It may take hours, sometimes days. But eventually, it kicks in.
The painting is wet, alive. Perfume of linseed oil and pigment waft up from the palette where mature, complex colors await my bidding. The body warm, the dance underway, I approach the canvas with the precision a samurai.
My left fist holds multiple brushes and mixing knives making me look like Edward Scissorhands or Wolverine. On the right, a number twelve filbert stands at the ready, poised to deliver a horizontal swatch of blue violet. It goes down with complete authority and I back away. Reload. Then a vertical. A diagonal. Mark after mark, color after color, I am in the zone. Thoughts on hold, troubles aside, the work moves forward effortlessly.
But, hold up.
I need to set the record straight. This romantic and heroic version of the painting process, while absolutely true, comes only after a lot of hard work and perseverance. As much as I hate to admit it, my mentor was right about all that practice, practice, practice. It’s the same in any craft: singing, ice skating, baking, juggling, sex; you do it badly at first and work your way forward. Forget about prodigies and the notion of talent. Most of us have to put in the time, pay our dues, play a lot of scales.
So back to the samurai moment. It’s all about the brushstroke. The brush becomes an extension of the body, spanning distance between hand and canvas. The simplest of tools, little more than a wooden stick with bristles tied to one end, it hasn’t been significantly improved since the Egyptians. But oh, what it can deliver. Color, light, luscious, thick, lean, geometric. Soft. Surface. The brushstroke describes form, image, and the artist’s state of mind.
There are many paintings where you can’t see a single brushstroke, and I respect that. In fact, it takes a lot of skill to use a brush and hide all evidence. But for me, I want it out there for all to see. The energy, struggle, emotion. The journey.