Grief and art: Gail Sibley, "Farewell (for Ray)," Great American and Mount Vision pastels on Canson Mi-Teintes Touch (white), 14 x 20 3/4 in

Grief And Art – Using Art-Making To Deal With My Sadness And Anger

WARNING: This is a very personal blog post. In it, grief and art come together.

Yesterday I was shocked and stunned: I found out that Ray Dorge, my former life partner of 25 years, had died. Even though Ray and I separated 10 years ago (by my instigation), we kept in touch with the odd email. As much as I wanted a closer connection, Ray said he wanted to keep me at arm’s length. He said it hurt too much to spend time with me. I respected his wishes even though it saddened me that we rarely got together to catch up on our lives nevermind recall shared memories. I kept meaning to push him on it but I never did.

And now it’s too late. Ray died of aggressive brain cancer on 14th December 2017. Yet I only just heard this very sad news yesterday and only by accident. I find it very painful that no one thought to tell me of Ray’s passing even if Ray himself didn’t want to me to know of his condition while he was alive.

Anyway, I now know. And I’m deeply saddened. I can’t seem to function that well. But rather than try to block or avoid the pain, today I turned to art. Grief and art. I had no plan other than to sink into the art-making process and just go where it took me.

I picked up a piece of paper – Canson Mi-Teintes Touch paper. It’s paper I rarely turn to. I felt that using it, especially a white sheet, would release me from craving a good outcome since I didn’t really care how the painting looked in the end. It really was all about the process.

I selected pastels in browns and greys, colours I rarely choose. These seemed appropriate to my purpose somehow. And in keeping with the dark rainy day outside.

In my studio, the silence was crushing. At the same time, I decided against playing music I knew Ray would like, or any music that would further sink me into sadness. And so I chose randomly – Kaytranada’s album 99.9% which turned out to be perfect. (And I’m listening to it as I write this post.)

And now allow me to share my grief and art journey with you through a sequence of images.


Grief and art: The beginning - dealing with the white paper. First: "It's so fucking dark in here" (referring to my studio and to my internal emotions). Then rubbed that and wrote RAY over it all. And now I could start.
1. The beginning – dealing with the white paper. First: “It’s so fucking dark in here” (referring to my studio and to my internal emotions). Then rubbed that and wrote RAY over it all. And now I could start.


Grief and art: 2. Dark pastels marked on paper and rubbed in. No thought, only emotion.
2. Dark pastels marked on paper and rubbed in. No thought, only emotion.


Grief and art: 3. A light warm colour added
3. A light warm colour added


Grief and art: 4. Mark-making - jabs of anger, swoops of sadness, and whispers of memories tenderly held.
4. Mark-making – jabs of anger, swoops of sadness, and whispers of memories tenderly held.


Grief and art: 5. Symbols and anemic writing. At this point I was just loading the paper with anything I felt or that bubbled up.
5. Symbols and asemic writing added. At this point I was just loading the paper with anything that bubbled up.


Grief and art: 6. My mind starting to kick in, thinking about the design of the piece. This was the best thing, how that part of the brain took over and I was totally immersed in the creative process.
6. Here, I rubbed out much of what I’d added.


Grief and art: To show how much my hand was a part of this painting journey!
To show how much my hand was a part of this painting journey!


At this point, I sat in my pondering chair and looked at the piece. What did it need? Although I had entered this experience as a process rather than an outcome, about combining grief and art, my artist mind started to kick in and now was thinking about the design of the piece.

It turned out that this was actually the best part of doing this journey of grief and art. I was later fascinated by the way my rational brain took over, thinking about balance, and values, and colour, and texture, about edge and dominance.

But at the same time, I pondered meaning. How was I to make meaning from this essentially non-objective piece? And then out of nowhere came an image of grieving figures. So I surrendered and began adding them, changing the work towards a more representational image.


Grief and art: 7. And so the figures started appearing
7. And so the figures started appearing


And then what? Without warning, a memory of a painting by Anselm Kieffer at the Seattle Art Museum came to me. It’s a huge canvas of sunflowers towering over a prostrate man (see below for the painting). And I realized, yes, I wanted to add a horizontal figure, one that represented Ray in death.


Grief and art: 8. And a prone man appears
8. And a prone man appears


Grief and art: 9. More work on the figures, rubbing, smudging, adding pastel
9. More work on the figures, rubbing, smudging, adding pastel


Grief and art: 10. The same image in black and white. This helps me to see what the painting needs.
10. The same image in black and white. This helps me to see what the painting needs.


A few tweaks done and then that was it.


Grief and art: Gail Sibley, "Farewell (for Ray)," Great American and Mount Vision pastels on Canson Mi-Teintes Touch (white), 14 x 20 3/4 in
Gail Sibley, “Farewell (for Ray),” Great American and Mount Vision pastels on Canson Mi-Teintes Touch (white), 14 x 20 3/4 in


Grief and art: Pastels used - Great American (neutrals) and Mount Vision (colours). Blue added as Ray's favourite colour
Pastels used – Great American (neutrals and yellow) and Mount Vision (pinks and blue). Blue added as it was Ray’s favourite colour.


This total immersion in the creative process was hugely therapeutic. It was as if the process offered a safe place to release the tensions of sadness and anger. It embraced me fully and gave me a conduit to express my feelings. It gave me a place, to speak and externalize my grieving.

I know the roller coaster of emotions is far from ended with fragments of memories spearing me in my heart at unexpected moments, but with painting, I could sink into myself and what I was feeling. One thing I realized was that because I hadn’t been told of Ray’s death, I hadn’t been able to say goodbye to him. So this mixture of grief and art is my farewell, my closure, my acceptance of Ray’s passing.

Goodbye Ray.


Thank you for taking this grief and art journey with me. Healing really can begin with an expression of feelings through art. As always, I’m interested in your voice so please feel free to add your own experiences or how this post may have affected you.


With deep thanks,

~ Gail



Here’s the painting by Anselm Kiefer:

Grief and Art: Anselm Kiefer, "Die Orden der Nacht (Orders of the Night)," 1996, acrylic, emulsion, and shellac on canvas, 140 x 182 1/4 in, Seattle Art Museum
Anselm Kiefer, “Die Orden der Nacht (Orders of the Night),” 1996, acrylic, emulsion, and shellac on canvas, 140 x 182 1/4 in, Seattle Art Museum


And the rainy, dark painting day!

Grief and Art: Rainy day!
View from my studio




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173 thoughts on “Grief And Art – Using Art-Making To Deal With My Sadness And Anger”

  1. So sorry for your grief. Many thanks for sharing this journey. The painting is so Kafka-Esk. I will remember how this works. Blessings……

      1. I have only discovered this revealing and wonderful post. Thank you for sharing. As I was so intimately involved in the palliative care of my husband ( of 25 loving years) after his passing on early this year , I have been to exhausted to undertake the necessary grief process through my art. My art room had become his “ward” and I have only recently been able to go in there and dissemble it. But now I have relocated all materials to another space, and you have inspired me to pick up my pastels again. Happy Christmas .

