I met Alima when she was a shy little grade-schooler. She hid behind her mom’s skirt while I introduced myself to her. I think we had a sleepover that very night! Fast forward 27 years and Alima and I find ourselves living 45 minutes apart, despite moves domestic and international. When she sent me an invite to her baby shower I knew just what to get her!
Truth is, my standard gift at baby showers is nursery art work but I was particularly excited to do Alima’s because I knew it would not be the standard nursery theme. I pow-wowed with the mom-to-be to verify.
“We painted the nursery gray. We don’t have an actual theme. I’d like the accents to be bright colored, globally eclectic and gender neutral. That being said, I do like owls and elephants.”
An artists dream! Free artistic license!!!
I loved the interesting choice of colors, the movement and shapes, and the hidden birds. I thought that I could do something like that for Alima’s nursery and maybe incorporate owls.
The sun was coming in to my workspace in such a lovely way. I pulled back my curtains and set my easel up in the sunshine. I can’t function with out music so I searched my iPod for the just right playlist and then I examined the blank canvas for a long time.
Starting a piece is always the hardest part for me. There’s always a touch of fear in that first stroke of color. My paint brush is poised over the canvas, loaded with paint and self doubt until I finally take a deep breath and give it a go. Once that part is over the rest usually becomes pretty easy. I figure out ways to manipulate the paint to go where I want it, to be cool or hot, convey darkness or light. Most of the time. Sometimes though I feel like the paint is manipulating me. Sometimes the piece has a mind of it’s own and I find myself lead down a different road then I had intended to be.
I knew I wanted to put owls in Alima’s piece but as I began to fill in space other birds emerged. I found a hummingbird, a crane and a dove.
Their the hopes and blessings for this baby, I thought. Wisdom of the owl, whimsy of a hummingbird, the Zen and balance of the crane and the peace of a dove.
I don’t usually name my art but this painting was christened “Blessing.” There could be no other name for it.
When it was “done” I stepped back to examine it. The natural light from the sliding glass door softly laid over it. I took a picture and then started to clean up my paints.
I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. I sent the picture to Caren for her opinion. I looked at the photo of the painting again and noticed that the lower right portion was heavy in color and open blocks of space. It needed some interest and light there.
I decided to add a sprig of olive to the dove’s beak.
I took another picture, finding that looking at it through the camera helped me to see it differently. When I looked at the photo I felt the olive branch was a definite improvement. Then I noticed a streak of light next to the painting. I immediately started to cry. The tears came before the thought that maybe I had captured a spirit in the photo.
Was it my Grandma? Was it just a reflection? I had not used a flash. I examined both photos taken in the same light with in minutes of each other and I couldn’t stop weeping.
I didn’t feel scared or sad, just…overwhelmed with…a sense of presence? I’m not usually into that kind of stuff. I sent the picture to my sister.
“Amazing paiting! Hmm…someone must’ve been visiting,” Sissy said.
I sent the pic to my friend, Kelli.
“G’ma. Moving. Seriously.”
“It’s probably just a reflection of light,” I told her, “But it made me cry when I saw it.”
“I think it’s whatever you think it is,” Kelli said.
I decided I need the opinion of someone more jaded, more cynical…Enter Shalah:
“Look to the right of the painting,” I guided her.
“Oh holy moly! That’s a vulva.”
“Ha ha! A vulva?” I looked at the photo again. Suddenly it was glaring at me. The owl in the top right had a wing that looked… “Oh $#!%. No. That’s a wing but…yeah. Now it’s a vulva.”
“I’m just saying. It’s a vag.”
“I meant for you to look to the right in the photo…”
“Yeah. You mean the ghost of the giant vag?”
So sorry Grandma…
“All of it… Just wow.”
“Damn. I gotta do something about that lady hole now.”
“Yep. Otherwise….VERY pretty!”
“You know I’ll be blogging about this, right?”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
“Is my blogging excessive? Am I annoying?”
“Not at all! I love it! Its how I keep up with you nowadays.”
“K. Just let me know if I’ve crossed a line.”
“Like painting a giant vagina for my friend’s nursery.”
“Right. That’s why I’m here.”
After that enlightening conversation…my spirit was a little less rattled and I grabbed some paint to color in the WING and ensure the art was gender neutral.
At the shower I gave Alima her painting. I told her all that had transpired while painting it and that overwhelming feeling fell over me again. We sat on the bed in the nursery and cried.
“I showed the picture to Shalah and she said it was a giant vagina,” I said while sniffing back tears.
Alima and I laughed as she assured me there was no vag in the painting even before I changed it. It was a beautiful day! Perfect weather. Alima was in full on Baby Glow as she basked in the light of her friends and family’s love for her! It was hard to part with “Blessings” but I’m so glad it’s Alima’s and that it has a happy home over her little one’s crib.