HOW CREATING VISUAL ART AND MUSIC
HELPED TO COMMEMORATE
THE MEMORY OF A LOVED ONE
This Blog is about creating a visual response to an instrumental piece written by my youngest daughter Lecia, as an expression of remembering my late husband/Lecia’s step-father, 10 years after his sudden passing. We used the arts to convey what words cannot, and we both hope that others who have experienced a loss of a loved one will be touched tenderly as their memories are visited.
Lecia is a gifted musician and like her sister, Karen, had a very loving and fun-filled relationship with her step-father, Alan. Lecia wrote this lovely 5 minute instrumental called ‘In Memory”, commemorating those precious memories on the 10 year anniversary and asked me to paint an image to partner it.
This will help if you listen to the music as you look at the images I painted.
BEGINNING MY RESPONSE – THE PROCESS BEGINS
It’s not the first time Lecia and I have collaborated with art and music (see painting ‘The Don’t b flat Project” on my web site www.jenniebellart.com). This time however, Lecia had already written the music before inviting me to be part of the process.
I played the music several times first, alone, so as I could get in touch with my reactions and memories the music invoked. The music was soft, gentle, yet subtly uplifting. As it entered my spirit I responded by using charcoal and drawing on large pieces of butcher’s paper. These became loose structural lines for the painting, as well as releasing the emotion expressed into line. This is my go to method of staying authentic to my response as well as helps open me to my emotions when I begin creating a painting.
MOVING FROM DRAWING TO PAINTING SURFACE
WHAT DOES MEMORY LOOK LIKE?
Memories are such a personal thing. They are real, yet we can’t touch them like a solid thing. Sometimes, words can’t express our memories even to ourselves.
Having an expressionistic bent to my painting practise, as well as having had art therapy training, the transition into expressing memory visually (of Alan in particular) flowed easily. However, I was also responding to the “In Memory” music. Lecia’s music flowed from her heart, as was my visual response flowing from mine. Also I was conscious of keeping the music informing me at the same time.
Now here was the surprise to both of us – we later realised we had both imagined the predominantly soft blue colours for this music “In Memory” as the best colours to represent our memories, through this piece of music.
A previous painting I’d done “Fond Memories,” (see https://www.jenniebellart.com/response-series) was in totally different colours, at a different time.
USING THE ARTS FOR EXPRESSION WHERE WORDS JUST AREN’T ENOUGH
I was using layers of acrylic paint dripping with medium, and swirling in response to the music, then using a small spray bottle to further soften parts, and allow dribbles to happen. I was emotionally drawn to using different hues of blue, and then purple, in a rhythm that matched the initial structural charcoal sketches. Finding this structure was reappearing again visually was reassuring me I was staying true to the first emotional response too, still soft and flowing.
As I painted with the music, which was being played over and over, the paint was gliding around the surface, connecting, and occasionally disconnecting with previous strokes, but continually moving. The sense of fluidity had been my first reaction when I’d first heard the music and never left me.
Art helps many of us get into our inner emotions. Words analysing my emotions came floated into my mind as my brush moved the paint about. Remembering loved ones is a moving process, gliding like moving shadows and soft water. There’s a bitter-sweetness to it all. Also, an honouring to the shared relationships we had.
Yes, we who live on find new ways to exist over time, but to pause and touch softly our treasured memories can be a way of saying thank you for the life we shared. If you’re like me, a person of faith, in the early days I used to ask Jesus, who reaches across all time and places, to hug Alan on my behalf. I found this helped me leave that sacred moment a little lighter for the love.
THE PAINTING CONTINUES
The painting continued in its fluid way, with wet dribbles of paint and medium and spray, and also fine drawn lines and block areas with pastel. I was using pastel and acrylic now, jumping between the two, ignoring traditional rules in art of not adding paint over pastel, and going with the flow. That’s just like grief. There are no rules, and there’s a going with the flow of the unknown, especially for the first year. Grief breaks all rules.
The oval-like shapes became darker and more solidified, hinting at shapes found in softly disrupted water, then they also had areas like caverns. This made me think of how memories come and go at will then slip back into the hidden library of my heart.
CONNECTING WITH LECIA
There comes a time in a painting where there’s no turning back and commitment is made to the direction the painting is taking. At that point, I asked Lecia if she was happy with any of the images as the painting progressed to partner her music.
I photographed each stage so Lecia could choose what she was most happy with for the CD cover. There was a moment she said how she’d imagined the same predominantly light blue colours for the music too. We were both surprised. We had deliberately not discussed any thoughts of what the image could look like up to date.
To get the full impact of this connection, I recommend you listen to her music on
We both hope the music and art touches your hearts and brings good, and if relevant, healing, memories of loved ones who have left this world ahead of you. Our memories of Alan are filled with love and laughter, and we remember him fondly.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog. It is my first attempt at blogging, and I have plans to do more. Not frequently, as I have lots of paintings, creative spiritual workshops, and other areas I’m involved in with spiritual direction to do yet too.
Future blogs will cover areas of creating studio space/time; having a home art practise; how my workshops are run using art therapy techniques to help people hear God in creative ways; what I experience when I am prophetically painting; and more.
Signing off with loving encouragement