        1. Ohhhh Robyn, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. Grief takes time yet I’m glad to hear you have found a way to get back to your art-making. It’s a wonderful place to get lost in for awhile. I hope it will bring you not only some respite from the world but also allow you to let your feelings out. It’s a marvellous way to move through them.

  2. Dear Gail, thank you for sharing this deeply personal piece and the story that sits behind it. I have followed your blog for some time now and love it for your warm, open and supportive sharing of not only your work, but the brilliant and sometimes challenging work of other artists. I haven’t made a comment before but felt this blog entry was the right time to say thank you for sharing and caring so much about about people and art, and the people who try to make art. Farewell to Ray is a very powerful piece, moving and very beautiful in its emotion, sadness and expression. Be kind to yourself during this process of dealing with such loss and grief. I look forward to continuing this blog journey with you and the many others who eagerly await your email notifications.

    1. Thank you so much Kerrie for taking the time to comment and let me know your thoughts about the blog. It always helps me to hear the voice of my readers letting me know I’m on the right track and giving something helpful.
      I also really appreciate your kind words about my Farewell to Ray piece.
      And of course thank you for your words of wisdom around this time of loss.

    1. Thank you Anne. Painting this pastel was truly cathartic, so much so I can hardly believe its positive affect. Thank you for the reminder about grief being a process. I need to remember this.

  3. Hi Gail,
    You are brave and awesome for sharing such a personal event and I have tears in my eyes after reading your words and looking at your work. I love each and every one of your posts…they are encouraging, genuine, and educational. I click on your blog every time I get an email from you and I share your info from time to time with my students. Please know that I have you in my thoughts here in Virginia <3
    –Lori Goll

  4. Dear Gail ,
    What a courageous and moving post ! I’m so sorry for your loss ! It is truly amazing how art unconsciously moves through us and how healing it can be. Thanks for sharing such a personal post .
    Sincerely Jan

  5. I’m sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing this. As a widow, it was very therapeutic for me. A lot of artists talk about art as being helpful for grief but you shared how one actually does that. Again, thank you for sharing.

    1. Susan, your response has made me so glad I decided to share this post. I wasn’t sure if it would be helpful but you have answered that. Thank you!! I do hope you will try the process.

  6. Gail, I am so sorry about the death of your former life partner Ray. This is especially difficult, I’m sure, because you did not know of his illness and then were not told of his death. I do hope that the happy memories you shared will in time bring you comfort and peace. We are so fortunate to have our art to turn to in times like this. I love how you evolved into adding the figures – just the right thing! Thinking of you. Jane

    1. Thank you Jane for your words. You are right about how hard it is to deal with not knowing about his illness and not being told. But already I feel myself moving forward. Making art while being fully in the sense of loss is incredibly healing. I do know this now.
      And yes, I’m happy the figures decided to appear!

  7. I am so sorry you didn’t get to whisper ‘goodbye and thanks Ray’ to him. But I honor and love the tribute you created for him. He knows. Take comfort in that. RIP Ray.

  8. Gail,
    I’m glad you were able to turn to your art during such a sad time. Not everyone can do that. Meaning of course that I could not do it. Not right away anyway. My 36 year old son died unexpectedly on Memorial Day 2014.
    It was many months after that before I was able to paint. I was a watercolor person then. The therapist I saw that year explained that it takes emotional energy to paint/ draw/ create artistically. I didn’t have any emotional energy for a long time.
    Eventually I was able to paint again. And now I have been using pastels for about 15 months. I saw a demonstration and got pulled in by the color. Now I can turn to art when I’m sad. I can lose track of time and enjoy myself in the process.
    I hope you can make peace with your loss, and the fact that no one told you about Ray’s death. I enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Oh Margaret, how awful for you! I can hardly imagine your pain. I can certainly understand not having any inclination or energy to paint at that time. But I’m glad you began to paint again and that you’ve discovered the joys of pastels! Yes art allows you to be totally in it with no sense of time or place and I’m glad you can turn to art-making when you feel sad. Thank you for sharing your story.

  9. Oh Gail, I feel your pain. Your message made my heart sad for you. Darkness is not you. You bring lots of joy to those of us who have watched your videos. The lightness will come to you again. He is at peace. Think good thoughts and remember the good memories. Keep painting. I was so surprised that you ‘liked’ my work, Lavender Fields. Thank you.

    1. Oh Arilla, your comment made me smile. Thank you! You’re right about the light – it’s already creeping in and will soon be a flood with only the odd shutter closing me into the dark every now and again. But that’s okay. I am so happy to know I bring joy to others. Including liking your painting 😀

  10. It is an act of courage revealing your feeling Gail.
    It’s an act of compassion for yourself making sense of it all through artistic imagery.
    A glioma ( brain cancer) ended my wonderful
    Brother-in-laws life. There is an effort to
    support and suspend reality at the same time.
    Not having that for yourself.., to honor the time you
    you were part of each others’ lives, makes anger
    so understandable. Making art helps us make sense of it all. And Gail… I see Giacometti in your color and gestures.
    My condolences.

    1. Jane, thank you. I am so sorry to hear about your brother-in-law dying from the same thing. I love your words about supporting and suspending at the same time. And yes, the anger is still there but loosening its hold even now. Making art does somehow help in making sense of senselessness and also my feelings.
      And ahhh…Giacometti? Now that made me happy!

  11. Oh Gail. I feel your pain, anger and sadness so much in this painting. So terrible not to be told of the death of someone you spent 25 years with!!! Nor the ability to say goodbye.
    A lot to forgive. But first, the anger.
    Please take good care of yourself, especially in these coming weeks.
    A chapter has permanently closed, and a new one begun.
    You are an amazing artist and teacher the world needs.
    Blessings & hugs,

    1. Thank you Kim for your understanding. Happily the anger is less and will lessen as I head to Mexico for a couple of weeks. (I’m sitting in Vancouver Airport as I write this.) So yes, I am taking care of myself 🙂
      A chapter has, as you say, permanently closed but it’s difficult sometimes to really take that in.
      Thank you for your complimentary words at the end – they warmed me hugely!

  12. Dear Gail,

    I am so sorry for your loss and the way you received the news. Thank you for trusting us with your open emotions, and sharing your path to gradually letting go, with your dark, kinetic expression of grief and anger, and of control over his passing. You have honored his life in a way that is all your own.

    I hope that time will heal your loss, and the brighter colors of his life will mix with the vibrant ones that are you.

    Take care,

    1. Gill, thank you for your beautiful words. I’m not sure what else to say. I read them and sat quietly with them. Seeing what I put out into the world reflected back to me with your perceptions added is precious. Thank you!

