One Artist's Philosophy
Painting: Red Baby Shoes
Artist/Author Jeanne Harris Weaver (6/16/2017)©
It was January, 2011. I was spending time alone at our condo in Florida. It was there where I had last spent time with Todd and his family before he deployed to Afghanistan and was killed in action on Sep 9,2010.
Four months had passed. Months spent in tears. Months spent searching for direction on how to live with the overwhelming loss; searching for courage to face each day with dignity; searching for strength to support other family members. Sleepless months spent listening, observing, searching, writing.
Now, in January, I picked up my paint brush and began to paint. Not the seascapes painted in year’s past; but paintings in memory and honor of my son, Todd. I painted to music— inspirational music Todd’s brother, Glenn had compiled for me patriotic country music which Todd enjoyed.
I established a simple routine. Each day included some beach time soaking in the warmth of the sun and long walks on the beach. Those hours walking alone at the water’s edge brought me inspiration and resolve. They were and are my time of prayer and reflection. Meals were simple with little or no preparation. The evenings were spent reading and writing in my journal. The majority of the day was spent at my easel.
I kept an artist journal as I painted. I knew the journal would keep me on task. It contained notes on each painting, corrections to be made, hours spent, the palette I used. The subject matter for each painting was inspired by the words of others, spoken or written in those first four months.
The first three paintings were painted in unison. They were Todd’s shoes - his red leather baby shoes purchased in Hungary where we lived when Todd learned to walk; his baseball cleats caked with mud from his last game; his army boots returned with his personal effects to Todd’s wife, Emma. The three paintings would be a Trilogy of his life.
I painted and I cried. I did not think of the process as being therapeutic. Intuitively, I knew I was to paint. In time, I realized the process of painting those canvases was a form of prayer. Each completed canvas led to another. Twelve months later I signed painting #21. With that signature, I knew the series was complete.
Painting is a therapeutic activity which directs the brain to use your hands in a creative manner. The process of visualizing a person’s emotions by communicating with their hands brings healing effects. In my case, the emotion which I most needed to express was the love I have for my son and the life he lived.
Could it be that therapy is much more simple? I believe that each of us is born into this world with a gift. That gift will see us through the most difficult and darkest hours in our lives. Perhaps that gift is a form of art. Perhaps it is something else. Perhaps it is writing, dancing, music, drama. Perhaps it is leadership, organization, public speaking. Perhaps it is empathy, teaching, or service. The knack may be to identify that innate gift and to regulate the time to use it.
I was extremely fortunate. Although I did not identify the process of painting as being therapeutic, I knew that I had to paint. My vocation as an artist allowed me the time. Most important, I allowed myself the time to grieve in the process. Through that practice, I not only found complete peace; but I also became a better artist. I am grateful to my husband and my family who allowed me the time to grieve using my God given gifts.
Note: In 2017, I was asked to be Keynote Speaker at the Annual Conference of The Compassionate Friends. Below is a short clip taken while I was there.