From Where I Sit – From Bad to Better

After a long absence from canvas and paints I found my way back to my studio. A stew of good intentions, a promise made, and a conversation got me going again.

Good intention: I have too much money invested, not only in the thousand square foot free-standing building itself but the contents as well, to simply never pick up a brush again. Between brushes, paints, canvases, frames, mat cutters, books, and framed art the investment both financial and creative has been considerable. After major shoulder surgery in November 2006 painting was physically out of the question. I have long since recovered so there goes that excuse.

A promise made: Hilary was baffled by how to cut the outside light coming through an opaque glass window in her condo. Traditional window coverings didn’t appeal. We brainstormed and she vetoed every suggestion I made. Finally it hit me that a custom-sized piece of original art for the opening would give her the desired light control. I needed an artificial deadline to make it happen. She picked Halloween. That day came and went; the piece is not complete but It’s well on its way.

A conversation: actually more than one. Lately I’ve gotten kind words from the recipient of one of my art cards. I reconnected with an artist friend who was displaying her watercolours at a local show. I fell in love again with the purity of the pigments, the subject matter, and the gut-deep knowledge that I’ve done pieces equally lovely. Finally I visited a couple I will be marrying in a couple of weeks in their home. I loved all the books, the controlled clutter (a.k.a. signs of life well lived) and some original art. They spoke of the feelings the art evoked.

That is what art’s all about. The attempt by an artist to capture and express emotion in the hope that the resulting painting, sculpture, photo?you name it?stir similar feelings in the viewer.

Like many new beginnings this one was not without challenges. My studio is a slant-roof, circa 1940s-50s portable school classroom that I had moved to our farm years ago. The wall of windows let in the purest north light. Built-in shelving, blackboards, and bulletin boards aid the creative process. The ugly green carpet invites (or at least doesn’t object to) paint splotches. That’s the good news.

The revolting, exasperating, and disgusting downside is the million flies that infiltrate this old building. I’ve tried caulking, an automatic spritzer with fly spray, and new siding on the entire building. The little buggers get in and eventually die but not before making a big mess. And there’s the body removal process. On the revulsion scale it gets worse. I’ve also had mice get in. I hate mice. They are filthy, repulsive, damaging creatures that mean more cleanup. I’ve spent full days vacuuming, sanitizing, discarding, and organizing before finally beginning to paint.

I’ve also remembered an important aspect of the creative process. Every project?painting, manuscript, whatever?looks really bad before it looks better. Only faith and experience allow us to push through that stage to completion, from where I sit.

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