and something touched my heart
sketch book study
I chose this particular art work in response to comments I received about losing the ability to draw at a young age.
Once again, a warm welcome to my third posting of TOUCHING THE CREATIVE FIRE… the space where I explore the process of the artist in the Creative Space.
For the benefit of those new to my postings, let me introduce myself.
My name is Marie Laywine. I am an artist. I am a painter. In my painting I work with what I call the ‘interior landscape’. I use the ideas and images from my dreams to help me represent visually the mountain ranges and the coastal plains inside myself and others.
My journey into the world of making art began at the early age of three or four. At this young and immature age I had the most extraordinary experience.
I was along in a room filled with bright sunlight. There was music playing on the radio. I recall the warmth caused by the sun streaming through the window and finding a resting place on the wooden floor.
Slowly, as in a dream, I remember lifting and stretching my arms out and slowly began to twirl to the rhythm of the music. There was no break in the tempo of the music as I felt myself transported to something unlike anything I had ever known. I became one with the music, the sunlight, the wooden floor. I was the music. The music was me. I was the sunlight. The sunlight was me. I was the wooden floor. The wooden floor was me. We three existed as one with no differentiation between each other. My heart soared and my heart was touched deeply.
A world of total harmony, brilliance and beauty came into existence for me on that day. It was as though I was in a ‘bubble’ where nothing else existed outside of itself while inside everything was alive and intense. I call this a ‘bubble’ because I had no other word to describe such a monumental experience. It is dome-like, all encompassing while at the same time it separates me from the world I inhabit on a daily basis. It is a magical space where the impossible can happen.
As suddenly as it began, everything stopped. The ‘bubble’ shattered and left me spinning with a feeling similar to falling out of the sky and landing flat, smack on a wooden floor.
I, the music, the sunlight, the wooden floor immediately became separated and differentiated. In the separation we lost the magic we held for each other when in unison. The harmony disappeared. The brilliance and beauty within my ‘bubble’ was done. Where did it go? “I want it back”, I can still hear my young heart crying out. In that instant my life changed irrevocably.
My heart no longer soared. The ‘soaring’ was replaced with a yearning; an undercurrent that pursued me relentlessly.
Again I had no word for what had happened to me. Why did it leave me? Where did it go? How can I get it back? I was perplexed. I was lost. I was bereft. I could not speak.
Thus, my journey began; a journey trying to find something I had no words form and neither did I know what it looked like. a ‘feeling’ was all I had and I would recognize it only as it was happening. I didn’t know how to bring it back; I didn’t know how to recapture that moment. The desire to repeat this extraordinary experience created a driving force culminating in a frantic search.
The result was frustrating years between my mother and myself. She had no way of understanding the enormity of what had happened to me, or the activity involved in the searching. How could I describe to her what I could not define for myself? In this setting, the yearning to recapture the experience continued to grow.
In Grade 8, about age 11, my teacher introduced me to painting, to colours, to image making. A still life was set up. I began my painting with a brush loaded with paint and began to spread the colours on a piece of paper trying to reproduce the still life placed before me.
Suddenly, I felt my ‘bubble’. I could immediately identify it by the sudden, beautiful silence of stillness around as it enclosed me. It had come back!
Again, in the ‘bubble’ I became the flowers in the still life. The flowers became me. I became the brush spreading colours on the paper. The brush spreading the colour on the paper became me. Total harmony reigned within the silence in the stillness created by the brush on paper.
As before, the ‘bubble’ suddenly shattered. Once again I returned to a flat world; a world without magic. This time, however, I had something tangible come out of the experience: THE PAINTING!
In my immature reasoning I associated painting and picture making as a way of recapturing the moment in the ‘bubble’.
The picture I painted was highly praised by my teacher. It was a form of acknowledgment of what I had accomplished whilst in the ‘bubble’ but she had not grasped what had happened nor how the experience had made it possible for me to produce this picture.
My search was renewed with vigour using painting after painting as a way of trying to recapturing the experience of the moment in the ‘bubble’.
At this point, my mother became exasperated with what she called my ‘irrational and obsessive behaviour’. She had no understanding of the impact of this experience. In a moment of sheer frustration she shouted at me, “if you carry on like this you’ll go crazy”. In my mother’s world my behaviour did not conform with what she was familiar with. The lack of understanding was made doubly difficult for both of us because I could not describe to her what I could not define for myself.
