Friday, June 1, 2012

The Birth of a Bridge

This is the story of the birth of a painting.
A while ago, a great friend of mine approached me about a possible opportunity.
She works for a large business in Portland that is part of the Greater Portland Postal Customer Council.
Now - I do not pretend to understand exactly what that means, but trust me - it is important to this story :)

Her company is one of the largest customers of the US Postal service in our area.
Their company also participates in a campaign every year with this organization called
"Bridging the Future Together".
For this campaign, they pick a local artist to produce a painting depicting one of Portland, OR's bridges.
Afterall - we are not just known as "The City of Roses",
but also as "Bridgetown" and The City of Bridges" because of all of the bridges -
12 major bridges in all!

Fast forward a few months - and I am asked to create this years bridge painting.
I am excited.
I am flattered and I am humbled.

I go downtown and take photos of Portland's steel bridge.
Just like a "real" artist.
I come home and stare at the photos.
And then I panic!
I mean - upset stomach, can't sleep panic.

I am NOT a landscapey-scene painter.
I am whimsical and unrealistic and playful.
I am NOT a realistic painter.
Bridges are structural and gray and black and steel . . .

After a serious bout of "self-talk" and more encouragement from my friend, I get started.

I blow up one of the photos - I use graphite paper and trace the image.
And I start painting.
I take a few liberties but not many.
And this is what I came up with . . .
Version 1 - blurry image (sorry)
Hmmm - it's ok. Barely.
I show it to my husband - hoping for words of encouragement.
But instead of glowing praises, he says - "I thought it was supposed to be of the bridge. It's a painting of a tree with a bridge in the background."

I am hurt and offended -
and then I am honest and admit - "I do not like it and I am not proud."

Round 2
Concept - bring the bridge forward.
More color.
A sun.
More "whimsy" in the water.
Oh - and I went downtown and took more photos from a different view point.
I finish and stare at it.
I show it to the family.
"Hmmm - nice".
Um - not the response I was going for.
But then - I'm not loving it either - WHY?
I call my friend. I need an honest and brutal opinion.

Seriously - what is with the blurry images? Anyway - version 2.
She is honest with me and says . . .
"It's not you. It looks like you are trying to paint in someone elses style. Be YOU. If we wanted a painting like all the others we would not have asked you. We want it in your style."
I thank her for the reality check.

I take a deep breath and decide that I really don't care what anyone else thinks.
This time I AMgoing to do it in MY style.
I throw away the graphite paper.
I decide I really don't care about scale and structure or any of those cold details.
I want my painting to be warm and bright and full of whimsy.

So here it is . . .the final version:
It may not be the most accurate depiction of Portland's Steel bridge -
but it's me.
And I was much happier submitting this.
It will now be framed and hung in Portland's main post office.
It will be scanned and reproduced onto calendars that are sent to businesses in the GPPCC.
It will be reproduced and matted and raffled off to winners.
And it looks NOTHING like previous year's paintings.

And a lesson was learned. . . .again.
As a painter, and in life - I have to be true to me.
When I am not - my journey is full of angst and stress.
And the outcome is less than desirable.

Thanks for sharing this story with me . . .


Giggles said...

Dear Laurie I am crying.... this was such a poignant post!! I am so in love with your final piece!! So glad your friend believed in you!! I am crying the kind of tears you get when you hear an amazing piece of music, or watch a great movie, or feel touched by a piece of art!! Wow you really are awesome...thank you so much for sharing your process, and baring your soul!! This is a lesson for all of us!! I sure wish you would share this with the paint party friday artists!! A lesson we all need!!

Big hugs and congratulations on a fabulous job!!

nanadover said...

It's awesome and it's you! Thanks for sharing your journey!

stavroula m said...

Congratulations Laurie!!!!!! Thanks for sharing with us!!!!!!!!

Brandon Hunter Family said...


I LOVE IT!!! It is beautiful, and so you!This painting is why they chose you to do it. I hope it brings you more commissions and really gets your name out there!


Mindy Schmidt said...

LOVE THIS AND YOUR WORK! :) I agree with GIGLLES... it did make me cry a bit!!! The end was so amazing... like you took off the restraints and celebrated who YOU are.... and isn't that the most amazing thing to be...YOURSELF?! So happy for you. Looking forward to seeing your work at the Art Walk!

Paulette Insall ~ Painting Poetic Splashes of Joyful Light said...

Such a wonderful story Laurie! I'm so glad you shared it! A lesson we all need to be reminded of not only as artists, but also life in general....never try to be someone other than yourself! That final painting is totally YOU and shines brilliantly! An amazing painting from an amazing artist!!! xoxo

Cheryl Mellema said...

It's BRILLIANTLY YOU! Congratulations!