As I sit down at my table every morning, I have a clear view of one of my paintings. This painting took months to complete and was created during a time of tremendous hardship and discomfort for me and my family. I do not believe that I will ever part with it. I have made art for over 20 years, and I never make art with the intention of keeping any. Making the work and enjoying the creative process is always my primary reward. Finding a forever home for my paintings and supporting my family with my art has always been my secondary reward. This painting is my only exception.
While creating a painting like this, there are so many elements that need consideration. First of all, I consider the placement of the figure. I knew I wanted to create a prayerful caretaker, a loving force of some kind, and I knew that I wanted it to be inspired by figures from the Renaissance. The figure would be front and center with a magnificent halo. Intuition lead the way while I created her. Later, after making some progress on this painting, I began a series of eye studies, painted on wood blocks, to stretch myself and my art making skills. After painting many blocks, I turned my focus back to the painting, and the eyes started going in around the halo. The vague idea for the theme was that even while praying, there is protection. I was contemplating the notion that we are always being looked out for, even when we cannot look out for ourselves.
I haven’t written for a while because 2021 was a pretty rough year for me and my family. In February, we were hit with a crazy winter storm, one that only comes once in a hundred years here in Texas. We lost power for several days and had nowhere to go to keep warm, so we lived in our closet on a mattress that we shoved in there to keep ourselves warm with our own body heat while the temperature inside our house was in the 30’s and 40’s for days. Since we have no gas, we cooked food in our fireplace when we had wood. After we thawed out, we noticed some water under our kitchen sink which caused us concern. We had it all inspected by an insurance adjuster with a contractor present. The contractor ended up being an awful person and, to make a long story short, we lived without a kitchen or bathroom sinks and cabinets on concrete floors for 5 months, not knowing if our insurance company would cover replacing it all. We were essentially camping in our own house. It was very stressful, to say the least. Thanks to a dear friend, we eventually found a great contractor and another four months later our house, and our family, slowly healed.
When we were finally able to put all the rooms back together, I decided that I would place this painting in a room where we spend a lot of time. I just wanted to look at it for a bit. Over time it has become very special to me, an object that I now consider priceless, though I had once wanted to offer it for sale. This painting serves as a very personal reminder of how my family and I are able overcome hardship. It reminds me how we came together to support one another and grew even closer to each other. Most importantly, this painting has taught me about something I had never even considered: What other people experience while living with my art.
It has been interesting for me to learn the differences in the meanings of the elements in this painting from the creation process, and how much their meanings change once living with them. Now that I have lived with her for a while, the image of this saintly woman reminds me of the challenges my family and I faced in 2021 and also the challenges I face as an artist, and how I work through things, sometimes for months and years at a time, before I see the solution clearly. The eyes around the glowing halo remind me that there are people, and if you believe it, sometimes angels, or depending on your spiritual flavor, God is always watching out for us. I am reminded that I am never alone, and that often times difficulties are but a blip and should be treated as such.
The past few months of enjoying and experiencing my own art in this way has given me a little more appreciation for what I do and the responsibility I have as an artist: Make the work that I need to make. Make the work that the world might need. Make the art that helps people. Make the art that can brighten a day or a life time.
My intention for this new year is to live more intentionally and to spread that through the work that I make. I hope that you and yours are happy, healthy and that you have a beautiful 2022!
Scott Dykema is a fine artist, muralist and illustrator based in Texas. His highly energetic and jubilant works range from the abstract to studies of such diverse subjects as animals, Native Americans, geishas and angels.