  13. wow Gail, what a fantastic journey ! thank you so much ~ so awesome to see you pour yourself into the art
    i must go and do that too (as a lady from next door at work checked out too – people were shocked but i remember seeing her skinnier and skinnier, as if she was fading away. – i know she is happily reunited with her husband now on the Other Side).
    So, i must add a bizarre note to your journey – ya, there’s always the “oh didn’t say goodbye in person” but i am telling you – in reality, there are no goodbyes – love goes beyond limitations, beliefs, life and all dimensions. Sound like he wanted a quick express checkout, no lingering, way to go! yeah it’s always a shock to the folks left behind, but an exhilarating exit to those who leave. He’s right there, in another dimension, happy as a clam… when you’re painting, or daydreaming, or whatever, now you can hang out all you want… no arm’s length (it’s just another dimension). Thank you for inspiring me to paint no matter what, and especially to express whatever is going on as well. xoxoxox (ps hope you had a mini-wake with good whiskey… or cake!… i’ve always found jack daniels so appropriate, or brandy at these times). xo 🙂

    1. Helen – that was lovely!! Thank you for your light-hearted, positive take on this whole dying thing! You brought a smile, no it was a chuckle, as I read. Loved the part about drinking Jack. And yes, good single malt came into play! I’m also nodding at your suggestion that he wanted an express check-out as it sounds like with this illness there is no lingering. I am lightened by your words. Thank you!!

  14. Dear Gail,
    I am very sorry for your loss and i really like the way you give vent to your emotions with this painting. This is a very brave and honest way to show what you feel. Thank you so much for sharing it.
    PS When it happens, that i feel really angry and upset, and my hands are shaking because of too much emotions, i draw fast big black hares, cats or birds with charcoal or pencil, and after a fiew of them i calm down. But the creatures i draw in this condition always look too angry back at me.

    1. Thank you so much Nadzeya for sharing your way of releasing anger. I can picture you furiously marking your paper with creatures emerging in front of you! I am sorry that seem to be angry though.
      I’m glad you appreciate my venting through my work!

  15. p.s. i like yours better than the sunflower-kiefer one – your’s shows the light of the person who just left – as if they are going – hey i’m not in that body now, i’m over here~.. lovely!

    1. Thank you for such a lovely reading of my piece. It’s funny because I was conscious of not closing the whole space with figures….maybe that was the reason why!

  16. So sorry for your grief. Glad you could use art to start the healing process. Thanks for sharing this with us. I feel your grief through your art and hopefully through sharing with us, your art friends, we can support you in this time of need.

    Take care,


  17. Gail,
    I am so sorry for your loss and the circumstances which make it a difficult grieving time. I have spent the last couple days taking food and helping to plan a memorial for my art teacher’s husband who died unexpectedly on Sunday, so this is poignant for me as well. I am hoping she can get in to her studio in the days ahead and pour out her grief. Meanwhile, those of us who love her, will wrap her in hugs.
    I’m sending a hug your way as well.

    1. Sally I am so happy to hear your art teacher has you and others to help her through this devastating time. I too hope she will go to her studio, set out paper and mark mark mark without any preconception or care about the outcome. Art-making will work its magic!!
      And thank you for the hug – I love hugs at any time and now is a very good time to receive them!

  18. Gail, I am so sorry for your loss. Everyone has their own way of facing the hard bumps in life – I am so happy you could lose yourself in creativity. ..and most of all, let the light shine in! I have to remember Leonard Cohen’s line: there is a crack, a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in . I send a tight hug! – Laura

  19. Gail, thanks for sharing this. When my husband was dealing with a very serious illness, my art helped me to navigate the many emotions that I faced as his wife. As you did, I turned to my art supplies and just needed to get color on to a surface. I am primarily a representational artist, but during this time the work was purely abstract. I had no preconceived ideas or plans. What startled me, was that as I completed each piece, I could see exactly what it meant. This continued until my husband’s health stabilized, when I was able to return to my more traditional work. Our art can be a lifeline during challenging times. Artists are lucky to have our art to turn to during these times. Prayers to you on your loss of someone special.

    1. Susan, thank you so much for sharing your own journey using art to deal with your emotions and feelings through your husband’s illness. It so much confirms how creating, especially without any thought for the outcome, can heal and release. It is interesting that the work you did was abstract yet makes sense as it is about marks and colour and feeling not about representing something seen in the real world. We are indeed lucky as artists to have this outlet!

    1. Thank you Catek. Indeed, Ray was a large part of my life which made the non-connection with him after our separation, that much more difficult.

    1. You are so welcome Susan. It is wonderful to know that I can be open and vulnerable to you and all who read here. And yes, I am amazed at the powerful and positive effect of art-making.

  20. THank you for sharing this heart wrenching grief with us. I feel that is another step in your processing this loss. Gail, you have a right to be angry and sad given the circumstances. I am glad that you took to the thing you love to do to sort through the emotions. I a certain that you will return to it in a series of sorts until it is finished within you. It will take time, as we, many know.
    I recently suffered a loss of someone most dear to me and It is still hard to reconcile some of the feeling related to not being able to say goodbye the way I thought I might have. BUt I have come to realize that it is mine to deal with and creating art has been my solace and refuge as well. I made two pieces within three month at that death with her passing. One painting was called Off the Rails, an abstract and the other was a Plein air skyscape the day of her death while I was at the beach http://cathyannburgess.blogspot.com/2017/05/remebering-plein-air-sky.html
    One of art’s functions is for healing and thank the arts that we are blessed with the skills to articulate the human condition.
    I am sorry for your hurt and loss. Thank you again for your generosity in spirit to your followers .

    1. Thank you Cathyann for your words and understanding. Also thank you for sharing your own experience with art-making to deal with the loss of someone dear to you. Love the sky and sea piece and what you had to say.
      I think a series may come of it but now that I am in Mexico, the warmth and light and colour may lead me elsewhere. This holiday away from home will be restorative for sure!

  21. Catherine Siri Nugent

    Gail I am so sorry for your loss and grief. Thank you for sharing this extremely painful process. As artists, we need to understand that our work is our gift to ourselves. It can bring us joy and frustration. It can challenge and soothe. Art- making affords us opportunities to heal our deepest pain.
    Thank you for reminding us that in addition to the wonderful artwork you share in your blog, there is more to this very rich journey.

    1. Thank you Catherine for your condolences and also for your articulation about our experience of art-making – it is all those things for sure! As you say, what a gift we have as artists. It is something we forget or just don’t even realize!

  22. That’s a fitting farewell, Gail. I remember Ray and I’m sorry to hear of his death. Death is such a surprise. Here’s a poem I wrote:

    when you are gone

    how thoughtless death is
    never right, never ready
    never when you’ve got summer
    in jars, and winter battened down
    and stored beneath the stairs tidy as anything, no–
    death insists on the middle, as if the unfolding
    of your red petals with the sun translucent
    behind you doesn’t matter, as if the butter
    you melted isn’t needed for the dough, as if
    the map in your hand of the gridded streets,
    crossing each other at right angles, was worthless

  23. Oh, Gail. How hard this is for you. My condolences on this loss that is so much harder than it needed to be. I love the Kiefer painting and the inspiration it gave you to express your sorrow and your anger; how the sunflowers turned into Ray’s shadowy friends, and the prostrate figure turned into his ghost, no longer alive but not gone from your mind. Breakups are hard, and hard for friends who may be caught in the middle. But to not let you know, even after he died is unconscionable. Take care of yourself. Forgive them if you can and mourn the person you knew and loved.

