Where do I begin? Yesterday evening I met up with the artist who hosted the class where the first piece of this project began – the seed, if you will from which this project grew. Or, more accurately, you could say his workshop served as the soil for the seed I always had inside me.
The meeting itself is not important at this moment, but the end of it is. When we were parting ways, he offered me a gift of a tube of paint. He had just purchased a bunch of paint and he let me choose one color to take with me. I chose a fluorescent shade of orange- or is it tone? I don’t know the terminology. Of course I would choose orange. And what a gift, I had just thought that day how I needed to get and wanted to work with more fluorescent colors. For some reason, they felt right to me.
In return, I showed him the painting I had painted the night before and he told me I should save it and buy more canvases and paint new paintings on fresh canvases, in case I ever became a painter and maybe one day I’d sell these for a lot of money, or maybe just to keep and cherish. It was a nice thought, and if I were the version of me that I was a year or two ago, I would have followed his suggestion. Because I have always looked to others to figure out what I wanted to do. Or, more accurately, I always trusted others judgment more than my own. I was aiming to please, but more significantly, I was afraid to be wrong and fail.
I almost saw myself going down that path, as I starting walking towards home, I thought about buying canvases. Then, I felt inside me something telling me that was not the right thing for me to do. Not because it was wrong for any particular reason or that it wasn’t good advice, just that this is not what I wanted to do. One of the things I loved so dearly about this project when it first struck me was that it echoed the same impermanence of mandalas. It spoke the same message of the importance – or really, the truth of impermanence. It taught by its practice the need to remain unattached. I have really loved every single one of the paintings I’ve done so far, if I’m being honest – although if anyone asked me, I would be quick to de-emphasize it, pooh poohing any compliments, adding qualifiers, subtly de-meaning the art I had – very truthfully – put my soul into. But it’s true – even the very first one that I claimed wasn’t good enough, secretly I loved. And I guess it’s easier to say on paper than it is in person. I loved how messy and un-beautiful it was. I loved the beauty in the ugliness. I felt a real part of me in it.
I listened to myself. I went home that night and I smothered a bunch of my brand new orange paint onto the canvas. Just enough to “ruin” it. Then I went to bed, feeling happy.
This evening, at the end of a long day, I put aside the laptop (which I’m now right back on), found my spot on my bench, and settled in to meditate. These days, my mind goes wandering in search of my next painting. It’s quite comical to watch the mind conjure up crazy visuals to try to pique my interest. It almost gets me but then I know – this is not what is meant to come out. So I try to go back to the breath. Over the course of the meditation this happens endless times until the ending bell tolls.
I saw some awesome things – many I really wanted to paint, and others I knew I did not have the skill to paint right now even if I wanted to. During today’s session, I saw my mind wander back to a time in my childhood I had nearly forgotten. There was a time when I would draw faces of people. They almost always looked about the same – I was probably too scared to venture too far off from the one way that felt kind of decent, had gotten not bad reviews from my family. I smiled, I hadn’t thought of that memory in a long long time. Maybe I should take a drawing class one of these days.
I got up from my bench where I meditate and moved to my desk where I paint. I felt like I knew and at the same time had no idea what I was going to paint. It felt like it was going to have some influence from my meditation but truthfully, I had no idea what was about to happen.
I picked up the bigger of the two brushes, plopped out four big black blobs of paint right onto the canvas and almost violently painted the entire canvas black. The act of the painting felt like a performance, like an ominous yet beautiful, lasting crescendo in a symphony. When it was all covered, I sat back. And then from nowhere, or from somewhere I can’t explain, I took the brush and started writing. I wrote words, and names, of things that were negative. People who I felt treated me poorly, realities in this world that I hated. Hurtful things, painful things, sadness.
It lulled for a bit, as I dug deeper, and then it sped up, and then it slowed down again. I stopped after about 5 minutes. I put the paintbrush down, I lifted up the canvas, and studied it. I traced the scars I could see through the darkness with my fingers. I felt emotions well up inside of me, I felt that familiar feeling of getting warmer, my body reliving all at once so many experiences. I blew on the canvas lightly to dry the paint a bit.
I took a breath, and squirted a bunch of the orange paint onto my palette (read: paper plate), and in another spot, I squirted out yellow, and then added white to it (the artist taught me that adding white fixes the problem of not really being able to paint anything useful with just yellow itself because it’s translucent). Then I took my big brush again, and – starting with the yellow – I wrote words and names, again. This time all of the positive things in my life, my friends, my support system, my cheerleaders, happy things, joyful things, good things. I switched between yellow, then orange, then yellow again. Big brush, then small brush. Over and over and over until I felt neither happy nor sad, just calm.
I felt done, so I put the brushes away and replaced the canvas to its stand. Ready and waiting for the next day’s expression.