A Lesson in Seeing: an evolution of a painting

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.” -Joseph Campbell

I just completed the painting “A Lesson in Seeing” this past week after working on it for several months.

a lesson in seeing

A Lesson in Seeing
encaustic mixed media
24×24 inches

This painting went through so many vastly different stages that I thought it would be fun to see the different stages it went through before it finally told me that it was done.

Back in May I created the panel seen here on the left. It was a very beautiful panel, different whites, with spots of color showing through. In person, the surface was very smooth, inviting one to just want to touch it. I actually really liked it as is…but I felt that I would like it much better if it were much, much bigger. Since it was not much, much bigger, I felt good with the decision to continue on. But it did stay this white marble-like painting for at least two months in my studio.

Painting today, all day. making progress towards today's goals. 2 24x24 inch panels waiting for the next layer or whatever comes next
May 2014

Just me, the birds, and the sound of my heat gun in the studio from 5 - 7 am this Monday morning. Good way to start the week. And necessary- have to get some paintings done.
detail, taken sometime in May

Then sometime in June I was working on another painting and I took this detail photo of the image below. I really liked the composition of it, the black lines under a layer of a transparent white and the little plant peeking out. I told myself I would work on a similar composition, but on a larger panel.

Detail from another work in progress.

In June I took that detail and worked it out on the larger panel, 24×24 inches, which you can see below.

#workinprogress #encaustic #abstract #mixedmedia #art #studio #studiotable
July 2014

Somewhere along the way I added the transfer of my photo of birds in branches. Probably sometime in August. I didn’t take a photo of it, but it must have been then.


When I posted this image on my Instagram feed just two weeks ago, I wrote “This painting started out very peaceful, my usual organized structured grid. Then I got frustrated by a long day feeling rusty in the studio, nothing coming together. So let loose a bit. This is the result, not the whole painting, but the gist. Hmmmm.” Looking at this image now I have to say that I actually like the looseness of it and I could probably have left it at this stage. But I didn’t! But still, that gives me something to think about for the future.

Anyway, I think a few days after I posted this image I was at Plaza Art and I spied a Dianthus Pink R&F pigment stick and I just couldn’t resist. Pink! I normally don’t do pink, let alone hot pink. But ever since this painting that I did this past spring, I have been thinking about pink. And brighter colors, in general. I follow the very talented Mary Freeman on Instagram and her journal spreads are so bright, often featuring pink, and I love them. I think that is another reason why pink has found itself in my life recently. Or it may very well be my 4 year old daughter’s obsession with bright pink. Not soft, pastel pink, but bright, hot pink. At times I feel like a visual sponge, soaking in the things that capture my eye. I wring myself out in my own journals and in my paintings.

Detail of what I was working in this am. #workinprogress #painting #encaustic


I introduced the pink into my painting and it was fun. I continued to work the surface, scraping, painting more layers, and getting back to my grid structure.

Got a few hours to paint this pm. Detail of #workinprogress perhaps done. Hmmm #art #painting #studiotable #studio #encaustic #mixedmedia

And so about 4-5 months later, A Lesson in Seeing was finally done and on my wall. To the right of the painting are two paintings that are in progress. In limbo, for now and have been for several months.

A corner in my studio this am #art #painting #artstudio

I had such a different vision for this painting when I first started. I am happy though that I stayed open to a different possibility. I wanted this painting to speak to the idea of how there is so much richness that goes on in our daily life, often on the periphery, that we barely notice. In person, there is a lot of detail that cannot be seen through the computer screen where I was playing and exploring with the surface. Drawing into the wax, revealing layers beneath. The thick black lines that I loved so much when I first started the painting are now obscured by thick white lines. I wanted to repeat the pattern of the branches that the birds are sitting in.

Maybe the lesson was actually to myself- to step out of my normal palette comfort zone. Anyone who has watched me start a panel from the beginning knows though that my paintings always start with very bright grid of varied colors, that I then end up obscuring with different shades of white. I guess I just wanted my under layers to finally make an appearance! I am sure I’ll be back to my normal earthy tones in my next painting. But, who knows, I go where ever I am led while I am painting. Another lesson too, I think, is letting a painting develop slowly. Because of the summer activities, it was enforced on me to take it slowly. In hindsight, I think that was a good thing.

“Every canvas is a journey all its own.” Helen Frankenthaler


  1. I really enjoy seeing all the changes this painting has gone through, almost like a living thing that grows and develops. The final result is lovely.

    1. Hi Lucy, yes, i’ve always been that way. Not just a visual sponge, but an energy/emotion sponge. I think that’s why I like to be alone more often than not. The key for me with the visual sponge though is to make sure that I keep on my own path. In this day and age it is so easy to get swept up and away by all the visual stimuli we see.

  2. isn’t interesting, that as the work evolves along, as your J. Campbell quote, along our own path. Sometimes, meandering, sometimes, jumping ahead of us. Your path, with this work, is as intriguing as the attraction to a new color. Colors, that we didn’t enjoy before often point out changes in our perspectives or openings in our heart. As always your work speaks to mine…

    1. Thanks Wen. Sometimes I feel like I’m playing catching with my work….it’s ahead of me often or I am ahead of it. We weave own paths together and apart and hopefully, hopefully we meet at the end. You’re so right about colors that point to changes in our lives and perspective. hmmmm.

  3. Really very fascinating to see the process of this painting. And to hear your thoughts about the evolution. It is a lesson in listening to ourselves and not being afraid to take some risks. Well done!

  4. I love “I guess I just wanted my under layers to finally make an appearance…
    Bridgette, I love all your work, and it’s fun to see how your paintings and layers evolve.

  5. Oh what beauty you have created in each of these different steps. I loved hearing your thoughts and your journey. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  6. Fascinating to see the evolution of this piece, and what a gorgeous result! I really love the way you incorporated your photograph, and love those bare branches (one of my favourite things to photograph!).

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