Acrylic on 30″ x 40″ Canvas
Every Painting has a Story
A new show at the local Arts Organization was announced. The theme this time was “Black and White.” I only had a week to finish my entry and I had a new 30″ x 40″ canvas I was excited to explore with black and white acrylics.
Using a large brush, I began to cover the entire canvas with Titanium White and Carbon Black Acrylic paint, The canvas was sitting vertical on the easel, so I started at the top and brought the brush strokes down, all the way to the bottom, one at a time with careful intention NOT to make them straight, first white, then black. Each brush stroke started next to a previous one, first on one side, then the other, alternating black and white and following the curve of the previous stroke. Some of the strokes were wide and some were narrow, and I noticed that the wider strokes seemed to want to separate as I brought the brush down, and split the line into slightly different directions. I was pleased. I like variety!
At least half of the time I spend on a painting is siting in a chair, looking at it as it rests on the easel or on the wall. All of my walls display unfinished paintings. While I am looking at a painting, I am asking two questions. 1. What is the painting trying to tell me? and 2. Is there anything in this painting that distracts me from total enjoyment of the visual before me?
When I get an answer to either question, I pick up my brush and respond. Sometimes the answers don’t come right away. So I leave it on the wall or on the easel so that I can see it as I go about my other business. Sometimes there are several unfinished paintings, waiting for me to ask the right questions, to see the answers. I turn them often – even landscapes, portraits or still life, – so that I can see them from a new perspective.
Sometimes a painting-in-progress will almost scream out to me: “Hey! See this line? Follow it!” or “Do you really want to leave that smudge of gray there? You know it doesn’t really belong.” I always ask the painting – NOT myself, because when I ask myself my whiny ego-mind will respond with the most unhelpful answers. “What’s WRONG with this?” “Why did you choose these colors? They won’t match anyone’s couch!” “No one will ever buy this!” “This will never be a good painting! What ever made you think you could paint? You need to start over!”
See what I mean?
So this painting-in-progress is gleefully shouting “I’m a zebra! Whee! The fuzzy edges on these black and white stripes are distracting from my glorious patterns!” So I gleefully clean up the fuzzy edges.
The painting draws my attention to an area where the black lines seem to converge, and tells me it’s important – it’s a focal point. Looking closely I see a tiny white dot in the black space. “Go with that!” the painting says. “Oh no!” Ego-mind says. “Not more dots! Everyone will think that’s all you know how to do! Haven’t you done enough paintings with dots?”
So, dots it is. Spiraling outward from the small dot in the center. White dots on the black stripes, black dots on the white stripes. I’m noticing that sometimes they get larger and sometimes they get smaller. Sometimes closer together. Sometimes farther apart. Yet still spiraling out from the first white dot.
I want to work all night. But I have to take my turn to work at the Cedar Keyhole Artists Co-op Gallery next day, which is Saturday. I must have the painting finished by Sunday and at the gallery no later than 4:00 p.m.
Saturday morning I pack up the canvas, my black and white acrylic paints and my brushes. Maybe I’ll have time to work on it in the co-op gallery if it’s not too busy.
It’s an hour’s drive to Cedar Key. I arrived an hour before opening time, got the cash drawer set up and did my opening duties. I brought the painting in but didn’t get a chance to work on it all day, but at least I could look at it.
The co-op closes at 5:00 but typically business slows around 4:00. I started making preparations to close so I could leave as soon after 5:00 as possible. On this day there was one person in the gallery, browsing the art work. She went upstairs to check out the upstairs gallery. Suddenly I felt really sick. I had cold sweats, my heart was pounding, my face was tingling and I felt like I was going to pass out. When the woman came downstairs I asked her if she would stay with me for a few minutes. She took one good look at me and called 9-1-1.
The local ambulance arrived within minutes and parked in front of the gallery with lights flashing. Blood pressure checked out ok, heart rate ok, but they wanted to take me to Gainesville to the hospital for further examination. “What about my car? I live in Gainesville! How will I get my car? and my painting!” I protested as they loaded me onto the gurney and the woman called one of the local members of the co-op to close the gallery for me. In the ambulance they hooked me up to monitors and I could see the gallery (where my unfinished painting leaned against the wall behind the desk) and my car, fading into the distance as we began the hour-long drive back to Gainesville.
Half way there, I burped and felt better. “Can you take me back to my car and my painting? I’m fine now!” The EMT shook his head and said “That’s not happening. You can refuse admission when you get to the ER, but we can’t take you back.”
For the next 8 hours I sat in the ER waiting room while more urgent cases were treated. I felt fine, but I couldn’t leave because I had no car. And if I did find a way home, my car and my painting were still in Cedar Key. So I stayed. And I waited. My phone got no reception inside, but I finally learned I could use the land line in the waiting room to call my daughters and one of the co-op members to let them know where I was. And I waited. With nothing to do except think about how I could be using this time to finish that painting. .
Around 6:00 a.m. they had a room for me in the ER where the doctor confirmed that all my vitals were normal, but he wanted me to have an MRI, an EKG and maybe some other tests I don’t remember, all of which I had to wait for, and all of which were normal. They could find nothing wrong with me and discharged me after setting up a follow-up with my primary care physician.
I called my friend Mike, who picked me up at the hospital, made me some breakfast (I hadn’t eaten since lunch on Saturday) and he drove me to Cedar Key to get my car and my painting!
On the drive back to Gainesville, with my unfinished painting in the back, I wondered how I could possibly complete it and get it to the gallery on time. . I kept thinking about those black and white stripes, like a zebra, and about 18 inches at the bottom of the painting that had no dots. That’s when the word “Zebraic” popped into my head. I wondered if it was a real word.
It was almost 1;00 p.m. when I pulled into my driveway, grabbed the canvas and my paints and brushes and rushed inside. I optimistically attached a hanging wire to the back of the canvas. But there was one more thing I had to do before I could complete the rest of the dots.
I googled the word “Zebraic.”
ze·bra·ic | \ zə̇ˈbrāik, zeˈ-, -āēk\
Having authenticated the title, (How could I have doubted? The paintings always tell me the best name for them) I could now finish the painting. At 3:30 I signed it and ran to my car with the painting and rushed to the gallery, arriving at 3:55 p.m! Some of the larger dots were still a little wet, so I asked them to handle it carefully as they hung it with the other entries.
The dots are thick paint, by the way, adding dimension and texture to the painting and I invite touching.
PS. It turns out that my trip to the ER was a result of side effects from taking Omeprazole prescribed for acid reflux. I found out by asking the pharmacist. Healthier eating habits have enabled me to stop the acid reflux and prevent further episodes like this one!