The week I painted an Open Door, the image forming with each layer of glaze, I knew what was at stake. My life was beginning to change yet again… but this time I opened a door into part of myself that had been closed for a very long time.
Have you ever wanted to do something … but never thought you could? I always loved art but wasn’t allowed to pursue it. Put plainly, it was nipped in the bud when I was 13 and dad said no! The reason: after his own start working down a Welsh coal mine, it was important to him that his children didn’t go what he went through and education was key.
Many years went by before I was able to return to art. So instead, I trained as a nurse and midwife, went to Bible college for 2 years to study and worked in Peru. It’s a long story but it was a very formative time for me. I came back in my 30s quite ill, but from that experience I had gained my freedom as an individual, as well as experience of living in another culture and language, and I made friends for life. It taught me not to be afraid to go off and do something not everyone does – rather like my adventures in art!
A variety of jobs in the health service and marriage to Chris followed. The idea of learning to paint never went away and so when I left my last NHS job, my colleagues bought me some paints and an outdoor easel as a leaving present and I began another journey – finally I could think about art again. I spent time learning techniques in acrylics and oils, experimenting with different styles, reading up, and joined a local art club near where I live. I began to sell a few pictures locally, but I wasn’t satisfied.
In January 2016 I enrolled on a 3 month intensive course in oil painting that changed the course of my art. This was followed by a six month course in Abstract Art which gave me the skills to experiment and find my own style. When I submitted 2 pictures to the National Open Art Competition in July 2017 and ‘The Slice of Life 1’ was shortlisted. I was totally amazed and felt as if I had won! That was the day I could say “I am an artist.”
My paintings are colourful: perhaps related to ancient Peruvian artefacts but possibly because there was little colour in my childhood, but have a new emotional intensity.
What would I do after the Abstract course was the question folk were asking?
Since then I have been busy – in art and church. I have gone on to paint unique intuitive abstracts sometimes inspired by nature that I love, ancient ruins with a modern twist, or based on life experience, and expressing the emotions that we all experience -perhaps easier to think of as Inner and Outer Landscapes. I have also gone on to exhibit in national art fairs, curate local exhibitions, including commemorations for WWI, Solo Exhibition, Open Studio, and taken commissions.
I include ‘intuitive ‘ as part of my ID, honed in years of listening to people and working with them to find a way forward as I have also done. My therapeutic work was always about finding meaning, and the personal growth that can emerge from hard times.
Among the many influences on my life, the most important have been connected to family, faith, art (all kinds from Vermeer to abstract expressionism), my time in Peru, nursing, therapeutic work and ministry with people, and having a very tolerant husband!
It’s a balancing act: no way back on the church front either as I was licensed as a lay minister at the same time as the abstract course finished, and with the vicar’s retirement then, was busy in the parish!! I have had to commit to the decisions I take and not avoid the ‘difficult’ areas of life, despite some challenging consequences… I have continued with reflecting on who I am and how I perceive the world shows in my paintings. It is an ongoing journey to discover and re-discover my inner self…
So why do I paint?
It gives me mental space and a freedom to process things – I am still working as a lay minister part-time.
It lifts me up, uses my creative instincts, and they lift the rooms they are in, providing a talking point as one client wrote:
‘The pictures are well and truly still an intrigue in our lounge – not only are they eye-catching but they are a talking point whenever guests come over… we still enjoy giving the backstory to them, which is interesting because they’re modern depictions of their subjects. … They just lift the room!”
And they are a journey for the mind or spirit:
Writing about what drew her to the picture, another wrote: ‘the really vibrant colours, the dark blue strokes and sense of mist, mystery and questioning. It allows me to wonder, look deeper and longer and it draws me in.’
Art can help to lift us out of the mundane, open our eyes to what is around, not just the material world we inhabit, but the colours and experiences, be they physical, emotional, mental or spiritual: the life journeys we take – our Inner or Outer Landscapes. It’s a journey I never thought to make, but I love the experience and hope you will join me! Perhaps my pictures may help to open doors for you too.
Elaine Almond 09/01/2019