“Writing by hand will show us True North.” Julia Cameron
Part of my journey towards a daily art practice has included ‘morning pages’, the longhand freeform get-everything-out-of-your-brain writing exercise made famous by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way.
As I was reading through the book of hers about creative pilgrimage called The Vein of Gold, these quotes about morning pages – specifically about writing by hand – were jumping off the page at me!! Here they are scripted alongside an earthy-orange compass.
For a few years now, I’ve had this nudge to take photographs I have made, get them printed in B&W on watercolor paper, large scale, and paint on them using gouache and watercolors. I liked the idea, but never knew where to start.
Immediately after I returned home from a trip to rural France this summer, inspiration for creating my ‘photo paintings’ came back in full force. What was new were several incredibly concrete, personal themes which began forming in my head.
The themes revealed themselves in two series to start with: detail snapshots of ancient paintings of Mary (below), and an evocative series inspired by the French story ‘The Little Prince’. Many more ideas were swirling around relating to pilgrimage of the heart and this year’s actual Camino pilgrimage in Burgundy. Then throughout the autumn months they slowly developed into four distinct, solid narratives. As soon as I complete the project stories for each one, they will be linked to here:
Early on, as I was daydreaming about getting a studio and imagining what the paintings would look like, I was floored at how giddy excited I was getting. What is happening to me?? I would say, a little bewildered. Yet this is the very same thing I experienced as I was preparing for my trip to France, so I figured I had better pay attention. Investigating local art studios, I quickly discovered that the right space is not so easy to find. In the meantime I have been creating test versions (see above) of the paintings on a smaller scale to see what works well.
This project feels more ambitious than anything I’ve ever tried, and truthfully – I’ve never made art quite like this before. Poignant and emotional and experimental. Over and over I have sensed that this is my project of the hour, the work that is for *now*.
Series no. 1 ~ The first of four series of paintings I am in the midst of creating is an exploration of my journey on the Camino in France. I call it All Roads Lead to Burgundy.
How did I get here?
It all came together through a French wine tasting, an art project with maps and compasses, and a decades long desire to walk the Camino.
Here is a peek at the project story:
How do you draw a map of your heart?
For years, two dreams haunted me with that ‘someday?’ question. I ached to return to France, the culture I love most and the foreign language I know best. And I read and talked and daydreamed about making the fabled Camino, as journeys of pilgrimage have long been a recurring theme in my personal history.
Pilgrimage, I’ve heard it said, starts with loss. For me, it started with a longing bigger than I could hold: for the full and adventurous life I hadn’t dared to believe was possible.
It began with a series of startlingly moving encounters and continued with three years of a strange interior pilgrimage ~ “My Camino, at Home” as I called it ~ which sharpened my life in a myriad of ways.
At a certain point, stepping into these dreams of mine turned from I’ll do it One Day to Now is the Time. And the culmination came through Burgundy, a region often called the heart of France. How apropos.
This painting series is a chronicle of my week on the Camino through the French countryside.
I will be using my own photographs for inspiration, such as the one above. Over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing about the development of these paintings and my creative process as I go.
How do you draw a map of your heart? Join me as I find out.