After summer classes end I find myself surrounded by hours of free time, but stuck at home and in town for appointments.
I can’t remember the exact moment I decided to start painting again, but it was probably a full week after classes ended, before I finished every single good series on Netflix, HBO, Showtime and FYI. I felt like I’d read every good book and suddenly nothing I usually do sounded interesting, so I went to the craft store and bought everything I needed to finish two paintings that I started ten years ago but had since banished to the back of my closet.
And then I painted. And painted.
I painted quirky pink flowers and heavy blue flowers that soon became grapes and then I painted over the whole thing and started again. I painted swirly skies and dancing seas. I painted avocados split open lying in bed and then I painted peaches and roses and baskets of fruit drenched in the sun.
Even when I’m not painting I’m thinking of strokes of colors, of whether to outline something like this or shade it with swirls, I think of sunflowers and sunsets and how bright yellows and deepest purples tangle together across the sky.
I am happy.
I am way more than happy, I’m inspired.
My painting of a bowl of flowers just keeps going wrong turns into a new project: I took pictures of my flower painting, made copies, cut it up and glued it down differently. That was fun for two minutes until I remembered there was tons of pretty paper at the craft shop that would look better than anything I could print off at home.
I spent the better part of the next week cutting tiny flowers and gold borders and black swirls out of wrapping paper and tissue paper and napkins and gluing tiny pieces into mosaics across my old paintings. The process keeps my hands and thoughts occupied and the results make my eyes dance.
I am happier and even more inspired.
My mosaics get larger, and I spend the better part of a day cutting and trimming and piecing together architectural images and historic travel ads from and about Havana so that columns line up and sunshine burns down and trays of fruit cascade just the right way so the eye bounces up and over I love it more than anything I’ve ever made.
After that I pull out every book I can find that has huge pictures and come across some amazing art in cookbooks. I tear apart recipe books to harvest paintings of oak trees and wine bottles and Picasso-esque bowls of fruit, then spent hours piecing it like this (colors are wrong) and like this (no, no, no) and then I left it alone and cleaned the house.
I added small new small paintings between books on the newly-purged bookcases and put my best two 24x24 paintings (a bright pear on a purple and orange background; a vase filled with unrealistically heavy flowers) on top of the bookcases.
Yes. Yes. Lovely.
I hung my Havana collage and the cookbook mosaic and for a few days I basked in being surrounded by things that brought me joy.
I bought fat heavy art books at Goodwill and thought big thoughts about doing this and that and then maybe something else.
These ideas hooked my creativity so much that I started to make plans and sketches on a really big bold smart piece.
And then yesterday I felt an invisible tap on the shoulder reminding me I had actually done nothing important, nothing of use for weeks, and shouldn’t I be (writing syllabi, writing books, calling this, taking care of that)?
I took my precious treasured inspirational new art books and lined them up in a newly-empty cupboard, freshly purged of exams from 2011 and 2012, then I washed my brushes and closed my paints and put them in the same cupboard. Part of me wanted to just throw it all away but I decided to wait on that for a bit.
Today I took all my paintings and collages down so that the walls are empty again. I put my smaller canvases in cabinet facing down, and the larger pieces are in my closet facing backwards so I won’t have to look at them.
It’s easier that way.