surrender and release.


Come celebrate with me! If you love this painting, it is available for purchase along with fine art prints.


See my paintings and prints on https://www.dkhillardart.com.

Fabric pieces created from my paintings can be seen here.


I wish you the freedom to move, dance and express your heart! The world needs your unique vision of reality.


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