I started a painting tonight. One for me. One I've been planning for a while but not beginning. I have never once thought of myself as a painter. I've just used paint to make pictures which people may or may not like to hang on their walls. Glassboat liked his, though I wonder sometimes whatever happened to them and on what move he left them behind. I know Freckles likes her - she even leaves them hanging when I'm not visiting. But I'm not a painter. I don't even do it often enough to call it a hobby. It's more of a creative aberration.
Mostly, when people see I have an easel I explain that sometimes I like to paint and then use that as a springboard for writing. I know real painters. People like my mom, and my grandma, and Dj. People who worked at it and studied the art. Who practiced colour mixing and proportion. Who took classes and sought after something. Or who at the very least felt a drive and a desire to regularly get their hands mucky and see what came out.
I much prefer to create worlds with words - I have a sense that I have achieved some mastery there. I have fewer concerns and a quieter censor when words creep across the page to reveal my inner world than I do when I squeeze paint onto a pallette and begin scraping it across a canvas with a knife.
The act of painting, for me, is so physical and visceral. It's a total divergence from my oh-so internal and reflective writing process. I like long slashing strokes, slippery gobs of paint, splashes of contrast, large canvases soaked and dripping. It's messy, and organic, and fluid. Delicate floral watercolours do not appeal to me, though nature and flora are often the subject. Painting, to me, feels like capturing or being captured by the forces of nature. And I'm no Jackson Pollack, by any means. Squiggles and urine and wall-sized abstractions are not my goal. But I do have to do a lot of clean up when I'm done a session.
What's really striking to me in this moment, as I sit across the table from my easel, a canvas 75% full of black and burnt umber swirls staring back at me damply, is how far the beginning is from the end result.
The thing is, we don't know where things are going to end. You could never guess from seeing the canvas as it is right now what I'm actually trying to create. The beginning is no indicator of what's next, let alone a foreshadowing of the final scene. So often I want to know how things are going to go and forget to notice and value and experience each step along the way.
An engrossing conversation can lead to a mind silencing kiss. Or not. A confession of mutual attraction may lead on to further engrossing conversations. Or not. And all of it may lead to an evocative masterpiece, or a scrapped canvas on a junk heap, or - worst of all - a trite imitation of someone else's authentic expression.
I think I know what I'm painting. I have a plan. I think I understand the process of building up layers of pigment mixed with resin to create a finished product. And it may all end up in the dumpster. Only time will tell.