Following the Headlights


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.



It Tastes Like Ingredients


Yesterday I finally had to admit that “messing around” can sometimes just lead to a mess.

The new painting I so happily worked on last week and over the weekend became, finally, something I did not love. I was happy with the colors and the balance and the design.  But something was wrong that no amount of tweaking seemed to fix.  I’d added some pastel touches and liked the affect until I didn’t.  The more I looked at it, the more I knew I’d gone too far in one direction or another.

I was reminded of a friend’s effort years ago to make his own beer.  When he had a gathering to give us all samples, one of the others said hesitantly, “It’s not bad, but it tastes like – ingredients.”

The painting looked like ingredients.

Like every artist I know, I’m still learning.  This week I learned that messing around can lead to something new and rewarding, but can also just result in a mess.  I also learned that making a mess of a painting when you were hoping for something beautiful is part of the course.  (And, yes, what you learned will be on the final exam.)

In the old days, when writers messed up a piece of writing, they yanked the paper out of the typewriter, crumpled it up and tossed it in the wastebasket or – more  often – on the floor.

I can’t crumple up an 18 x 24 canvas and toss it on the floor, but I can grab the gesso.  Which I did.  Today I’m starting over, lessons learned, with a brave and happy heart eager to try again.

As the I Ching says, “No blame.”



Surprises When All Hell Breaks Loose


copyright 2016 Molly Larson Cook “Deconstructing Frank Lloyd Wright”


I was surprised to see that it’s been three months since I posted here.  Three fascinating months, I should add, with more art than writing.

My apologies for leaving on such short notice, but I’m back…  and I have a few pieces of work to show for my absence.

I’ve been experimenting with a lot of things and it’s a great ride, so far.  One of them, the piece above, came at me out of the blue.  I’m still trying to sort out what happened here and who actually did this painting.  It doesn’t feel like me or look like me but it fascinates me in a way none of my other pieces has even come close to doing.

I like several things I’ve done – trying to be objective and not just “in love” with my own work.  I know what’s working and what’s not, but with this painting, it’s different.  It’s nothing like what I started out to do, and I find myself wanting to ask it questions, discuss important issues with it, argue with it, get its biography in writing.

In an odd way, I find myself pulled to it as if somebody else really did paint it.  But that can’t be.  I was there.

For the record, I was looking at a Frank Lloyd Wright drawing because I liked the colors.  That’s where I started.  And then all hell broke loose.

I don’t call it “Deconstructing Frank Lloyd Wright” for nothing. My apologies to the master.