Recurring motifs can form the narrative of our lives, insightful.
I was looking through my old blog posts the other day, and I found the one about a board game my then 10 year old daughter and I invented. It is kind of like snakes and ladders/chutes and ladders but without the snakes or chutes. In this game you go on an adventure through life, picking cards at each decade to determine what kind of person you will be for the next 10 years, on the next 10 squares of the game.
On the plus side, everyone lives past 70, and you still get points to choose the legacies you’ll leave at the end, no matter what kind of life you lead or “choices” you make. Some legacies are impressive: funding a cure for cancer (or maybe Covid-19), while others are less down home, a dog-eared recipe book which your family treasures – both are precious and impressive for different reasons.
On the downside, just because you may have had a promising or comfortable start in life, the luck of the draw (ie which cards you draw each new decade) means that things may not continue that way. Things may go from bad to worse in the next decade of your life, or they may go fantastically better.
Sadly, each participant does not have a choice at the things fate throws their way. But they still get to choose the legacy they leave, and it is something we can all do in reality by the life we live. Legacy is like an inheritance of richness but which has nothing to do with money. So that’s the idea behind my board game, Legacy.
I guess the logo I drew, a bird carrying a daisy in its beak, (rather than the traditional dove with the olive branch representing the offer of peace) symbolised the offer of beauty to the world, or even beauty as a precursor to peace, the legacy I would like to humbly offer to my loved ones, or anyone else who wants it.
Back in the day one of my commissioned big artworks, I usually painted on canvases at least 4’x6′ or bigger, started me on a curious path. I remember doing this commission for a friend of a friend in the late 80s, for a conference in Sydney, Australia for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Their logo was a white dove and they needed something big to go behind their podium with those words. I interspersed the white doves flying everywhere, the background was purple I think and we were all very pleased with the results. I wish I could find an image of it. I probably have a wrinkled photo somewhere, but so began my love of winged creatures and all they represent.
After the Legacy game, (early 2000s), I started making mosaics for my garden. I made a three piece mosaic of a white dove over our little townhouse-with-the-chamomile-lawn which I had in my townhouse’s courtyard garden, (now gracing the path to a much larger vegetable garden at my new house). At the turn of the decade, still adoring making mosaics, I made a large mosaic of a blue bird, the bluebird of happiness, with a daisy in its beak, which I carried in my hand luggage on a plane and took all the way over to Australia for my friend’s garden, the first time I’d seen her since her much loved 11 year old daughter’s murder (at the hand of my friend’s ex-husband, the father of her beautiful, sweet daughter.)
This bird with the flower in its beak has come to mean so much to me.
The Legacy dove became a manila paper cut out which I used everywhere in digital collages. The shape of the bird could just be a manila silhouette, or it could have the penciled outline of a bird shakily drawn on. This featured prominently on the front page of my Urgent Artwork business site.
Then it became part of a fabric and wallpaper collection of Legacy paper cutouts, my favourite part of the collection was the simple pencil outline of the bird drawn every which way (top right in image above). The sample I received of that design was a silky faile fabric, how divine it would look made up into a blouse, or a wrap top for next summer.
Next, I was doing a design with an affirming intention for an upholstery fabric. I wanted it to be full of positive meanings and intent. The design is called I Wish, or I wish you love, happiness and beauty. I did a variation, I wish you love, peace and beauty. See the I wish collection for fabric and wall paper, and for other household items. It features both the dove and the bluebird of happiness but for different colourways.
The Steal Like an Artist idea is a fantastic suggestion for beginner artists especially, to steal ideas or allow yourself to be influenced by other artists that spark inspiration, but actually we can always be looking back at what we have done in the past and steal those ideas for future work if they still serve us. Things evolve and change (and sometimes they don’t). Recurring motifs make art interesting and meaningful, especially when they can be traced back somewhere to moments in our lives. Along the way, artists looking backwards will realise that not everyone gets their art, but some do. If an artist or their loved ones did, sometimes that is satisfying enough.