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Ok….the story behind the drawing! For the past year, I have been on an online support group for grief. It is called, “LifeStarters.” The woman who designed the course lost her husband eleven years ago. She did not find what was good for grief and now has this course. In it, there are steps to do. I finished the first course last spring. The steps after that are supplemental. I am still working those steps. The drawing is in response to one of those steps.

 

The step is to practice crossing over the bridge before starting a new segment of your life without grief being an overwhelming factor in your life. The step asked me to write my feelings about crossing over the bridge everyday. Another component of the assignment was to look back at my “old” house and cross over, remembering the house, but not remaining in it anymore. Kinda a farewell thing, that has plenty of pre-history behind doing this step. This is step 23 if that gives you a clue to how long it takes to get to this point in the self/group healing. 

 

Anyway….when I read about the step, for some reason, I thought I should illustrate it instead. A visual picture popped into my head. I thought…why not? Draw it instead. The first image that popped into my head when the assignment said to walk over the bridge, I saw the St. Johns Bridge here in Portland. It was my late husband’s favorite bridge out of all of the many bridges that cross the Willamette River. Just before I had read the assignment, I had this drawing that I barely begun and was wondering what to do next on it. Now I knew. So I looked up images on google of the bridge and found this one. A beautiful night scene with the fog and moonlight. It seemed to speak of my current situation that I am find myself in. Kinda in a fog, yet having to figure out how to move on with my life. Like most people in love, the moon was special to us as well.

 

On the bridge is a small figure in shadow. It is my dear Jene-Paul wanting me to cross over. Near the “big” me is a smaller me, going towards him. The big me is holding a paintbrush to signify my art journey. My other hand holds a rose in memory of Jene-Paul. To the bottom middle of the drawing is a tangled up heart with snakes, snares, and unrecognizable shapes. That is a picture of my heart during this past almost 17 months. Grief of a sudden death of a spouse can really screw up your heart and mind. Taking care of my father with dementia all alone for those first six months right after he died is equally hard. The isolation I had during that time was horrible. I chose to draw not the house I had to look back at as asked in the assignment. Instead, I decided to look back at all I had to go through during these months. That is what I really lived in.

 

To the left of the heart, there is a shadow of an old fashioned coffee pot. My husband made those old pots/cameras/mixers into light sculptures. You will notice that the top of the coffee pot is lit up. His initials are on the glass top where the light comes through. I actually have this pot in my bedroom. He was my light. I placed that lamp/coffee pot in a night sky. The night sky right under it has the Big Dipper over a building. This is significant for me for several reasons. One, just before Jene-Paul left on his trip, he surprised me by putting up plastic glow in the dark stars in the shape of the Big Dipper over our bed. He loved the stars/astronomy and science fiction. I think he did this to remind me that while he was gone, he would be sleeping under the same stars as I was. 

 

But, the stars over the building in the drawing has reality and mystery to it. Several months before I left to go to the court hearing last August, I had a dream of Jene-Paul meeting me in a hotel room. I only had five days notice of the hearing, so I did not have time to book any hotels, since I did not know how long it would take. The first night there, I found this hotel room. It was the hotel room I had dreamed about! There, on a moonless night, was the Big Dipper bigger than life over the room I rented. Not only that, the room number was 7, the same number as our home. The door was purple, the color that Jene-Paul associated with me from the purple ink I would use to write him love letters in high school. Even stranger, there was monkeys statues in the lobby, (that is what those monkeys are for) and porch. Jene-Paul had this thing about monkeys. He used monkeys as a symbol of his love for people. He gave monkeys to those he loved. And he had this weird little song that drove me nuts, that he always sang: “Jesus was a monkey and he looked like you.” It was so surreal to end up there and have all this symbolism of Jene-Paul so close to me. On the building I also put the name of the man that killed Jene-Paul, and the sentence he ended up getting.