    1. Thank you Jean for your words. I am glad you lie the Kiefer painting. When I first saw it, I was stunned by its size and its power! I have been an admirer of Kiefer’s work for sometime but I had never seen any in the ‘real’. There were three I saw in the Seattle Art Museum and they were all extraordinary. It once again confirmed the importance of seeing art up close and personal and not making judgements before doing this!
      I love your reading of my work – you have added another dimension to it and I LOVE that! Thank you.
      I am in the process of forgiving but if I think about it all, I find it difficult! But time and distance (physical and mental) makes it easier.

  24. These intense and exceptional moments belong to everyday life. But stand apart. Art is our great friend to make us « heroes of everyday life » (Héros du quotidien).
    Take your time to express your grief. Shout louder to express your frustration (not to have been informed). Victor Hugo poeted his journey to the grave after his beloved child died unexpectedly in an accident.
    Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
    Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
    J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
    Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

    Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
    Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
    Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
    Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

    Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
    Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
    Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
    Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

    Take your time to walk to his grave. I quote you : The old masters have a lot to give.

    I am no pastelist. I dislike the medium. To straight forward for me. I am in the newsletter of 2-4 blogs. Your liveness. Your choices. You give me a lot. And I thank you.

    Be aware that some « good friends » will tell you that your name was mentioned to him. And that it was his choice. Falsificated reality or not, there will be another pain, frustration. Think of sickness. To keep you at arm length provided him a kind of equilibrium. A lot to cope at the same time. Especially that the very importance of keeping you away means that you were still giving him a lot. It was his emotions that would decide the meaning of your gift for him.

    1. Geneviève, merci beaucoup pour votre condoléances et mots sympathiques.
      Thank you for your encouragement to express myself in the loudest way possible. Thank you too for sharing Victor Hugo’s poem which I have added below with the english translation. It is such a great reminder that artists be they painters, poets, dancers, musicians, find ways to express their feelings in their chosen art form.
      I appreciate too you giving me another way to look at the whole experience, through Ray’s eyes and needs and wants. You could be very right.
      Thank you too for following my blog despite the fact that you don’t like pastels (what?). I am still glad that I can offer you something 🙂 I hope you will comment again.

      Tomorrow, at dawn, when the countryside is white,
      I leave. Do you see, I know you’re waiting for me.
      I will go through the forest, I will go across the mountains.
      I can not stay away from you any longer.

      I will walk with my eyes fixed on my thoughts,
      Without seeing anything outside, without hearing any noise,
      Alone, unknown, curved back, hands crossed,
      Sad, and the day for me will be like the night.

      I will not look at the evening gold falling,
      Neither the sails in the distance descending towards Harfleur,
      And when I get there, I’ll put on your grave
      A bouquet of green holly and heather in bloom.

  25. Gail
    Having experienced exactly the same with an ex partner and also parents and family, (even less understandable), I empathise totally and my heart goes out to you.
    I didn’t have art to help at those times and seriously questioned my own self worth, I’m sure you won’t go there. The attitudes were an anathema to me and I eventually consoled myself that it wasn’t me with the problem. Cliché as it is but time heals somewhat.
    Take care
    Love your Art
    David aka Dingo

    1. Hello Dingo David – thank you so much for your understanding. Amazing that you have gone through the same experience so you really do know how I feel. There are certainly questions about what I might have done differently but it is all past and I’m trying to let go. I am now in Mexico which will provide a new vista on many levels.
      Thank you too for your appreciation of my work. That lifts me!

  26. Dear Gail, thank you so much for sharing this very painful experience with us! I am very sorry to hear about your loss.
    I recognize so much of what you are saying; I too have found relief and therapeutic healing in expressing myself through art. Sometimes they were my best works. Very spontaneous. Two months ago my puppy fell in a really murky ditch and I had to go swimming after her to save her. It was a rather dangerous thing for both of us, and I felt rather traumatized afterwards. And then I knew what to do: turn to art. It helped. I hope you will gradually start to feel better. I appreciate your blog enormously, reading every article and feeling at home here.
    Thanks for the photo of the rain as well; a touch of atmosphere.
    Warm regards, Nika

    1. Nika thanks for sharing your traumatic experience with your puppy and the part art played in dealing with the traumatic experience. Unless you have created, I don’t think others can understand the power of immersing yourself in your art at difficult times.
      Thank you for your kind words about my blog and for your diligence in reading them! Makes me happy!

  27. Deeply moving. Echoes of a similar situation in my own life. I see the figures in your painting as welcoming, not grieving. They are gathered round waiting for Ray to rise up and go with them. Just to add, I have no religious beliefs whatsoever. This is just my response to the painting.

    1. Sylvan, thank you so much for your appreciation of my situation and response to it in painting. Thank you too for the turn around on the reading of the figures. I love your positive take!!

  28. Dear Gail,
    What courage to share this, and show how the creativeprocess can help and, and heal in some measure. Having experienced the same grief and its aftermath of roller coaster emotions, I feel I can assure you that death never has the last word. All the qualities that your dear Ray expressed can not be erased. Think of a seagull soaring effortlessly in the clouds, and disappearing from our view, beyond the horizon. Just because we can no longer see it, does that mean it is dead? No, of course not. I am reminded of the poem by William Blake, about a sailboat that disappears over the horizon and someone on the beach exclaims “It’s gone!” but at the exact same instant, another one exclaims “Here he is!” I am sure that many many of your friends all across the globe are by your side in sharing this certainty that joy will return. As for me, I wish that you may soon find “the peace that passes all understanding.” Your artwork will be a heaven-sent help.
    With all affection
    Nancy Malard

    1. Nancy, thank you so much for your beautiful words and feelings about the death process as a transitional one. I love the reference from the William Blake poem to the departure and arrival of the sailboat. Perfect especially as I’m now in Mexico and when I am at the beach next, I will think of this and remember Ray. Thank you! I will also continue to pastel while I am here…

  29. Gail
    This was the most emotionally raw and intense blog demo I have viewed in a long time. It evoked a gamut of feelings drawn from my artist and personal experiences. I am fairly new to your blog and was pulled in as a comrade rather than simply a viewer. Grief and anger is a powerful partner. The sense of being omitted from an act so final. I don’t know you or the history here but I do feel deep compassion for your situation. The passionate process in words and demo images, as well as the final piece will stay with me for a very long time. I don’t feel you are finished on this road. I suspect more works will come from this place you feel before you will find peace. Share as you need. Wishing you eventual calm as you work through the tangle.

    1. Heidi, thank you so much for sharing how this post affected you. I love that even though you haven’t been with me that long, that you still felt pulled in. That’s means a lot to me. I am also moved that my process and the final piece will stay with you. You are right as I too suspect there will be more to come as I undo and retie threads in this tangle. And thank you for so graciously inviting me to share as I need.

  30. Gail, I am sorry for your sadness and the way you learned of Ray’s death. As artists, we are so fortunate to have many tools, you are wise to seek the healing that pastel and paper brings.
    I painted through the tears when my sister, who was also my best friend, died of colon cancer. It was a celebration of her life through paintings of her flower gardens. Years later her presence surrounds me.
    Keep the blue pastels dancing on the paper.

