Saturday, April 11, 2009

Creativity Lives

Oil pastel sketch: Aunt Vivian, Grandma, momma

Finding and connecting with the source of our creativity requires a certain amount of practice. It’s a bit like the discipline of dividing plants in the garden to keep them healthy, or performing daily exercises to stay limber.

Once rediscovered, the process of creating offers much to the human endeavor. Creativity can solve almost any problem. This is a one-sentence version of a favorite quote that I keep in my studio. The rest of the quote, attributed to George Lois, reads: “The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.”
Well, almost everything.

We are attending the funeral of a young man this morning, a young and talented artist. He was the son of neighbors, acquaintances we became friendly with through the osmosis of raising children and attending their school activities. He was found dead by his own father, hung and out of his misery. We only learned a day later that the young man had been in insufferable pain from cancer. His sudden death, still tragic, was framed in a different light with the new knowledge. For him, creating was clearly not enough to ease his suffering. Luckily for us, in his physical absence, his spirit remains in our minds and in the artwork he left behind.

Creating can be a positive outlet for dealing with pain and grief. When my mother died suddenly nearly twenty years ago, “making” gave me a place to put my feelings. In my artwork, bits and pieces of my mother’s life were transformed; sheer curtains, a St. Christopher’s medal, a bridge tally became talismans for remembering.

When my father died without warning the following year, I felt compelled to create artwork about him, as well. I continue to create such artworks even today, as I experience the loss and emotion of grief in new ways as each year passes.

Hero: Only one of Daddy's Battles and The Day Momma Died, front

Years ago I was asked to participate in a national exhibition entitled Memories—Images of the Soul. The artwork shown was a powerfully moving testimony to the abiding capacity of the human spirit for expression and renewal. I remember walking through the gallery amongst the artwork, the emotion in the space palpable, and being moved to tears by the experience. In the exhibition catalog, the project coordinator Rick Grahovac wrote, “Art evokes and transforms our inner experiences, the movements of our soul, into concrete form. Our thoughts, feelings and the meaning we create from our encounters with life and death are contained, preserved, and available for our contemplation. The process of making art allows us to mourn, to externalize the inner experience of grief. …Art gives us a way not only to remember, but also immortalize and remain connected to our loved ones who have died.”

Mother Shrine

When someone dies, all that remains for the living, regardless of one’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, are memories and objects connected to them. When all of those living who remembered the person are also gone, only the objects remain, often cut off from their original context. Creativity, the end product of human imagination, lives on, though, long after we mortals have returned to the earth’s soil. A poem, a song, an artwork hung on the wall, continue to stir the soul of anyone who is open to the experience.

What do we do when art isn’t enough? Create more art. Sometimes, it is all we have to give.

Book of Years: Granddaddy, detail

All artwork by Gayle Pritchard, Copyright protected.


  1. I have found that creativity is the road out of grief. I lost my parents 17 days apart; only child, cared for them for three years due to chronic illness and cancer.
    It took a long time to realize that allowing myself to express remembrance, or grief, or anger---whatever emotion---through creativity was balm for the soul. It saved me, time and again.
    "Hero" is my favorite here because of my father's life in the military and the way the fabric is treated as collage. All pieces are beautiful, but this one speaks to me loudly.
    Glad to find your blog!

  2. Hi Quatty. I love this blog entry. I feel very sentimental and longing about my parents, too. I loved seeing your art about your loved ones again. I send love and comfort to the family of your young neighbor who gave up due to cancer. He was brave. Love, Pomme

  3. Oh my, I am so glad that Anne sent me to read your blog. I know that I am not the only one to shrine my family members who have shuffled off this mortal coil, but it's nice to see it affirmed in such creativity. I really must finish the piece for my sister, as I think that it has brewed long enough. Thanks for the motivation.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts, Anne. I'm glad you were inspired to create. Send us a link to the piece when you have finished it.

  5. As always Gayle, your conversation is thoughtful and though provoking. Love the art, too.

  6. wowee. so very cool. very very cool.

  7. Gayle, Lou & I are so proud you joined our family. As we age,the wisdom of yur words and the beauty of your pieces of memory touch us even more. I was especially moved by the piece dedicated to my father. Mom (Adelaide)

  8. I just sent a link to this entry to a bunch of folks. Reading this reminds me that even the hardest times can be cradled by the creative spirit. Thanks for writing:)

  9. Thank you all for your comments. I definitely feel art and creativity are the perfect way to cope with gried, as well as to honor someone's memory. Your kind stories are so personally touching, as well. Thank you all.