While getting ready for my “demo” at a retirement center on Bainbridge, I thought about a handout – I liked the idea of ending it the way the artist Don Nice did once for a workshop. At the bottom of his requirements he wrote: “courage.”
I’d made palettes out of yogurt lids and labeled the squeezed out colors around the edge: Rose Madder, Ultramarine Blue, Thalo Yellow, Green, Red, and Violet. I took cut squares of good hot press watercolor paper, a handful of older small brushes, and a mix of pencils and pens. Before we began I set jars filled with water on white paper towels.
Any “excellent prep” about me proved unnecessary. I’d printed out some of the blog and gathered old things – by way of explaining why I paint, but have no recent big paintings. That didn’t matter.
These folks were interested in doing. I tried to hold the board upright and draw a yellow sunflower, while chattering nervously and keeping my eye on the crowd’s restlessness (10 swelling to 14 or so as the time went on). My drawing had no life, Cadmium Yellow dripped. I gave up and said, “Let’s paint!” One woman had already begun with the stir stick from her coffee, making enchanting gentle marks. The individuality of all the pictures amazed me.
Cherries seemed possible subjects to me, but I also brought flowers in vases. More for cheerful prop than actual subject – I thought. One woman said right away: “I don’t like cherries, I’ll do the flower.” (In the end she made a tiny expressive still life with cherries added to either side of her flower’s vase).
We talked about primaries and secondaries, and I allowed as how you can’t really make green with blue and yellow in watercolor. A painter corrected me: “Well I just did!” I don’t know if they learned anything but I did.
As I left (many “thank yous,” “that was funs,” and one woman said maybe she could do this instead of on-line solitaire), it struck me that after our teen years, we often can’t see past the disadvantages to the possibilities of a time with less independence.
Driving home, listening to the radio, I heard Rosanne Cash say with a chuckle that she was a better person (more expressive I think she meant) in writing than in person – that she didn’t understand things until she wrote about them.
She’s so right. And the next morning it dawned on me (writing) that considering a more restricted life made the drive home literally full of the freedom of the road. Normal irritating things – hot afternoon traffic full of worker bees off the ferry, the drone of NPR crisis news, intense west sun only partly blocked by visor and sunglasses – might be what I will miss and remember at some point (like the way I think back on my children’s childhood, while in truth I was often frustrated and impatient).
Impatience. I wonder just now if impatience is a signal – that’s worth thinking about. As is Nice’s essential ingredient: courage.