Monday, September 28, 2015

Canvas 9.28.15

I am going to talk about one of my favorite artists and I want you to know that I will be completely biased because this artist is my mother, Amy Van Helden.

But don't worry, I won't be asking you to look her up and buy her paintings (although I strongly suggest you look her up and buy her paintings). Rather, I will be talking about the process of painting, something that we rarely get to know or see from other more famous painters that sadly no longer roam in our Earth.

Being the daughter of an artist put me in the very privileged position of being able to see how a painting is done. All the thought processes, all the sketches, all the color schemes, all the trial and errors, all the joy and all the stress--yes, an incredible amount of stress goes in each canvas. I cannot generalize for every artist, but my mom is a perfectionist: she will not get over a painting until she thinks that no more changes can be done, until she thinks that every color and every shape are in their correct places. Naturally, she'll stress if she cannot figure out what's bothering her; if she cannot figure out which shape is off or which colors should stay or go. You might have figured out by now that my mom is an abstract painter. She plays with color and movement, with texture and pattern, with poetry and love.

In her high school yearbook, my mom wrote that she "craves chocolate and blue." I can't think of anything that defines her as accurately as that phrase. Color overflows out of my mom, not only in her manner of dressing, which is full of bright, sunshine colors, but in her personality as well. 

My mom never lets life knock her out, even in the hardest of times. I think it's because she was able to paint for all these years; it's what has made her stay afloat. She, like me, creates because if not she'll drown. She creates to escape into a world of color, a world that, in her eyes, makes complete sense. I love seeing my mom lost in making her art. It's like reading a book: you enter into this alternate universe, almost into the artist's mind. You get to see glimpses of what they are made of, of what they feel passionate about. The same goes for all artists of every type, writers, musicians, painters, photographers - you get lost in the world they are inventing. 

And so, we look at a painting to get lost in their canvas.

It's probably just me, but every time I look at her paintings, my heart starts racing. I can't figure out why. Maybe it's the effects of the different combination of colors. Maybe it's the different movements and textures she is able to create. Or maybe it's just because I'm awestruck. Looking at these paintings I am reminded of the smell of acrylics that filled her studio. I am reminded of when my fingertips would trace the brushstrokes. I am reminded of how much I love her. 

I guess art is different when you know the artist. I bet if she had painted a scribble, I would still be in awe. 

That being said, I can't help but feel incredibly proud of my mom, and it pains me that we live so far apart. I am no longer able to help her decide on some colors, or see the process of her work. Now I am like every other commoner; I see the painting only when it's finished.

But that's okay, she still manages to impress me. And even though in my eyes she's an incredible artist, she'll always be first and foremost, my mom. 

- Alana

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