The Work of an Artist

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I paint them orange and yellow, acrylic-thick, and they bloom on canvas. Sunflowers for she who brought me lilacs in June, and it’s winter so I make the beauty I long to find, that I long to place in a mason jar.

The canvas sits against crimson walls, and I wish its flowers smelled real. Wish for the way petals’ fragrance makes dying seem like living, but even art has its limits.

And she asks me, “Why? Why do you paint?” We’ve spoken of words, we writers drinking spicy tea in a farmhouse cropped by fields of white. We understand words, for they tell us what we need to hear.

My newborn sleeps on the sofa and the symmetry of his face pleases me. The world with its shapes and hues, with its palette of color, pleases me. And how do I tell her, I paint for the same reason I breathe?

“I’m just fortunate people appreciate my work,” I said to someone, once. And how does one explain art, an action committed for the very lack of words? If I could say it, why would I paint it?

I sip tea and stumble thoughts while remembering its infancy, this addiction to brush-stroke. First married, not knowing who I was in my wedding gown, I’d asked my husband to build me an easel and I’d begun to slather.

I'd always written, never painted, and it was like kissing versus making love. The latter being an intimacy no one can know except by doing.

And some pieces were good, and some, bad, but it was all art, and it became more: it became soul-extension, a ladder to heaven, and then, something others wanted. But how? To put a price tag on something I did when I couldn’t sleep for insomnia, when I couldn’t eat because I wouldn’t let myself, when my husband couldn’t touch me for the bones of anorexia because as much as I loved art it could never become who I was?

It seems so pure, this color on canvas, but it had become a prayer in the attic of our home, the bungalow with the apple tree and the raspberries and the white picket fence.

Baby’s eyes open and he searches the skies for me, finds me, smiles. For all of my canvas I cannot create him, can only watch his beauty unfold, and this, how I feel about every flower and face I paint. I pick up my son and our skin touches.

“I paint what I want the world to see,” I tell her.

For more on Emily and her art, please visit

Image by Emily Wierenga. Used with permission. Post by Emily Wierenga.

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