First, the oil painting, then the story behind it… make sure you don’t miss my philosophical questions for you.
Watch me paint this lighthouse in a minute (time lapse)
“My dad’s one and only painting in his life was of a lighthouse. Decades later, I was inspired to paint one, after seeing this lighthouse both from the road on the way to Tybee Island, and then later from the sea while on a dolphin boat tour.
This lighthouse is located two miles west of the tourist attraction, Tybee Island Lighthouse, and is actually on Cockspur Island. The first Cockspur Lighthouse was built in 1849 to mark the entrance to the south channel of the Savannah River. Because it wasn’t working adequately, it was later rebuilt in 1857. To preserve this historical marker, the lighthouse isn’t open to visitors.
What do you feel when you look at this painting? Hope, above a sea of unknown depth & profound sadness? Do we focus on what lies beneath, or look to the Light? Art says something different to me, depending on the moment, even if the painting is my own work. So, my answer to how this lighthouse makes me feel will be different depending at where I am in life’s journey, or what my mood is at that time.”
– from the book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia” by artist Natalie Buske Thomas
Update to the above story…
It never occurred to me that Dad’s lighthouse painting was probably inspired by a real lighthouse that he’d seen. His painting was almost sketch like, not detailed. But when I was researching for an upcoming project, I stumbled upon images from where Dad grew up. I was surprised to see that there was a lighthouse in that area of upstate New York. Why did I never know this? Or maybe someone mentioned it and I didn’t remember? Why hadn’t he ever taken us there, or did he? Could we have driven past it when he was showing us his childhood places?
If so, why didn’t I remember? Was it because the tour through Dad’s places was during his last visit home, when he knew he was terminal? He was told he had only two months left to live and some of that time had already gone. I had a hard time listening to what he was saying as he gestured out the car window. I couldn’t even tell what he was pointing at sometimes, and I didn’t know some of the people he talked about. I also couldn’t see much from the backseat and I was likely nauseous, as I hate traveling in the back of a small car.
For all of those reasons, and possibly others, I may not remember having seen Dad’s lighthouse. But it’s also possible that he never showed me. A third possibility is that I’m wrong about the inspiration for his painting, but on this third point I feel the most confident about. I do believe the lighthouse near where he lived is likely his painting inspiration. The rest, I don’t know.
My philosophical question to you is this: does the truth matter? I can’t prove one way or another if Dad ever told me about that lighthouse. It’s been too many years, and most of the people who may have known are also dead. Is the truth dead also? When does reality no longer matter? Does it have an expiration date?
What if the truth was never known in the first place? Maybe Dad never mentioned the lighthouse inspiration to anyone. If truth is never known, does it matter?
What if I’m wrong, and there was no particular inspiration for Dad’s lighthouse? Maybe he painted it on a whim from his imagination, which is what I’d always assumed. If something never happened in the first place, yet people believe it does, does truth matter?
What creates reality, our perception of truth, or the actual truth? Dad didn’t know what I thought about his painting, or that I’d one day paint a lighthouse of my own. I don’t know what inspired his painting, or if it had personal meaning to him. I do know that he felt a deep connection to lighthouses spiritually, as a symbol of his Christian faith. I am remembering that as I write this.
So, as I’ve now finished the last sip of my coffee and I’ve been taken off guard by that memory of Dad’s faith connection to lighthouses, I’ll end with these thoughts… I’m calling this blog post “Light House” instead of Lighthouse. Are we seekers of a light house, or do we house light? Do we seek a house of light in the darkness, in a storm, and when we need to find our way back home? Or do we cast the light that others seek when they are lost?
Light house, or house light? Whether we are lost and seeking our way, or housing light to show the way to others, fate is only one factor. Much of what we do is manifested by our thoughts and desires. Even when we are in the darkest storm, destiny may prove us as both the traveler and the lighthouse keeper simultaneously.
See previous blog post that mentions this lighthouse painting: Painting Seascapes
I hope you’re enjoying my blog series, “Stories that Inspire my Art”. If you prefer not to check back to see if there’s something new, please subscribe to my blog to be notified when there’s a new blog post ready.
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