The unfolding of my Our Journey painting
An old lithography from 1826 by Francois Georgin inspired my painting. It was on the wall in the washrooms, by the toilet seat, at my grandparents “castle” and as you can imagine everyone in the family would see and stare at this image many times a day! A copy of it here shows you how this image depicts life: 5 steps going up to “the age of discretion” and from there it is all the way down passing through “the declining age”, “the age of decrepitude”, “the obsolete age”, before we end at 100 years old at “the age of imbecility or infancy”! And after this depressing second half of life, we are doomed with the last judgment by the old man in the clouds; although he loves us all equally and is all forgiving, if you’ve been bad, you will end up sent to eternal inferno. As a kid I found this amusing and intriguing; today I find it quite pathetic. Once I was an artist, I had to paint what would be my version of life unfolding to heal the trauma of growing up with this narrow view of life experience.
The main aspect I wanted to change was the static pyramid step. Each religion have come up with different versions of what happens before birth and after death, many people have experiences that bring insights about what “could possibly be”, but the way I like to look at it is that truly, factually: we don’t know. From this I chose to make the story of life as a spiral, which has no beginning and no ends. The blue butterflies around the child emerging are also found when the sun rises again with the new spring at the end of the cycle. I like to be reminded that when the caterpillar ‘dies’, it has no idea that it is initiating the life of a beautiful butterfly.
Yes, our bodies will slowly break down before we die (although if one takes care of his/her health and well-being impeccably, this is not an inescapable curse), but when we look at life as a continuous learning and growing journey, the truth is that one gains wisdom and peace as he/she gets older. This can make aging a very interesting and fulfilling process. A 100 year old can then feel like a child at heart and experience the natural pure and powerful wisdom of the child.
The natural slowing down of the body as we age gives us the opportunity to slow down in our activities and have more time for reflection. Just like winter is telling us to rest and look inward every year. When one lives in tune with nature life is a cycle following the seasons.
A little magic happened when I created this painting. The first version was a watercolor and gouache on paper so I was working flat on a table. I started to paint from the center, turning the paper as I was progressing with the spiral unfolding. Only when the painting was done I looked at it, and had to decide where the top of the piece was. So I turned it every which way until it was obvious as if it was planned (and it wasn’t): the top had to be with the person celebrating life, dancing around the fire with his staff! Also, a perfect symmetry appeared with the two large trees on both sides, the storm and death at the bottom bringing another equilibrium to the top of the painting. Since 2009 when this image came out, I kept noticing little details that I just put in intuitively and that came out to be very revealing and deep. For example I like how one of the seagulls in the storm is floating peacefully among the big waves, teaching the person lost and carried by the waves in panic that there is a different way of riding the difficult times. Also I saw later on that it is among the broken dead trees on the beach after the storm that the person finds his staff (leaning against the tree he is embracing). Indeed it is often within the hard times that we find the best life lessons, which we take with us for the rest of the journey.
Depending on your life experience you will also see things that speak only to you, or notice new details and messages that I have not seen yet. This is one of the most fulfilling aspects of sharing my artwork with others: to receive your feedback, your emotions, your personal connections and life stories in relation to my paintings. I now look forward to hearing from you!
I also create art jewelry with a non-toxic eco-resin and recycled leather for the bracelets with my images http://artbygaia.com/catalog/index.php?cPath=1_23