    1. Carole, my heart goes out to losing your sister and best friend. I would feel the same about my own. I loved that you painted her flower gardens – what a joyous way to celebrate and honour her as well as work through your own grief. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us and the way art-making helped you through this very sad time.

    1. Dear Gail,
      From the responses to this post in which you shared your grief, it really is something that is very real and present to many. I hope that you are moving through your sadness. Thank you for your consistent communication through your blogs. I always enjoy seeing a fresh group of pastel artists that I might not discover if it weren’t for your bringing them to light. Gracias! Karole

  31. Gail, I’m sorry for your loss. I could never understand why we can’t continue a transformed relationship with our past loves. These are the people with whom we have shared our deepest selves. May you continue to find peace and resolution in your art the most trusted nurturer of our souls.

    1. Nancy, you put into words what I too find so difficult to understand. I would so very much have loved to have had a relationship with Ray that allowed us opportunity to share memories of our life together. This will always bring me a kind of sadness that is a sadness separate from the finality of his death. You are so right when you say art is the nurturer of our souls. My soul sings in the art-making process no matter the motivation behind it. Thank you.

  32. So sorry, Gail. What a great way to deal with your heavy emotions – very healthy. Your blog post was very moving and brought tears to my eyes. Thank for sharing your raw emotions, your bared soul with us. It was received with compassion.

    1. Debbie, thank you for sharing how this post affected you. As I have said to others, I wasn’t sure if I should share such a personal, emotionally raw blog post but in a way, there was no option. I felt the absolute need to do so. And from that decision has come such an outpouring of compassion, love, understanding, confirmation, and encouragement that I am stunned and deeply moved.

  33. Dear Gail,
    My deepest condolences. I received your blog post notification in my email box yesterday just a few hours after hearing of the loss of someone very dear to me. My brain wasn’t working too well I guess, as my first thought on reading the subject line was “how did she know?” ( I guess I feel like I know you personally from following your blog for over a year now.) I just wanted you to know that reading your post has helped me tremendously ( tears fell, but that’s part of the process isn’t it – cathartic). When things settle down a bit, I know that I too will be helped through making art. Thank you for sharing, it arrived right when I needed it. Be good to yourself.

    1. Oh my heart goes out to you Karen for your own loss and for the timing of my blog post. Tears falling is good – I’ve shed heaps in the past days. They help release the emotions and give us some calm when they are, for a while, spent. Look to your art to transfer your thoughts and feelings and be uncaring of the outcome – it’s the journey that is hugely helpful, the immersion into the artist ’space’. As to being good to myself, I’m now in Mexico for a two-week stay in the sun and warmth with the man I love and surrounded by friends here who will laugh and cry with me. Be good to yourself.

  34. Sad to hear – it brought me to the dark place I well remember after the loss of my partner in an accident.
    The colours in nature and my pastel box brought me back to a life – but as a fully rounded human we do need to experience deep grief before we can truly understand the world and its peoples.

    1. Linda, my arms stretch to you to embrace you in sadness. I can hardly imagine your pain but can understand the sinking into the dark place. Thank you for sharing your own use of pastels and the way nature herself helped to revive you. And yes, deep grief is a part of being wholly human. Thank you for the reminder that it enables us to understand others in our world better.

  35. Thankyou for sharing this intimate moment with us. As with performing artists who make entire albums of music inspired by their feelings whether it’s loss, or leaving a relationship, or lost opportunities, I guess this will have allowed you to grieve without locking up the feelings inside which is not a good thing to do. It has allowed you to show a more ‘internal’ side to your art.

    1. Thank you Barbara. You are so right to remind us about albums being created as a response to loss. I was just hearing about one recently. Artists are lucky in that we have a way to express and detach our emotions from ourselves. By that I mean we can put them ‘out there’ to examine and try to make sense of what is happening to us on all levels as we respond to the loss. As you say, locking up our feelings can only keep the pain hurting us that much longer. Even sharing this post has been cathartic for me.

  36. So sorry for your loss and that you weren’t informed. With you every step of the way. Our studios are our private place to deal with whatever situation finds us there for whatever reason. Our art making is our personal response to whatever concerns us and what mood we need to express. Your process shows how cathartic art can be: anger, grief, acceptance, solace and finally a loosening of the grip of the sadness. Thank you for sharing this very powerful and emotional experience.

    1. Gailen thank you so much for your comment. I love that you reference our studios and the private places they are where anything and everything can happen. We may take them for granted sometimes but your words remind us what a treasured space they are and how lucky we are as artists to have them. I’m glad my sharing this post struck a chord with you.

  37. beautiful process….thank you for your willingness to share….you are an “unrecognized mourner” in the circle of people recognized as connections to Ray. Along with the grief of loss, the lack of acknowledgement of your connection can feel very cruel and shocking….especially when you have had a deep and long connection with the deceased. Paintings can be powerful containers of our grief. Ursula LeGuin who also recently passed, taught us about the importance of containers in women’s lives, in art as well as in living. Art is so very important to the human experience, doing it, seeing it; how important to keep sharing these deep moments with each other. Thank you. I wish you ease and comfort in this transition.

    1. Paintings as container – I love that idea. Thank you Mary for bringing our attention to this metaphor and to Ursula Le Guin’s teachings about the importance of containers in women’s lives. I will delve further into this idea. Thank you too for your thoughts and wishes.

  38. Gail,
    I’m so sorry for your loss and would give you a giant hug if I could. It’s wonderful that you could use your creativity to delve into your grief and release some of it. Thank you for this brave post. It shares so much! See you in Spain. Steve Morales

    1. Steve thank you! It’s funny how in writing this post, I didn’t understand fully what the effect would be on everyone so it’s cool to hear your response that it “shares so much.”
      And I’ll look for that hug in Spain!

  39. Thank you for sharing this in such a helpful way for those who feel, but do not know how to express, the connection between creative acts in dealing with sadness, torment, grief….

    1. Glad you found it helpful Susan. Just get out paper and pastels and go in there! Scribble, mark, rub, slash, whisper. Basically pour your heart and soul into the creative process. And remember, it’s the journey itself that matters – leave judgement about result behind!

  40. I’m truly sorry for your pain and grief and especially how you came to hear of the news. I find your healing process with art an interesting expression. I just lost my brother-in-law (only 58 years old) a few weeks ago and was very shocked at my response to art. I’m in my “winter home” now where I get to paint every day. I had absolutely NO desire to paint at all for a couple of weeks. I couldn’t even bring myself to do so. I finally forced out a painting but there was no joy. I’m finally getting my creativity back slowly. I think that we all have to let grief do it’s own thing and just roll with it. Peace to you Gail.

    1. Thank you Maryann. My deepest sympathies on your loss. I completely understand your non-desire to paint. Sometimes the pain is too deep, too powerful, so much so that even painting with no purpose other than to make marks as a response to emotions, takes too much energy and intention. So I completely agree with you that we need to allow grief to flow through and over us and let ourselves be in it fully and respond accordingly. For me, releasing on paper was cathartic. I am glad to hear you are getting closer to being creative again. I look forward to seeing your creations again. Peace be with you too Maryann.

