I always wondered what I would do if I needed to honor someone close to me who has passed away. I know it is a little morbid and strange that I even choose to think on the subject. I may have been to too many funerals last year.
Awhile ago I met a beautiful human. This silly blog that I drag my feet on making posts was how my new client found me. I’m a strong believer in the theory that things happen for a reason. This year has been challenging with a loss of a friend, car accident among other unmentionables. While wading with my head above water, I noticed a stranger had sent me an email with a very unusual request. This person asked me to memorialize her son in a painting by using his ashes. I thought how is this happening? Why me? Why not me? I can’t do this. I can do this. As I explored the idea I decided I was going to conquer this with all of my force. As a parent I can’t imagine the loss of a child. Everyone says it is the worst thing you can imagine. I have seen it personally and lived on the outside of a lot of pain from it. I can’t even imagine.
How should I honor someone I don’t know? What if I mess up and do the wrong thing? All these questions and doubts about this subject kept popping up because I have never done this before. Eventually the force of wanting to create something so important took over. I decided to be brave and meet with this new client. She turned out to be one of the strongest, sweetest, most accepting individuals I have ever met. How did I get so lucky? As commissions can go, they are sketchy at best. You say teal, they meant light sky blue. I pictured many revisions, lots of stress and failure. You can only imagine the worry that set in my anxiety filled heart.
During our meeting we could not stop talking about the joys and pitfalls of being a parent. The worry, the stress, the unending love you have for your children. She gave me personal memorabilia, writings, musings, scraps of what he liked and who he was. Everything about the meeting was surreal. I left feeling like I knew this person for years. I went home and jumped into the commission with both feet. I was very excited to learn about who this beautiful human was. I read his Twitter, his Instagram and his Facebook posts. Thank you social media. I then immersed myself by separating his images and building my story using symbolism, color, and of course his ashes.
Each day brought a new awareness of the scale of what I was doing. Some of those days I would create and imagine the possibilities of the big canvas. I was excited to see it unfold; I was on cloud nine. I love this!! I would walk in my studio and start putting together the painting with ease. But, I had rough days and moments as well. It was overwhelming and powerful to me to be handed this gift to honor him. I found myself leaving my studio to be alone so that I could process all of the information I was trying to convey. The negative voices were starting to rise, the clock was ticking, my brain starting playing tricks on myself. Typical artist crap. I’m famous for finishing a painting to about 90% and then doing a dead stop. I get scared, I second guess every move, I hate it, I want to gesso over it. After many texts to friends, several tears and many prayers, I pushed myself to overcome that ugly part as soon as I could. This process taught me so much about letting go (please don’t sing that song) and working in the moment. It was important to me that the entire piece stayed fresh and full of his spirt.
I enjoyed hiding secrets, writings, song lyrics and photos into the final result. I’m very happy with the finished piece and my client loved it. If I am approached with this again I’m confident I would still wrestle with the same emotions but the great experience will outweigh the voices that will linger in my head. It really grounded me knowing that I was giving someone a gift they will treasure for a long time. I will never forget the reaction I received when I dropped the painting off at the client’s house. It was emotional and powerful. I am so grateful this family has entered my life. They pushed me and challenged me so much as a person and an artist. It was such an extraordinary gift they gave me. Truly, they are beautiful humans. Tomm Zorn I wish I could have met you. May you rest in peace.