Over the last two decades, research on how the arts enhance health has increased exponentially, and more and more hospitals are including art in their facilities. The research makes the argument that the effect of beauty is not only on the mind, but on the body as well. As an artist, I love the idea that my work could have a therapuetic effect on someone in pain.
So I was thrilled when Tacoma General Hospital invited me to propose some site-specific art as part of their expansion and renovation. They are looking for paintings of families with children and dogs at the park, having fun together.
They like my older figurative work. However, I have been painting abstractly for the past year. I have learned so much from those abstract works, but as I started working on sketches for figurative pieces, I found myself reverting to an old approach. I would sketch a rough idea, shoot photos for reference, and work from those photos. The problem is that the photo would often dictate too many things and the painting would feel lifeless - realistic, but lifeless. I decided to change my approach and just work from my imagination. I have certainly drawn enough human figures over the years that I don't need a photo to know how they move.
So I got out my clay and made my own figures for reference, which is cool because I can look at them from any angle, light them, and create shadows, and they are gestural - not too realistic. This gives me more space for play, and I don't get too cought up in details.
From these little models, I worked on some rough sketches in a couple different palettes, keeping it loose and remembering the important lessons learned from the abstract compositions.
They loved my proposal and I will be making four figurative paintings for the hospital. I am fortunate enough to have my paintings included in healthcare facilities such as Mayo Clinic, Swedish Medical Center, Group Health and Providence Medical Center, and I am honored to add Tacoma General Hospital to that list. It gives me great joy and a sense of purpose to know that my work may have a healing effect on another human being during a time of stress.