  41. A beautiful work expressing your grief and anger, sadness and yes, guilt and love. Hope your journey through it all goes smoothly.

    Thank you for doing and sharing your art and thoughts.

    And thank you for the blogs. I am new to pastels and am learning a lot from them!

    1. Thank you for your kind words about the piece Marilyn. And thank you too for letting me know that my blogs are helping you find your way in the pastel world. That makes me happy!


    1. Dear Ada, my heart reaches for you in understanding embrace. I wish you solace in this time of loss. Perhaps you might try just making marks – with vigour and anger, with softness and weeping. The process of mark-making can ease the soul. Be in the journey and let go of any idea of outcome. Don’t worry about making a mess, just feel and respond with marks and interaction with the pastels and paper.

  43. Thank you for taking us on this journey, I feel honoured by your sharing of it. Grief, with its accompanying anger, is something we all will deal with in our lifetimes. I hope that you can continue on the course towards acceptance and healing.

    1. Heather thank you for your acceptance of my post’s journey. I am certainly on the road of acceptance and healing especially being in the warmth of Mexico where life is vibrant and warm and external.

  44. Dear Gail….. I am so sorry for your loss. Losing a close friend hurts. It must have been so much worse not being told about it at the time. Something similar happened to me a few years ago. I was upset that others hadn’t told me about my friend Margaret. I realize now that I wasn’t excluded, they just didn’t think to call and tell me. Still not pleasant, but not as hurtful.
    I like your painting. It is very personal.
    I lost my brother last November, and also turned to my pastels. I didn’t know where to start, and ended up painting a self portrait. Anyone who has seen it finds it so sad. I look old, defeated, kind of empty. I look at it, and it is exactly how I felt at the time. I think it helped.

    Take care……Lynn

    1. Thank you so much Lynn for sharing your own experience into pastels to deal with your grief over the loss of your brother. I love the idea that you did a self-portrait – such a great way to express inner feelings on an external surface. I’m glad it helped. Art-making offers us artists such a great tool to help with the grip of grief.
      And thank you too for sharing your own similar loss to mine, one that you learnt of some time after the passing of Margaret. I am sure there is a similar reason for my not hearing the news at the time. I am working on forgiveness…
      Wishing you peace Lynn.

  45. Gail, I am so sorry to hear about your loss and also of how you heard about it. I am sure that hurts like he**. Thank you for being real and sharing your raw emotions AND your response to them….Creative outlets, in all their forms, can be so therapeutic and often let us express what words simply cannot. God bless…

    1. Thank you Rhonda and yes, the hurt and loss was deeply painful. It is subsiding and I think the creative work I did helped hugely. I now know first hand, the power of art-making to help us heal our way through grief.

  46. Dear Gail,
    I am sorry for your loss. I hear your story of Ray and feel the sense of emptiness and hurt. Grief has it’s journey. May you eventually find the peace you need and the light again in your spirit. God rest Ray’s soul.
    Continue to be kind to yourself as you process through your healing, Gail. Your art speaks. No need for more words. Take the time you need.
    God bless you.

    1. Diane thank you for your compassionate words and understanding. I feel the light coming back as I let go of Ray and the hurt and the anger. Painting my emotions helped as does forgiveness.

  47. Peace be to Ray’s memory. Maybe you’ll eventually paint the happy memories with him.
    Can painting help you forgive those who didn’t tell you?

    Thank you sharing your grief response with us. I’m going to try this tomorrow for a relationship issue that causes me grief and sadness.


    1. Jann, to answer your question, yes, painting has helped me let go AND forgive those who didn’t tell me. I am thankful at least that I know now. I am sure that happier memories will surface in my work back in my studio. For now, I am enjoying painting en plein air here in Mexico. This activity in a place of warmth and vibrancy is also helping with my healing.
      I hope you will try responding to your emotions on paper. And perhaps you will let us know here how it went.

  48. Your post came at the perfect time for me. In the last two months I lost my dog and my mother. I have not used my pastels since my father died two years ago because I could only think of them in terms of what to produce. I am now looking forward to using them as a way to process my grief. Sending hugs to you and peace from your grief.

    1. It warms my heart Allie to think I may have offered you a way to process your own grief. Losing those you love is so traumatic. I found that releasing all my feelings on paper with no outcome, no judgment, was hugely cathartic. I would love to hear how mark-making helps you. Hugs to you and wishing you peace.

  49. Gail,
    Ive just been enjoying your Utube channel, & thought I’d pop in over here, but…only to find you grieving. So sorry to hear this! That is a double whammy he laid on you. *hug* I am so glad you have art to get you through it, as I know first hand how very healing and cathartic it is. My father was a professional artist. He died when I was 16. I’m no stranger to losing loved ones. My mother died when I was 19. My uncle when I was 13. And i have lost many other relatives. I only mention this to try to comfort you by letting you know that in my experience art is extremely theraputic in so many ways, and has gotten me through some very hard times. So, try to get in there, even if you feel you don’t think you have the mental/physical stamina to do it. Keep a travel kit by your bed. Try not to make your studio the only place you deal with the grief via art, though, for obvious reasons (you might begin to associate your studio with negative feelings and not enjoy being in it anymore.) En plein air is great if weather permits. I hope this helps and I wish you a speedy return to happy times. You are such a wonderful teacher and artist! Thank you for all you do.

    1. Holly how very sad to hear of your early losses of close family. You have been an orphan from such an early age. Thank you for sharing how you found art therapeutic in dealing with your immense grief. And thank you for your encouragement to continue working through my feelings in art. Interesting that you should mention both working en plein air and the idea of not only working in my studio (to avoid making a place of negativity). Because here I am in Mexico painting outside in the warmth and light surrounded by intense colour and brightness. Therapeutic indeed! Healing is in the works!!
      I’m happy too that you find value in what I offer 😀

  50. So sorry for your loss, Gail, and the way you learned of it. It is sometimes hard for people to believe that a person who brings so much joy and positive energy to everyone she touches, can also have moments of hurt, deep grief, and suffering. Thank you for sharing your cathartic experience with us, and I hope that by sharing it, you can let those who love your teaching and your art help you to bear this burden, to lighten the darkness in your studio and in your heart, until the light comes back–as it surely will.

    1. Ralph I was very moved by your words and feeling. Thank you for reminding me that I have an amazing community who will offer to share my burden of grief. It is a wonderful thing to know and does help. Through your comment and those of others, I have been embraced and loved and lifted. The light is coming back as you knew it would. Being in Mexico with the sun and its warmth and the warmth of its people has helped too! I’m sure that when I get back to my studio, the warmth of this place and the warmth I have felt from you and others will be there with me dispelling the dark.

  51. I’m so sorry for your suffering. I haven’t ventured into pure abstraction in many occasions but the few times I have were the product of grief. Something about pouring your soul on paper in a way that may only make sense to you is refreshing and unbinding. I thought I was odd for doing this but see I am in good company. I hope you continue to heal. Thanks for sharing the process and product. I love them both.

