Footprints at 3am

Brandi Malarkey, Artist.


I don’t understand my art, and it is a dead man’s fault.

A bit over a month ago I came across a museum show requesting submissions from artists that were students of/inspired by the recently deceased artist Charles Beck. Because I occasionally exist under a metaphorical rock, I had no idea who that was. Further exploration proved him to be a talented painter and woodcutter. My personal summary of his work is that he excelled at distilling the concepts of nature into a simple form with universal appeal. While I can admire that ability, my own work tends toward the details—at least where nature is concerned. So I moved on, with no intention of submitting anything for consideration, and no conscious memory of thinking about it further.

My subconscious is occasionally annoying.

Early last week I woke up abruptly at three in the morning, completely alert, and with a very clear image of this in my head:

Brandi Malarkey, Artist.

This pattern, these colors, and this paper (which is really bizarre, as it is paper that I haven’t looked at in several years. Not usually what I consider painting paper—I prefer paper sturdy enough to fling like a Frisbee). Somehow this became the simplified portrayal of a mother’s love in my head sometime in the past month. I even used my daughter’s footprints as a template—after all, not only did I make the art, in this case I made the feet. My husband may get partial credit, but I did the incubating. There was no thought process that led up to the painting, however, and no planning. It sprang fully formed. Like the goddess Athena, only with less armor.

Since I don’t typically see pictures in my head, this was quite the oddity, but not unpleasantly so, so I set to painting. HOWEVER, once I completed it a whole lotta other things pushed in behind my eyes and I had to do this:


Brandi Malarkey, Artist.

Had to. As in, I couldn’t settle until I did. My brain presented me with a clear layout and plan- although the images were much fuzzier which is why I think this one is a bit more confused. Or in a cheerful disarray. Whichever sounds better.

I can even follow my brain pattern on this one. At about the same time I was looking at Charles Beck, I happened to be in the house of friends who have a string of origami cranes hanging near their front door:

I remember thinking how often paper cranes have featured in my friendships, including a wedding where the couple was presented with a full 1000 for luck, and who then distributed them generously. So in my head they are a symbol of friendship. Almost immediately afterward I ended up reading a book by Robin McKinley called Shadows, in which origami basically saves the world. So I can follow the track for that particular train of thought, once I saw it, but again—no conscious decision to make a painting, and while the painting came out mostly like it told me it needed to, I am not sure if I like it or not. Ask me after I’ve recovered from the resulting lack of sleep.

So I have submitted them for inclusion in the show today. Distilling love and friendship into simple images wasn’t in the plan for the last two weeks, but there you have it. One wonders if the museum will believe they are inspired by him—they aren’t nature images. However, they are totally Charles Beck’s fault.


Do people do post scripts in blogs? Either way, you get one.

Since I didn’t intend to submit to this show, I didn’t have any frames for the paintings. My husband–who was quite surprised to have his past two weeks absconded with by my artistic brainstorm–kindly helped me make frames. I have to publicly acknowledge him as the best husband EVER–since chances are good I’ll need to make more frames in the future. Isn’t he cute?


5 Responses

  1. Yes, he (your husband) is cute. Of coarse, the fact that he is my nephew may have some influence!!
    Love you both and your, joint production,daughter.

  2. Only 972 Origami Peace Cranes left to paint. 😜 Truly unique and fun, and a delight. Charles Beck would have enjoyed this.

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