Where Despair Meets Hope in Steps

Drowning in despair about our dissolving humanity on a particular day in early April, I made myself a promise – I shall post this note and go for a long walk and listen to the spring birds. I shall breathe in time with the waves on the sea. I shall inhale the scent of the blossoms on the breeze. I shall run my hands along the length of the arbutus tree. Then I shall paint. This is what a landscape painter does.

This is the beginning for Where Despair Meets Hope Edith Point – 22 x 28 inch oil on canvas landscape painting.

Several canvases are already prepared with grounds. I decide on the red one. Neither large nor medium and certainly not small, this canvas seems to be the right size for sitting with despair. I choose a simple yet powerful landscape that begins with a lengthy walk through the trees and along the ocean. On this day, the fog is thick and I am smothered in a muted grey for most of the hike. But just as I come out on Edith Point, the heavy mist moved out to sea and golden light covers the old fir tree and the edge of the cliff. In this briefest of shifts, my spirits soar and catch a patch of blue sky before coming back down the disfigured tree, thereby encompassing a lasting sense of hope.

The work is roughed in with a bit of Naples yellow to guide my brushes forward. I decide to work from the outer edges inward until the tree reveals itself and I can no longer avoid its edges.

I work on the point of the cliff, conscious of how it turns slightly towards the south. There is no room to think or worry or fuss. I am fully focused on the quickly changing light of the late morning. I can feel the dampness in my hair and coolness on one side of my face and the soft sun warming the other. My hands and heart guide the brushes across the canvas, as if I am really there.

The room darkens under the skylights as heavy rains pound down on the tin roof. I slip up to the loft and grab one of the studio lamps. I hardly notice that I have put my brush down. I pick it up again and, almost in a trance, continue to work.

Touching lightly, I place various greens into the foreground. I can feel my helplessness shrink like the stones with a rising tide on the bottom right of the canvas. My disillusionment with the larger world is replaced with confidence about the specifics of this moment – I can do this one thing.

As I continue to paint, the fir tree can no longer be avoided. I add the tree’s shadow side and start on the branches.

I reach for where the sun is touching. I am reminded of the winter’s high winds and heavy rains as I circle the gnarled and bent branches. I am reminded of long dry spells during the late summer where the moisture cannot be held in the sandstone rocks. I can feel my nose tighten against dearth of moisture while grasses crinkle under foot as I place in the dead branches on the bottom left of the thick tree trunk. I am reminded how this old fir tree has endured and gained elegance and strength through its trials. It is perfect in its imperfection.

Darkness is gathering in the corners of the room. My hips and knees are telling me that we have been standing at the easel for many hours. I must leave this work now, until tomorrow.

Rising early, I flick on the studio lamps. I put on my painting apron. I continue. Eventually, I stop to make coffee and a late breakfast. Sometime during the morning my husband has woken and made his own eggs and toast. He has closed the door to his office so as not to disturb me. He may have even spoken to me. I doubt that I answered. Living with a painter one learns not to be offended by such moments. Like me, he has learned to trust the process. He knows that eventually I will say – come have a look and see what you think…

I tell him how I wanted to be able to feel the breeze off the water in the branches and how they needed to be reaching to greet the sun and how the shade is cool in this golden light, cool enough to want your wool sweater. He replies – it is gorgeous! Privately he is crossing his fingers hoping that his remark will lead us out the door to find some supper. I am not fooled.

Well, it is resting I say.

In this case the “resting” must last for a week before I can make the final adjustments during a demonstration for an oil painting class I am teaching. But I do believe it is now done. I do believe in this place where despair meets hope, we can understand that nothing lasts. With this truth, firmly rooted on the edge of the cliff, I shall continue to walk and paint and breathe – until I can no longer, however long that is.

For now, I present to you Where Despair Meets Hope Edith Point – 22 x 28 inch oil on canvas


Where does despair meet with hope in your life?


© 2017 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com


20 thoughts on “Where Despair Meets Hope in Steps

  1. Not a painter but I do find hope in nature and music. Poetry also moves me My mentor died on Friday night she asked every morning of her last week: “Is the new President dead yet?” Made us laugh with abandon. The world will miss her hope

    • Thank you Patricia for sharing your friends question of the morning and mentioning music and poetry. I am such a fan of Mary Oliver’s poetry about nature and life but also of poetry in general. My enjoyment of music tends towards the simple and easy to hum along but I can definitely see its appeal. Take good care as we move from a long winter straight towards summer in our neck of the woods.

  2. Terrill,

    As Laurie stated above, I love the content of these blogs and your working progress process. It allows others to know and “feel” what goes into creating a painting. There are many days when I go out with my camera because something is not sitting right or I just need to let go off all that is about, getting lost in the moment. Sometime the end product is not all that important yet the creativeness of nature has allowed us to see, hear, feel, and Be One with it.

    Louis is a good friend of mine who I have shared your process with, he is a brilliant photographer, I am glad he found his way here.


    • Thank you so much for introducing Louis to my blog and work! I am pleased as well that he has found his way here.

      I was just reading an article “The Artist’s Task” by Mary Oliver where one of the things she says is as follows “In creative work — creative work of all kinds — those who are the world’s working artists are not trying to help the world go around, but forward. Which is something altogether different from the ordinary. Such work does not refute the ordinary. It is, simply, something else. Its labor requires a different outlook — a different set of priorities.”
      Reference: https://voxpopulisphere.com/2016/10/23/mary-oliver-the-artists-task

      Your comment reminds me of these remarks in a good way. Keep doing what your doing Jeff 🙂

  3. Thank you for this post Terrill, I had a trying day at the gallery today with students 10 yr old from the suburbs who had never been to an Art gallery and were not much interested. They were not prepared at all and currently with the young emerging artists and the other contemporary stuff, it is very difficult to engage visitors who see no point to what we are showing. I enjoyed reading how you approach your canvas and topic. If you don’t mind I may use what you are saying to entice the students to think about art and the process of creation. I also want to tell you that your tree in Where despair meets hope, Edith Point reminds me of trees painted by Otto Dix during his house arrest 1939-1945 when he was not free to paint as he wished.

    • Larry it sounds like a particularly difficult day! If it is helpful, you may of course borrow from my posts and work in anyway that is useful to you in your work at the gallery. I greatly enjoyed my visits to this gallery during our time in town. I will look to see if I can find Otto Dix’s trees.

  4. You asked – Where does despair meet with hope in your life?

    In coming to read this, when my week has dealt with despair and I am finding my way back out again . . . .

  5. Stupendous convergence of color, replete with the transformative power of nature. Utterly magnificent work in progress/completion.

    • Thanks Sam! I have been getting back in the swing of regular weekly posts here. And with the end of my teaching gig of an oil painting class I can expand my blog reading list again. So you will likely be seeing more of me over at Wonders In The Dark as well. 🙂

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