Untitled 5.0 – The Grief Series (12×16, oil on mounted canvas, 5 Parts) – Personal Collection

…The function of the artist is to express reality as felt. (Robert Motherwell)

I began Reading Abstract Expressionism – Context and Critique a few weeks ago. I’m enjoying diving deep into study of the artists, the process, the history and the reason of art called Abstract Expressionism.

I’ve been drawn to this type of art for a long time and understanding the emotional connection though this type of creative expression is a fantastic journey I’ve undertaken.

Reading Abstract Expressionism – Context and Critique

Today the artist is no longer constrained by the limitation that all of man’s existence is express by his outward appearance. Freed from the need of ascribing a particular person, the possibilities are endless.

The whole of man’s experience becomes his model, and in that sense it can be said that all of art is a portrait of an idea. (Mark Rothko)

When I began painting, it felt as though I had been painting for a very long time. Probably because of the constant memories of the creative process brewing in my head with colors and compositions. The reminders of my grandmother painting. The connection I felt to certain paintings over the years.

Processing Grief

This season of my life is one of intentionality and deep reflection. It is impossible to separate my creative thoughts from my life experiences and my painting journey naturally, is a part of my ongoing grief journey after losing my oldest daughter.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting and a part of that is in understanding my own grief. I remember the first time I looked up the Five Stages of Grief and frantically tried to place my feeling in one of the stages… however, the stages always seemed to bleed into one another. I never felt that I was just “in one stage“.

Part of me believes this was created for me, and a big part of me believes this was created to help others understand the individual nature of grief. Everyone’s journey is different. There are no “prescriptions” to fix grief.

You must dive in and just be.

The Creation Process

As with most of my work, an idea forms and needs to get out. Usually that is a note I’ll jot down in my Field Notes notebook, or a new entry in Evernote.

I jotted down the five stages and immediately began understanding how these would translate through color and composition.

My notes.
My notes.

Stage 1 – Denial and Isolation

Developing the color black with only primary colors is a good challenge. Translating this first grief step as a composition is another.

Early process.
Early process.
12x16, oil on canvas paper
12×16, oil on canvas paper

Stage 2 – Anger

Raw emotion. Pain. Confusion. Multiple feelings with physical aggression.

Oil applied to the canvas.
Oil applied to the canvas.
12x16, oil on canvas
12×16, oil on canvas

Stage 3 – Bargaining

Confusion. Questioning. Emotionally desperate. Negotiation.

In progress
In progress
12x16, oil on canvas
12×16, oil on canvas

Stage 4 – Depression

Exhausted. Heavy. Flashes of aggressive anger. Deep sadness.

Framing the composition.
Framing the composition.
12x16 oil on canvas, in progress
12×16 oil on canvas, in progress

Stage 5 – Acceptance

Peace. Clarity. Emotional. Faith. Difficulty. Tension.

12x16. oil on canvas.
12×16. oil on canvas.
5 Part Series in process.
5 Part Series in process.
5 Part Series mounted
5 Part Series mounted
Untitled 5.0 Series Mounted, 5 parts 12x16, oil on canvas mounted
Untitled 5.0 Series Mounted, 5 parts 12×16, oil on canvas mounted

It’s not what happens to you that matters, but how you react and learn from it that does. (Adapted from my grandfather)

11 thoughts on “Untitled 5.0 – The Grief Series (12×16, oil on mounted canvas, 5 Parts) – Personal Collection

  1. Love your work and the explanation of the process. I especially find it interesting how you linked the five stages of grief to five different colors and then mixed them in your work. Thanks for sharing. ((big hugs)) on the loss of Taylor.

  2. Wow. Having studied the 5 stages of grief for nursing school and having to apply them way too many times in my life, I’d say you captured all of them in color. Isolation, very dark and black. Cutting your self off from others. Anger-red, burning, on fire. Bargaining-“if you let me do this, I will do that” If only does being to mind yellows. Almost as if you are letting in a little son after all the anger. Depression with a little color on the edges. Perfect. And acceptance as blue. Life does go on, even when we don’t want it to, or think it should. Your color choices were perfect, Todd. And all of your paintings are inspiring…

  3. These are remarkable works and I will link to them anytime someone tell me they don’t “get “abstract work. Art has long been a tool for dealing with life and these are an excellent example well supported by the text. thank you

  4. These are stunning, Todd. You have a wonderful talent. I find myself experiencing these stages now as my husband James works through his battle with acute myeloid leukemia. If I were to add a step/stage to my process it would be helplessness.

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