Linden O’Ryan moved to Maine in 1985. Linden O’Ryan began creating art in 1985.
I see a pattern. Don’t you?
I’m fairly certain photographing Linden is the first time in my young life I’ve ever had to turn the saturation down on a photo in post processing to make it look more like reality. Her vibrant color palette and “Maine-inspired” scenes scrambled my camera — and stole my heart.
Which is why it surprised me to learn upon meeting Linden that her iridescent, radiant paintings were tended and grown from a place of deep sadness and heartache: the passing of her son.
“My son has always been present in these cards,” she said. “In a way I feel as if he did this with me.”
Linden said that her watercolor art allows her to transform the “deep emotions” from her life — a hard childhood, the trials and joy of single parenting, having and losing a child — into something “loving and forgiving and kind.” The original feelings are there, sure, but brighter and more welcoming. Her art expresses an acceptance in the hand life’s dealt her and an ability to overcome.
When Linden first started doing watercolor she would pick out particularly “poignant” quotes from pieces she’d done during a creative writing group and then design a small card to fit it. From there she would paint, write in the quotes and then do some small finishing touches.
And in those first few years Linden was concerned that her writing, her small quotations, would be too specific. That nobody would relate to what she was trying to say. That something would be lost in translation.
Fifteen years, larger sheets of paper and 14,000 cards have dispelled most of the fear. People definitely understood what Linden was putting out into the world — they would come up to her at fairs sometimes and say things like, “How do you do this? It’s like you’re naked.”
It can be tough, she said, but with years of skill and familiarity behind her, Linden said she’s finally developed her “voice.” Her art is saying something in a way that no one else’s does.
Linden said she lets her intuition take her wherever it wants to go nowadays; which is half the fun, really. To sit down and not know where the paint will take you.
And while sometimes Linden’s intuition takes her places that make her jokingly “bemoan” what she’s done in the moment, another aspect to Linden is that, in the grand scheme of things, she actually likes when things get a bit messed up. Problems are good. Especially if the problem is new; which after 15 years is not a common occurrence.
She savors the journey more than the finished piece.
“It’s because you see something new. There’s something new in it,” she said. “And when you resolve that issue, you go, ‘Wow! I surmounted Everest!'”
“I put it all out there. I’m not that way as a person, but I am that way in my art,” Linden said. “It’s a personal journey, but it’s maybe a journey that a lot of people on this earth are making right now.”