The internet broke today. Thank god. Its absence drove me into my studio, where I fished blindly through a stack of watercolor paper and until I chanced on a painting of sea lavender I started 5 years ago. I had intended it to be the center of something – a mandala, a world – but somehow it was lost until it emerged today as the latest candidate for the controlled symphony of accidents that sometimes makes up my painting practice.
Lately my workdays, by contrast, involve a lot of linear thinking. Google docs, grids, timelines, contracts, launch plans. I make a big chunk of my living as a web designer, and I love it, as a trade – it’s like digital carpentry, or WordPress plumbing. There’s just enough puzzle-solving to keep me engaged, enough interaction with clients to keep me connected, and enough creative freedom to keep me curious and growing.
But what feeds the heart behind all the project management is not linear at all. It is a part of me that revels in discarding rulers, painting music, assembling rain and leaves and cryptic bits of text, dropping ink from different heights to see what will bloom on a slightly damp page, mixing colors like spices and balancing all their tastes. My painting is not a 7 Step Plan for Success. It does not map things out in advance. It explores the improbable architecture of vast forces – grief, growth, spirit, space – and the particular details of living things. The tension between chaos and order is palpable. Often, while I am painting, the words that will become my poems squirt out, unbidden, from the cracks in my consciousness. I jot them down on a scrap of paper, or on the painting itself, and return to later to craft them an articulate home on the page.
In the midst of this summer’s heat and drought, my painting practice went dormant. I became very practical – canning apricots, sorting out my finances, designing pdfs, migrating email accounts, building websites, and worrying. Efficient, functional, and slightly empty. In an attempt to rekindle my art, I finally set myself the goal of beginning 7 paintings in 7 days. The time pressure was perfect – show up and make something happen. Anything. No need for it to be perfect, or final, or ready for critique. Just create.
I had the vessels for 2 paintings waiting for me – 2 sheets of watercolor paper with black gesso arranged just so, a month earlier, when I anticipated beginning a series of works about reclaiming faith in a time of darkness. The subject was so large it intimidated me from even trying. So this time, I began simply with color, applying favorite shades of turquoise and garnet red, in soft pastel – pure pigment – pure fire – on top of all that black. And that was all it took to break the spell. As usual, when I let go of needing to be good, I was carried, and everything I hadn’t been talking about took shape under my messy hands. Knowing I had made this daily promise changed each day – instead of coming home from work and sinking into Netflix, I closed the curtain to my studio, put on music, and opened my bottles of ink. I discovered what I used to know: that I can still make art when I am tired, or hungry, or unsure; that there are worlds to be discovered in color and mark-making alone, even before metaphor and message take shape; that improvisation is its own form of wisdom; that small experiments can create huge shifts. There are worlds in every accident, every risk.
Here are the rest of the paintings: