25.1.18 The last of the birthday tulips
I used to love to paint. I imagine I still do, it's just that I don't paint anymore. The squeeze of colour from the tube and the mix and daub of it, it makes my heart beat a little faster just thinking about it.
Painting is alchemy with colour. To get to play with colour like that, to play with pure light, it felt like flying. It made me feel like light. And all the names, too: rose madder, cadmium, Prussian blue, viridian and burnt umber. I'd say them aloud as I picked through them; collect tubes of them like jewellery. I liked it thick and tactile, watercolour always making me recoil a little because it felt too distant. Pastels did when paint was too hard or impractical; just something I could get all over my fingers. I liked to paint small things big and bold, full of gentle detail, or try to capture light and shadow in some way. I liked missed things, single objects, nature, people. I poured over work by Georgia O'Keefe, Van Gogh, Monet, hoping it might find its way into me and out again. I was never all that good, my skewed eyesight making my drawing oddly stretched and flat. It didn't matter.
Painting is not an easy hobby to sustain in a very small, shared house. You need space to play like that, time to practice, and good light and energy, and money too, and I didn't have any of those things. I tried for a good long while, but it became a choice between an easel and somewhere to eat; time painting or time earning, and after a while, the more pressing priorities of life elbowed it all the way out. My diminishing energy and growing physical need for adapted spaces and extra support didn't help massively either. Good painting comes from your whole body.
That's ok. Not everything has to be always or forever, and one day maybe I will go back to it and it will be all the sweeter for the break. Time spent dreaming of an accessible studio, the right easel and chair, trays of paints under my fingers, everything white and full of slanting light, and time tracing the shape of things with my eyes, blending the perfect shade in my head and smearing it on the air: that's almost as good as painting for real anyway.
I've realised something lately though - that I'm using a camera to do my old brushes' job. These days, I take photos to make my paintings. I photograph what I would like to paint, and I only need to hold myself and use my body for a moment and there, it is done. It's not the same, but oh it's something, full of all the same light and noticing, full of the same energy and intent.
There are so many ways to do the same thing, aren't there.
I like that.