Updated: Sep 6, 2021
Making Elusive Feelings Tangible
My friend and longtime client Eleanor commissioned me to create a painting of her elder mare, Fine Time. She wasn’t interested as much in a likeness, or to commemorate Fine Time’s success as a cutting horse, but rather to create a work of art that could portray the elusive and magical moment Eleanor had experienced while being with Fine Time in her pasture. She described a feeling of oneness she had felt with Fine Time and with nature, and how in that moment time itself seemed to stand still, and her awareness of any separation between herself, her horse, and life itself had dissolved away.
Eleanor has a way with words, and she wrote to me about this experience, saying, “It is really more feelings than pictures. The best I can do is to describe it as a see-through, a revealing, a melding and merging of heart and essence and being, particularly the two of us, but also with the trees and sky. I was bathed in late afternoon light, and even as I try to put it into words right now, it conjures up a feeling of peace and bliss and utter contentment. The feelings that I have for Fine Time, especially as they manifest in those moments of merging, are truly time-less.”
Fine Time Shows Us the Way
I went to Eleanor’s home to visit and photograph Fine Time for her portrait. Eleanor and I had discussed how to portray this elusive concept. As we stood there, Eleanor was describing that a few times in the last few months, Fine Time had initiated an embrace and held Eleanor to her chest in a very poignant gesture of love. As we stood talking about Eleanor’s experiences – as if on cue, Fine Time stepped over to Eleanor and enacted the embrace for me to be able to capture it on film. It was made clear then that Eleanor needed to be in the portrait. Originally she may have felt self-conscious being portrayed, but she felt the angle of the photograph was perfect, taken as it was from behind her, so it allowed her to not worry about how she “looked” in the photo but allowed her to focus instead on how she felt hugging Fine Time. Then she could put herself in that moment every time she looked at the portrait
Fine Time Embraces Eleanor
The Concept of Timelessness
When I began to plan to portrait, I created a composition of light streaming through trees and grasses, to hearken to the feeling of transcendence. I was also inspired to draw a dandelion in the moment of releasing its seeds to the wind. Dandelions are frequently associated with making a wish. However, in this painting, I had in mind the idea of slowing down the passage of time, to portray the “stillness” Eleanor had described in her experience.
This concept was brought home to me in a wonderful way through the movie, “Star Trek – Insurrection”. In the film, Captain Picard meets an enlightened being named Anij who looks young but is hundreds of years old. In explanation, she later shows Captain Picard how her species is so advanced they can slow-down time. As the two characters begin to experience closeness, Anij shows Picard how she alters time by blowing the seeds of a flower into the air, where they hang beautifully suspended in ultra-slow motion, extending their precious time together into a moment of infinity.
Music and Magic
Music is always an integral part of my creative process. But in this case, the music was not only contributing to my mood but ended up orchestrating the theme of the artwork itself. While I was creating the pastel painting, a song came on my cd player by a group called 2002, titled “Hold the Sky.” The music and lyrics were uncannily perfect for the feeling of the painting. Uncannily – the lyrics actually said, “See the time in the air this moment. “ Just like the dandelion!
I instantly knew I wanted to title the artwork “Hold the Sky.” So I wrote the band’s leader, Randy and Pamela Copus an email. I didn’t expect a response because I knew they must be the recipients of too much fan mail, so I was surprised when Pamela wrote me back and said she’d be delighted to have me use their title and lyrics in context with showing the art. Eleanor now thinks of this music as their “theme song.”
The concept of the extension of time was fascinating to me and infused my intent in creating the art. Eleanor told me she knew her life with Fine Time was in its final years and she hoped to extend that time as long as she could.
As it happened, my portrait waiting list was quite lengthy when Eleanor commissioned me. During that time, Fine Time occasionally suffered from a debilitating horse metabolic disorder called laminitis. In that time Eleanor had her hands full with the caregiving of her beloved horse.
Fortunately, when I unveiled the portrait Fine Time was in a recovery phase. So, for a few precious months, Eleanor was truly able to set aside her worry and feel joy and hope for her horse’s healing.
Eleanor later wrote to me and told me she felt blessed that the painting had allowed her to be even more fully conscious of that precious time they shared. She said, “The perfection and beauty of your artistic expression of Fine Time’s and my experience takes my breath away. It opens and softens my heart each and every time I see it. It is a treasure.“
Fine Time has now joined the Great Spirit Horse Herd. As we look at her portrait and listen to the music “Hold the Sky”, we can feel the love that Eleanor and Fine Time shared. May it ripple out and heal the spirits of humans and horses throughout all time and space.
Hold the Sky Song Lyrics Sing to me On a clear bright morning Fly to me On your wings of freedom We will run To the end of a rainbow We will dream together Hold the sky In a crystal sunrise Carry songs To the silent water We will stay In this moment forever Flowing with the river Songs of life The coming changes Traveler winds Rejoicing Every star Every spirit be one One See the time In the air this moment Hear the words In the wind returning We will stay In this moment forever Flowing with the river River of love ~ Music Lyrics from “Hold the Sky” reproduced with permission 2002 – Believe, A Spiritual Romance