by Amy Hautman Bates
Three pieces from my recent series are hanging in the entryway at Southwestern College this week. Sometimes Art Therapists will tell you the therapy is in the process, not in the finished painting. For me, it is in both.
When I paint, I rarely consciously plan anything. The canvas comes out, a certain brush feels right and paint gets carefully mixed until it is the perfect color for loading my brush and smearing on the canvas. Very little analytical thinking is happening. When painting is working for me, it flows easily. It feels like pure, raw, unadulterated soul. I have no sense of time or place. It just happens… like magic.
I usually go back later to reevaluate and rework some things. Sometimes a painting is done in one session, but often I restudy a piece for years. I try to make improvements and quite frequently, I drive the whole thing into the ground and ruin it. But that’s okay.
I recently visited my ninety year old artist mother. We painted together and I saw that now that she is less steady with a brush she preferred smudging the paint around with her fingers instead.
When I got home, I wanted to try that. I added sand to my oil paint for texture and then smooshed and smeared it around until I liked the composition. Then I went in with a scraping tool, a brush and finally oil pastel sticks. The tactile experience was nearly as exciting as the visual one.
After I had a series of oil paintings that felt like a complete set, I studied the work to find its meaning. I had no preconceived ideas about what these paintings would convey. I look for the messages afterwards. On different days, I see them different ways. Today, they mean this, to me.
Here is a 3 minute video of my paintings tracking the exploration of myself as peacekeeper and what parts of myself I suppress in order to maintain peace.