Like life, this painting started as an unknown, a blank canvas full of promise. It went through its ugly and difficult stages, bloomed slowly and unexpectedly bit by bit, adapting and changing to the odd challenge thrown its way. It dug in its roots, clung firmly to the earth, and stubbornly made its way forwards, emerging as a growing, living thing, standing tall and strong, yet responding gently to the breeze and the world around it.
One day a week I work on a wellbeing program called the Optimal Health Program, or OHP for short. I do all sorts of things, from literature reviews while I’m wearing my librarian’s hat, to designing posters and creative activities while I’m wearing my artist’s beret (at least I think that is traditionally what artists are meant to wear, whether they own one or not …. which I don’t … but I would wear one for this occasion if I could). Anyway, the upshot is that I have become the resident artist, which I’m pretty happy about because it is all feel good stuff. Right up my alley, really.
So when the Boroondara Stroke Support Group invited us to the opening of their new Hub, my manager thought it would be really nice if we could present them with a painting to celebrate. A painting which did not yet exist … but no pressure!
With life as busy as it usually is, and with a big conference in the middle to prepare for and present at, I found myself with two days left before the painting needed to be ready. I couldn’t let the group down, so inspiration HAD to hit. No pressure at all ….
All I knew was that I wanted it to include a rainbow of sorts. I wanted it to connect to the themes of the Optimal Health Program. I wanted it to be light and positive. I wanted it to share a feeling of hope and growth. And I wanted the painting to grow somehow organically, like it was deciding for itself what it wanted to do. A little bit risky when I only had two days to do it … and did I mention that I am not someone who paints on large canvases? So many firsts for me. Oh well – full steam ahead.
As far as the OHP theme goes, I decided that I wanted it to reflect the logo, which is a tree with branches divided into six segments which represent six domains of wellbeing – physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, engagement and social wellbeing. So a tree it would be. A tree with rainbow leaves.
I divided my canvas into six areas plus a base for the tree and started to add my rainbows. Then I let dashes of other colours mingle, because life isn’t as straight forward as that. Things always overlap. Then I took the canvas out into the garden and started throwing paint at it – always my favourite part! I splattered white and yellow and red and teal and lime green, and our new pup learnt that he shouldn’t really stand there while I’m doing that. Oh well – nothing a baby wipe couldn’t fix.
And then I started to find the leaves as the soft blue sky grew around them. The tree started to emerge, but it was hard to see at first. Which is pretty much like life, isn’t it? How you can’t see exactly what is going to happen, no matter how much you plan? And then you have these little surprises as something new emerges?
And so the tree grew bit by bit. It wasn’t complete until I got the metallics out for the trunk and that earthed the tree and let it grow solid roots. Golds, coppers, bronzes. I love the shiny richness of them.
I loved the process. I loved the surprise at the end when I could finally see what had grown on my canvas. I really hope the support group get a lot of joy out of it too. My best wishes go to them. I can’t be there on opening day, but I’ll be thinking of all the work they have done getting this Hub up and running, and all the work they have to do. Wow. Just wow. What an amazing group.
“Oh the possibilities” by Helen Wilding, 2016. Acrylic on canvas.