    1. Tara thank you for your appreciation for my process and work! Love that you too have experienced this way of dealing with grief (although sorry that you have had occasion to do it). As you say, there is something liberating about pouring out emotion and feelings onto paper without regard for a planned result that helps to heal the soul. Thanks again.

  52. Gail,
    How strong you are to share such a personal journey with us. While I read your blog and followed the painting process, I felt your pain. It moved me. How nice that art can be an outlet. I wish you a lot of strength and hope you can get closure in time. Sorry for your loss. Mathy

    1. Mathy it is rewarding to have your visceral response to my words and process in this post. It is what I hoped for in the sharing. I also want others to know that this is an incredible way to release the pain and suffering one may encounter on life’s journey. We are indeed fortunate to have the artistic soul. Thank you for your kind wishes. Closure will come.

  53. Gail, Thank you for sharing this important journey with us. It can help us realize and remember that art is there for us. It is not just to sell or exhibit. Art is our friend in all times, and I feel so lucky to know you and be privy to your experience with the medium which I also love. I wish you well with the difficult situation you have faced, but I know all will heal. There is a sunshine around the corner that you will feel on your face, and I look forward to that for you. With all love and respect, Carol

    1. Dear Carol, I love the way that you put into words the fact that art is for us as well as for others (via exhibition and sales) – such an important reminder. Creating is sacred in the biggest sense of the word and sometimes as artists, we take our desire to create for granted. You remind us to treasure it as a friend with love and nurturing and commitment. Thank you for that.
      And already I feel the metaphorical sunshine inside helped along by the physical sensation which is literally on my face as I write – I’m in Mexico for a short getaway and as always I’m infused with gratitude for this opportunity and place. With love to you too.

  54. Hi Gail,
    I just found you via Facebook and the first article I read was this one about your friend, Ray, and his passing without anyone telling you. 1st, so sorry and saddened for your loss and heartbreak and also I was very moved by your artful process through your grief. I love when artists share their journeys as they create, helps me to hear others stories and about the struggles, challenges and arrivals throughout the process. 2nd I love pastels (and mixed media) and have begun painting in earnest (I turn 60 in April) after some time “off”. This has been inspiring to discover you, thank you from the deepest parts of my heart for sharing this!! Roree

    1. Roree, thank you for such a warm and heartfelt comment especially on your first receipt of my blog! On the one hand I am sorry you had to enter on this sombre note, on the other, I am happy that elicited such a positive and affirmative response from you.
      I am delighted too to hear you are embarking on your painting journey with full intention, and I’m hopeful that you will find lots here to inspire, educate, and entertain you!

  55. Dear Gail,

    Your visceral response through your art is a lesson for all of us. In life there are many ups and downs. Art can pull us through many of those times. My own hubby is facing many serious health issues and I fear I may too be experiencing that pain in the not too distant future. My art helps me now and feel will be my salvation then. Life happens. We all know that . Thank God we have something to help us through it. I love your painting . So very powerful. Hope the healing continues.

    1. Thank you Yvonne for sharing your own current situation and how art is already an outlet for you as you deal with your husband’s issues. As you say, life happens and it is with gratitude that we can, as artists, use our creative drive and inclination to help us to cope in times of stress and suffering.
      Thank you too for your kind words about my painting.
      And yes, healing is in process as I accept, forgive, and embrace life.

  56. Dear Gail,
    Thank you for your courageous and inspirational share!
    “Take your broken heart and make it into Art”. Carrie Fisher
    With gratitude,

    1. Judy, thank you so much for your thanks and also for sharing the Carrie Fisher quote with us – it’s perfect. And it seems, as witnessed in the many comments above, that many of us with a creative impulse do just that. It is indeed a way of healing.

  57. Hi Gail,
    I love you posting your story and the steps of your painting. It’s important to be able to share our emotions and our journey. It helps us heal … and, I believe, it helps others, too.
    It’s nice to look at people’s art work, but I want to know the story that goes with it. What drives us to do what we do.
    Take care,

    1. Thanks Sasha. I agree that it helps to see and hear the process of painting and also what motivates us to create. While painting this picture, I experienced the healing help of art-making and wanted to share that journey so others might find a way to channel strong emotions similarly.

  58. Very sorry about your loss, Gail. Thanks for sharing your feelings and the strong beautiful work that came as the result of you dealing with grief! I hope you continue to experience the healing power of art.

    1. Thank you Lana for your appreciation of the piece. I think sometimes in these moments of letting go completely, of not caring what the result looks like, we can create powerful and strong work. I hope to do more outpourings of response to this loss. In the meantime, the warmth of Mexico helps to heal me.

  59. Dear Gail,

    My sympathy for your loss and my happiness that you were able to start to deal with it through your art. I hope that the coming days will bring you to a better place. Thank God for Art!

    1. Art-making is an amazing thing Wendy! Slashing and rubbing and wildly gesturing and making lines in response to feelings – all this is liberating and cathartic. We are so lucky, as creators, to have this way of expressing and letting go of overwhelming emotions of loss, anger, frustration, regret, guilt, and helplessness. Thank you for your thoughts.

  60. Wow, Gail. That was an amazing story. I’m so glad I took the time to read it. It was so powerful, it gave me the chills as I kept scrolling. I could literally feel your anger and sadness and the release of it. I’m so sorry for the loss of Ray, the loss of your alls connection and the loss of respect his friends did not give you. I would be so upset too! Keep painting through the emotions! Thank you so much for sharing!

  61. Dear Gail,
    So sorry for your loss, may Ray be at peace. Art is such a comfort and a release you can come to terms with your grief by expressing yourself on paper or by any other medium. The flow of pastels is so cathartic I have found it a great way to focus all sorts of emotions both positive or negative.

    In these times of distress and turbulence, our art gives us a means of self healing and for others too. Time will also give you a lessening of grief and stress, so celebrate the life, the person and continue to feel the world and emotion through the wonderful medium of pastel. Wishing you a peaceful and refreshing holiday Kind regards Nigel

    1. Nigel thank you for your understanding and encouragement. I will celebrate Rays life and remember so much of what we had with tenderness and joy. Thankyou for that reminder.
      And yes, we are so lucky to have our art!!
      Mexico is perfect for me right now 🙂

    1. Margie thank you for your caring and for your positive response to my painting. I am glad you yourself have experienced the healing possibilities of art-making (although not glad for the sorrows you may have had).

  62. So sorry for your loss, Gail. I’m glad you could find some solace in painting. You create beauty that we are allowed to share, it’s only fair to also share hard times

    1. Thank you Dom. It was amazing how much painting helped to release some of the intense emotions I was experiencing. And yes, I want to share both the easy beauty and the difficult.

  63. I’m sorry that I am only now seeing this. (I’ve been mistakenly deleting your blog notification when I do a batch delete, which, because I’m getting so many emails, I find I need to do it that way. I am trying to find a way to catch your blog notifications in spite of that because I gain so much in so many ways from reading your blog.) But….back to the subject.
    I’ve read many of the responses to your brave & raw account of your grief/art journey. Most of what I want to say has already been said. I can only add my sincere sympathies & appreciation of your willingness to share this journey with us. I have experienced my own grief experience when my husband passed away in Dec. 2012 from lung cancer. It’s unfortunate that I only found my art voice after he died. I could have used it to express so much of my anger, grief, sadness, loneliness, and pain as you have shown me. Interesting that I started exploring art shortly after his passing, so maybe, in a way, I found my new passion because of it. I’m happy that you are finding joy in Mexico. All the best, Gail.