 

It did not stop there. After the hearing, all I wanted to do was leave this place. The first time I was there was right after his death to pick up his ashes and retrieve all of his camping gear that was on the scooter that was destroyed. The second trip was almost to the day exactly a year after his death for the hearing of the young man that killed him. I had so much pain and yet amazing memories of my time in Mateo County. After the hearing, I packed up and started heading home. I decided to stop at a store and buy some souvenirs for my grandkids, since they live in Bozeman and Minneapolis. I wanted something from the ocean for them. I found a touristy place and went into it. The first thing I saw took my breath away. There was this little plaque that said, “Have I told you lately that I love you?” Almost everyday, Jene-Paul would say to me, “has anyone told you yet today that they are in love with you today? Let me be the first.” I almost lost it in the store right there. I was an emotional wreck having just ended the hearing only an hour earlier. I bought the plaque with some trinkets for the grandkids. As I left the store, I pulled out of the parking lot, onto the street to wait at the signal. I realized that I was at the spot that he was killed at! The store was across the street from the place where he died! That did it. Tears came at that point.

 

Below the monkeys and hotel room is a small view of the Atlantic Ocean, and the pine trees. On my first night in Nags Head in 2016, right after his death, I was only a few hundred feet away from the ocean staying in a camper a friend of the family lent to me. With nothing to do in the evening, I went and sat on a bench watching a thunderstorm to the northeast of me right over the ocean. Jene-Paul and I loved the thunderstorms when we lived in Montana. This one was spectacular, best I had ever seen. I sat there until I could feel the electricity and smell of rain in the air. I got into the camper, closed the door and a hailstorm began. This storm was full of thunder and lightning as it headed east into the night sky and vast dark ocean. My husband always had a goddess, (Eris),  that he used as a scapegoat for all of his problems. I felt that in that storm, he was fighting with her about leaving me and not wanting to be dead. Illogical for sure, but my grief was new and strong. My imagination went there without hesitation. 

 

That is what this part of the drawing is about. The white pine trees were everywhere. I juxtaposed them with the ocean, since they too had special meaning. Back in 2011, right after he contacted me on my blog, I had a strange dream about him. I won’t explain all of the dream, but will say that I did go through hundreds of miles of white pine trees to the ocean. When I drove back home the first time from Nag’s Head, the trees in the dream were on my drive home! I have never been farther east than Minneapolis/St. Paul till his death. It was if I dreamed of my future and did not realize it until that first drive home.

 

In between the heart and hotel room is a silhouette of a tiny tree that could be interpreted as a vein to the heart. It is both. There is a small tree right across the creek from the house I live in now. For a full year, I agonized what to do with Jene-Paul’s ashes. I finally realized on his one year death anniversary, as I was on my way to a place I thought I “should” spread his ashes, (note: his children, ex-wife were given a small jar of his ashes at his Memorial the ll months prior. I knew they would want to remember their father outside of me), that I had gotten it all wrong. It was the last time I felt strongly that Jene-Paul was speaking to my heart. I felt like he was saying, was that he just wanted to go home and finally be put to rest. “Home” meaning the house I live in now. So, I did just that. I came home, in tears, by myself, and took his ashes with a little figurine that he had for years on his bicycles, and scattered his ashes under this little tree. I look over to his ashes now and know he is finally at rest. He is home. On the night he died, we had talked briefly. He wanted to just come home. He was done with the trip that night.

 

To the right of the heart is just the craziness of this past year. But, there is also the other trips and experiences I had. The silhouette of the house has the open floor damage of this place. When they started the remodeling, I took off to see my mother in Southern California. I had not been down Highway 101 in decades and decided to jog west from Redding over to Eureka. In Arcata just south of Eureka the town has beautiful architecture. The house is one of the famous old mansions I took a picture of. Jene-Paul was in my mind so strong that overnight stay. He loved the old architecture and it was one of the first things he had to show me when I first saw Portland. After I left Arcada, I headed south on 101 down through the Redwood forest. At this one particular part of the highway, I had to pull over to the side of the road. Right below the old mansion in the drawing is a little landscape that is so significant to me. Once again, I was seeing another part of that dream that I had back in 2011 with Jene-Paul in it. Right before we even got together. The last time I had been on this stretch of the highway was in 1978. Again, this dream, (which I found I wrote in detail about back in July 2011 in my journal) came alive again.

