Every time I start a painting, there's a part of me that laughs and points and suggests that I'm a fool. Which I might be, but I don't care. I'm going to do this thing anyway. And so I do, and gradually I shake all of my assumptions and I stop seeing "curtains" or a "woman" or whatever, and it's just colors. And I mix colors and lose all sense of time and I go to this place where I feel the texture of the curtains and I sense the warmth of the woman's arm. I paint...
And the thin-lipped editor lady in me laughs again and points and sees nothing.
But the optimist in me continues to see what I know awaits me. It's less like I'm painting and more like I'm revealing slowly what is already there. The "impossibility" of art takes place in the utter faith of the artist to work at it, pulling from the canvas what can be found beneath the brush. And maybe that sounds mysterious and odd, but that's a pretty good description of the process. I paint to see what I know is already there.
It's much like writing fiction. The characters are alive already and waiting for the cue to live and interact with one another. All the writer does is record their actions and voices and that's all there is. As a writer, I've been surprised to hear what comes out of my characters' mouths. For example, in a story I wrote long ago, as one character stood up, I saw her pull the creep of the hem of her shorts downward. And so that's what I wrote. It wasn't contrived; that's just what she did. I had a woman later tell me in my college class that her action was so true. Heck, I was just watching it happen. There's no ownership in that.
Truth is effortless. It's whether I'm skillful enough to record what happened that determines whether it's believable or not. Painting, like writing, is both a passive observation and an active exertion. I just have to be faithful to sit and do it.
Isn't much of life like that? Whether starting a business, or working at business, or being a parent - isn't half the success just showing up to do the job? Kids are so thankful for parents who just show up. They remember it years later. "Dad wasn't always the best father, but he was at every one of my games." And you can hear the love in their voice for that. Just showing up. Amazing.
Are paintings thankful for the artist who shows up to reveal them? Are characters in a story grateful to have their actions recorded? In a way, yes. All of us would like the opportunity to express ourselves, free of judgment, and to just let it flow. In that expression, we help ourselves. It's like when someone just has an outlet to vent a frustration or an ear to which they can talk. The friend just sits there listening. But we're incredibly thankful that they just showed up for us and gave us their time. Amazing.
And so painting is like that. Some part of me is grateful that I just showed up and took the risk and took the leap of faith. I feel better for it. It makes me want to show up some more.
Enough for today...