I have recently had to give a few interviews and write a few profiles about myself for my increased exposure into the world of art. The questions have been similar: Have you always painted?What is your training? Did you paint and a child? When did you know you were a painter? All these questions are really about the origin of self belief and identifying myself as a painter. When did you become a painter?
I knew in the moment I thought I was going to die.
2008, Waikato Hospital.I had an illness that was proving difficult to diagnose, hence treat. Lying in a darkened room, machines beeping at me, medical staff hovering around me and my roaring temperature, infection taking over my systems, my head exploding , my heartbeat becoming more and more erratic, hallucinations becoming more and more frightening. In that moment, I knew.
I knew I was sad to leave my young children motherless, my husband a widower, my parents daughterless. But I was furious with myself. Incandescent with rage. I remember wailing and the nurse trying to calm me down, comfort me. I bellowed at her " I forgot to paint. I was supposed to paint".
I laugh about it now, but at that moment, the idea that I had missed what I felt I was supposed to have done with my life , was beyond comprehension. Had I been so scared of failing at painting that I had not even tried? Better to not experience failure than to try? I was mad with myself. I remember shouting and (oh, that poor nurse) crying at the lost opportunity. I was bereft.
Sedation worked, I slept till the morning and was woken with the same nurse, face beaming. A diagnosis of my mysterious illness had been made and it was curable. I would survive. I lay there, frail and weak but my relief was immense. And I had a plan, a purpose.
It took me months to recover, both mentally and physically. I started painting. I devoured information about painting, painters, art. I painted and painted. I grew my family and painted and painted. I grew my spirit and painted and painted. I just did it. Because every time I painted a totally crap painting, it was still 100% better than not painting at all. And when I painted something that I felt was a sign of improvement and progression, my heart and soul swelled and I became the bravest person I knew. I was painting.
Why do I paint? I paint because I just have to. I see the world totally differently to the way I saw it before my illness. I still fear failure, but then, don't we all? When I feel that fear ,I invite it into the studio, pull up a chair for it, park it and tell it to watch.I sometimes offer it a comfy pillow! And then I paint and , trust me, that seat is empty by the time I finish that painting.
Painting has become something profound to me. I don't paint pictures of places. I paint connection, affirmation, memory, emotion, recollection, faith, love and hope. It's all in the paintings.They are invitations to share. I share them with you.
Ps. The illness was Murine Typhus. I was the only person diagnosed and treated with it in New Zealand for 2008. Go figure.