creativity · fantasy · love · painting · reality · relationships

“If I were a painter…” ~ Norah Jones

The earliest I can remember is drawing with sidewalk chalk
on the dresser in my childhood bedroom. I was probably 14 or 15, beginning
to assert a level of artistry and self-expression, and I decided to draw a
chalk moon on one of the hutch doors above the dresser, and a sun on the other.
Senior year of college, much to my housemates’ chagrin, I
began drawing on the walls. In my rented room, there was a walled up doorframe,
which we’d left white when me, The Cousin, my best friend and her guy, A.,
painted two walls lavender and the opposite two a mint
green.
This white moulding begged to become a frame, and when I
was envisioning getting my first tattoo, I thought it reasonable to draw the
image on my wall, so that I could live with it for a few months on my wall
before permanently living with it on my body.
It was a sun again. Four feet of elaborate, vaporous rays that twisted,
and in the center of the sun, I drew the infinity symbol, but shaded it to be
three-dimensional, like a Mobius strip, looping infinitely. Eventually, I
decided that the black & white kohl drawing was not enough, and spent a
good deal of inebriated time coloring in the drawing with various nail
polishes.
Unfortunately, the place I decided to get this tattooed was
the inside of my left wrist, which is not a large canvas, and thus it lives, much
simplified, on my skin. I was otherwise engaged at the time of “move-out” from
that house, and so my father and brother had to clear out my room, and paint it
all back to white, and over this artwork. My father asked incredulously what I
must have drawn it with, since it took three coats to cover.
Living, later, in South Korea, in a rented studio apartment,
I got the itch again. In those studios (which we would call junior studios),
the refrigerator lives in the same room as your very small dining table and
your bed, and so from the vantage point of my bed, I stared at this beige-ing
plastic door, and decided it needed embellishment.
I used my acrylic paints to create huge designs, one in
color on the top freezer half, one in black on the bottom. It was just abstract
design, but it was playful, and certainly more interesting.
Eventually, my lover the painter came over one night, and
together, naked, we painted the stainless steel panel that housed the water
heater in my bathroom, which we could also see from the bed. Naked, inebriated,
painted.
To complete the effect of living in a colored, effusive,
manic wonderland, I painted the cabinets over my sink and small range stove.
Purple and green again, like in college.
I’m sure to their dismay, shock, and irritation, my landlord
discovered all this “improvement” to their apartment after I’d left the country
when my contract ended.
And finally, when I was living in San Francisco in Cole
Valley, the enormous expanse of my white kitchen cabinets called to my paint
brush again, and I embellished them with a few outsized spheres and swirls, using the same colors that adorned that refrigerator in Seoul.
When A., my college room painter, was passing through San Francisco and came to visit, he noted upon seeing the cabinets, “Now, this looks
like you.”
And yes, I owed a penny or two from my security deposit when
I left that apartment, having every intention of painting the cabinets back to
white, but just never getting around to it.
This morning, as I heated up my coffee and glanced around my
kitchen, my vase of paint brushes caught my eye. Specifically a set that I keep in its original plastic case: these are good
brushes, those. They were a gift from my Korean-years’ roommates during my
first contract year there. I wondered to myself this morning when I’d last used
them. Remarked that it’s been too long, much too long. Each of them, like pens,
or a piano, or a piece you want to choreograph to, is potential. Each of them
vibrates with the eventuality of what you can do with them, create with them,
manipulate from them into being. They are possibility incarnate.
There was a time when I was still in conversation with The
Cousin (not my cousin, fyi) when I remarked
to him that it would be so easy for me to fall into the painting of our life together.
Just fall into the frame, like something out of
Mary Poppins, just tip over the
gilding and onto the lawn with the white picket fence, the blue, cloud-flecked
sky, and the ivy growing up the side of the house we live in together.
How easy it is to imagine that things are and were as easy
as just stepping into an alternate reality, the one we’ve created for ourselves
in our minds and mutual enchantment. A “reality” without mortgage payments or
property tax on that ivy-laced house; without paychecks to support it; without
the stymieing banality of pulling the garbage can to and from that picket fence.
Painting something doesn’t make it true. Imagining doesn’t
make it easy. And desire doesn’t make it destiny.
It’s been a while since I’ve painted on my walls, but
right now, the ones in my mind are devoutly Technicolor. 

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