    1. Thank you Ruth. My heart goes out to you for all you must have experienced (and probably still experience from time to time) with the loss of your husband to cancer. Even though you didn’t have your art voice at the time, I’m glad you do now. I hope you will use it any time you feel those negative emotions arise. It’s an amazing way to let out your feelings!
      And yes, Mexico has been wonderful!!

  64. Dear Gail,
    Only now, I read the whole of this blog, though I have seen the painting several times, I just thought, it is somewhat private.
    As I was reading it, I was able to feel your disappointment of not knowing… and it strikes me, feeling my ownself.
    Then my train reachs the mainstation and inside the station there’s this mellow music. I just have to sit down and let the emotion that is building up subside…
    I sat there and sketch for 10 min.
    Then continue with my journey…
    Thanks for sharing. Art is healing!

    1. Thank you Virginia. It was a very private experience but the release it gave me was extraordinary, so much so, that I felt I had to share it. Yes! Art is healing!! Thank you for sharing your own poetic experience.

  65. Thank you for sharing Gail. I’ve been so debilitated with grief the past few days after hearing of a friends ‘3 months to live’ cancer diagnosis and now this morning I received a phone call that an old friend / boyfriend died this morning. I won’t go into all the details, I just feel so full of sadness and I need to express it as best I can. I’m an artist but I don’t even know where to begin to release this pain. Even though I traditionally use oils I think maybe pastels like you used would be better, get my hands right in there. I like what you created, I like the process of allowing that you let happen. You’ve helped me to see that it’s a process and to get out of my head. Much love to you during this painful time.

    1. Oh Tara, I feel your pain! The act of creating is sooooo cathartic even if it’s just a mess at the end. I think you could do this work with oils as well. It’s just that with pastels, you can be more physically in touch with the medium. Let it allllll out. Cry as you do, moan as you do, stamp your feet as you do. Express your anger, your sadness, your frustration, your love, express it all fully as you move into a creative place with only process and release in mind. And no judgement at the end. That’s not its purpose this time. And let it be for you and all about you. Surrender and go into it. And I KNOW you will feel a little better at the other end. A warm heartfelt hug with love in your time of grief and pain.

  66. Gail, I am so sorry for your loss and your grief. Thank you for sharing this very personal and intense grieving process you went through, creating quite a powerful painting, even though I know you did not initially care about the results.

    1. Thank you dear Adrian. The emotions were so high when I created this pastel painting and blog around it. Happily, the rage and sadness and frustration have subsided. But I am still ‘bitten’ when I least expect it – by a song, a word, a memory. The cycle of life….

  67. My ‘almost a mother-in-law’ who bought the house across the street from us ten years ago to be near her daughter and only child. Paige (my significant other of 26 yrs.) and I still work, and didn’t spend as much time with her as we’d have liked but she always assured me that that was okay….she understood and she was happy just knowing we were there. Sometimes we’d flash our front porch lights on and off at each other to say goodnight….or open our doors and blow kisses.
    Four and a half years ago, I went through severe surgery for stage 4 oral cancer…with a hospital stay of over a month…including complications. She drove herself to the hospital every weekday and would spend about 6 hours a day sitting beside my bed (she taught nursing most of her working life) until Paige arrived after work…..and after that, took me to radiation! (And let me drive home afterward, when I really wasn’t supposed to)
    She passed away, suddenly, about 6 months ago…..and it’s been rough….she was one of the strongest women I’ve ever known. The pastels have been enormous help in trying to cope with her loss…she could see me working on my paintings from her living room….as my studio is merely a nest at one end of our living room sofa….we live in a small house! I still feel like she’s watching, occasionally… I wish that Paige had something like pastels to help her…
    She always hoped that we’d move into her larger, newer house when she was gone and we’re in the process of doing just that….but it’s extremely hard. I have Christmas candles on in the windows of her house but not our own….it makes me feel like there’s a part of her still there…
    Your bravery and honesty with your post have really hit home….I applaud your courage to share your feelings with us….and thank you for that! Prayers and hugs your way…

    1. Dear Curt, Many thanks for sharing, in detail, your own experience with cancer, your mother-in-law’s help, and your own sorrow at her sudden passing. My heart goes out to you.
      I am glad to know that art-making with pastels is helping you through this very sad time. Creating is such a gift – a place to live your feelings, to physically express them in a way like no other especially when it may be difficult to do so at other times. Perhaps you might encourage Paige to scribble on paper in her deepest moments, just let it all out with no holding back. It’s amazing how crying AND pulsing that emotion through the ends of your fingers can help!
      Hugs back to you.

  68. I’m so sorry for your loss Gail. Your blog was clearly heartfelt and heartbroken. I’m sorry for the fact that you did not learn of Ray’s passing except by accident. I hope that you continue to heal and express your feelings through your art. You are a gifted and strong woman.

    1. Lauraine, thank you for your warm and caring response to my blog. Thank you too for your encouragement to keep expressing feelings through my art. Sometimes, it’s easier to hold back rather than put your whole self into the painting. Yet that is the real and unique voice of the artist. A good reminder.
      Thank you.

  69. Pingback: Dailės terapija ir gedėjimas (Mokslo populiarinimo konkursas) – Konstanta-42

  70. In the wake of my own loss, I found your post just now, years after you posted this. Your words brought to the fore my own sadness and anger, and tears came rushing down my face. For me, your transparency brought about an emotional alchemy—I felt my anger dissipate as I faced the pain, the sorrow of a beautiful someone no longer in my life. I appreciate how you convey the often inarticulable nature of grief. How I wish I could put into words just how much it hurts. The raw, unapologetic, and unplanned process of your art piece inspire me to focus less on an artistic product and more on living my grief honestly moment to moment. Thank you.

    1. Nolan, I am so sorry for your loss. Loving hard brings deep sorrow. Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your own feelings of grief so beautifully and poignantly put. I’m glad this post was in some way cathartic. Be with your grief – it is part of your humanity, and an honouring of the person you have lost. I hope you try using art to move through these feelings. No one else needs to see them – they are just for you on your journey.

  71. This is a great post and true to my experiences with art as therapy. I am sorry for your loss and the feeling of isolation that had to have come from not being told about it. Good thing your teacher and/or blogger instinct kicked in so that you thought to photograph the process, as well. Brava!

    1. Kelly, many thanks for your comment and commiserations. I’m so glad that it resonated with you. I wonder if you speak from your own personal experience or doing work in art therapy? And yeah, it’s funny how the recording habit is there. I never actually thought I’d do anything with it and yet from it came a powerful post that has touched many.
      Thank you! And…your sculptures are amazing. Get well soon!

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Gail Sibley

Artist. Blogger. Teacher.

My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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