Saturday, May 22, 2021

Cailey's Back: Wheat and Sunflowers, Changes and Mistakes

After about a year off blogging, ya girl is back! Last year was probably the craziest year ever. I know,  I don't even need to go into all that, it was a crazy year for everyone. But seriously. I'll share more later but let me just give you the cliff notes: 

Nick and me dancing at our
In January 2020 I was happily single, living in my parent’s house, working full-time, planning a visit to Kherson, Ukraine, and enjoying my best mental health in years. 

Things were looking good, I was a few months away from paying off student loans, hoping to move into my own place by the end of the year, and working on an October deadline to publish a poetry novel.

By December I was engaged, had a new sister and a new nephew, had spent April and most of May off work for quarantine, I was finally getting ready to move into an apartment, I'd paid off my loans and completed my book, and was still enjoying my best mental health (aside from the stress of planning a wedding during a deadly pandemic!). 

With everything going on last year, adopting a sister and dating during a pandemic and whatnot, something had to give... so this site drew the short straw.

Now I'm happily married, happily vaccinated, and ready to come back to See Cailey Color!

It seems right to begin with a painting that, like this blog, also sat dormant for a year:

Wheat and Sunflowers, May 2021. Acrylic and gold ink on canvas, 14"x18". 

Early in the process...

Like I said, I planned to go to Ukraine for a week at the end of June last year. 

I got my passport, our group purchased plane tickets and started learning about the culture, everything was on track for us to travel... 

Of course you already know that didn’t happen. Covid-19 threw a major wrench in everyone's plans. 

When I began making arrangements for the trip, I did some research on the country, planning to make a painting inspired by what I learned. Wheat and sunflower oil are two of Ukraine's largest exports, and the area we were going to is very agricultural. 

I've always loved sunflowers and the color yellow... Toss in a shameless obsession with Vincent Van Gogh, and this painting just had to happen!

So I spent hours googling images of sunflower fields and wheat fields, considering my composition and colors, and thinking about techniques. 

Check out that empty foreground, waiting for inspiration!

I wanted to use a paint brush as little as possible on this one, so I used a painting knife for the underpainting and and the sky, and a sponge to paint much of the sunflower field. I only used a brush on the sunflower details and the wheat!

Anyway, coronavirus reared its ugly head, the trip was cancelled, plane tickets refunded, and my painting slipped to the sidelines. It was almost finished except for a strip of foreground that I just couldn’t get right.

The painting sat in a stack of unfinished work for a long time. I was seriously stuck on that foreground. I loved what I'd done with it thus far, especially with the sunflower field, but I just couldn't work it out.

Finally, just few weeks ago I decided I wanted to finish the painting. Feeling determined but still not exactly inspired, I made a big mistake by attempting to add a large pine tree to the foreground, with the trunk stretching up the right side and branches arching across the top, neatly framing the sunflower and wheat fields. 

I didn't even want to show you this picture but I felt
obligated to share my shame...

My gut told me not to, but I was stubborn and added that darn tree.

I hated it with the first brushstrokes, but I just kept painting and painting, like a mad woman. 

By the time I finally put down my brush, I was stuck with this very ugly tree marring the whole right side of the canvas. It was awful. I hated it.

I mean, look at it! That's like.... the worst thing I've ever painted. I hate it. 

Finally I put down my brush, but the damage was done and I wanted to cry. I felt like it was ruined. I was so mad at myself. 

I hated the thought of trying to go back over it and fix everything. The sunflowers would never be the same. The big puffy clouds and deep blue sky could never be fixed. I even considered cutting the unmarred rectangle from the middle of the canvas to use in a collage. 

But I didn't do anything drastic (the first thing I did right that night!). The next day, I painted back over the tree. Everything would be fine. 

It strikes me that this painting is a lot like life. Sometimes, you ignore your conscience and do the wrong thing. You know it’s wrong and stupid, you know it’s ruining everything, but you do it anyway, all the while your gut is screaming at you for being so stupid and stubborn. 

I’m thankful for a God who forgives mistakes and works things out for the best! 

Almost done!

That doesn’t mean the mistake never happened; there are always consequences. 

It's true that the sky and the sunflower field will never be the same. And I’ll always know that underneath the yellow and blue paint, there’s an ugly tree that should never have happened. 

Overall, however, the painting is actually more beautiful because it's finally finished!

June 2020 came and went and I still haven’t been to Ukraine. I have no idea if there’s a landscape like this anywhere in the country. There probably isn’t! I just know two of their main industries and enjoy using a paint knife. It’s hardly even about Ukraine anymore, but about mistakes and a hope for redemption.

Vincent van Gogh, Wheatfield with Crows, oil on canvas, 1890.
I've always loved this one. Can you tell it was big inspiration for my painting?

I still want to go to Ukraine someday and see what it actually looks like. But I’ll need to change the last name on my passport!

-Cailey Lazarus

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