Redemption in Paper and Paint (4 Steps toward Staircase Art)


It’s been two weeks since I fell head-first down our back stairway, earning myself some souvenir bruises and a side trip to the emergency room.  The black and blue has faded, and now there’s little left but peace to be made with the stretch of steps down which I tumbled.

Staircase I fell down–.

As many of you know, I’ve taken on a creative reconciliation with that stairway.  I’ve rumbled with the tumble and am 4 steps into turning a staircase into art.

So today I bring you a photographic update on my mixed-media redo.

Step 1

This step features paint and decoupaged papers, including a map of Southeast Asia recycled from an out-of-date atlas.  The circle painted a deep rose on the far right is covered with 2 sizes of orange and yellow stickers, the dots often used as price tags at yard sales.  The decoupaged surfaces will be covered in multiple coats of an oil-based polyurethane to make them durable.

Step 2

This step features a series of black and white concentric circles I painted in the op-art style popular during the 196os.  It also includes more maps, one of Africa on the far right and another of Hanoi on the far left.

Step 3

I painted the green and blue stripes on the far left, as well as the yellow circle on the far right, in an oil-based enamel.   This step also incorporates more recycled and purchased papers, as well as maps from the same old atlas.  The purple circle in the center of the step is a map of downtown Lexington, Kentucky, where my partner Sara and I live.

Step 4

Here I incorporated even more scrap paper–both found and purchased–including a map of central New Delhi I used when taking a group of university writing students to India (white circle decoupaged on the green stripe).  In the yellow circle is a copied photo of my nephew Johnny and me on his 6th birthday.  (Some of you may remember the post I did when he graduated from high school 6 weeks ago.)

So far so good?

I may have tumbled down these stairs two weeks ago, but every once in a while, falls end in unexpected and creative places.  Sometimes they take us full-circle.

Sometimes falls lead us somewhere sweeter, someplace greater–God’s grace recreated–redemption in paper and paint.

Has an accident ever proved positive or even redemptive in your life?  How do you use art or writing to deal with seeming seeming setbacks?

Note:  I’m using this “Rumble with the Tumble” series to take a break from writing my memoir about growing up in an organized crime family.  To read chapter 1 of the memoir, click here .

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132 thoughts on “Redemption in Paper and Paint (4 Steps toward Staircase Art)

    • Can’t tell you how much your comment means to me. I honestly know nothing about art. Have never taken a single class. I just do what I see in my head or feel in my heart. I suspect you could do something similar with a floor in a hallway, but, I know, it’s not the same. Have a great week, my friend!

  1. When you said you were two steps in, I thought you were two STAIRS in, not two stages in! I love the way you use the maps, and the black and white concentric circles are my favorite. I love stuff like that. Your house rocks. Even when it rolls you. Well. After it rolls you.

    • Yeah, AFTER is right! LOL But I am only four stairs in. Not really stages, unless you count sanding, scraping, priming, etc. as stages. I like the circles, as well. And I have a thing for maps–obviously. They fascinate me. So glad you like it, Jessie!

  2. You accomplished so much with this project; you wrestled those steps into submission, turned a negative experience into a very positive one, and will surely smile every time you go up or down the steps! I’m sure you have/did, but be sure the polyurethane is a non-yellowing one.

    A wooden ladder rung once broke when I was climbing up the ladder t the ‘crossover’ to my studio (over a smalll stream) termites had eaten the ‘under-back’ side) After the ladder was repaired, I painted that step with zeebra stripes to remind me – day or night, to allways expect the unexpected, and to also remind me how lucky I was not to have been injured.

    I love love LOVE your transformed steps!
    Z

  3. This is so lovely, Kathy! I do sense one flaw in the plan though . . . I will be so mesmerized by looking at the steps I may take a tumble as well. ;)

    I feel the need for some art therapy right now, but I don’t know where to begin.

  4. Oh what fun! Not sure it is for every house but I like the idea of creation. Really you didn’t go to art school? Really? You know much about art, the art you like, the creativity of art, how it makes you feel.

    using recycled elements is good, using items that remind you of places and experience you have had, like a usable scrapbook!

    Accidents: are there really such thing? Or just moments of awakening if used creatively?

    • No, I didn’t go to art school–never even took a single class. Both of my degrees are in English literature. I just wing it. But maybe that will allow me to someday soar!

      I agree that there are no real accidents–at least not in my life. I’m a big believer in destinity and serendipity. Yes, moments of awaking, for sure–ways of gaining new or clearer sight. Love your perspective, Jeff!

  5. I have never — ever! — seen a stairway with so much PIZZAZ! I absolutely love it, and I think incorporating the map of Southeast Asia is brilliant!

    Next steps (pun intended) — submit these photographs (and story) to Good Housekeeping and/or Better Homes and Gardens. They’ll be on this like white on rice!

