Artists get asked the same questions a lot. The idea is that you want to be able to understand how we can live in the same world as you and see things differently enough to make something beautiful where you saw mundane. You want us to package it up so that you can see the shape and nature of this gift.
I hate to burst your bubble (#sorrynotsorry, popping bubbles is fun) but that’s not an actual thing. As if we know ourselves well enough to articulate that? Most of us have no idea what it looks like either. I know I sure don’t. Some days, I am as mystified by what comes out of my brushes as you are!
The truth is, sometimes I have inspiration so strong I see a painting fully formed, to the last detail, in my head in a flash. I have no idea why. Or where it comes from. Maybe it’s all the blasted nature documentaries I’ve watched. Maybe it’s because animals are less of a mystery to me than people, and so easier to relate to.
My zebra painting came to me in this way:
A large scale painting of a stampede of zebras by Janet Bray
I was planning my Safari Series, and I knew zebras were going to be heavily featured, because I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and they are the mascot of this genetic condition. In a way, this painting represents to me what it’s like to feel like a zebra with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. We deal with one injury/problem after another. Dealing with it is kind of like running scared and panicked all the time, because so few doctors know enough about it to do much of anything. We feel crowded – 0.2-1% of the population is estimated to have it and 95% have not been diagnosed or treated – and always on the run from something we can’t really clearly see (thus the dust). Our predator is poorly understood, underfunded, and undersupported in the medical community.
Sometimes I feel an intense connection to a species, like my Eleanora, because of their compassion and intelligence. I feel a bond with them because of their development of very strong relationships with their family members and herd. Elephants have been known to mourn their dead, feel compassion for other animals, and even respect other dead elephants they probably didn’t even know. This is something I find lacking in the human community and find solace that it exists in the animal kingdom.
As with my elephant, I was moved to show the majesty and intimidation along with gentleness and love. These beautiful beasts are preyed on for their tusks and as prizes to be hunted, but the awful truth is they are compassionate and loving animals who deserve to be left alone to live their lives, just like us. I hope that bringing attention to their lovely stature that I can help shed some light on their plight as well.
Inspiration comes from many places, but for me it comes often from the natural world. Colors, emotions, stories, hope, love, shapes and light… they all inspire me.
I hope my work inspires you, too.
Please visit my Etsy Store at https://www.etsy.com/shop/JanetBrayArt to buy originals (both of these are still available) or prints.
Or if you prefer, you can become a benefactor with my Patreon.