Our November 2012 cover artist, Anne-Marie Doyle, lives in Toronto, selling pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice coffee and finishing her last semester of English Literature studies. She is slowly working toward fluency in the language of charcoal and oils, and hopes to spend a few years training with master painters (if she can sell enough pumpkin pie to pay for it). In the meantime, Christ is teaching her about Himself so that she has something worth speaking about in the studio.
What is the cover about?
After failing to think of any clever subject for an art assignment, I just painted what was in front of me. This was a scene I walked through almost every day, while studying at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom in rural Ontario. Concentrating on this one square of the forest gave me more than enough work. I realized that maybe keeping silent and listening has a whole lot to do with painting, but that is hard.
When did you start painting?
My sister and I “painted” whenever a birthday supplied us with some new craft set that I could use to persuade her the activity would be fun. Decorating “sticky-paper” (that would not come off of our solid wood door for years) was definitely fun, along with the thick oil mural that I covered our bedroom wall with. My parents were not really concerned about the model-home look, and they let us be creative. Since I wasn’t afraid to make a mess of things, I kept painting until I figured out that I wanted to do it “for real.” I wouldn’t say I’ve started yet, but I’m working on it.
Why do you want to continue painting? What draws you to it?
Creating art is the one thing I have felt a constant pull toward. Painting is the most promising route I can see that can restore my relationship with Christ and can help me to love others more authentically. Trying to capture the beauty of an object—whether it is a pumpkin, a cathedral, or a sleeping face on the subway—leads to overwhelming discoveries of God’s hand upholding all things. If loving someone is showing them their worth, painting can be a way of trying to get over fear and envy to simply see the beauty of another person as Christ does.
How would you define beauty?
Beauty pours out from the crucifix and floods everything. Christ’s figure on the cross is usually painted and sculpted in the “contrapposto” pose—the classical pose where one leg actively holds the body’s weight while the other naturally drops relaxed. I think it is wonderfully simple that this pose that saved the world is traditionally considered the most beautiful arrangement of the human figure. In the contemporary realist art world, Jesus isn’t usually seen as an example of the ideal “contrapposto,” but every time an artist poses one of his models like this, or an art student captures the zigzag fall of limbs resting one on another, the crucified Christ is softly echoed to the world.
What is the purpose of art?
If art can be a more permanent reminder of our awe for a beautiful moment, it can shake our attachment to sin, which destroys our view of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Painting, arranging stained-glass windows, or composing music, can all highlight patches of God’s love, show us how our charity fails in response, and help us to unveil a way back to Him. Drawing often surprises me with gratitude and peace in remembering that. Just as any object can make a lovely still life in the right light, God can redeem all things.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Sometimes squares of daily life isolate themselves and inspire rough sketches. A dark living room can be the perfect point of view from which to see a doorway neatly frame a bright kitchen where a woman stands preparing a meal with her back to you. Other times, a face like one of Caravaggio’s will irradiate out from a dark black hood and you’ll take note because of the contrast. Reading Flannery O’Connor, cutting down trees with my dad, and swimming can also fill sketchbooks pretty quickly.
Do you have any other thoughts about art or painting, or your love for them?
I think C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce had a good line for the artist: “Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light.”