You may remember about a year ago when I did this painting workshop thing at work, and – surprisingly – really liked it. The painting, the ambiance in the room, the break from work, the low pressure emphasis all made the experience really enjoyable. We drew ourselves, and then created a “self-care” plan. My mother, being the adorable and incredibly supportive person that she is, took the iphone picture that I sent her of my creation, blew it up, and framed it. It’s now sitting in their dining room.
Since then, I’ve talked often about wanting to paint again. Every time I went into the art store downtown, I wished that I was an artist, so that I’d have a reason to shop in that store more. (I only went in for fancy pens and their killer card selection.) I had priced out easels and paints – I even had a wishlist on Amazon entitled “The Arts” – but could not quite bring myself to pull the trigger on something that I didn’t know if I’d really use and, frankly, felt kind of silly buying. Because I don’t know how to paint.
But when my parents asked for ideas for birthday gifts for me this year, I decided to add the easel, some watercolors, brushes, and paper to my potential gift list, and I was overwhelmed with their generosity when they got me nearly everything on the list.
I set up the easel last weekend and loved looking at it. I took pictures and sent them to my friends, confidently saying, “My parents got me an easel for my birthday, so… I guess I’m going to learn to paint.” I am moving next month – into the house one of my friend’s lives in – and told everyone that I was going to set up a painting corner in my huge bedroom. I started looking up painting classes in Santa Cruz. I was going to be a painter!
…Except that I was scared to actually try the painting. Those painting classes came with intimidatingly long lists of materials that I didn’t totally understand. And there are acrylics, and watercolors, and oil paints, and I have only the vaguest idea of the difference between those mediums. And… I don’t know how to paint.
Then, I found myself full of free time this afternoon, and the easel kept looking at me. I couldn’t, though. What would I paint? I don’t know how to paint. And then I remembered what Elizabeth Gilbert taught us when she decided to try writing poetry. She didn’t know how to write poetry. But she wrote a poem anyway and reported, “It wasn’t a great poem, but nobody died from it.” So I remember Liz, and then I thought, “Well, maybe I could try painting, and even if it isn’t great, nobody will die, probably.”
And so I put on a mix of Jaymay, First Aid Kit, and Phish as background music, and I painted today. Because I didn’t really know what to paint, I went back to what we learned in that workshop. I drew a picture of my face, and a bunch of self-care things around my head. And then I painted my drawing.
🎶…Truth that starts as understanding finds you in the night
The circles all around the ceiling, a frightened bird in flight
After spending hours beneath it, everything comes clear
Truth will pose no danger to you, what haunts you both is fear
And if this darkness came from light
Then light can come from darkness, I guess…🎵
It’s not great. The pens that I used to draw did not respond well to water and bled all over the place. [I think that we used a Sharpie in the workshop; I’m going to email the facilitator on Monday to confirm.] But, nobody died. Nobody died at all! AND, I actually had fun! Like, I really want to do it again. I want to get some Sharpies and draw more things and then paint them. And I want to tackle the intimidating materials list and take one of those damn art classes. As it turns out, it doesn’t freaking matter if I don’t know how to paint (or draw, for that matter) because it’s fun anyway!
And, I mean, of course it’s fun. Painting was fun when we were kids. Kids love painting. Kids love doing a lot of things that adults don’t because kids have not yet learned to be afraid of failure. I love listening to my three year-old niece sing with gusto and watching my friend’s three year-old dance with abandon; it’s like watching freedom. Little children have not yet learned to feel insecure or embarrassed or afraid of looking silly or wrong or like they don’t know what they’re doing. Kids are just doing the damn thing. They know that nobody is going to die. They don’t even know to consider that anyone might die.
I have friends – mostly internet friends from my Bullet Journal groups – who, instead of making resolutions, choose a word to embody what they want for that year, and then they do things related to that word for the year. I think that it’s a cute idea, but have never done it. But then, earlier this week – probably around the arrival of the easel – I couldn’t get the word create out of my head. I want to create paintings. I want to create essays. I want to create new friendships. I want to create progress at work. I want to create boundaries with unhealthy or toxic people. I want to create the life that I want to be living. Because I can. We don’t have control over many things in Life – that’s part of the adventure – but we do have control over what we do and who we spend time with and the perspective that we choose in our daily lives. I can create a life that I love living.
And that life is going to include painting, apparently.
[I need to add a disclaimer here that I am exceptionally privileged. Having the resources to buy these supplies (or parents with the resources to buy these supplies for me) is privilege. Not having to work a second job on the weekends to make ends meet is privilege. Having access to these supplies is privilege. Having the time and energy to spend painting – as opposed to say, fighting for survival in a war-torn, food-impoverished area of the world – is privilege. Having a home is privilege. Having an extremely comfortable life is privilege, and one that makes my everyday perspective a helluva lot easier to keep positive.]