Rounding the corner. Nearing the end. Drawing to a close. Wrapping it up. Sometimes the last mile is the hardest. Sometimes it is the best.
My husband and I went on a long run yesterday, something we don’t get to do together very often. But, yesterday, thanks to very generous grandparents, we got the chance. We compared heart rates on our watches, talked about what furniture to put on our new porch, laughed at the funny things our kids do. It was nice– a word that doesn’t quite seem to do it justice.
We ended the run a little faster than we’d started. And that’s looking like the case for me during this 31. Day 1, all I wanted was to go slow. Be methodical, adventurous, patient. But here I am 25 days in, and I feel my heart rate increasing, my pace quickening. I feel myself rushing to the finish line, kind of like a little killdeer you can see dashing across a yard or beach. I love the way they run– such haste and without much grace. I love their black stripes, their red eyes.
Bluebirds might just be one of my favorite backyard visitors. Sometimes you get just a flash of that bright blue, sometimes almost purple, of their feathers next to the burnt orange of their chests. That little flash of color from the blues that visit me? Sometimes that’s all it takes to brighten my mood.
Is it even January if I don’t paint a cardinal or two? I can’t believe I’ve even held out this long.
This guy started off with some seriously thick paint. You’d think I’d be great at an image I’ve painted over a hundred times, that it would be effortless by now– Au contraire! Once it dried almost completely I decided to scrape it all off. It wasn’t terrible. It just wasn’t “right”, whatever that means. I don’t even use brushes any more, but I found an old watercolor brush, crusty. I cleaned it off a bit and went back to the canvas with it. Just to see. I brought back some of what I scraped off but did so more gently, slower, with less haste. Eventually I went back to the knife but only in small doses.
“Right” isn’t something I can ever achieve or truly care about, but this version is just a little bit more right than the first. I’m glad I had the courage, and yes, for me it took genuine courage, to scrape off an entire painting and start again.
I had a therapist once who told me– one thing about parenting is that if something doesn’t work, you can just try again tomorrow. You can change strategies and all is not lost. We were talking about sleep training an infant, but it applies to a whole lot more.
All month I’ve been “trying again tomorrow” with my paintings– well, all but the avocado– its other half is still out there somewhere in the cosmos. Today is the take two of yesterday. I like it just a little bit more.
What has surprised me most about parenting is how many mistakes I make. I just assumed that since I’m a generally decent, loving person, I’d just naturally love and rear a child perfectly. HA! Instead, I see how precious and imperfect love is. How being in relationship with another soul is about learning, about mistakes, about joy, and about pain.
I played the song from my last post for Ezra. Despite its lack of “rock and roll,” he loved it. One of the verses gives some advice I want him to heed. But at this moment, I’m the one who really needs it.
Don’t be scared of what you don’t know
And don’t be afraid to lose
Cause there’s a lesson there for
Learnin’, there’s a lesson if you choose
Parents– what has surprised you most about parenting? What has been the greatest lesson?
I was in my studio the other day listening to one of those discover weekly playlists on spotify. The idea is that it curates a playlist of songs you’ve probably not heard but would like based on your listening history. Usually it misses the mark but this time spotify really nailed it.
A song comes on called “Ezra” by an artist I’ve never heard of– Becca VanDerbeck. My eight year old’s name is Ezra so I started listening carefully. It’s a love song. To a child. And it pierced my heart.
I knew for the next painting in my figure series I had to paint this image I’ve been holding onto– it’s a photo my sister snapped on her iphone. It’s blurry. The lighting is bad. I adore it. We were at the beach outside the air b&b where I got married. It was the day before the wedding. Ezra didn’t want to take a picture with me. I’m wrapping him in a hug he is half-heartedly trying to get away from.
I joke that he came into this world like a hurricane– I wasn’t really prepared though I had tried to be. He turned my world upside down. We ended up on our own for a while. And then, last May we became part of a bigger family. He loves his new brothers and step-dad more than words can say. He thinks each one of them hung the moon, though he’d never admit it.
Ezra, without a doubt, was the reason I became an artist. He was the reason I kept going when everything else went dark around me. If I could write a love song to him, this would be it.
Today’s painting is my second round of yesterday’s. I used the same reference, but I was conscious to make the figure bigger on the canvas this time. I added stripes to the foreground and strokes of color to the background.
Painting the human form is so different than painting a bird– the proportions have to be more exact (something I’m still working on), and the color isn’t already there for me. I have to work at it a bit– bring out the purples, yellows, and greens that don’t just radiate from skin like they do from a bird’s feathers. I like when a couple strokes suggests a face without spelling it out. I love when the curve of an ankle forms perfectly with one swipe of paint. Figurative painting is still new to me. I’m not sure yet what I’m after or what I want the finished product to look like. I just know that the only way to figure it out (no pun intended) is to get in there and play around.