 

There is another part of the drawing, right of the monkeys, next to the scene I just described, that looks like a hallway. It is the outer corridor of Mission San Miguel in central California. Jene-Paul wrote beautiful stories of his long trips he use to take before we got together. One of those stories is about his stay at this mission I am guessing in the late 80’s or early 90’s? Anyway, I saw it on my way down to my mothers and decided to stop and see it. Once again, fate chose to let me see his world he had walked in. Normally, the inside of the courtyard is off limits to tourist. Because I came on a weekday late, the gardeners were out and about. I was able to go inside the courtyard and see all the places Jene-Paul wrote about in this adventure from his past. 

 

To the very right side of the mansion is just all the landscape from here to back east I traveled during these past 17 months. Right above and to the left of the mansion is a paint brush that symbolizes all that remodeling and painting I did up till last November. And, underlying all of the drawing, is the ashes. They are the foundation of this drawing. So now you know the meaning of this drawing.

 



I will admit to being behind. Grief does that to a person. Especially to those of us now in the "widow" catagory. Those that have had to join this club know how a spouses death cuts your world in half. It cuts you in half. You can no longet be the person that you were while they were alive. Suddenly, you just do not know what to do. So you do nothing that matters.

 

The desire to do any new artwork has been swallowed up in grief and cagegiving. Taking care of my father with dementia in the midst of grieving has not been easy during these past seven and a half months since my lover's untimely death. It has afforded me the silence I needed to go through this early part of grief. The price though for shutting out the world to deal with my pain has been the increase of caregiving chores. My father's health is declining. Faster than he will admit. As a result, I have had to spend more time taking care of his basic needs. There is no time to get going on any artwork. No sooner than I start up something when I am interrupted by going to take care of the next thing he has need of. I am on edge all the time, even through my sleep. For the past three months, life has literally been on hold for the next catastrophy to deal with.

 

There have been many little catastrophies over these past months with caring for my father. I was able to deal with everyone of them. Did not like it, but dealt with it like any other caregiver. There was one large disaster though I did not forsee. My hot water valve sprung a leak and was leaking for a very long time. Maybe a month or more. I discovered the closet which it abides in full of water one day. The results of that leak means that I lost much of my insulation under the house where all that water dripped down during that time I was unaware. I live in a manufactured home so all of the subflooring is particle board and must be removed. My bathroom floor is toast. So is the front hallway and area leading around the closets to the hallway to the bathroom. All of that now has to be replaced.

 

I wish it was that easy, but this home has several problems that surfaced as a result of the leak. Two closets with electrical wiring must be removed. The whole floor, except for the bedrooms are connected. All of that will have to be removed and replaced as well. In a nutshell, I am looking at having to pack everything up and moving out of the way for the living room, (which I am using for my art studio), the dining room, the kitchen, and the back family room area. Let's not forget the front entrance, the hallways and front bathroom. Plus, the front door has dry rot. It too needs replacing. As well as half of the skirting on this manufactured home. Oh the joys of living in a rain forest on the back of a creek in Oregon!

 

I obviously have no proof, but I think my husband's spirit is behind all of this. He never really liked the idea of me having to care for my father instead of doing art. This was the nudge I needed to finish my searching for a memory care community to place my father into. His doctor warned me months ago to prepare for the time when I would not be able to care for his needs anymore. She did say it was coming soon. And she was right. His physical health has declined much in the past months. If this leak had not had happened, I would have pushed myself too hard to keep caring for him at risk to both of us. 

 

As of next week, my father will return to the place I had him in for a month for respite care while I took care of my husband's death. I will tell him tomorrow. I wanted my father to enjoy his birthday today. He turned 89 years old. He will not like it, but the contractor has flat out told me there is no possible way for him to be around the construction. He buried his mother-in-law two and a half years ago who also suffered from dementia. This contractor understands what I am up against. 

