Touching the Creative Fire…  exploring the beginning of The Childhood Studies from sketch to developed drawing and painting,

And Something Touched My Heart - Marie Laywine - Contemporary art

 drawing no 31:  From the Childhood Series

dimensions 93cms (H) x 84cms (W) framed

media:  graphite & pastels on paper

Once again a warm welcome to my fourth posting of Touching The Creative Fire…  the space where I explore the Creative Process.

For the benefit of those new to my postings, a warm welcome, and I’d like to introduce myself.

My name is Marie Laywine.  I am a painter.  In my painting I work with what I call the “interior landscape”; I use ideas and images from my dreams to represent visually the mountain ranges and coastal plains inside myself and other people.

In my previous posting I explored an early experience that led to finding an image that described something I could not say in words.  (April 19, 2016:  Touching the Creative Fire… and something touched my heart)

What happened with this image?  I will explore the outcome of this image in this post.

At the time I was living in the small village of Parsil, in the Himalayan mountains and it was moving into the monsoon season: a season of constant torrential rains lasting over a period of time making travelling impossible due to landslides and such.  For me, this meant I would not be able to leave the village.  Porters would not be able to come to the village to take messages I may want to send nor would I be able to receive messages.  The implications of this situation meant that any form of communication would be impossible for at least three months.  This was a risk I was not prepared to take because of a family emergency at home in Canada.

I came down from my mountain home and brought all sketch books, research material and daily drawings choosing to stay in Great Britain. I chose Great Britain because communication was easier and travel facilities more direct.  At the back of my mind I placed the possibility of returning to the Himalayas once the monsoon season had passed and waited for communications informing me of the situation at home.

While waiting for the family emergency to resolve itself and the monsoon season to pass, I began to sift through my sketch book studies.  I found myself re-living the experience and the feelings evoked.  That through my sketch book studies.  As I was sifting through the sketches, I found myself reliving the Himalayan experiences and the feelings evoked by the work.  The sketch, “and something touched my heart” reawakened the important moment of recognition: the low level of subsistence of the children whose daily involvement in work left little time for play and daydreaming.  Again, I was taken back to an older and important memory of my mother who demanded that I live in a mundane world because in her there was no time for imagination and creativity.  In the midst of my reflections I became aware that once again the demands of my everyday world had interrupted my life in the creative process. These two memories of both myself and the Himalayan children and how our creative process were inhibited came together once again.  This time the memories came together with stronger vigour creating an urgency to create, to express the pain of repression for so many years. I felt the stirrings of a new body of work and entered the Creative Fire.

I selected five of the sketches that best describe a childhood experience of not having words to describe feelings of what I now understand to be a spiritual experience.

      The Five Sketches I Selected

The five sketches tell the story of my creative journey visually.

The next part of the journey for the visual story in the development of the sketches is to construct one image that tells the same story.  The one image has to encapsulate all of the information embedded in the separate sketches.

sketch no 1:  and something touched my heart

The sketch is a record of the initial impetus in the connection I made between my childhood and its lack of expression of the imagination and creativity to that which I observed in the life of the Himalayan children.

In the sketch are two children: one facing forward, the other facing sideways who is touching the heart of the one facing forward.  There is rigidity in both legs and body preventing any movement forward. There is a figure in the background holding the dual purpose of gender and that of approving or disapproving.   I am never quite sure.

sketch no 2:  stepping out of the experience

In the second sketch, I can see in my exploration, the feeling experienced when moving out of the ‘inner landscape’ and into the world I inhabit on a daily basis as my mother demanded.  I see this world as limiting by the demands of everyday tasks.  I leave the ‘yellow glow’ and the magic of this space.

Inner landscape here means where my imagination and creativity breathes, lives, and is alive. There is magic in this space where anything is possible.

There is a lone figure with left foot forward as though stepping out.  In the background there appears to be a division creating an opening.  It is through this opening that the lone figure is coming from. As she does so, she leaves the warm glow behind but carries it in her heart and in her body. There is a dark halo surrounding her head.  The lone figure is covering her sex with her hand.  The genitals I use as symbol that speaks of strong, energetic and immediate feelings.  In this case,it is vitally important that feeling the figure carries in her heart needs careful and considered protection.  The hands are used to do the protection. Her energy is bound up in protection.  Her legs remain fixed and her upper body appears a little more flexible.

sketch no 3:  as though nothing happened

In sketch no. 3 there is an absence of colour. It shows that the ‘inner experience’ is alive in the heart and remains there.      The experience continues to live in the inner world and is separated from the demands of everyday life.

There is a lone figure standing in a background with no colour.  She is covering her heart with her left hand so no one can see it.  On her left shoulder sits the figure with the dual purpose of gender, approving, disapproving but is reduced to a head only.  The head of this figure is looking sideways and not hovering as it did in sketch no. 1.  This part of the sketch expresses the compromise has been made.  The sketch expresses a memory condensed like a nut in a shell.  The shell is hard to protect its vulnerability.  All of the elements of her experience are carefully placed in small boxes where none overlap with her everyday life.  The oval shape just above her genitals becomes the seat of her soul and waits in readiness for the opportunity to manifest itself.  The heart I use as symbol for the seat of intellect and intuition.

sketch no 4:  living in the shadow

In sketch no. 4 there is a long figure in an uncomfortable, almost impossible position expressing for me the separation of the ‘inner experience’ from the exterior world. The heart’s desire lives in the world of the shadow that houses unexpressed creativity. The body lives in the exterior world taking on a form as ‘twisted’ and ‘out of shape’.  A conflict arises from a thwarted desire to create and the lack of space where it could be expressed.  This conflict lives in the shadow whilst all seems fine in the everyday world.  This is the battle waged between desire and lack of its expression that goes on in the figure’s ‘inner landscape’.  The conflict resolves itself in the only form it has resulting in a ‘deformed body’.  In the exterior world, all appears to be fine.