She had uttered the word ‘crazy’ in such a frightening way, it stopped me dead in my tracks. In my child-like mind I then associated the word ‘cray’ with something undesirable and somehow this ‘crazy’ could be precipitated by my search for the ‘bubble’.
Thus, ‘fear of being taken over’ was born; a second shattering experience. I was left with nothing to hold onto.
In my shattered state my mother and I reached an agreed position. I was able to accommodate her need with behaviour that was acceptable within her experience. In my mundane life the searching stopped. However, at a deeper level the yearning and the searching continued to grow in a quiescent mode.
In my early teens, about age 12-13, I had a dream. It was an underwater dream. I was riding a dolphin. We were moving through the water at tremendous speed. I remember the rush of water on my face and through my h air. I had nothing to hold onto. I became aware of the dolphin’s movement. I adjusted my movement to the dolphin’s rhythm. Eventually our rhythm in movement synchronized and we travelled through the water as one unit. To maintain the momentum of synchronized movement required a ferocious effort in absolute trust.
In this dream I remember the exhilaration and wonder at being in this moment. I became aware of the sheer beauty of placing absolute trust in what was happening between me, the dolphin and the water. I felt that everything I had to know was contained in this dream.
I grew up with my focus on recapturing the experience in the ‘bubble’ I still didn’t have the words to define it but I took the two experiences with me.
I now had three tools:
- painting as a way into this magical space
- I developed absolute trust in the rhythm of my feelings. This trust was strong and robust.
- I felt alive, vibrant and confident in what I was to undertake.
GIRL RIDING A DOLPHIN
in private collection
I carried the ‘bubble’ and my dolphin dream into my adult life. Both became the undercurrent running through the everyday life I inhabited. Many years later and in hindsight, I see that both the experience in the ‘bubble’ and the absolute trust introduced in the dolphin dream has guided me throughout my journey in an unconscious way. I trusted that in knowing that the creative world is the world where I belong. The guidance I needed always came through in my dreams. The message was carried in the form of ideas, images and feelings: always in colour.
I listen. I follow.
I also remind myself that the dream is a communication from the unconscious to the conscious. I also remind myself that it is necessary to make one compatible with the other because I do not want to repeat the conflict I experienced as a child.
This may sound simple. It was not and I’d like to give you an example.
The idea of my journey to the Himalayas was given to me in a dream. This mountain range is a vast area within which I had to find a place to live and paint. My exploration to find this place in this designated areas took three treks. The first one was to become familiar with the territory. The second one was to assess how safe it was for a woman to travel by herself in this area. The third was to assess the height at which I could tolerate thin air.
In all three treks I discovered that it was not safe to travel alone. I would need a companion, preferably a male, to accompany me and I had to find a village at around 10,000 feet where I could live and paint.
The process of this experience is described in my book IN SEARCH OF AN IMAGE. (Daly, 2005)
Thus I cam to settle in Parsil, a small village situated in the Helambu region of the Himalyas. Parsil is a village that lives on the edge of survival because of its location. Everyone in the community is expected to contribute. A working life begins at the age of two and a half years. It is harsh and difficult.
The dream that led me to the Himalayas led me to the observation of the children who lived there.
The question I asked myself was, ‘what happens to the dreams, hopes and wishes of the children living in a community where survival is the major concern? Everyone is expected to contribute starting at the age of two and a half years and its demands are relentless throughout their individual life.
In the observation of these children I came face to face with the powerlessness of a young child. My experience of the powerlessness in my own childhood connected strongly with theirs and it touched me deeply. In that instant, the strong connection brought the past experience in the ‘bubble’ and the conflict with my mother into the observation I was making in the present moment. The three experiences came together to become one. The process of coalescence led me into the magical sphere of my creative fire culminating in the sketches I made in my sketch book.
Out of this environment and my sketching I found the image describing my early experience in the ‘bubble’.
and something touched my heart
sketch book study
Here in the Himalayas I had come full circle. What had a beginning now had an end. My search led me to the area in the world where I would find an image to describe my experience. My search had been given a form.
In the end there was a new beginning. I began to develop the sketches into larger drawings. The drawings became THE CHILDHOOD STUDY SERIES.
My next posting will cover the development of one of the sketches into a drawing and into painting.