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Thursday, June 16, 2011

For My Father

Thunder Dragon
Thunder Dragon 12" X 12" mixed media on wood, for Illustration Friday
This morning I had an experience that I have been striving for as an artist as long as I have been painting. While I was on vacation last week, I worked on a series of light-hearted pieces on small wood panels, just for fun. I had one panel left over, and I was struck by the urge to paint an abstract and started troweling on reds, greens, and white. I was pleased with the colors but stuck on what to do next. After I got home and finished my small "Things With Feathers" series, I worked on the abstract some more. I added turquoise and orange; then I got rid of the orange because it seemed discordant. Next I added yellow, which I liked, but I still wasn't making progress with the composition. The strength of the red and the idea of source or origin had been, from the beginning, what the piece was about, but the shapes seemed unrelated to the idea, and I was frustrated.

Last night, we had a huge rainstorm and high winds which knocked out the power for several hours, so I was forced to stop painting. I spent the rest of the evening on my porch overlooking the pond, listening to the storm, which my father taught me to love as a child, one night, when I was crying in fear of the lightening and the thunder.

I started painting again as soon as I woke up this morning, and the shape of a dragon suddenly emerged on the canvas. I was so excited because, for as long as I can remember, I've tried to depict the realm between the abstract and the figurative. The idea of the dragon completely captured my imagination and the rest of the work just flowed from me. I finished the painting very quickly, after that, adding charcoal, oil pastels, and inks, and immediately had a name for it (or, rather, three names). While researching dragons, I came upon a the Shinto word for "essence," which is "kami". This not only fit my original inspiration but the circumstances under which I was able to finish the painting. According to legend, the Japanese dragon as an object of faith was called kami. Prayers for rain to kami were performed at rivers, swamps, and ponds, which were thought to be the home of the dragon. In the Shinto religion, there is also the kami of thunder, who brings forth rain and lightning, and it is believed that the dragon kami ascends to heaven when a tornado or storm occurs. Perfect! I have always felt a deep cosmic connection to water and the sound of rain is my favorite sound in the world. The name of my painting is "Thunder Dragon" or "Kami," or "Essence," whichever you like. I think my father would prefer "Thunder Dragon," so that's what I'll call it. I suppose that, in the future, I will have to pray for rain and hope, once again, to be swept away! Thanks, Daddy.


Marit said...

Breathtaking painting, and even more now that I read the story how you came to paint it!

(I too love the sound of water - mostly the waves coming to the beach but the sound of rain and thunder is nice too, just like you - my father learned me to love the thunder & lightning!)

Lee Ann said...

I think your father would prefer the title "Red Dragon." It is lovely, though.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this. It's taking me way too long time to get this comment out because I can't seem to find the words to say what I want to say without sounding corny. I believe there are times when we find ourselves on a direct line with the source of our creativity, like this experience you had here. And if we give it our full attention, we can almost feel ourselves being guided. And it ALWAYS shows up in the work that comes out. This painting has a living quality to it. It's so vivid and absolutely brings through that exhilarating feeling of dragon and thunderstorm and essence of life! Beeeeeautiful!

Bren Graham Thebeau said...

I'm with 'Dream With The Fishes' and echo her comment as well. Thank you for sharing such a transcendent moment with us.

Nelda said...

What a wonderful piece. Hearing the story behind it makes it even more special. I have enjoyed seeing your work today on Flikr and your blog.

Maggie Neale said...

Strong piece and love reading the story behind it. I feel "in the zone" when it all flows and comes together. Exciting process/making a painting.