When Words Will Not Do - Using Art as a Tool and Voice
By Jackie Schuld
My mother died last year from Ovarian Cancer. For six years, she fought against a “terminal” diagnosis. I still cannot find the correct configuration of words to capture the impact she had on my life, the pain of watching her die, and the emptiness of not having her in my life.
And so I do art.
Throughout my life I’ve turned to painting to express my emotions.Sometimes, I am unsure of why I am feeling the way I do and painting enables me to better understand myself. Other times, I know exactly why I am upset, but find myself incapable of properly verbalizing my feelings. Painting captures the intense emotions I feel.
My mother, who always encouraged me to be a loving and generous person, was the first person who encouraged me to use my artistic skills for a purpose outside of myself.
Although she was creative, she didn’t think she had the artistic skills to execute her ideas.
Her ideas were always ways to encourage and uplift others - funny cartoons, giant posters, personalized birthday cards, and more. I made them all as presents for her friends.
I realized the joy of making others laugh through my pictures and began to make cartoon books for my family members. Each book was a humorous story that related to the events in our family.
I made a parody for my Air Force father entitled, “Air Force for Dummies.” When he left to serve overseas, I made a another humorous cartoon book entitled, “Dad’s Guidebook to Iraq.”
In an effort to sway my sister toward my vegetarian ways, I even made a cartoon book called, “Dunkel the Vegetarian Dino.”
When my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I focused on the humorous aspects of those difficult times and made cartoon books for her such as, “Chemo Sucks,” “Post-Opp 101,” and “5 Ain’t Enough for Me: A Realistic Guide to the Stages of Grief.”
My mother died last year. I miss her laughter more than anything in the world.
It was this very longing for her laughter that led me to become a full-time artist. Following her death, I started a website with my humorous illustrations. An author saw my illustrations and asked me to illustrate her book.
That project showed me I could actually survive as an artist. One project led to another to another and to another. I then decided to do what my mother asked me to do so many times - create something to uplift and encourage others.
I wrote, illustrated, and published a book for grieving adults, called “Grief is a Mess.”Like all my previous projects, it helped me to process what I was experiencing, focus on the funnier side of a difficult subject, and find the joy of creating something to help others and bring laughter.
When I showed my boyfriend the pre-published illustrations, he told me, “I see you in all of these.” When other readers ask me which of the illustrations represent my grief the best, I can honestly respond, “I’ve experienced every single one.”
That is why I do art. It speaks for me. It defines me. It gives what my words cannot. It enables me to reach and uplift others.
About the author: Following the death of her mother in 2014, Jackie Schuld became a full-time artist. She lives in Tucson, AZ where she enjoys the beautiful mountains and the proximity to her family.
She works as a painting instructor and illustrator for self-publishing authors. She recently authored and illustrated a book for grieving adults called, "Grief is a Mess."