  6. Wow . . . amazed doesn’t even begin to cover it. And five stars aren’t nearly enough. I LOVE THIS, Kathryn! Your talents are truly endless! When you mentioned painting the stairs that pained you, I thought, “Wow. How great is that!” and imagined some different colored stripes. Ha ha! Imagine my surprise! I’m not that kind of artist, but I sure know the good stuff when I see it. You’re incredible! Thank you for your inspiration and your humor and for sharing it with us! I’m going to share this blog with a few friends! Love to you and Sara! xoxo Julia

    • How can I begin to thank you, Julia? This has been an amazingly fun project. Love the directed tackling this project involves. I’ve never before fixed my focus on a particular tackling of a specific object in relation to a definite event–if that makes sense. Most of my art has been less rooted in the here and now.

      Thanks for sharing on FB! You have made my day, dear heart! Hugs to you, as well!

      • You are so welcome, Kathryn. Gosh, it’s the least I can do. Your writing brings me such pleasure. If your ears ever begin to ring (and you haven’t fallen down those decorated steps again!), don’t be alarmed; it’s just me singing your praises! Take care! xo Julia

      • You’re a sweetie. Hope we can meet some day. By the way, Sara also LOVED your recent Coin-Toss post. She doesn’t say much, but when she brings it up, I know it’s something she REALLY liked. She said now she wants to know what happened–me too!

      • ha ha ha! You two crack me up! lol I’m afraid you’d be disappointed. The night was fabulous, the kiss was pretty good . . . then . . . nothing. lol Story of my life! Oh well. That’s okay. I’ve had plenty of these first date experiences and I’ve learned to just embrace the moment and not dwell on the future of it. I am marinating on a possible road trip sometime before winter. Don’t know if it’s possible, but I’m thinking on it. Love to you both! And Kathryn, thanks for telling me about Sara. What a peach she is. xoxo Julia

      • If you road-trip, hope you will travel in our direction.

        Sorry the date turned into a dud, but it sure made for a great post! Love it when that happens. For us there’s always the oh-well-I-can-blog-about-it outcome. LOL

        Sara IS a peach–but we won’t tell her that. LOL–Oh, well, yes, we will!

      • I went on a date that was so bad that I now refer to it as “The Perfect Storm”! ha ha! I went home and wrote a piece about his really cool black dog! I won’t write about bad dates – I would need several volumes and what a drag that would be to read! I will always find something positive to say or I just won’t say. I am in desperate need of a roadtrip, some great new stories, and a couple of gorgeous gals (new friends) to blog about! If I can make it happen, I will let you know…..would love to make your place my destination. xoxo Julia

      • Love to be a literal blog-hop spot! I may need to do a post about that–all the bloggy visits we’ve enjoyed and are anticipating. Two bloggers are coming in about 3 weeks. Tori, of “The Ramblings” and Lisa, of “Woman Weilding Words”–both are on my blogroll. It was Tori’s “Very Bloggy Wedding” we attended in Nashville a couple of months back. Were you reading then?

  7. I’m not happy you fell down the stairs, Kathy, but the outcome is certainly gorgeous so far. Very peppy and upbeat. I love how you have incorporated so many things from your and Sara’s life together into this labor of love.

    I started writing again to mourn a loss. More than two years later, I’m still at it, and oh, the places it’s taken me.

    • Yes, there will be lots of personal history in these steps–the road we’ve traveled–the stairs we’ve climbed together. Writing is a suiting way to mourn–a way to write the wrong, the loss, a word by word process of letting go. Peace to you, my friend—and hugs, as well.

  8. Kathy, the power of your art makes me ache, goes right into my middle and circles around.

    I’m out of words. But thank you for posting the steps to your art!

    • I’m stepping up, am I not? LOL So happy to hear you appreciate my progress. Can’t begin to tell you how much I’m enjoying the challenge. It feeds me, somehow. Thanks so much, my friend!

    • Interesting comment, as Sara has always said there is very strong teacher at the core of me. Your perception is accurate. Though, I’m not sure how I did that wtih this post. I’m delighted you like the steps–truly delighted. Thanks so much. It’s GREAT to hear from you today.

    • Oh, yes, very healed. Only the slightest of bruises remain. My head still hurts a bit when I lean it against hard surfaces, but I’m definitely gonna live. Imagine that! LOL So glad you like the stairs, Lisa.

      By the way, I totally loved Willie’s GPS post. He’s a hoot, isn’t he?

  9. This project is so freaking cool! My fave part is the photo of your nephew. Are you going to incorporate more photos of family? What an awesome idea. I can’t wait to show Tony. Later I will send you a pic of a quilt I designed that incorporated photos of family. It was the first thing I created as a gift that brought tears to her eyes. I have to agree with Lisa up there, I would be so interested in the fine details I’d probably take a header down them, too!

