Most earth pigments tend to be opaque, literally like “looking into dirt” because that’s what they are, dirt. They can be thinned so they seem transparent — watercolors make use of earth pigments but in particles so fine and watered down so well, that paper or other layers of colors show through. Mineral pigments and some modern chemical pigments are often transparent by their nature. Some pigments made from stones — Ultramarine blue was made from Lapis Lazuli — retain a magical reflective ability even when they’re ground to powder.

I stopped painting sometime last year. I’ve tried to figure out why, and finally came to understand it. Basically, it’s other people.

I can’t remember not drawing or not painting. I have done both those things since I was a little kid. But, as I got older, and more interested in it, my mother became vehement about not wanting me to be an artist. “I just want you to be happy,” she said. “Artists are not happy people.”

Now I know that people are either happy or they are not. Just because one is an artist, doesn’t mean they’re on the verge of schizophrenia or suicide. There have always been more happy artists than unhappy artists, but because of our twisted mentalities, we humans build cults around romantic misery — van Gogh, Jim Morrison, etc. Plenty of artists — most artists — just do their work, earn the wage, and live their lives as respected members of the community. Before cameras, being an artist was a respected trade. Humans have always wanted — and created — images of their world.

When I moved to Monte Vista right after retiring, I immediately joined the local artist group and became a member of the fledgling art co-op. I’ve written about both experiences in other places and have moved on, but the painting thing? I’ve done one painting since I left these organizations. It was a pretty good painting, acrylic, the person who owns it loves it, but…

The Princess and the Hens

The Princess and the Hens

To be an artist, you need a thick skin. I don’t have one. I have several artist friends with whom I have a mutually constructive relationship, but being in an organization in a small town with local artists? What a nightmare that turned out to be. I know art has always been competitive — look at Michelangelo and Leonardo, competing against each other and several other very fine artists — but in a milieu like this one where no one’s life depends on it, and no one’s work is really that good, it seems stupid.

I’m hoping to return to the place where my work is personal to me, and the sounds of these strident voices (“I hate realistic art!” “Why would anyone paint landscapes!”) have faded far enough into the distance that I will want to paint again. Why? Well, as you can see, I have a lot of paint…

24 thoughts on “Paint

  1. Mr. Swiss is a painter. He had lesson from a painter in his younger years and he can paint, like real people and faces. He can sit with a pad and do a wonder pencil drawing of a plant and then finds it is not so good. It is a talent that some people have, like you and Mr. Swiss and others definitely do not have, although they would like to, like me. Have you ever painted in oils? Mr. Swisscan, but then he really has to go outside, or he should have an atelier.

    • Most of my paintings have been in oils. There are great solvents now that are odor free and not toxic. But I hope soon to have a place outside to work because it’s just easier to leave your stuff out. As it is, I have to put everything away when I’m finished because my “studio” is inside the house… Oils are easy to paint with. Watercolors require a lot more skill.

  2. I had to chuckle at “I hate realistic art!” I mean, within the realm of realistic art there is so very much movement! I’m not much of a joiner, preferring to avoid the quibbling and competitiveness that often accompanies.

    I must add that I drooled a bit when I saw your tin of pencils. 😉

    • I didn’t know whether I was a joiner or not, never having had the opportunity before as I was too busy teaching the whole world how to write the five paragraph essay and successful business letters, but I quickly learned that it’s not for me. It was as bad as a job without any money!!! 🙂

      The pencils… Yeah, they are a treasure and I have a larger set I’ve never used. I guess some of my art supplies are sacred icons or, having been, a time or two in my life, too poor to buy stuff, I am saving them against a rainy day. They are actually a good investment because some colors you use a lot and you replace them for $2 or so for an individual pencil and still have a set.

  3. Reading this has reminded me how much I want to start painting, but I honestly have no idea where to start. I have no idea what I’d even paint… maybe I am thinking to much into it?!

    • Yeah, my problem is that I have had to “think” about it and it stole the joy, so you might be thinking too much?

      If you’ve never painted before, I recommend a class but don’t take the teacher too seriously. Just learn the mechanics of paint. It’s a real timesaver on the learning curve to have a teacher.

      There are a lot of tutorials on Youtube for that, too. The more you know about mixing colors an all that stuff the more fun you’ll have.

      Then, although I’m not doing it now, just have fun. It doesn’t matter to anyone at all in the world anywhere what you paint. It’s only important to you. It’s your world and your imagination and it should be, feel like, freedom. 🙂

      • Yes Martha!

        I think I may have to do that, we have a great art gallery in my town and there is usually some sort of event happening. I would be surprised if they didn’t offer an art class!

        Certainly is something to ponder 🙂

  4. painting and drawing and making it say something – I wish I could do that, but I can’t. I write, and my words are used to make pictures in a person’s head (I hope), but I, too, must put on my thick skin when I put my words out into the world. Why do I put them out there? Because I cannot give myself the title of writer/author if I keep them only to myself. Half the business of being creative is the sharing of the work with others.
    And the way I deal with the people who make personal comments rather than critique the work? There’s an adage: Opinions are like a-holes, everyone’s got one, and mostly what comes out is …
    So, hear the words they say, ignore the ones you know aren’t focussing on the craft discussion, and take account of the ones who may not know how to say what they ‘feel’ but are genuine in essence, because it may lead you to a way to make more power with your paintings, drawings, pictures.
    We only improve by taking on board that we can’t be perfect the first time, or the fiftieth time, and sometimes, not even the thousandth time – we keep learning so we can impart ‘it’ to the viewer/reader.

    • I’m also an author and all too familiar with the whole submit etc. if you’re curious 🙂

      I never cared before and I think what happened was a combination of being 1) in a new life, 2) a new place and so needing to find my self in those two new realities. I was vulnerable. It wasn’t just my work out there; I felt that I was out there. I’ve always managed to separate the two, but with all the major life changes, I didn’t, maybe couldn’t, I don’t know.

      It all also coincided with some pretty strange writer experiences, like having the publisher who was publishing my 3rd novel go out of business… All pretty much around the same time.

      I think there just might be a limit to how much a person can “hang out there” at a time. I was trying to find friends, trying to make a new place a home, trying to sell a book. Probably I had my skin turned at least partly insideout.

      And, I was far from failing as a painter — I sold paintings last year. I just think I needed to slow down and think about where and how I wanted my work to be “out there.” I don’t know the answer to that. Thank you for your perceptive message!!!!

  5. I’ve seen your pictures and I love the colours and life in them, and that’s something that comes from within. Maybe it is time to ‘reassess’ the spaces of outer-occupation and slip in one more – time for navel-gazing. Speaking as a person who has been in the situation of ‘starting from scratch’ (post bushfire, post other stuff, grief, posted for work, etc.) so many times, I can empathise with the shock to the system, because that’s what it is when you come into a new tribe (move house), lose an income (the publisher), front up to the potential cliques of ‘newness’ – it never gets less stressful, so the only thing I can offer is to take one thing at a time, and occasionally sit back in the chair and let it all slide off and away for a period of time.
    Time for a cuppa? Bikky?

  6. Hiya Martha,
    I have returned. I was known as Drew Delaney. Can’t get back into my site though, so I have to relearn the system. My real name is Beatrice. My page was Menimese Creare.
    Enjoyed reading your post on painting. You are a great writer.
    Do you remember me?

  7. Yeah, some people say such dumb stuff about art…the joy is in the DOING of it, not what other people have to say about it…don’t you think?! Hope you can get back into it one of these days, Martha 🙂

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