My journey through the valley of deep depression, to a great breakthrough.
The first 40 years of my life were all about watercolour. My hero in this world was my uncle jack Reid, Canada’s master watercolourist. I wanted to paint barns like his. I strived to make my snow look as silky smooth as his. I never came close but I did ok, as technic goes. For some reason though, I never really mastered it. Sure it was accepted by many but there came a point when I reached my ceiling and just couldn’t seem to take it any higher. Besides everything I just couldn’t seem to make a go of watercolour as a career either. In this artists view watercolour is far higher in skill level than oil, that because in oil you can paint over your mistakes and make it right, but in watercolour you must hit the target the first time or start again. I started again many, many times over.
After 26 years in the corporate world, trying to make my mark doing things that were clearly not really me, sitting in front of computer screens in cubicles doing little more than participating in the daily grind of e-mail baseball. Flipping on the switch at 9 am and going through the inbox list and hitting each pitch with little or no energy…it just wasn’t me. I was the proverbial square peg being rammed into the round hole. For me the hole of depression was becoming darker and darker with each day.
I recall sitting in my cubical in 2006 and feeling the dark cloud of sadness and disillusionment all around me. Sure I had the most beautiful wife, children and home. I was well situated in this well respected financial institution, the future was bright, it would seem to any outsider. But not for me. If this was going to be my life for eight to ten hours of every week day, with no end in sight I would probably loose my mind.
I had not completed high school, never went to college or university, I had no credentials to speak of. All I had was my brush and it was churning out watercolours that no one seemed ever to take a second look at. I began even to feel that even my brush had let me down. The soul of this artist was darkening and my ability to see the light was becoming more and more obscure.
Then there was the day my son, just a young kid at the time, playing in my basement he just couldn’t resist the temptation to paint with Dads watercolour brushes, the most expensive ones. He couldn’t have known that house paint was not the right medium, nor could he know that my not discovering this playful hour of his life until the next day would render my precious brushes hardened in the cans of thoroughly dried paint. He also could not have known that my days as a watercolour artist ended that fateful day. In fact, my desire to paint anything in any medium ended that day.
Our home began to become filled with cheap framed Ikea prints. I didn’t even want to look at my old watercolours.
2 years would pass. Much darkness would plague me. Much deep depression would overwhelm my heart, and all in silence and hidden deep within me. (As is the case for most sufferers of depression).
It was an afternoon in 2008 that one of my aunts, Roz Reid, sister to Jack Reid, dropped off a small weathered dirty dust covered box of oil paints. She said it was from an old neighbor of hers that had passed. His wish was that it would go to someone to whom it would be used and appreciated. Somehow she thought that should be me. The problem here was that I had never painted in oils, only watercolour. What was I to do with this box?
Months would pass. More darkness and depression.
For non artists it is not easy to understand the call we feel to put paint on a surface. Heeding the pull to render. To create. Not doing so, no matter how much the replacement job pays is a void in life that cannot be filled any other way. It is what we are born to do. It is our life’s work.
One day, as it was, I found myself sitting in my basement staring at my abandoned stack of watercolours from yester year. I felt as though I could not move forward anymore. Couldn’t face my job, my daily routine. Looking into the eyes of my young children I felt I was an utter failure. Don’t be like me, I hope you won’t be like me. I’m sorry I let you down.
As I sat there in that basement, digging holes it would seem, my eyes fall on that dusty box of oils. I brushed off a small canvas, just 3” x 3” and squeezed out a bead of sky blue ultramarine. Then a small amount of white. I untied the old mans cloth which wrapped lovingly around his bundle of brushes. I chose a simple flat one and pressed it into the blue, then the white and palleted it out on a board. I made it look something like a far shore across a river. It happened in just five minutes. I sat there staring at it. Deep down within my darkened soul I felt warmth. Like a slim stream of sunlight in the darkness I felt a glimmer of hope. It actually looked like something. I liked what I had done.
What followed was weeks of feverish painting. Sometimes with brushes, sometimes with knife. Pressing it on the canvas, smearing it, making it do things I had never seen from my hand before. I couldn’t get enough.
In the year that followed I had sold more than twenty five of those initial canvases and the fire was lit. Also in the year that followed my career at the bank came to an end due to outsourcing. I was no, for the first time in my life realizing that I had become a full time artist!
It’s been six years since that break through. I have never looked back in regret. Watercolour? It has returned in a sneaky sort of way. First there was an invitation to teach a watercolour workshop and that led to and more. Now I teach watercolour in monthly workshops locally and by invitation wherever called.
Sometimes you have to go deep, down into a dark pit to realize who you really are. I thank God from the bottom of my heart that he was with me through it all. I am living a dream life now and no day passes where I do not appreciate it. Not one day.
The Artists Journey
This is my blog page and it is where I get to be the opinionated man that I really am. The views are my own.
I invite your replies and comments, on my virtual welcome mat.
This sketch above became this finished painting below
The Pine Tree Painter.
How did I become known as the Pine Tree Painter? You could say I paint a lot of Pine Trees, that would be true. I paint a lot of other things too, but Pine Trees, Spruce Trees, Birch and others seem to be a continuous string in what i do. I just like the way they stand there like a custodian of the land. or a greeter to nature. So, I continue down the path with the Pine Tree Painter name on my head, It's ok.