Monday, 4 May 2009

Rebirth - insights into my creative process

"Rebirth" is a painting that i completed in May, 2007. Somehow, i never did get around to posting it to my blog at the time, although i did upload it to Flickr!
Today, i received a comment on it from GroggyFroggy who found it on Flickr after doing a Google search for "colorful art". i'm thrilled she found it, because i've been contemplating listing it for sale and after finding this comment in my inbox, this little synchronicity just sealed the deal.

In the middle of painting this piece, i began working with Deborah Russell, a Creativity Coach. i enjoyed a few weekly coaching sessions with Deborah by phone and email. At the time, i wrote about the progression of "Rebirth" in my journal. i thought it might be fun to share some of those ramblings now (if you just want to see the final painting ... scroll all the way to the bottom of the post now!). It's a long post, so thanks for reading! LOL! i hope it gives you a sense of how the painting evolved over a period of about two weeks (from middle to end stages) as well as insights into my ideas and feelings behind its creation. The following are excerpts taken from my journal and emails with Deborah, as well as pictures (i wish i had taken more!) of the painting in progress ...
May 15, 2007 - Notes to Self:

Possible Titles: "Take Flight", "Creation"
Actual Progress:a crow and daisies have emerged at the bottom of the canvas
the figure is still there, just beneath the surface, waiting to be painted
Possibilities(?):an upturned face on the figure
mouth open wide
arms/wings reaching for the sky
a black and white striped neck
a clock under/as part of the left arm of the figure
a map in the background behind the figure
" i painted tonight, i was listening to the Chakra Clearing CD by Doreen Virtue. It was inspiring and it felt right. It struck me that the affirmations that are spoken on the CD follow nicely with the feeling i am trying to convey in this painting ..."
"...i spoke to Deborah, my Creativity Coach tonight about my reluctance to paint the figure. i'm aware that it comes from a place of fear because in a previous attempt to paint a figure in another painting, i became so frustrated that i ended up gessoing over the half-formed image as well as other parts of the painting, at which point i felt deep regret! i don't want this painting to meet the same fate, because i already really like the the daisies and the crow. i know there is a figure there! it came to me even before the image of the crow or daisies appeared. Deborah asked me if i had a clear vision in my mind of what the figure looked like. i told her that the arms were impossibly long and up-stretched, as if flying. i could also visualize a curvy neck with black and white stripes ... i explained to her this is all i could imagine and this was the reason for my reluctance to start painting with so little to go on. At this point, i have no vision of what the body might look like or how it would fit in behind the crow ..."

May 22, 2007 email to Creativity Coach (excerpts):
"... i did pursue the figure in my 16x20 canvas. i started by painting the parts i could see in my mind ... the long curving black and white striped-neck and the head. As i continued to paint, i came to realize that i could not percieve a clear picture of what the body looked like because the figure in my painting is not an actual person with a body, it is more of a spirit. The body actually turned out to look something like a feather ..."

"...i am feeling fairly close to being done this painting, however, i struggle a little with the ‘weird’ imagery. i don’t know why because i want to paint in a way that flows from my imagination … to go where the painting wants to go, but … i guess i’m still too worried about the results. i’ve attached a picture of it so you can get a sense of what i have been talking about. i am setting it aside for a little bit, not because i don’t want to finish it. But i feel like i want to start making some progress on the 8x8 canvases and i’m hoping that in doing this, the final inspiration i’m looking for to finish the 16x20 painting will come to me ..."

© Copyright Rachelle Hartley
"... (after looking at the photo again) i’m just not sure i really like it at all. i’m not sure if it can be salvaged. There are parts of it i like, but overall, i’m not satisfied with it. Something is missing, and at this point, i don’t exactly know what that is. i feel there is something more to be developed in the background over the head and underneath the left arm, above the flowers. How do you know if/when you should give up on something that is not working? Or should you struggle with it and find a way to make it work no matter what? ..."

FYI: as it turned out, i never really did put this painting aside to work on the other canvases (as mentioned in my email). Instead, i continued to work on "Rebirth", adding little bits, here and there until is was completely finished - less than a week later.

May 24, 2007 email to Creativity Coach (excerpts):
"Thanks for the great session tonight. i am finding it very beneficial! Like i mentioned, it useful to talk about the painting and my process with someone who understands. i like the questions you ask and it is helping me to ask myself similar questions as i go long. It helps me to keep things moving and it's keeping me in touch with my feelings. When i’m asking questions, the judgmental voice has much less opportunity to voice its opinion ..."
"... i’ve made some progress on the painting tonight and i am pleased with how it is progressing. As i was speaking to you on the phone, i kept seeing swirls under the arm on the left side of the painting. When i got off the phone, i knew that is what i had to paint. i like the result. i painted (the swirls) while sitting in front of my webcam, ‘joining’ in my sister’s baby shower in Calgary. It was great just hearing everybody chattering back and forth and being able to chat and interact with my family as i painted. They asked to see my painting and it delighted me to hear “ooh, that’s cool … love the bird … very colorful” Of course they’re probably biased ‘cause they love me, but i’ll take the positive feedback wherever i can get and be happy with it too! :0 )"
"i've attached the latest progress. i stopped after painting the green swirls. i should have stopped before that - ugh! i don’t like the green swirls, it was better without them. i will need to fix it tonight but i have no more energy or patience to do that ..."

© Copyright Rachelle Baum

New Title: "Rebirth"

May 26, 2007 - Ideas to FINISH the Painting (epiphany):a branch with two fantastical leaves growing out of the top of the head of the figure
a crow flying above the figures head
red and orange flames trying to engulf the crow and the nest
the crow will not leave the nest, because it is protecting an egg (it's creation)
the flames are 'licking' and 'swirling' dangerously close to the flowers
the spririt is rising up like a 'Phoenix', transcending the flames

May 27, 2007 - Stayed up until Midnight to complete Rebirth:
"... i just had to finish the painting. It was already done in my mind, all i had do was paint what i saw. i am thrilled with the outcome. i think it's really cool. The flames are my favorite part. i've never painted (or ever really drawn) flames before. i just kept painting until they looked like the flames i saw in my mind ..."

Final Thoughts:One leaf appears 'sprouting' from the head of the figure. It seemed fitting that it was a "Renewal" leaf (the painting i completed just before i began working on "Rebirth"! I really enjoy painting in this way, rather than in a style that is more realistic because it allows what is in my heart to come out!
Here is what the final painting looks like.

© Copyright Rachelle Hartley
16" x 20" mixed media on canvas
Thanks. For those of you that read all the way to the end - well done! i hope you enjoyed it ~ Rachelle
p.s. Any and all comments greatly welcomed


  1. Rachelle! Love your Blog. Your words and art are very inspiring. Thanks for following mine; I appreciate it.:)

    Have a joyous day! Marilyn

  2. What a wonderful journey that painting took!! I loved reading it all and now I'm wondering if I should try doing something similar. You should definitely put this piece up on Etsy. It's vibrant and happy!

  3. Great job honey. I love this painting as it hangs on the wall at home. keep up the good work!


  4. Super beautiful and i love your eye popping colours :) The music is great too! In answer to your question I use wood and and clay.