What’s New is New

Sunday, Sunday

In October, wanting to go back to school to train for something new, I took a long-heldout promotion and started working weekends.

Murphy’s Law still being the only functioning the law of the land decreed that my new weekends— Wednesday and Thursday–would be otherwise occupied, making school impossible. Most of my new weekends have been spent driving to hospitals, but as flu season winds down, I have been able to carve out at least one day on the weekend for re-creation, usually in the form of doodling.

Doodle time did not evolve into painting time until last Sunday when T2 and I went to a Paint and Sip. I haven’t played with acrylics since high school, and even though I’m more confident with watercolors, dipping a brush and a new medium with the spark again.

I haven’t forgotten how much I need to paint, but sometimes it’s easy to let the doldrums keep you from what you were meant to do. My doldrums were plastered under a layer of yellow acrylic last Sunday. When my Sunday kicked off this morning, paint — oil this time —was on the brain.

Oils are completely new and will require a more than little bit of homeschooling to get the hang of, but it’s all part of making something old new again and making the new weekends count.

And hey, I did want to go back to school.

Sipping


Last night T2 and I went to a Paint and sip event at the Roundhouse Bakery and Café in Cambridge, New York. 

I’ve kind of shied away from these events which, to me, seem to be more an excuse to drink wine then to paint, but the picture advertising last nights endeavor was different from so many had seen before, So I signed the two of us up.

I don’t dislike gatherings, but on personality tests, I generally score in the extreme introverted category. It took me 20 minutes to get comfortable enough to say hello to the teacher who seemed very nice and knowledgeable. 

T2 who has a strong creative bent is, by contrast, a confirmed social butterfly. He took two minutes to get settled, get his paint and get talking to a couple that we had met through our favorite diner in Manchester, Vermont. 
In the beginning I was mainly focused on trying to copy the painting, listening to instructions, and getting to know the new medium. The husband in the couple sitting across the table from us, however, was just as extroverted as T2, and the two of them kept the wife and me giggling as we all painted (Don’t worry T2 was drinking orange soda).

T2 was focused on his painting. He loves to draw, and when he got home he started copying the painting here just meet a few minutes earlier to see how he could improve it. In the hours at the café, however, art for him and for the other people at our table was seemingly as much a social experience as it was an academic one.

They had come with one expectation—to have fun, and we all did, and all remarking that next time the Big Guy must go along. The funny thing was that as I watched T2 redraw his composition on the first piece of notebook paper he could find when we got home, I realized that the fun was every bit as valuable to his education as if the painting and sipping had happened at the finest art school. The fun, after all, was what got him doing art and kept him working at it right up until bedtime.

Everybody’s a Critic

Paw Print at Dawn by Jim-Bob Barlow

I was trying to paint last night but Jim-Bob, our orange tabby making a life as a reformed barn cat, decided my time could be better spent. He hopped up on my lap and then crawled up to my neck for insistent snuggle.

“No, kitty,” I said after giving a few scratches and setting them down on the floor.

“I have needs,“ he seemed to purr at me or as he jumped up between the brush bucket and the fish tank, worming his way back onto my lap. He put a paw on the painting table, and I set him down again.

 Katie-the-wonder-dog barked at the door to let me know she was ready to come in, and I pushed the table away from me and padded out to the mudroom to let her in. Jim-Bob, curiously, did not follow, and I should’ve known something was up.

When Katie and I got back to my studio/office, Bob trotted out past us with a swish of his tail, leaving behind only a paw print of disapproval on the still wet painting.

Thing2 has just fallen asleep in the room across the hall so I kept my curses quiet, swearing that was the last that cat would ever see of the inside of my studio. He knew better, however, waiting less than five minutes to nudge open the door with a butt of his head. And as a sucker with a severe case of Stockholm syndrome, when he threaded himself between my legs, I put down my brush and decided to tackle his boundary issues another night.

Some nights in the studio are as much about processing as they are about product.  

Breathing Room

At the beginning of this year, Thing1’s autoimmune disorder hospitalized him with an intense flare up and, not to be left out of the fun, promptly Thing2 contracted Influenza-A that, along with a lymph node inflammation painful enough to prompt two separate diagnoses of appendicitis earned him an overnight ticket to the pediatric ward. As a result, almost every week of our 2018 calendar has been dotted with nights in the ER, overnights at the hospital and follow-ups at various doctor’s offices. Last Thursday marked my first day off in weeks that didn’t include a rush to the ER or a four hour round trip drive across the state to a specialist, and I didn’t know what to make of the unexpected breathing room.

For weeks, the voices in my head that run an internal dialogue about art and literature and school shootings and the homeless population and, you name it have been replaced with instructions. Log when you last gave Tylenol or ibuprofen. Call for the new prescriptions. Did T1 have 32 ounces of water or 16? When did T2 poop? Check his weight. Call the insurance company. Call the doctor. Call the insurance company. I wasn’t numb, but I was a robot. Calculating but not thinking, especially if it meant engaging in worry which is all too natural for me (it could be an Olympic sport).

The robot didn’t have much extra processing power for art or writing, and February was burning away without any pictures to show for it. Even a conversation with a fellow artist about drawing in the down times at waiting rooms didn’t get my pencil or brush moving.

There was breathing room, but for some reason, I was afraid to rake that first breath.

A few nights ago, I decided out the iPad to work on a page for Dweezil’s To-Dos, a book about a little boy with too many projects (don’t ask how I get my inspiration).

Inking and coloring over the scanned drawings is methodical. Robotic. It’s not particularly creative a lot of the time. It’s basically just drawing lines – filling in the space between points.

It’s not creative, but it is meditative.

In the meditation, however, the robot slowed down. I inked and colored page 6 six different ways, and the machine started to power down. My eyelids felt heavy, and the iPad fell from my hand. The thud of the Otterbox on the floor jolted me awake again, and, rebooting, I took in a gulp of air and opened a file to start page 7.