On Art & Heart / Louise Buma
Describe the scene before you right now.
I’m sitting in my studio: a little room in a bungalow next to our house. It’s a cosy space—and by that, I mean, it’s small and friendly but definitely not warm. I may turn on the heater soon. It’s cold and dark outside with light rain stopping and starting on the tin roof. My space is a work in progress—fresh white walls but still no floor, only the underlay boards, because I can’t make a decision on what to use over them. Every surface is cluttered with jars and vases. Some are filled with blooms, while others house my collections of dried gumnuts, flowers, and seedpods. Paint tubes and rainbows of used palettes are everywhere. Other jars stand with brushes soaking in water, ready to be cleaned or used as they are. Paintings hang on the walls or lean against them in various stages of ‘done-ness’. There are always several on the go.
Describe a moment from today to remember.
It was ‘quiet time’ and my four-year-old daughter was watching a show while I was attempting to set up some things in the studio. I was making trips between there and the house and somewhere along the way I was accosted by my child, who just wanted a cuddle with mama. She had been sick all week and more clingy than usual and, despite myself, I could feel the irritation rise within me. I had been enjoying ‘my time’, pottering around, cutting new flowers, arranging them, and breathing in moments of creative solitude—stopping for a cuddle didn’t actually sound that appealing. I know, I’m a monster! But we did cuddle, and then I invited her to join me out in the studio. I set her up with paper and paints as we often do, and she continued her ‘quiet time’, just in my company. She told me knock-knock jokes and made me smile, and I was reminded (again) that relationship always trumps selfishness.
What fills you with joy?
A million everyday things! The sound of the coffee machine being switched on in the morning, eavesdropping on my children talking to each other, fresh flowers, the smell of the air on a summer’s morning, the promise of a warm day, welcoming babies into the world, the ocean, shadow lines, reflections, finding a new location for photos, picking things from my vegetable garden, changing seasons, a row of packed lunch boxes ready to go into school bags, singing in the car, having lots of friends at our house for dinner, playing cards, smelling something that brings back a memory, the night sky, lighting a candle, taking photos of my family, seeing something in nature that gives me an idea for a painting. Honestly the very act of tuning in, and taking notice, is joy to me.
What fills you with hope?
Letting go, and trusting. Dreaming big dreams for our life and our family but, at the same time, not holding onto those dreams with clenched fists. I’m still learning that one.
My soul bursts with hope when I paint, because it’s a release of something I’ve been trying to do for so long. For years I’ve said ‘I’d love to get back to painting’, but for years it was just impractical. If this desire that I’ve held in my heart for so long can unfurl, then maybe anything is possible.
And in this very moment? Hearing rain teem down outside, trickling down to our almost-empty tanks.
What makes your heart ache?
Being so far from our amazing extended family, who mostly live on the other side of the country. There are some hard things going on, and I feel very disconnected, even with all the technology in the world at our finger tips. I always assumed that, when we grew up, we would all be together, the grandparents deeply connected in the lives of our children, cousins a big part of each other’s lives…but that’s not what our life looks like at the moment. Especially now I mourn the closeness that I know could exist. Maybe one day we will move back but, for now, God has us here, and I know it’s for his good purpose.
Describe a piece of art that is precious to you.
It might sound cheesy, but my most precious art is by my children. I don’t know if it’s just seeing something so fresh and uninhibited come from them, or if it’s because I get so much joy from seeing them enjoy being creative? I have a set of mugs that they painted at Robert Gordon and I absolutely treasure them.
Can you name a few artists who inspire you?
Margaret Preston, Megan Grant, Edward Hopper, Peter Lindbergh, Helen McCullagh, Skye Jeffreys, Lauren McKenzie Noel, Dana Kinter, Bonnie Gray, and Lisa Sorgini.
Are there any books about art that you have found helpful?
Sadly, it’s been a while between art books for me, but I love looking through Peter Lindbergh portrait books. His photographs are so beautiful. I really enjoy listening to podcasts, particularly interviews with artists who also happen to be mothers. My favourite has been Risen Motherhood’s interview with Ruth Chou Simons. It gave me such valuable perspective on using your gifts, comparison, and how to balance motherhood, discipleship, and creative life.
Is your art driven by heartache or hope or both?
Without having examined it that way before, I would say probably both. Part of the reason I’m so determined to circle back to painting is because I feel like I missed out on doing it in my earlier years, opting for the sensible route of an Education degree instead of sticking to Plan A: Fine Arts. But actually, in saying that, I’m really content in how things have turned out. I’m not trying to work through any pain or frustration in my art—I’m really just happy to be doing it! Right now, all of my inspiration comes from things around me that simply bring joy (bonus points if I can pick them straight from my garden). It almost feels like an indulgence to get to do this thing that is my first love. Which isn’t to say that I create something great every time (I wish!), but this time and space I’ve been able to carve out is such liberty for my creative heart.