Rough Drafting

February 6th, 2014

WEB CROP TULIPSDuring a recent visit to an old friend , we lamented how we routinely come up with long-term projects and optimistically ambitious action plans and then quickly lose interest. But banging ideas off the walls is always energizing and inspiring for us even if we forget half of them by the time her husband uncorks the 5 o’clock wine. Her house has always served as an incubator for me — in fact, much of Skirt! took shape in the early days around her dining room table years ago. As a break from making lists of books to read, essays to write and grandiose schemes to launch, we made one of our traditional visits to Utrecht art supply store in D.C., where I could happily spend an entire afternoon and day’s pay. Even though my suitcase was overpacked, I scored a big bag of art materials and came home determined to spend more time making and less time being paralyzed by how untalented I am. Because even when things don’t turn out the way I expect, I’ve usually lost myself in the process of it. It takes me back to the days of white library paste, construction paper and finger paints. One of the biggest guilt trips I take is that even though I take classes twice a month, I don’t seem to paint on my own in between. Maybe it’s the prep work oil painting requires and trying to shove all my supplies off my kitchen table to begin. Maybe it’s just plain old fear, but I had to find some way to short-circuit the dithering and postponing I do. When I returned home from my visit, I bought a vase of tulips that I fully intended to paint, but every time I thought about setting up the palette I just gave up. I felt I would surely fail and would have wasted ¬†expensive paint and flowers. I needed an expert in the form of my teacher to make my experience real. But the tulips weren’t going to last forever, and finally I just grabbed a pad I use for grocery lists off the kitchen counter, quickly made a pencil sketch and then filled it in with watercolor crayons and india ink. Done! Yes, I accidentally spilled water on the paper and smeared paint so I had to cut the sketch out. Then I realized a damp little watercolor was perfect to hang on the twine clothes line where I clip postcards and sketches. Done and done! The thing that elated me was that I had tricked myself into making a little artifact before my ideal of perfection froze my hand. Maybe some day I’ll start an oil painting on my kitchen table and labor on it until I get it right. But until then, no pressure, no big plans, no big deal. ¬†I’m simply going to fool myself into fooling around.

6 Responses to “Rough Drafting”

  1. Oh brother, do I know that feeling! It seems, Dear One, that you are some kind of Cosmic Connector (or perhaps it is a matter of kindred hearts); whatever the case, I saw something on FaceBook a few hours ago that caught my eye immediately. If there were a way to send the pic, I would. Alas, it appears that only words are allowed here. So I’ll paint it instead. Quite simple, really. A black rectangle with white funky (read: jagged) lettering that read: FUCK PERFECT. It didn’t even have the usual exclamation point. A period seemed to be the punctuation that suited best. So, there you have it. Right on time. Fuck Perfect.

    P.S. Brava for doing what you did “anyway”. I think the best art is that which is “accidental”. Ask any great artist. Honest-to-Pete! (whoever Pete is…)

  2. lucinda says:

    I take sharp exception to your claim to be untalented – I am always so truly admiring of your creative expressions, whether through paint, words, or photos.

  3. nikki says:

    Thanks Lucinda, I always wish I were a “real” artist but I’m trying to get over that and just make things.

  4. Veronica says:

    I need to push forward with my art as well and just do it, even if I’m doing it badly. I often feel hemmed in by a dozen obligations and when I get free time, it’s too easy to just sink into a chair and waste it. I want to think less and do more…

  5. nikki says:

    When I think about it, I freeze!

  6. harriet says:

    Brava, Nikki! That happens to me all the time- That IS being an artist! All artists are insecure about their own creations. (or lack thereof) You put into words what I’m thinking and it helps me get off the couch and do something. So, thank you!

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