© 2011 lefron

To Be, or To Be the Other Option

This morning I waded my way through Evergreen’s swampy mist covered track field (I take shortcuts, gracias muchachas) while trying to balance my polka dot umbrella, my father’s magical camping chair, an 18×24 portfolio mesh bag complete with watercolor neccessities, and a Seattle-inappropriate leather backpack towards the Art Annex where my watercolor class is held. Peering down at my closed umbrella, I felt the heat of the sun creeping behind the clouds, and I couldn’t help but let out a huge grin to the vast empty morning campus.

I am horrible at watercoloring. Give me acrylics, colored sharpies, crayons, that paint program that comes with a PC, and bingo. Pro. But watercolor gives me fits. The idea that a paint has more control over its movement and placement than me or even my paintbrush baffles me. Initially I rejected the idea of smothering my paper in water prior to even painting it and used as little water as possible in order to emulate an acrylic painting. This worked for me, to an extent, but as soon as mixing was in the mix (tee hee) my picture was suddenly drowning in blossoms of color, as though raindrops had littered my paper. Since fighting the paint wasn’t effective, I tried working with it. I lathered my brushes in water and went to town washing my sketches with milky colors that seeped into eachother. Cool, a picture of shit.

My frustration was not frustration, but rather a feeling of incapability; I began to wonder if my wrists simply weren’t made to understand the fluid motion required to blend color and bring life to such a difficult medium. The Bob Ross-esque videos (one guy repeatedly told us to “charge” our page with color, and would then wind up his arm until he felt compelled to stab the paper with his brush) shown in class made it seem so simple, technique after technique was employed providing us with Ah-Ha moments that had me racing to the studio to test the oh-so-easy methods for removing color from paper to create light. But no matter how closely I employed the method, my colors would only grow darker or muddier or uglier.

During the first hour of class today while we waited for a group of kids to go get van permits so we could drive to Seattle for our weekly field trip (which would have been taken care of last night, except I have a criminal record on my license (I killed a man with a trident) so I couldn’t get a van permit…%50 my fault) we discussed our reading. Joe, our teacher, asked us what we thought it meant to go from “painter to artist.” Max, a bearded peer who I’ve never heard speak before, but managed to become my partner in the new hit underground Seattle supertroop, “Guys Who Save Girls From Gazebos” during our field trip, said, “I think the painter and the artist are seperate. The painter uses the craft to create a picture, employing techniques and skills to execute a plan. The artist may start with a totally whack composition, and somehow he has to figure out how to solve the puzzle he’s made himself. I think the artist is constantly making puzzles for himself and its the art that allows him to find resolve.”

This is how I write. I take a 3000 piece mess and dump it on the carpet. I find the end peices and build the framework to hold me together; to confine the picture I’m trying to hone. Color sorting, similar patterns, surprise pieces that are already put together, and the occasional triumphant chunk of completion help crack my riddle. This is not how I paint; I don’t use any colorful medium to explore my thoughts or even express them. I use paint to make pictures, gifts, decorations…I use paint to pass time or feel accomplished…I use paint rather than exploring it.

Maybe I’m afraid of the messy blots wasting pages in my notebook, uneasy with the idea of failure after failure left with nothing to show for my time and no revelation to go with it. Which is fine. I don’t claim to be a medium artist; I fuse the artist in me into writing and acting, and I reach for paint the way I reach for my guitar (as you know, I’m no musician, I just play the guitar). I felt an artist-identity crisis, comparing my work to those around me and my skills to Bob Ross’ watercolor counterparts, thinking their way was the way. But my way is what soothes me, my way provides me with hours of occupation (and distraction from anxiety), and my way leaves me feeling satisfied and proud. I am not, after all, an aspiring watercolorist. I’m an aspiring Rachel.

One Comment

  1. Cynthia Oliver
    Posted April 6, 2011 at 8:24 am | #

    Watercolor! I was a total failure at watercolor cuz I felt the need to try and control the uncontrollable. Watercolor can be very Zen.

    I love you, and I love the comment by the bearded guy too. He thinks like me.

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