• Cindy Zampa

Sheila's Tea Cup Roses


Week 15 - ‘Sheila’s Tea Cup Roses’

About twenty years ago, I realized that my heart was holding onto a secret desire. This desire was tucked away deeply in my heart, hidden under so many layers of fears, doubts, and painful memories that, even now, as I look back on my journey, I am amazed that this desire ever saw the light of day. But it did.

For any secret desire to be realized, it first has to bubble up to a conscious level. Next, it must be recognized for what it is, or acknowledged inwardly, as a truth for the individual. Finally, action of some sort must be taken, in order for the desire to evolve into reality or take shape.

My self-awareness dawned slowly, after both of my children began attending school. As a frequent volunteer in their classrooms, I witnessed the joy of children at play, as they experimented, failed, tried again, and then beamed with pride as they mastered a new skill. Craft-time was especially rewarding, as I watched them muck about with abandon in the finger paints. They’d smear all the colours together into blobs of brown, then learn how to wield the brush and create blue skies, green grass, and a yellow sun. My secret desire to give myself over to the joys of creating something, or to express myself artistically, started to show up as a ‘niggle’ in the recesses of my brain.

When my help was not needed in the classroom, I developed the habit of dropping into a gift/craft store to admire the talents of local artists in our small community. I had always been attracted to watercolour paintings, and especially loved the creations of one particular artist. Her paintings had a very fluid and transparent, yet vibrant, style. I began to think about whether I could learn the skills needed to create such beautiful works of art. The ‘niggle’ became a more concrete knowing. When I viewed her work, I often had a visceral reaction, and it inspired me to ponder her process. My desire, I finally acknowledged to myself, was to be as talented as her, to express myself in a creative way, to connect with, or evoke reactions in others through art.

One day, I saw an advertisement for a watercolour painting workshop. It promised that even people who had never painted before would complete a frame-worthy painting over the course of two days. “Yeah, right” I thought to myself. Then, I saw the instructor’s name – it was the artist I’d been secretly admiring. I signed up on the spot, without hesitation. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, that was the critical ‘action’ step I took that would help me realize my heart’s desire. I did produce a frame-worthy painting that weekend. I hung it on the wall of my home and felt the surge of pride when guests admired it before being told I was the artist.

Over time, and after attending many workshops, my technical skills began to improve, but my self-confidence remained low. I kept most of my work hidden away and was my own worst critic. Occasionally, I’d summon the courage to create a small card or gift, but only for family and close friends. Eventually, as they became aware of my artistic interests, they began hinting that they’d love to be gifted with art from me. One such request came from my sister-in-law, Sheila, when she gave me a china tea cup decorated with a pattern of roses. She did not hint, but rather directly suggested that I use the roses on the cup as a reference for a painting, because she liked them. I liked the pattern too and thought it would make a lovely watercolour painting. It certainly inspired me, but I did not feel confident enough to attempt it then. That was fifteen years ago.

Between working and raising a family, I had very little time to spend on developing my craft. The mug became one of my favourites, and I still enjoy having my tea in it to this day, yet the image remained unpainted. I created many lists of things to do once I had the time, and this teacup mocked me daily for months after I retired.

Finally, I had the time, the patience, the skill level, (or maybe it’s the less perfectionistic attitude) and the courage to get this painting done! No, it’s not a watercolour, but over time I have explored many mediums, and have become much more comfortable with translating my feelings and ideas onto canvas. Plus, I thought it would make for an excellent contribution to the Portal 52 series.

A cup of tea, particularly if taken in a favourite cup or mug, is a portal. A double metaphor happens here, because my favourite tea cup happens to have roses on it, which are also portals in their own right. (More to come.)

What I’ve come to understand about the artistic process is that it is very similar to the way a secret desire unfolds into physical reality, and also, how a rose comes into being. For me, at least, the process is often a slow evolution through a series of portals: it starts with an inspiration, or seed; the seed germinates, or forms into an idea or image in my mind’s eye; then, it has to be acted upon, or transformed from the idea into physical form by painting, similar to how roses burst forth from the ground into the light of day.

At last, I can deliver on that request made fifteen years ago…here you are Sheila, these roses are for you!

Reference tea cup credit:

English Rose



Fine Bone China

Made in England

Copyright 1992

#artisticprocess #roses #portals #creativity #inspiration

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