Unfinished Canvas Meets its Purpose – 3 years later


The little masterpiece you see here, started its transformation 3 years ago. Pregnant with my daughter and on maternity leave, I found myself painting quite often. I began to dabble and doodle a lot (a gift handed down by my very talented grandfather – who was an amazing artist). I didn’t know technique or proper use of brush strokes. I wasn’t sure what colors to mix, nor did I understand shading or etching. The color wheel looked like it belonged back in the ‘Game of LIFE’ box. All I knew about painting was that when I listened to music…amazing things happened to the blank canvas in front of me.

I had no clue ‘what’ this painting was supposed to be. I just sat down (slowly and quite comically at almost 9 months pregnant) and began to swirl the brush. I prayed for my baby girl as I painted. I put some white oil paint on a huge brush and swished it back and forth onto the canvas. It was thick like Elmer’s glue, and smelled like my grandpa’s dirty shirts after working in the garage all day. I loved it.

White was a safe color. To me, it signified “newness” and “purity”. Also it can be a forgiving medium if you mess up – just blend! My art was so deep and rich with interpretation, right? It could hang next to a Picasso and people would “understand my work”. I put the brush down and I stared at the nothing in front of me. “Ok well, *giggle* I just made this white thing whiter…now what?”

I grabbed my iPod and shuffled through the genres of music. Each were trying to sell themselves to me with intriguing covers and hundreds of catchy titles. I stopped the annoying clicking on one of my playlists in particular. It held melodies that sang to my soul. The Weepies track called, “The World Spins Madly On” was my jam. I pushed play, closed my eyes, and let the tunes embrace me and my baby bump.

Swaying to the sweet sounds pulsing out of my earbuds, I touched my tummy. She gave me high fives as I tapped on the stretched skin that held my precious future. The song stopped, and I snapped out of my musically induced trance. I then landed on a track I loved at the time (and still do!) – Jonathan Elias’ “At the Edge”. His American River album rocked my socks, in an instrumental sock rocking type of way. I slipped into a peaceful place…and then it happened.

I flipped my paintbrush over and started to scratch through the wet oil. The pattern was curved, swirling, and seemed to dance with Elias. I grabbed some water colors and splashed them on too. The music lulled my mind to sleep and all that was left was…creation. Was it perfect, fancy, and technical? Hell no. It was void of life. Much like my state of being at the time. This thing had no purpose, yet.

My daughter was born and seemed to turn 3 the weekend after. Time flies when you’re a mom. She is a singer, oh man is she a singer! Everyday chores are done in song. “Mom I need to waaaash my Jammies! Won’t you please waaaaash my Jammie’s? I got milk on them so let’s waaaash theeeeem.” To which I reply, of course, in tune. She is an amazing actress, dancer, and a super fast learner. She also loves art, go figure.

The other day she found this canvas in the closet. The canvas with no story that had been forgotten. It was stuffed into a pillowcase two years ago and thrown into countless storage facilities. A divorce and two moves later it found its way back into the dark. Its story was no longer pure or new. It was unfinished, but held the memory of happier times. A plain white canvas with a pattern, who knew? It had a lot of depth to it I never could have imagined.

She asked me what it was and I said, “You know what love? I painted that when you were in my belly! I don’t really know what it is. Just some designs, a pattern you know?” She touched the raised up oil that was now dried and cracked. Her high pitched voice told me, “Mom I like it! It looks like the ocean.”

My first thought was, “Where are her paints? (and her pants, good Lord child why are you always half naked!) My little girl sat down, in her Tinkerbelle panties, and reached for a brush. She found the biggest one and held it delicately between the thumb with the mustard on it, and the pointer with the sparkly nail polish. The first color she went for was purple – surprise, surprise. She was making, “fish for the sea so they can swim around.” She had every color of the rainbow on her belly button. Her smile was speckled with blues and pink acrylics. Once finished, she stepped back and told me, “Mom, we did this together huh?” Sweetheart…yes we did.

It’s been a journey for my daughter and I. This painting symbolizes a lot for us. It’s hanging in her room now, above her pet fish ‘Happy’.

20130724-220625.jpgLittle bit of silly before nap! Me and my Chloe Rose.


11 thoughts on “Unfinished Canvas Meets its Purpose – 3 years later

  1. What is perfection in art but fulfilling that creative urge? For what it’s worth, this is a strikingly lovely piece, Jess. *Covers face* I won’t admit that this very nearly urged me to tears. It’s also a very lovely thing when a child moves with that creative impulse. Nicely said.


    1. Thank you very much! Every night we read a book before bed, actually four or so, and I look at this painting. It reminds me to keep swimming. Her and I continue to make memories because of the arts, and I will never forget what the piece meant for me before she came along…she gave it life.


      1. That is the greatest blessing of all, I’d say. The only people I think I will ever truly envy are they who are able to share these things with the children they have borne. Powerful, indeed, and nothing short of inspiring. 🙂


  2. what a wonderful story you weave out of the ordinary and yet extraordinary stuff of our everyday happenings – your little girl sounds like a delight – i shall definitely be back to read more


  3. This was the first post I read this morning and a lovely way to start the day. The picture is beautiful but the best thing is that it will always hold such precious memories for you, of the time when your little girl was in your belly and then the time when she breathed new life into the picture. I guess that’s what kids do for us isn’t, they add colour and meaning to our lives. Your little girl seems delightful. I so enjoyed reading this, thank you for sharing.



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