Unlike the Walrus and the Carpenter, the Artist and the Carpenter were not wandering along a sandy shore (although they’ve been known to do so) looking for oysters (neither of them eat the things) or talking of cabbages and kings (they have better things to talk about).
No, the Artist and the Carpenter were wandering through one of the bigger-than-big box hardware stores the other day – he in search of plumbing parts for a work project and she in search of art supplies, talking of where to go for dinner.
We rarely read stories about famous artists like Van Gogh or David Hockney or Georgia O’Keeffe wandering through Home Depot or their nearest local hardware shop looking for art supplies, and many who enjoy and even purchase original art are not likely to envision such a scene. Hardware stores are rarely the stuff of poetry or stories about legendary artists. I except Nancy Willard and her exceptional poem, “A Hardware Store as Proof of the Existence of God.” (https://www.kenyonreview.org/kr-online-issue/in-memoriam-3/selections/nancy-willard/)
But artists – no matter what the medium – know, like Willard, that a hardware store can hold many treasures and – more to the point – tools and other supplies we need for our work. It’s more than the paint, baby. More than the paint.
But speaking of paint, I now get some of mine at the hardware store, too. The small sample jars, which can be mixed to any of the dozens of colors available are a nice alternative, or addition, to gesso. I’m a gesso kind of painter, so I usually go ahead and lay down a layer the white stuff before adding paint of any kind. And then I play.
Now there are purists, I know, who think using acrylic (latex) wall paint is a sin worthy of countless Hail Marys, but there are as many artists who think hardware store paint is a gift for us all. As one terrific and very salable artist told me, “I use anything I can find.” And there you go. Creativity has some boundaries, but darned few and easily breached. We’re talking about creativity, right? And Jackson Pollock, right?
Even in the world of art, there are rule-makers and those who insist on only one way. LIke the best jazz musicians, artists do well to learn the rules and then decide which ones matter to them and their work. Three things creative people of any stripe love to hear are “You can’t do that!” and “That’s not going to work!” and “Nobody’s ever tried that before!” Then the fun begins.
Of course, we all like to hear the other words, too: “Wow!” “Amazing!” “Beautiful!” along with, at least now and then, “How much are you asking for that?”
Before long, the Artist and the Carpenter will be sharing space. Who knows what wonders they’ll find in all the tools and paints and “what is this thing anyway?” I’ll keep you posted.
Work hard. Do good. And enjoy it all. It’s your one and only life.