By Sue Elvis
It is a pencil drawing based on Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola. Vicky gave it to me, and for many years, it remained rolled up in a protective cylinder awaiting a frame and a picture hook. When we moved to a house of our own, several years ago, and I was allowed to knock as many nails into the walls as I desired, I unrolled my treasure. I framed the drawing and hung it in the lounge as part of my ‘gallery’, a row of pictures that are especially dear to me.
I cannot draw. My penciled people don’t even look as good as stick figures, and so I am in awe of Vicky’s talent. It seems rather miraculous to me that she is able to create such beautiful images. I watch transfixed as her pencil flies confidently over the paper.
But even though I am not an artist I feel a bond with Vicky. I understand her need to create. I also have an urge to make something unique, something beautiful, something that expresses the inner me. I guess that drive, to bring something individual and beautiful into being, is a faint reflection of God’s creative ability. We, who are born in His image, want to imitate our Maker. But for me, creation does not result in exquisite works of art. On the days when I am bursting with the need to make something, I will sew an embellished skirt for one of my daughters, or a fluffy rabbit with clothes for all occasions for my Goddaughter, or an intricate, redwork embroidery for a friend. Or create a story. What satisfaction there is in finding just the right words to convey an idea or conjure up a picture in the mind.
For a mother, there are often times when creativity must be put aside. The demands of children take first place. That longing to create when it is impossible can be frustrating. There have been times in the past, when I’ve wanted to sew but my arms have been full with a needy baby. Or I have wanted to sit at my computer and let the words flow onto the screen but I have had to nurse a sick child. There have been times when I have just entered that higher plane of creation and then had to bump suddenly back down to earth at the cry of, “Mum, I need…” How difficult that can be. But recently, with my children growing up, I have regained my own quiet time. And how I appreciate being able to use it to create.
I think of Vicky and her talents. I know there are many times she’d like to move into that other world of creation together with her paints or her pencils, but she can’t. Her little creations here in the real world are still demanding her attention.
I came across a poem by Jan Owens which expresses this dilemma perfectly. In Young Woman Gathering Lemons, a young pregnant mother notices the light gleaming off the lemons she is gathering from a tree. She has an urge to capture the colours on canvas but she knows she hasn’t the time to create, and so tears fall from her eyes. Then her child tugs on her dress and she gives her attention to what is really most important in her life.
‘Who’s got a silly old mother, then?’
She kneels to hug him close and breathe him in:
It dizzies her, the fragrance of his skin.
He nuzzles under the hair come loose.
The fallen lemons, nippled gold,
wait round them in the grass.
Vicky has drawn many pictures of Mary. It is one of her favourite subjects which makes me smile. I remember when Vicky, my sister-in faith, told me she believed in the truth of the Real Presence. She knew she wanted to join the Catholic Church. But there was still so much she felt uncomfortable with: “Sue, I am not at all sure about Mary. I don’t think I could have a devotion to her. It doesn’t feel right.”
I told Vicky not to worry. “Give it time, Vicky. Keep reading and keep praying. I am sure you will come to love Mary. You will soon think of her as a mother.” And as the Holy Spirit worked within Vicky, she came to accept and be thankful for the gift of Our Blessed Mother, whom she’d previously been wary of.
And looking at Vicky’s artwork and her favourite subject, there is no doubt in my mind that my sister loves Our Lady so very much.
Vicky once said to me, “Sue, what will I do with all my time when I no longer have a baby who needs me?” Again, I told her not to worry. I am sure my sister is going to be very busy sharing her talents. She will create beautiful religious images that will capture our hearts and turn our thoughts to God. Or she will delight us with her unique portraits.
Update: Vicky has created her own blog, Victoria Leach- Portrait Art and a connected website. You can visit Vicky's website to enjoy a gallery of her work. Vicky is sharing her works in progress, as well as her entertaining articles of artistic hints, on her blog. Please visit and stop and say hello. She will be most encouraged if you take the time to make a comment.
Please share more of my stories at my own blog Sue Elvis Writes
PS Vicky's drawing is much more beautiful that my blurry photo.