    • Would love to see your quilt. You say it brought tears to “her” eyes, but I”m not sure who she is–Jim’s mother? Can’t wait to hear what Sir Anthony thinks–LOL, sorry, Tony, couldn’t help myself.

      And if you fell down those stairs I might have to kill you, if the fall itself doesn’t. Sorry, I’m getting punchy here. I have a dreadful head cold. Here let me whine a bit. lol

      Miss you, sweetie. Your last post was so, so lovely!

      • Yes, the her in question was my mother-in-law (leaving details like that out is what happens when I’m typing and talking to someone else at the same time–which happens more often than I like. The life of a mom.). I made the quilt for her 35th wedding anniversary. Still searching for the pics I took….hmmm……Sir Anthony of Wilshire Ct. says the steps are “really cool.” I must say that I agree wholeheartedly!

    • Thanks, Renee. I think that means you like it. (ha, ha)

      I bet your novel wasn’t so bad. And even if it wasn’t terrific, it probably made you feel better–to get the shit out, so to speak.

      Great to hear from you today! Hugs——

  10. If I didn’t know I was at your blog, watching this work-in-progress, I would have thought I might have stumbled across a MOMA layout. When you have something this unique, filled with vivid and colorful personality, you really should consider sharing it with a wider audience (such as Laurie’s suggestion, above). Think of it this way … most of us don’t give ourselves permission to express our creativity in ways that defy the usual and customary decorating ideas, but imagine how inspired (and UNLEASHED) people would be to see this little slice of stairway heaven! Share this with as many eyes as possible, Kathy! People need to see what it looks like to be creatively bold and alive. Thanks for adding some wowza to my day today. Lovely. Be-you-ti-ful. :-)

    • Gosh, what a generous commment, my friend. I suspect it can’t be quite that terrific, but, gosh, I love to hear that that’s your association. (I’m secretly tickled.) Thanks so much for your kind words of encouragement. Maybe I will share this with a larger audience.

  11. What lovely steps…it’s going to be a shame to walk on them…looks like there are about 14 steps….sounds like a book title ’14 Steps to Recover from Falls’…humm…maybe your next book. ;-)

  12. I just love your vision, Kathy. It is so unique and smile inducing. It’s also brave. As I suspect you know, many more of us will love your work than those of us who would be willing to have our home so artfully reinvented. It looks like freedom to me!

    • Wow–“brave” never even occurred to me. Guess I can’t imagine living any other way. Thank God I have a partner who feels the same way, right? Great to hear from you, Rose. Glad you like the stairs. Hope you have a happy week, my friend!

  13. You are just creatively brilliant. That’s all there is to it.

    And by the way, when you talk Sara in to getting and riding bikes, we’ll get together for a very long and wonderful bike ride!

  14. WOW!!!! Kathy, you are the most creative, artistic person I know. To make those treacherous stairs that hurt you into a lovely, fabulous work of art! Amazing!!!! I bet you will now take pride in going up and down those stairs…..:) Nicole

    • Oh, thank you, Nicole. You are generous. I will definitely feel differently about the stairs. It’s still a bit difficult to get up and down them while the work is in progress, but so far the transformation has been big. Thanks so much for taking a look! I love that you love them!

  15. The stairs are just amazing. I love that you’re making something so ordinary into a work of art. I’m impressed that you’re forgiving enough to make something beautiful out of something that tried to beat you up!

    I don’t know that I’ve used art or writing to deal with physical setbacks, but I do use writing to deal with my moods. I sometimes fall pretty easily into a good funk. I always feel like I’ve crawled inside of myself and I don’t like to talk to anyone when I’m like that. Writing is one way to begin to pull myself out of it.

    • I was thinking in terms of either a physical or emotional struggle that was helped through creativity. In fact, I was thinking more about mood than anything else. So happy you like the stairs–and delighted that writing helps you out of the darkness from time to tme. I can relate. Hope you have a great week, my friend!

  16. Damn. I want to come visit you just to walk up and down the stairs a few times. I’d probably fall down them because I couldn’t stop ogling them….but it would be worth a few bruises. They look amazing!

  17. Your steps are so cool that I just showed the before and after to my daughter. We’re both a fan of bright colors and we love them! :) Makes me sad that I live in a one story house! :)

    • Another blogging friend said the same thing this morning about wishing she lived in a house with a second story. Too funny. I’m delighted you liked them and shared the photos with your daughter. Bright colors rock! Hugs to you!

