The summer of 1993, I traveled out of state to my brother's to house sit for him, dragging along all my paints so I could enjoy a precious week of uninterrupted painting. First thing I did was load up three oiler boilers (from Cheap Joes) with my three favorite colors at the time - permanent rose, phthalo blue, and hansa yellow.

After randomly applying some miskit to the paper to save some curving white shapes, I headed outside to squirt and splash color on the full sheet of Arches paper. I spritzed the colors to make them run and so enjoyed all the dancing they did as they dripped and flowed together. This is what watercolor does the best, and I loved watching it happen.

Next, I hopped into the hot tub (vacation, remember?) and turned the multicolored, in-progress painting all around to discover how I could proceed. When I turned the paper vertical, I saw that the paint had flowed to create what resembled the profile of a man. His nose was maybe a little too big, but the profile was there for sure, looking downward. The problem was that I also saw a crown of thorns above his head, partially created by the miskited areas. No matter how else I turned the painting, the only thing I could actually see was this profile with the crown.

I slipped into shopping clothes, grabbed my brother's car keys, and drove in the direction of Walmart. NO WAY was I going to paint a religious looking painting. I'd had enough of religiosity recently, enough for a lifetime as far as I was concerned.

As soon as I entered Walmart, I KNEW the name of the painting. THE COST. And I knew I had to go back and paint it.

Back at my makeshift studio, I took out my watercolor pencils and enhanced the hair and crown area, created a beard, and developed more of a mouth. I found a mirror to look in to see how eyes would look in agony..... (and I had a measurable amount of agony going on in my life at that time to help me sense it for the painting.)

Finished. I looked at it again from the hot tub. I was struck by the beauty of the pink drips falling from the crown. It took some time before I could understand the meaning of the name of the painting.

Now I know that I no longer have to strive for 'perfection.' I can stop trying to accomplish perfection as if my life depended on it. When I make mistakes and do things wrong, I know that I am forgiven. That cost has been fully paid.

Many years later, when I look at those fluid, magenta drips, I am still struck by a sadness or agony, but I also feel a wonder, an awe at the touching beauty I see ... very strange and conflicting emotions that somehow work out ok together.

This isn't a religious painting but a painting about being freed. I'm thankful for being given this gift to paint, but I'm most thankful for knowing God's pure love and acceptance through His most precious gift, Jesus Christ.

"THE COST" Transparent Watercolor & Watercolor Pencils on 140#CP Arches 22 x 30" NFS (Available as a Lithograph Print in Several Sizes)


sandy said...

Sandy, that is an amazing story of how this painting came to be. Wow.
It's so beautiful.

Wish I had more time to look through your blog tonight but I'm tired and off soon to bed. I'll be back, to see more of your beautiful work. And thanks for your visit. I'll link you too...


p.s. You got a great name...


Trijnie said...

Hi Sandy, it has been a long time since I visited your blog.
You take my breath away by showing this Jesus in suffering. I was religious when I was young.
I have thoughts and feelings in my own way about life and death now.
This wonderful painting shows the suffering in so many ways. Thanks for sharing Sandy.
I wish you a very happy Easter.
I'm happy I found you in blog- world
Hug Trijnie

Anonymous said...

He communicated with you in the language you knew best. Very powerful! Happy Easter.

Michelle Himes said...

I'm speechless, Sandy.

RH Carpenter said...

Happy Easter, Sandy.

Dawn said...

great story behind your painting Sandy! cool!

Anonymous said...

Still one of my favorites. Love the story. My Mom had her lithograph where she could see it everyday. After she was gone, the woman that tried so hard to save here life asked for only one thing...."The Cost".....
Happy Easter...We have lots of "SNOW"

Anonymous said...

Yes, an amazing story to be sure. I love how you expressed it and found the title. I love, too, how you learned that you don't have to be perfect in your painting and it somehow works out. I hope I learn that lesson soon. It certainly works in your paintings. And it's a wonderful Easter painting. Hope you had a good Easter weekend.

"JeanneG" said...

I absolutely love this. The name is perfect and such a perfect reminder of "the cost". Thank you for this. Jeanne

Deb Townsend said...

Sandy, I've been enjoying your blog and your amazing work. Then I came to 'the Cost'. I can hardly write through my tears. It has touched my heart so to see this incredible painting of my Jesus. I also live in the freedom you wrote about would love to know more about how I can purchase a lithograph. God bless you sister. <><

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Sandy... Ron Harper from Kokomo

Are prints of 'The Cost" still available?