This has been a recurring theme in my articles and in my art. “The Cleansing” is very special to me because it helped do just that, cleanse my mind and body of extreme anger.
I had a client that ordered a rush job to be completed immediately. The morning I was to deliver it, she called saying she had changed her mind and cancelled the job and then said she would not pay for the work. I could have taken legal means to get paid but that’s not the way I generally do things. I was very angry and went out in my shop and just started throwing things around. I grabbed a big empty canvas and threw it across the shop hitting the door then the floor. I picked it up and saw it was not broken or torn. It was then I noticed it was a fine Belgian linen canvas I had bought years ago.
The empty canvas was taken into my studio and I splashed some acrylic paint on a large palette and started to paint. The fury inside was becoming evident on the canvas as I painted sometimes with a brush in each hand. The brushstrokes said anger, anger, anger as they raced across the canvas. In an hour I had a giant mess, wild brushstrokes in every direction, up and down, across, diagonal. I put more paint on my palette. I had earth tones and spots of blue heavy on the canvas. It just looked like utter confusion mainly because that’s where I was.
As I kept on painting, I began to see forms taking place so I played with them a little but my frustration didn’t allow me to really concentrate. I just wanted to paint, splat, and the wet paint was running down the canvas. I said to myself, okay, and I turned the canvas upside down to let the paint run the other direction. I then began to see it. It was there even in the extreme mess stage, but now, upside down, I saw it as a real direction and it followed my anger jumping all around and down, across and over. It flowed and I would have missed it if I hadn’t turned the canvas. My anger was still very hot inside of me but I began to concentrate on what I saw in the painting itself and I became absorbed into the painting losing myself completely in the colors and brushstrokes.
I quite literally went into a deep trance and lost contact with everything except the painting itself. A day and a half later, I came out of this state. I was hungry and thirsty and had to go to the bathroom bad, but most of all, I was completely exhausted. After taking care of my most basic needs I went down in front of the painting again. My eyes were blurry, my hands hurt, my back ached, but I was no longer angry. In fact, at that moment I was glad she cancelled the job. I was amazed at what had transpired from the beginning to the end. I went up and went to bed and slept for about 10 hours. When I awoke I went down to the studio and looked at it. I then knew what I would call it, “The Cleansing” because that is what it had done for me.
I have taken the painting to the prison where I teach painting classes to show the inmates that even anger can have a good and positive result if directed in a positive, creative way. I have shown this painting in several art shows but I really don’t want to sell it, at least not yet. It has always been a reminder to me that even extreme anger can be a good thing if directed to a positive end.
Almost every day I see new examples of how the creative process is also a healing process.
Harry Croghan is an artist, photographer, writer and teacher. He can be reached at (740) 852-4906 or by e-mail at email@example.com.