  18. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! You and I, Kathy, have similar sense of style. in a word, whimsical! I love the steps, but I’m hoping that you can take a photo that provides a more global view of the stairs, so that we can see them as you do when approaching them–the full monty, if you will. I’d love to see them in all their glory! Any chance? ;)

    • Whimsy is my middle name, Miss Monica. So happy to hear we have similar tastes. Delighted that you like the steps so much.

      About the photo–that’s pretty much what you have in the final shot of this post–the first four steps together taken from the spot where I landed after my fall. I could include more of the incomplete steps above. Would that help? The issue I have with taking a shot from below is that you round a corner to get to the bottom of the stairs. My only option would be to open the back door and go out onto the porch to take the photo. If you look at the photo taken from the top you can get a sense of what the situation is down there. A shot from outside looking up might be interesting. Let me know, and I’d be delighted to take any shots that would tickle your fancy.

      • Okay, I didn’t realize (Guess I missed it) that you haven’t yet finished all the steps. Once it’s complete, I’d like to see the full staircase, and yes, go ahead and open the door and take a shot from outside looking up. Thank you for entertaining my request! No rush, though. Take your time. I’m going to be away for a while anyway. So, I can wait, my dear. :)

  19. I use writing all the time. When I get angry I often write or type it out and then I often throw it away or delete it. It calms me. Also writing helps me go into depth so I actually realise things I didn’t think at first so writing can often help fix a problem.

    • Yes, I think writing works well when angry. I do the same. Though if I’m really, really pissed, I like to scribble. Thanks so much for taking a look, Megan. Great to hear from you today.

  20. I’m loving your stairs.
    Many years ago I was hit by a drunk driver and “kissed the windshield.” Repaired by a plastic surgeon and physical therapy, the experience helped me leave a crazy job and start back to school. Those brushes with death make a person reevaluate what’s important.

    • Yes, yes, they do help one reevaluate. And I’m blessed to have a partner who sees the value in working things out creatively on the same stairway she also has to use. Sorry to hear about your drunk driver experience. Sounds awful. Thanks for taking a look, dear Sandy!

  21. Your stairs are so inspiring. They might prove to be a tripping hazard for me though b/c I’d be too busy looking at them to pay attention to going up or down. :)

    Happy healing … MJ

  22. Totally love your stairs…they are wonderful..look great

    Am also glad your recovering so well.
    please put some thought into handrails
    in case somone slips, something to grab hold of & stop a big fall
    a rail, or series of rails or
    I’ve seen strong white rope (like you see on boats) used to good effect.
    Thanks for sharing …
    hugs

    • Oh, I LOVE the idea of using rope. What a grand idea! That would really be cost effective, as well. Thanks so much for sharing that and for passing my post along to your readers. It’s great to hear from you today. Hope you will come back often!

    • Yes, those are moon craters. The atlas began by placing the earth in a larger spatial context–with maps of the solar system, etc. I love the map circles, as well. I don’t know why. They just seem to have so much texture, I guess. Thanks a lot, dear Tori!

    • We had a storm last night that blew rain onto the decoupaged parts of the stairs that have not yet ben polyurethaned, and that was near disaster, but, yes, walking on them at all feels weird. Great to hear from you today, Marcia!

      • Just came back from a few days with the grands (no time for reading or writing) trying to catch up now. Hope the stairs did not suffer much damage, luckily you are the artist!

      • Ha! I love the notion that I may have hurt the stairs more than they did me. That’s too perfect. Great to hear from you in the wake of your time away. Great to hear from you, Marcia!

  23. This looks amazing so far, Kathy! I’ve always admired you for finding the very best in a ‘bad’ situation. Your whole life is a testament to overcoming obstacles and emerging like a shining goddess from the other side! These steps are looking gorgeous. :)

    • Thanks so much, Dana. I have had tons of fun working on them so far. Though I’ve been sick this week, and that has slowed me down a bit. So happy you like them. I promise there will be more to come soon. Hope your week is doing well,, my friend.

  24. This is SO incredible — I read your last post first, and wondered at the glory of these steps — you are SO creative and have totally transformed the dark and scary staircase into a blaze of glory… I LOVE your perfectly neat stripes and all the decoupage is amazing!!!! Way to GO, Kath!!!

    • Thanks so much, Chrissy. Your writing says much about your perspecitive, as well, and that’s why I read your blog. You speak for me in ways I wouldn’t think to–your images echo a reality that resonates deeply in me! Great to hear from you today, my friend!

  25. Hi, Kathy. What a delightful staircase you’ve created from your tumble. Yes, yes, I use writing and photography all the time to heal, to resolve, to help rise from the ashes. What would we humans do without these outlets? Suffer in silence? Your post is precious inspiration. Hoping you’re all healed?

    • You are a great example of someone who uses creativity in a myriad of ways. Happy to hear you like my staircase, Kathy. It’s been a fun project. Fortunately, I’m feeling better. Thanks, my friend.

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