I spent part of yesterday afternoon painting colorful little circles on a small canvas. The endeavor was part of an art lesson in which the leader was explaining the relationships between primary colors, secondary colors, and tertiary colors. While it was informative, and no doubt necessary if one is to better understand how to pain, it was not what I expected. I expected to attend these sessions and be given instruction on painting techniques, things like: how to hold the brush, how to paint shapes that look three-dimensional, how to look at a scene one wants to paint and determine values of light and dark. I guess that last one could be named “how to see.” But, so far, I’ve only latched on to only a few of those bits and pieces. To be fair, I missed a session. And one three-hour session per week isn’t much. And I probably should be practicing on my own, between sessions. But I’m busy and lazy and feeling especially inadequate as an artist. The few things I’ve drawn and painted in class look misshapen and poorly constructed, as if the artist (me) either has badly warped visual perception or extremely poor hand-eye coordination or both…coupled with other maladies that will likely impinge on my ability to make art that pleases both my eye and my psyche. The trick, I’m told, is not to compare my art to the art of others. That’s tough, when the “others” are all drawing or painting the same object(s) and when the output of the “others” is so obviously superior to mine.
I’m beginning to think I’d rather try to replicate someone else’s writing than their visual art. Perhaps, for example, I could use Eugene O’Neil’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” as a model for my own play. Different characters, different story, but based on the same emotional structure. I’ve not been much of a playwright heretofore, but I am just as capable of failing at that as I am at painting a masterpiece, so what’s the danger? I could entitle my play “A Miss for the Moonbegotten.” It could be set in a retirement village in a deeply conservative southern state. The characters would be a small band of wanna-be writers, most of them never published and unschooled in their craft, yet convinced of their innate ability to craft poetic language that conveys deeply meaningful messages. The key is to “show” and not “tell” what these characters are like and to weave a story from their interactions with one another, showing the undercurrent of panic as they age, risking the possibility of leaving no intellectual nor emotional legacy. With that cheery thought, I’ll go warm up my first cup of coffee, now as cold as the ice in my veins.