I’m so used to feeling guilty about something (everything?) that I wasn’t quite sure how to approach a month of play. Since I have fallen in love with collage and art journaling I decided to devote March to art. I had signed up for a couple of online classes over a year ago and finally got around to trying the first lessons. I watched video after video on YouTube. I read art blogs. I was ready to dive in. Except.
Except that I soon discovered artists have to deal with some of the very same things writers have to deal with – such as the blank page.
I had a stash of blank books (much to beautiful to write in or use for art but I had them, that was the main thing, right?) and I pulled one out and stared at the blank pages. I was just as blocked on the art side as I was on the writing side. Back to reading blogs and watching videos and going back through my notes from class. One message came through – if you don’t know what to do, slap some paint on the page. You can come back and do something pretty with it later. So I resolved that every time Cassie rang the bells to go outside (my art desk is across from her patio door) I would sit down and slap some paint, any color I grabbed, onto the page. I’d worry about what I’d do to the pages later. The 10 minutes Cassie spent outside was just enough to get the paint down and then let her back in the door.
I remember my painting teacher telling me that she had painted 40 backgrounds in her art journal before she painted one she actually liked. Just like with writing (or anything) the more we do it, the better we get at it but it had been so long since I had been a beginner at anything. I hadn’t even begun to think about second and third layers of paint. I couldn’t believe how hard it was for me to do something so simple, just cover a page in a single color.
The brush feels awkward in my fingers,
like one of those too fat pencils
we had to use in kindergarten,
and I wish I could call back that child
I used to be to hold my hand.
With spastic jerks, I push paint across the page.
I cannot count the times I drop the brush, landing
blobs of paint on the desk, my jeans, my shirt
and more than once, my chin.
The teacher makes it look so easy,
the way her brush waltzes across the page,
she spins paint into corners, pulls it back to the center,
long strokes, short strokes and then, in no time she is done,
and damn it all, she is still smiling.
Purple. Red. Yellow. Pink. Just paint
Two pages, five, eleven.
Blue. Green. Turquoise. (Hey, I mixed that.)
Don’t think. Don’t count. Just paint.
Over one hundred pages later
I hold my most favorite brush,
gently move paint across the page
and realize, I have finally learned to dance.
Susan Taylor Brown.
All rights reserved.
This is one of the four art journals I prepped during the month of March. All those juicy pages waiting for me add to them.
Kidlitosphere Central has the master list of all the poetic events going on this month.
No Blank Pages
Try sixteen pages. Actually, 14. A front cover, a back cover and 12 pages in between (the insides of the cover are blank).
This was the format that I did that first self-published book of mine.
That worked out well. It’s—in musical comparison—like making a 45 rpm vs. a whole album.
Susan, I love how your capture this story of “playing” to learn something new. The nervous tentativeness, the approximations and dropped brushes and splattered paint, the numerous trials, and finally- a new task mastered. And all the beautiful colors make me want to go out and buy a journal and some paints! I’m looking forward to a month of your poems!
Nice! I like the transition from hesitating and awkward, to relaxed and accomplished.
Beautiful poem, Susan. I look forward to hearing more about your journey. I love the line: I wish I could call back that child/I used to be to hold my hand.
The way you capture the longing to play is haunting. Really nice work.
With everything, we start haltingly, tentative, unsure of ourselves. We try and stumble, become more practiced, and then fluid.
We do this over and over–there’s always something new at which we are beginners.
wow that is so cool! I want to do that!