Painting Angels

Painting angels is about more than glowing halos and virtuous smiles. Art is a language. What do we want to say? The oil painting “Turning Angel” was inspired by a monument, a statue that stands watch over the graves of five children. I learned of this beautiful statue when it made headlines because it was vandalized and toppled- broken.

When angels watch over us, what are they watching out for? Perhaps the evil of hate and ignorance, greed and selfishness, and all other dangerous motivations of humankind? Was man (in any way) at fault regarding the tragic factory explosion in the early 1900’s that killed the children? When their graves were disrespected by a vandal, what darkness drove him? I don’t see yellow halos, golden hair, or flesh tones when I imagine this angel as “alive”. I painted for the first time using only black and white- no color at all. When we think beyond what’s expected, we discover a whole new way to look. 

The next example, “We are the Angels that He sends“, was inspired by a serendipitous connection with someone I never knew that well to begin with (and when I did know her, it was over twenty years ago). Have you ever experienced a mysterious person showing up at the exact moment when you needed help, and it seemed like an “angel” was sent to you? In this case, she was literally at my door. She had been travelling across several states and I was a stop on her way. She arrived at exactly the right time, as my husband was recovering from surgery and I was alone. She kept me company for hours as I poured the coffee and she poured her heart out to me. Later, when she returned home, she was amazed that I thought of her as an angel at my door, because she thought I was her angel on her journey!

When the story we want to tell is high-energy and rich with with contradiction (highs, lows, urgency/crisis and calm/resolution), the use of full glorious color works well. Many colors, details among barely sketched areas, sharp lines alongside smooth– all of these contradictions and the sheer business of it all communicates angst and hope existing in the same space (compare with the stillness of the first piece I shared, “Turning Angel”).

In this final example, we have almost a merging of the styles from the two paintings above. The stillness and simplicity of “Turning Angel“, through a solitary figure and minimal background composition, is combined with the the rich colors and living interaction of “We are the Angels that He Sends“. Except, the encounter in “Autumn Angel“, is not communication with another person/angel, but with a dove. Anyone who has felt a connection with a bird or animal knows the peaceful understanding from one spirit to another. In this way, the dove is not just a symbol of peace, but tells the story of peaceful experiences that nature and animals provide.

You may have noticed that these three paintings were painted on different sized canvases. “Autumn Angel” was painted on a small 8×10, while “Turning Angel” was the next size up, and “We are the Angels that He sends” was on an even larger canvas. When photographed, the size of the canvas doesn’t matter, as the art becomes whatever dimension desired. But, it matters when viewing the original canvas live, and when painting the piece. Without realizing it, the tight control of painting small may affect the outcome, and likewise, the vast space to fill when painting large may impact the art. Sometimes artists factor all of these things in when deciding what medium to paint on, but other times, the decision is random- based solely on whatever canvases are on hand, happen to be on sale, whatever size there’s enough paint on hand for, whatever space is available for displaying or entering the piece into a competition, gallery, or display, etc. Whether a planned, conscious decision or a forced or random one, the size and type of medium can make a difference, but in my experience, it doesn’t make much of one. Let nothing hold you back from creating. Constraints and obstacles are challenges that give us an opportunity to learn something new.

1 Comment

  1. Kyla C says:

    Thhis is a great post

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