Meditation: Stars

“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” - Galileo

I think a lot about stars as I paint. All those stars in my paintings - They take a long time to paint.

I spent 18 hours on the stars in Medvednica Magic and near to 25 hours on the stars in Untethered

As I paint them, in 2 hour allotments over several days, weeks, months (they can go in stages with long gaps between), I usually have BBC Radio 4 on. I listen to the news, the terrible news of tragedies around the world, the deaths and obituaries of the famous and the unknown who just happened to have done something sometime somewhere to warrant an announcement on the national news. I listen to reports on natural disasters, war torn regions, horrible histories happening now and which I feel powerless to stop. Sometimes I am lucky enough to hear a good news story that stops me - good news stories can be noticeably rare so I do will stop to savour the feeling. I listen to radio dramas too of course, comedy programs, gardening and history and music features - but somehow the news always seems to be on when the stars are being painted and invariably I am drawn into the act of honouring and remembering the dead as I paint in each tiny dot. Perhaps this is because they make me think of the story by Tomi dePaola "Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs" in which a new star appears in the sky whenever someone dies. If you have any young kids who are into Disney, it happens at the end of "The Princess and the Frog" too when the little firelight bug dies. Children's stories have a lot to offer, even when we might be past the 'age of not believing' ("Bednobs and Broomsticks," if you're interested ;). 

Anyways - I spend a lot of time pondering stars, souls, and the stories that bring them into alignment. From an artistic point of view - and as an aspiring perfectionist struggling with the imperfections inherent to my attempts at making a figurative reality out of an essentially abstract, evolving idea - each star is painted with care, dealt with gently, tidied up when messy, and touched up if necessary. At all times my stars are considered both as individuals requiring my full concentration as I put paint to cocktail stick and stick to glass; and as part of the over reaching flow of spiralling galaxies that often shape, embrace and delineate larger images. As a result each star requires a length of time and attention which has evolved into an act of meditation - so that I find myself considering the individual shape, opacity and placement of each star even as I ponder the named and (more numerous) nameless souls affected by the stories I hear as I work.

For me then, each and every star I paint becomes a memorial. It isn't something that I talk about very much - what the stars in my paintings mean to me. I have had trouble articulating it even in these written words. But it is something that is intrinsic to my night skies - the memory of those who have been lost, are being lost and will continue to be lost. Precise and bright at the moment of creation; nameless and featureless as they fade into distance; in many ways less memorable yet more powerful as they multiply in number - and each one a part of the story which makes up our pasts, presents and all possible futures - winding amongst us, leading us onwards or looking over our shoulders as we are chased into tomorrow. 

That said, I would like to be an optimistic spirit and I do not want to make my paintings into something overly serious and unnecessarily sombre. Especially as, when I sketch a painting initially, the broad sweeping galaxies are a joy to draw and a freedom to imagine. They are my favourite feature, far and away, in any of my works! It is only as I start to paint that each and every point becomes a mark of memory and memorial, until I am all done and then the vibrant, life affirming, interconnectedness of the over all spiral again takes precedence - bringing new energy to the work and uplifting my soul once again into celebration.

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