My car broke down.
I know that mechanical mysteries unravel. Yet I feel there is a grand cosmic machine conspiracy out there, designed to malfunction just when I have a zillion have-tos on my list. And it's a weekend. And all garages are closed.
So I had to rediscover little old biped me. For feet, time and distance had to be recalibrated. Like it or not, I was shoved into the slow lane from whence I first came. More than half of my To Dos were cancelled. Saturday morning starts with a yoga class which is in my neighborhood but it's usually a car ride not a walk. Today I am thinking with my feet and taking streets I never drive. Along the way I meet this.
Two fish kissing on a wall. Made out of old grills and wires the simple poetry was sunshine. I was so delighted I had to stop and join them with photos and was almost late for my class. Smooch smooch.
Walking is wide open and spacious while driving is motorized life with blinkers on.
On the way back after class I was starting to enjoy how expansive space was, all sky and air. Turning corners I met people sitting on porches with morning coffee or in the midst of garden work. We shared hellos and smiles as kind strangers do and I also met these two earthbound frogs exchanging flowers forever among the decay.
I think I took a wrong turn which was the right turn because this was what was staring out of a front window. The last bit of glitz and deflated balloons left over from a birthday party that must have been at least as much fun as those frogs and fish were having.
It took longer to get home than the whole yoga class. I wish I could say I abandoned my car. Speed and efficiency and highways seduced me all over again once repairs were done. But those days of walking still remind me to slow down, keep looking, take a few wrong turns, and stay awake, which as an artist, I am always trying to do.
Something remarkable happens when you let go of a canvas. It's artsy fruit fly life is done. The decision to abort is abundantly clear. The path is unclear. So I start swishing on new colours, listening to George Ezra. This is fun. The colours gleam brightly for a moment, reacting violently to change. I hold the brush of power and persuasion. It's just paint. Just marks. So why am I starting to feel edgy? Keep singing, George.
I use my palette knife to scrape the excess off. In gobs. I watch hopelessly while the colours merge into an depressing pale hospital dirty pink. It's late afternoon so it's okay to think maybe wine will help. Wow, who knew George could be so annoying! The above canvas was so hideous I picked up a cloth and started washing the surface down. Really, by now, I just wanted to save the canvas because I didn't want to go to the art supply store. Yes, I am lazy and cheap. Despite all the abuse heaped upon it, something had stuck. Soft shadows of the original work clung to the canvas, as well as the muted cacophony of other colours that I had hurled. Striations from the palette knife were revealed too. Everything became so soft. And friendly. I was left with a beautiful multicoloured, textured surface, one that I could not have imagined. Like magic, the sun was in my head!
I once stared for hours at a Matisse painting called "Purple Robe and Anenomes". I had not thought about that painting for years and suddenly I knew this surface would be perfect to create a line painting emphasizing round, straight, thin, fat, solid and weak. I drew, but the canvas had already painted itself.
I am so happy with the surprise of this canvas, The Little Chat.
And, just so you know, I never did grab the glass the wine.
The blank canvas is the nice part.
The beginning of a house starts with a muddy hole in ground. The most seriously delicious cakes start with floury, milky, eggy goup in a bowl. Even life, in all it's diverse unimaginable glory, starts with messy ole sex. Mess is the real start.
At least that is the trajectory of my art making. I think I have it all figured out. I even play around with a few sketches. And then it starts. Then it crashes.
All those bits, blobs, streaks, dots, etches, swirls, crazy mismatched colours and dried paint are part of the mess. I can sometimes paint a whole day and, at sunset, I have to admit mess wins. I used to turn canvases around so I could bury the mess until the next day. Now it's easier to face the mess. Hello, tell me your secrets! Listen to lines that go to wrong places, dragging helpless colours with them. What was I thinking? Tolerate all the shapes that seem too big, too small, too silly. Hiding in plain site, there is usually a little divine nudge . A spark of harmony, a hint of surprise, a new direction.
I had an art teacher who once said be kind to your mistakes and messes - it will be what makes your work great.
I fear if I am not willing to engage in this relationship, with the mess of art, my work will never find a pulse or visual heartbeat.
Of course I am happy when a painting is finished. But when I view it I can't help remembering and cherishing the lovely mess.
Already bright pinks are drowning into purples, reds darkening to browns and greens draining to yellow. Proud flowers are starting to topple over, burdened by their top heavy beauty.
Now to the business of seeds.
Good to think of seeds during this time.
What kind of art seeds do I want to plant now?
End of summer marks a return to the studio where I'll find out, discover new ways to make marks with paints, pencils and ink and whatever else is available. Facing blank canvasses fills me with dread, uncertainty and mountains of self doubt. But these are my old friends, cronies who drop by the studio every fall for cup of tepid tea and stay for just as long as I let them. I know them well. If I entertain them too long they just get boring.
I'm really much more interested in the seeds