Tag Archives: self-reflection

My life through painting or cleaning the project room

When I was a freshman in high school, I went to a private school.  A lot went to hell after that year and I ended up transferring to a public school as a junior, but before then, it was a pretty ideal place for me to be.  The classes were small, the teachers had time to get to know you, it was a community more than a school. You grew up with your classmates. I had been with my group since I was in the 5th grade.  Some of my classmates had known each other for even longer.  To this day, I have pangs of regret over leaving, even though there was no other way.

I never considered myself an artist, my childhood drawings were all pretty much of the Stick Figure Girl Walking a Dog or Riding a Horse variety.  Art class was hanging out with my girlfriends and chattering while we made something with our hands — it was peaceful.  I realize that later it would morph into hanging out with my girlfriends and cooking.  But I really enjoyed art.  A nice respite from class, but not necessarily where my talents lay.

So one day, the incredible woman who ran the art program gave us a project. She assigned each of us a square from Picasso’s Guernica to paint.  When we were all finished, she put the pieces together into this very cool patchwork painting.  I know a photo of it exists somewhere, but I couldn’t find it.  I painted the foot in the bottom right hand corner.  It was my first time using oil paint and I fell in love.  It also freed me up from thinking that I didn’t have to be the best or even very good to enjoy something — a novel idea for a 15-year-old.

I love how sneery Scarlett is in this

A visiting artist then came to the school and he assigned us a project where we would do a pencil drawing of an image and then later an oil painting of the same image.  I was in my second year or so of obsessing over Gone with the Wind (over a decade now, baby!) so obviously I chose the movie poster.  

Then I built a frame, stretched and jessoed my own canvas, and painted it.

I’ve been circling my love affair with oil painting ever since. I’ve never taken any official classes or anything, it’s been something that I just like to dabble in every once and awhile.  Something peaceful to do with my hands.

Those flames must be REALLY hot, cus Rhett has a serious tan.

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The art of being still

So here’s the thing about being ripped from your cozy berth, your burgeoning career, and pretty much everyone you know.

My life is really not as dramatic as all that, but I am.

When my favored husband told me that he had been offered a job at a Very Important Company and that accepting would mean moving to the Great Northwest, I had one of the most conflicting reactions of my life.  Pride and joy for his accomplishment.  Fear at telling my boss.  Dread at telling my friends.  Happiness that I would once again be living near B and K.  Liberation.  Then guilt.

I had no idea he was even in the running for a position at the VIC (also known as the Bowling Pin Factory), and he had decided to wait until he was in his third round of interviews before casually bringing it up one evening while I was oozing toothpaste froth from my mouth and picking lint from my toes.  I believe a spit take was involved.   In my adult life, I have never had to make a drastic change that had nothing to do with me.  I didn’t have a lot of time to consider it.  Two days later, he was offered the job.  We hadn’t been married a year yet and we were making a Big Family Decision.  Apparently they pay you good money to paint those red stripes on bowling pins, and if M Fox was reeeaaally good at painting those lines nice and smooth, then maybe he could run his own factory one day.  So it was decided, for the good of our Family, for the good of M’s career, we would drop everything we had built and head north.  In the agonizing days that followed, telling everyone who needed to be told, the big question for me was: What are you going to do?

I came up with something pithy and watery to say.  But the truth was that I didn’t know, I don’t know.  I have always been a creative person, I never expected to be sucked into a 9 to 5 office job.  But I had.  I would come home drained and satisfied, but there was always something missing.  After a bottle of wine and some chicken, I usually forgot about it.  And now was my chance to start over.  Life doesn’t usually give you chances like that.

The trouble is I have a hard time accepting my own privilege and allowing myself to be still.  To not be useful.  To just be.  I’m really bad at it.  Since moving here two months ago, I have unpacked the house (this is only one item, but if you’ve never single-handedly unpacked a house before. . . let me tell you, it’s hell); planted an herb garden; made 4 loaves of bread from scratch, two cinnamon raisin, one plain, one rosemary; printed photos; hung frames; decorated the deck; trained curtains; found, scheduled, and canceled a dermatologist (I’ll kill you, M Fox); found grocery stores, a mailbox, a hardware store, a small beach near my house, a Japanese tea garden, the cheap gas station, and a place to take banjo lessons; auditioned for a theatre company, which included finding a sheet music store and memorizing a monologue; started writing about local theatre; learned which buses take you downtown, cross town and uptown; been on five airplanes for a family reunion, a trip to Disneyland, and three final gigs with my band; built two end tables; and drove 30 miles to buy a used armchair for $80, stuff it in my Civic (somehow), drive back home, drag it up the stairs, and into the house.

And I have barely written a word.

I did the audition, admittedly.  That was creative.  If you call becoming a paranoid lunatic waiting to find out when the callbacks are creative.  The different reasons why I think they never want me on a stage again are pretty creative, I suppose.  But it is hard to be still.  It’s hard to give yourself permission to not do anything.  After chasing media and wrangling clients for three years (that doesn’t seem that long, but publicist years are like dog years; each one counts for seven), I’m strung out.  If my hands aren’t busy, then I feel useless.  At least when I was setting up our home, I was doing something.  Now I’m stoked when I have something to mail.

I have to fight the compulsion to fill my days with things.  I have to remember that this is an opportunity.  Write what you wanted to write.  Sing what you wanted to sing.  Paint what you wanted to paint before you had to be a grown up and quit LA and leave your dreams behind.  The dialogue doesn’t come to me when my mind is busy.  I just have to remember to keep it down in there.