 

My job as a full time caregiver will end after two and a half years. Dear ol' dad ended up in my care four years ago after he suffered a heart attack. I had just finished my K-12 Art Educator's program at Montana State University only three months prior. I never got a chance to apply for any jobs in Montana due to my father health crisis and my new role caring for his needs. It has been a very difficult four years. It was hard on my marriage, it ruined my career goals and now I am back to square one without my husband by my side. My youngest son comes back in two weeks after his year long internship in the Grand Canyon. At least I have him to look forward to.

 

Like most unknown artists, I will be looking soon for that day job to pay for my passion. How do you start a new life and career when you are closer to retirement? When the past four years have been tied up in the role of caregiver, POA, and managing the daily affairs of those in your life? How do I go back into doing my own artwork when I feel like I have just been sent back to the camp wounded from being on the front lines of an ugly war? I will still have my father to deal with. I still must manage his finances and visit him on a regular basis. Until the his time draws to an end and I must be there for his days of hospice to his end. And another death to grieve. I may be in the camp for now, but those front line days are looming closer and closer. Experienced soldiers only get to go back to continue the fight. And to deal with the grief that comes from those experiences. 

 

I have almost completed packing up my artwork and will begin taking down my studio soon. The last painting I did was in memory of my love. I called it, "Moment of Inpact." It is my interpretation of that awful moment of his death when his soul/spirit left this world and became once more just pure energy in the universe again. Grief can make one morbid as well some of the time. The painting is done with acrylic paints and I painted over my "Fall of Fundamentalism." That too was a bit morbid, but that is another blog story that will have to wait. 

 

 




 


I did do some artwork during these early months of 2017. Three years ago, my Aunt Betty wanted me to illustrate some poems she composed decades ago for her great grandchildren. Since she is my favorite aunt, I agreed. I do not brag about these drawings. They are for her use only. Done with acyrlic and pen and ink on illustration board. I uploaded the images to my typedrawing app and added the poems. I kept my images simple for her grandchildren and to fit the nature of the poems. I hope you enjoy them. After the floor remodeling is done, I plan on taking a visit to her and giving her the originals. 

 


























Only yesterday did I make myself actually draw something since August.  I chose a photo that my late husband took while we celebrated our first Thanksgiving together five years ago. I made a grid, and just using a number two pencil, I am drawing as close to the photo as possible.  I also took the drawing, "Fall of Fundamentalism" and covered it over with gesso and texturing to begin a new work. I have no idea what I am going to do with it, other than just let the painting process guide me. The drawing is tight and very focused in comparison. The two pieces could not be further apart in approaches. A physical allegory to my widowhood.

 

It will be his five month death anniversary on the 15th of January. No one tells you how awful grief is. It changes your life like an earthquake leveling your home, and now you sift through the rubble to pick out those things of your life before that are still useful and precious to you. The wind howls, the cold bites your skin, and the feelings of vulnerablity never leave. The days repeat over and over, as you keep finding more things in the ruins of your home. Even that is not a good analogy, but it is all I can think of for now. 

 

Still, life pushes you on, and you can't spend all your time looking for all that you need to look for. There are jobs to do, people to deal with, and I am no different. My job is caregiving for my father with dementia. It only adds more aftershocks to the already ruined landscape of my life. Yesterday, I finally had to stop looking through my rubble to accomplish my drawing and primed substrate. 

 

All my adult life, my artmaking process was done because of the memory of a young man drawing wonderful cartoons in my art class in high school. For about a year and a half we dated and admired each others artistic abilities. I always thought he had much more talent than I did. Back in the day, he always was encouraging me to do artwork. Through the next 38 years, I did just that, artwork of any kind, in respect of the relationship we had as first loves to each other. When he found me five and a half years ago, I was finishing up my teaching certification as an Art Teacher k-12 for myself after raising six children. He was so impressed with that accomplishment in my life. All he wanted me to do was make art, once we reunited. Though never enough due to the responsibilities of having to work to pay the bills, I tried to continue to make some artwork when possible. I always did it for him. 

