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Lost and Found Melodies

Though I can’t remember his exact words, artist Clyde Aspevig once likened painting to music. He compared shapes and values to whole notes, rhythms and rests, finding that sweet harmony in the midst of color and design. Another artist and teacher, Johannes Vloothius, often instructs his students to look for the melodious line while composing a painting, much like arranging song notes on a scale. For instance, a fluctuating line of trees with high and low points and different shapes is more appealing to the eye than a straight line across the canvas with all the trees the same size and height.

Example of melodious lines vs. straight lines.


Lost in the Music


Music can influence the artist's motivation behind a painting as well as its design movement. Like many artists I’m sure, I enjoy painting with my earbuds in, blocking out all noise save whatever is pulsing out of Pandora at the moment. I listen to many different styles of music, choosing a genre to fit the mood and melody of whatever is on the easel.


My favorite jam sessions are when I am sculpting something impromptu, using the residual mounds of oil and wax left over after completing other paintings. I turn on my radio and get lost in the music and the paint, letting my palette knife flow in different directions and intensities until I find the subject. I like to think there are several pieces of my artist's heart on the canvas, little bits here and there and from multiple paintings until the ultimate subject and feeling are revealed.


Adding residual paint to a panel already in progress after completing other landscapes.

This particular piece started out as a platform for leftover paint from several different creative sessions. It eventually turned into pussywillows by the water’s edge, and I was pleased with the glow that was found through the laying on of new paint and scraping away some of the old.


Pussywillows 9" x 12" oil/cwm

Found in the Process


Another residual painting, titled Music is Art is Music, came about in the same fashion as Pussywillows. With music in my ears, I pushed and pulled the paint in time to the beat until the treble clef started to form in my mind and then on the canvas with the hues in horizontal strokes to echo the lines in a musical staff. It was spontaneous. Colorful and loose. Emotional and without inhibition. I loved it.


Music is Art is Music 12" x 12" oil/cwm

When I determined it finished, I posted the painting on Facebook. Almost immediately I received a text from a friend and growing collector. He inquired about its availability and framing options before the oil and wax was even set up. Once it was dry and framed, I packaged it up with the utmost care (it was traveling from Wyoming to Pennsylvania) and insured it with USPS for its full value. It was scheduled to deliver the following week. I sent the tracking number to my client and asked him to let me know when it arrived safely.


Lost in the Mail


The delivery date came and went without a word. I tracked the package and just as I was about to send him an email, I received one from him that reiterated what I already knew.


“Not sure if you have insurance on the painting, but…..”



Included in the tracking information was the status “currently in transit to the next facility”, as it had been for several days. He called his post office and I called mine, and they both said the same thing: “It’s like it just fell off the face of the earth."


I wanted to vomit.


Not only was my client out of his art purchase, but a piece of my heart was out there somewhere floating around in postal land – or, I thought, hanging in parts unknown on some stranger’s wall. Yes, insurance guarantees a monetary refund, but what about the emotional connection on both sides of the piece? I always say that art is not really finished until it’s in the hands and home of the recipient, otherwise it’s only half realized. This piece was on its way to completion and simply vanished.


I logged into my USPS account and put out a digital search party. And then waited.


And waited.


Found on the Doorstep


Several more days passed with no sign. I logged into my account again and was just about to file a claim when what to my wondering eyes should appear but the beauty of the following notification:


I sang the Doxology. Out loud. And wondered what the tune would look like in a painting.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow, in the creative world and in the mail system.



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All artwork and content © 2021 Stephanie Mummert

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