adam’s raven

it is i
It Is I – oil on canvas – 30×40

The moment I started working on this painting the fog started to lift. I knew I needed to paint it, but it took me two and a half years to get started.

Adam’s death caused me to stop painting abruptly. I knew it would take time for the shock to wear off enough for me to start producing again, but I didn’t know at the time that I would wipe out my bike six weeks later. That accident resulted in two surgeries nine months apart, immobility for months at a time due to severe pain, and prescription painkiller addiction/recovery. I effectively lost a year and a half of my life and kicking such a massive quantity of narcotics was second only to losing Adam as the hardest thing I’ve ever done (though it pales in comparison). The minute I was physically well again we upped sticks, leaving our family home of almost seventeen years to start again in a new community. And then we gutted the old house we’d bought and began a complete reno. Even after all that, I didn’t understand why I was so deeply depressed that I rarely slept and when I did, woke up with panic and dread severe and physical enough that it threatened to engulf me. I was beyond desperate.

It was the empty space above the bed that kicked me into gear. I needed a painting and it needed to be specifically for me, for us. I had finally done a commission this year, but still hadn’t painted anything ‘for me’. And I knew I needed to do something that was about Adam. I needed something that would help me start to process the unrelenting pain.

The painting itself started as a clear idea in my mind, but ended up looking pieces mquite different from what I had envisaged. As I said to Linda, with whom I shared the process on a regular basis, “It’s experimental. And way too complicated and fractured”. Her response? “Complicated and fractured is how it’s been, isn’t it?” That’s why I love her: bags of insight, often delivered with a heaping helping of humour. Complicated and fractured doesn’t begin to describe it.

The actual process was unpredictable enough to warrant a blog post all its own. Let’s just say that it was a real struggle to attempt to create such a large painting using the alla prima method. I had to do it in sections, because there were time issues where I had to quit painting for days or even weeks at a time, and space issues as I have no studio yet. And it morphed as I went, because it’s really hard to paint that way and make it look like a single work. Just getting the position of the crow and raven right required much trial-and-error. And the way it started fracturing into pieces was out of my control. I didn’t really understand it but decided to trust the process. Here it is at the halfway point, when I found it necessary to take a six-week break:

21618404841_1e23822302_bBy the time I took the break I knew where I was headed and it came more easily after that. And when I’d finished it I had to go back to the beginning and change bits of the right-hand side to better integrate with the left-hand side. (Don’t even ask why I went right-to-left when I was painting in slow-drying oil!) It was only then that I made the connection: the depression I’d been struggling with for so long had finally started lightening.

The raven is Adam, but I didn’t realize that in the beginning. He was as fascinated with corvids as I am, and once wrote the most amazing short story about a raven. My favourite line from the story is simply “It is I”, so that’s what I named the painting. As I was photographing it outside today (it was very gloomy out — I will probably have to re-photograph it), a raven actually appeared and wheeled around in the sky for a few minutes, making its throaty call. There were crows on the wires, chatting away at the same time. (They made me wonder: does the crow in the painting, looking over her shoulder at the raven, symbolize me?) I have stopped believing in signs and synchronicities, but maybe they don’t care what I believe. I’m still working it out — both the painting and the everything else. This painting is significant to me because it reminds me of Adam, and since I live in a world that is very changed from what came before, it doesn’t need to be any more than that.


  1. You know the story of the snow queen and the little stolen boy with the piece of ice (glass?) in his eye, constantly try to do a puzzle, but the light from his sore eye is fractured and he can’t quite see where all the pieces are going to fit, that story? That I’ve probably remembered wrongly, but that went through my mind as you were painting this. It’s a most beautiful and evocative piece and will look good in your room. I miss you. đź’ś

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  2. Oh sweet cousin, soooo glad you have finally done this as I knew you would. All of what you mentioned I can empathize inn the way of pain, depression and meds, I know as well your work will continue. So happy for your progress. “There’s a hole in my heart where the wind blows threw”. Some people will never understand that. Love you dear cuz, take care and I love your photos and painting, please keep it up. It makes me smile.

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome ? Inspired ! Mystical. Perfect ! What a marvellous work to remember Adam, and a beautiful and comforting way to work through your grief . You are amazing !

    Big hugs XX


    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a wonderful painting. Odin’s ravens Huginn and Muninn – thought and memory occurred to me as I saw this, as well a quote from a first nations man reflecting on the ravens’ soul, “One day, I will fly with you my brother”. I still have Adam’s raven story you sent to me after he wrote it and just reread it, it’s wonderful. He was so wise and creative. I’m glad you found your way out of the deepest darkest to create and connect with yourself and with Adam with this beautiful work. Love you my friend.

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  5. Hi Andrea,
    What a beautiful piece of art! I am so happy that you are able to paint again. I hope it helps you as you grieve the loss of Adam. I am always reminded of Adam when I see ravens. Sending you light and happiness. All the best my friend take care!


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