There is a lone figure performing an impossible contortion of the body.  The heart remains in position but is now dark rather than light as in previous sketches. The seat of the soul has moved to its right hip. The throat of the figure seems to be bulging with unspoken words, feelings.  No matter what is going on with the body and its bulging throat, the figure’s left leg is well balanced and strong in holding its position.  Something remains alive in spite of its difficult position of holding something that has become unbearable.  The alignment of the facial features seems to be overwhelmed and yet continues in its inability to speak, to express.  It’s at its wits ends.  This is the end of the line!  This is it!

sketch no, 5:  vulnerability

In sketch no. 5 I explored the vulnerability of the figure in No. 4 and felt strongly the need to protect it.  I gave the figure an umbrella to protect her in the everyday world.  The umbrella as protection is a very important to me.  In the everyday world it is practical in its protection from the elements.  The umbrella keeps me dry, protects me from too much sun by creating shade for me.  The umbrella also protects the reality of the figure’s inner world.

There is a lone figure holding an umbrella.  The umbrella is playful, almost frivolous,  puffed with pompoms at the end of its inner spine.  Her dress is less rigid.  Her hair is free and blowing in the wind.  Her facial expression is less static, less bewildered and less disturbed.  She is the epitome of active femininity and creates a more acceptable figure in the conventional world.

I leave the five sketch studies and move into developing the next piece of work.  To do this, I explore the expressions of the ‘inner landscape’ and how to move their individual components into an the exterior mode.  I look at what each sketch is saying.  I see the elements embedded in each sketch and begin to explore how to incorporate these into one single image.  This process results in an image depicting the divided world this child inhabits.

The drawing needs to reflect all of this information.

AND SOMETHING TOUCHED MY HEART is the piece of work I developed from the five sketches.

In the image the figure is immobilised by the following constraints:

  1. Not having the words to describe her experience
  2. The incompatibility between her inner and outer life
  3. The thwarted desire which lives in shadow and takes on a distorted form because it must find expression somewhere

In the drawing, it’s as though time stands still; the figure is caught in a space in the time where her experience remains hidden, safe and unexpressed, and waiting for a different time that will encourage the expression of the experience.  There is a perceptible tension held in the waiting as one does when holding the breath.

Drawing No. 31:  And something touched my Heart

dimensions:  93cms (H) x 84cms (W) x 3cms (D) framed

media:  graphite & pastels on paper

The observations and their recording by sketching allow me to play around with variations while seeking the best image to describe my response and also the best image to communicate that response in such a way that the viewer of this work can potentially connect on his/her personal level.

In shifting the position of the sketches which are entirely personal to me, to the drawing, I believe I am leaving the personal world behind. The drawing then moves from the ‘inner landscape’ and the personal to enter an exterior, and public domain.  The shift of the sketch to the drawing is one shift.  The other shift is from the personal world to a public world. The drawing needs to reflect this and also to communicate it.  The drawing in the public domain becomes available to viewers enabling possible connections on many levels.

This process requires a massive transformation of a psychological nature.  In the transformation, the personal ego withdraws and allows the creative ego to come forward.  In this mode the condensed image will tell the same story of the five sketches.

I speak for myself, as the artist when I say that in developing the drawing from the five sketches I shifted from an emotional impetus to a more detached and logical observation of perception.  The importance of the drawing took precedence over the importance of the feelings evoked.  I’m still working with the energy of the emotions but their representation is more refined.

The drawing becomes the painting.  The whole experience is now in the domain of the public.

No. 1:  From the childhood studies

dimensions:  130cms (H) x 95cms (W) x 4.5cms (D) framed

media:  acrylic on paper


A single figure, child-like in form is standing, facing forward and holding an umbrella.  The figure takes up most of the painting surface. Her legs and feet are in a ballet dancing position perhaps ready to begin a dance. The arms are crossed over the chest as though protecting her heart. This remains very important to her. The umbrella is large and somewhat unwieldy.  Her left hand appears to be balancing the handle of the umbrella rather than holding it indicating almost hesitating on the decision of needing/not needing it. The face of the figure shows a formidable stance of resolution.  There is a line demarking a quarter position on the background wall.  The dark space about her feet has the appearance of a path for her.  The overall impression she is solid and determined in her position and holding it firmly.

This photo is the only copy I have.  I value it highly as an object and also for the many memories it holds.  Unfortunately it has faded because I left it in the sun.  It was also taken on my favourite Minolta SLR, a  pre-digital era camera which for me is also a precious object.

It takes time and effort to complete such a painting; in some cases the work remains ‘in progress’ for years.  Suddenly something happens and the whole idea comes to life again.  In the long term view of the process it is important to keep the painting ‘al

To move from the drawing to the painting something else happens to me as an artist.  In the painting, the Creative Fire as well as the artist within me adjusts to the requirements of a finished work.  Within this adjustment exists a fine tuning.  This process, for me, I call the ‘painter’s eye’.  For me, it’s as though the Creative Fire changes its position as I, the artist change my position of creating from the personal to the public.

Today I realise how important it is for me, as an artist to make strong connections with my painting material.  I am able to bring together the energy from my own experiences into a painting that hopefully  connects with the experience of the viewer.

Thank you for being with me through this process.

Marie Laywine

May 25, 2016