Following the Headlights

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First Blush
Acrylic, 16 x 20 on canvas

In the gardening world, there’s a phenomenon known as “second flush.”  This has nothing to do with anything that happens in the bathroom, but involves a second round of blooms on flowers, shrubs and trees.

I thought of this today as I considered the paintings that surround me and are encroaching farther and farther into the limited space of my little apartment.

I’m not a kid.  I have grandchildren your age.  I have a couple of careers under my belt and a few additional “odd jobs” under there as well.  Painting is perhaps the last dance for this old dame, but painting it is, along with a sprinkle of teaching.

In order to think more fully about beginning an art career this late in life, I went to trusty Google to learn more about late starts.  What I found was not the least bit encouraging because the articles about artists – or anybody else – starting “late” focused on individuals ranging from 28 to 40 years.

I’m so far out of that ballpark, I can’t see home plate.

So I Googled “starting after 70.”  My search yielded nothing but information about Social Security and when to start drawing on my IRA (if I had one) and topics more medically inclined.

I’m reminded of Tom Lehrer’s great line from one of his comedy albums:  “It is a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age, he’d been dead for two years.”  I can only imagine how many great artists were long dead by the time they were my age.

From my view, it’s never too late to start painting or anything else you’re passionate about.  I don’t subscribe to the “do what you love and the money will follow” line of thinking, although money is a terrific fringe benefit.  It’s the “follow your bliss” line that appeals to me more.

The painters before me followed their bliss.  Theirs is not my bliss.  But I’m grateful they led the way.  I don’t expect to see my work in big, expensive books of art or museums, but that’s okay.

Painting now is a gift to myself.  Think about the gifts you can give yourself.  We deserve them at any age.

Writer E.L. Doctorow once wrote:  “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night: you can never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

I know about writing novels.  Now, I’m following the headlights with my painting.

 

 

The Right Color and the Almost Right Color

Mark Twain once wrote that the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

This week I had an artist’s equivalent dilemma.

Working on a new painting, I had come to a place where much of it was pleasing to me, but for one remaining large section I knew just the color I wanted.  You’d laugh to see the number of tubes of paint I have in every color of the rainbow.  And I laughed at myself, too.

How, out of all those tubes of paint, could I not have – or mix – the color I wanted?

But paint colors, like words, are specific.  The chemistry of paint is a fascinating subject and variations among different manufacturers are equally fascinating.

I often experiment with the paintings and try out combinations that work or don’t, that please me or don’t and then get busy layering on something different until I’m satisfied and stop.

In this case, however, there was no experimenting to be done.  In my mind’s eye, I knew exactly the color I wanted and why – how it would balance the rest of the work and why I could not just mix up a batch of the “almost right color.”

The particular color I had in mind is Golden’s Azurite Hue, which has some magical quality that a paint chemist could explain.  I’m not that paint chemist.   I use this color often, sometimes full-strength, but in this case I wanted it as a glaze over underpainting that I didn’t want to cover.  And the tube had run dry.

So, I put aside all ideas of mixing and took myself to my favorite art supply store, Artist’s and Craftsman in San Diego, to pick up a new tube of Azurite Hue.

The almost right word is never as satisfying – or as accurate – as the right word.  And neither is the almost right paint color.

Here’s the finished, so far untitled, piece with two coats of Azurite Hue glaze on the left.  Once in a while the mind’s eye and reality match up rather nicely.

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