 

Now that he is gone I feel my reason for doing artwork is gone as well. The joy is just not there. The support he gave me is gone. It feels so pointless now. But, everything I do feels pointless nowadays. Grieving someone so dear and close to me and caregiving my father who is more and more childlike everyday, is a leathal mix leading only to depression and hopelessness. I consider it a miracle to be able to do just what I did these past two days. 

 



A drawing by Jene-Paul Lemieux 2011

 

 


I will not include this painting on my gallery, only because I consider it a baby step. I felt my husband really nudging me this morning to paint. I could not think of anything to paint. The depression is setting in strong this season. So I painted a photograph that I found on my husband's hard drive. It was on the upper Yellowstone River on his first Thanksgiving in Montana. The year was 2011. The painting itself was on some very awful paper, but I have no desire to keep it. Just a practice piece that only took less than two hours to execute. Enjoy.

 





This has been the hardest month I have ever lived in my life. My love of my life, my high school sweetheart, who found me online only five years ago...my dear sweet and funny husband of four and a half years was killed by a drunk driver 33 days ago. My life is upside down and I am in a world of hurting. 

 

I have no desire to paint, draw, or do any artwork. I see no point, since we were artists together. Dealing with all the "responsibilities" surrounding his death, plus taking care of my elderly father with dementia, (he was in a respite care facility until September 22), have zapped me as well. I have to settle his estate now, so I cannot even think of working in my studio. Nor do I have any clue when I will want to work in it. 

 

So for now, whatever you see on this webpage is all I have for artwork. I hope you enjoy it. I am posting below just one of the many little drawings my husband use to do. Take care. 

 





Have you ever hit the wrong button on your email and deleted the wrong stuff? I sure did one day. Turns out it worked in my favor. I had to go to my trash and junk mail to try to find all the mail I wanted back. I never did find them. Yet, as I was going through my junk folder, an email caught my eye. It said they liked my artwork. What? That is a first! So I opened it up.

 

It was from the company, Vida.com. They manufacture clothing with designers from all over the world, ie artists of all kinds. As I kept checking them out, I liked what I was seeing. They were legit. I had my cynical husband, who has a passion of not trusting anything on the web to check this company out. He thought they were legit as well. If he is content, then I would be. I decided to give it a try.

 

Once I signed up as a designer, I realized, the company was right. My artwork did look beautiful on their clothing they offered. It was an easy process of uploading up my chosen photo, then resizing and moving it around to fit the piece of clothing I had wanted. After I was done with the process, signed out, it was time to advertise. Over to FaceBook I go to do a trial run on paid advertising my new products. 

 

I am just in the beginning stages of this new adventure. I hope it is fruitful for me. Only time will tell. If nothing else, I am enjoying doing this immensely. 

 

http://shopvida.com/collections/voices/leslie-lemieux



This will be short and sweet. I have not been able to do much in the way of art due to

  • The Holidays, enough said.
  • Too many doctor and dental appointments.
  • Having to spend too much time cooking gluten-free and from scratch. I am a Celiac, and there is no way out of this. Plus, I have to cook food for the family.
  • Taking care of those little needs of an elderly parent with dementia.
  • Pre-paring for tax season and turning in a very messy year financially for three adults. Now I take a breather and wait for my accountant to do the rest.

There are my lousy excuses. I did just join a newly forming artist collective. I hope life will allow me be more motivated. I have also decided to knuckle down and get my aunt's poems illustrated for her before I loose that chance to make her happy.

 

The only thing I have been able to produce for the first six weeks of this year is this little piece I call "Glint". Underpainting of acrylic with charcoal on top. I just drove by this in my neighborhood and loved how the sunlight hit the little stream. Hope you enjoy it too.