Woe to thee with fearful eyes; their lighthouse is burning up and down goes the ship in which they wasted their whole lives.


Cursed are tongues that speak in only can’ts and won’ts, and oh, what if the world went and died, left you buried in regrets?


You never kissed the ceiling…


Shame to thee with hardened hearts; feel for nothing, cry for none. Your own flesh and blood, ripped of life before your eyes…


They never kissed the ceiling.


—“Empress” by The Arcadian Wild


Though I don’t sing or listen to “Empress” often, it has long been one of my favorite songs by The Arcadian Wild. The lyrics convey a message dear to my soul: that life is a fleeting, painful, and unspeakably beautiful experience.


I created this painting with many lyrics from “Empress” in mind, but it was mostly born from the line “kiss the ceiling,” which is repeated throughout the song in various forms. To me, “kiss the ceiling” means to embrace the aches and joys of life as two halves of a whole. You cannot fully experience one without the other, and they work in tandem to bring us closer to our Creator. My dearest wish is to live a life where I kiss the ceiling daily and inspire others to do the same.


Galaxies are one of my favorite scenes to paint, so I knew immediately that I wanted the “ceiling” to resemble one. I used watercolor paints for the base and white acrylic for the stars. I sketched the girl separately, and once I completed the galaxy, I traced her onto the paper so I could keep the lower portion as free of pencil/eraser marks as possible. Next, I reinforced the lines with a calligraphy pen dipped in black watercolor. I chose to leave the girl black and white to contrast with the vibrant galaxy and emphasize all she is gaining by kissing the ceiling. Finally, I dabbed the entire lower background in white acrylic to add texture and cover the inevitable smudges that happened despite my best efforts.

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