“Sheer Delight” 11×14, acrylic on canvas

I was working on my first ever painting assignment in college and as the professor made the rounds in the studio, she stopped at my easel and commented that she could tell I had been painting for quite some time. I was overly quick to tell her it was my first one minus the finger variety we did as kids. “Hmm,” was all she replied, unphased. 

I’ve written about that blessed overconfidence before– when you know so very little that the smallest bit of praise can have you ready to submit your work to the Museum of The Greatest Painters Known. 

The same professor said later that it would take at least a decade to be any good at painting. It turns out that her “I can tell you’ve been painting a while” didn’t mean anything other than I looked pretty comfortable holding that brush. I think she was responding to my lack of reservation. No one had ever really told me what to do or not to do with paint. My great aunt had shown me drawing. This painting thing was entirely new, and I embraced that newness like a toddler trying her first birthday cake–  stained hands, clothes, hair, and all.

But then I knew more, and the strokes became a little more polished but also more self-conscious. I started thinking more about whether what transpired was any good instead of just riding that wave of, to borrow from Mary Oliver, sheer delight and gratitude. 

I’ve not painted with acrylics in quite some time, but it’s what I used on that very first painting (a study of a Van Gogh where we had to divide the image into three different color schemes). 

I bought some acrylic paints recently, just to see, just to remember. Today’s painting is what happened. It has a companion piece that I painted at the same time that didn’t turn out. You win some, you lose some. But this one has the spirit of something in it that I like. So after having stared at it for quite some time, I added the words to Mary Oliver’s “Invitation,” and called it a day. I don’t know that I’ll go back to acrylic painting any time soon. But there was delight there. And there was gratitude.