Last night I lay by the fireplace in my parents’ living room. I tossed a log on the cedar coals and turned toward some images of favourite paintings cycling through a digital picture frame on the hearth. J.E.H. Macdonald’s Fall Evening, 1930; Paul Serusier’s The Talisman, 1888; Tom Thomson’s The Zeppelins, 1915; Whistler’s Crepuscule in Opal Trouville, 1865; and Emily Carr’s Dark Forest, 1935 — heart stops collected over a lifetime, now serendipitously stored on a thumb drive plugged into last year’s stocking stuffer. With each painting I remembered why I’d fallen in love — each work an amorous dream in colour, each stroke laying bare the grit required to communicate the contents of a human heart. When shared with the world, these paintings find life nudging others in the direction of their own insides. That’s what art does.
I once visited a friend who’d been working on a graphic novel for most of her twenties. She had a dozen or so chapters — inked and coloured — tacked to a corkboard above her bed in the West Village. There were so many drawings there was no more wall. I asked her if she wanted to show them. She said she did, very much, but felt that she might not be ready — that she needed to get better. Her heroes were great ones, her aspirations for the quality of her own work admirably stratospheric. I balanced a knee on her bedspread and pushed my nose up to the story, working from left to right, in rows. “Maybe there’s a creative imperative to share, a nudge for momentum, a middle finger to fear, to throw the proverbial spaghetti at the wall and see if it sticks? What about just getting it out there?”
A few months later my friend was standing in a nearby gallery space, her drawings framed and hung and in her arms, published copies of the first installment of her story. An intimate crowd of witnesses toasted her output. “How do you feel?” I asked. “Good,” she said, “I’ve got the next dozen chapters written and pencilled in, waiting for me at home.”
PS: “Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in.” (Leonard Cohen)
“My motto for 2014 was ‘The bravery of enthusiasm’ — I don’t know what my motto is yet for 2015. Some I’m toying with: ‘Let Go’, ‘You’re Ready: Let’s Do This’, ‘Practice Is Over.’ Got any 2015 mottos, dear friends?” (Tracy Dawson, Sony Pictures Television writer)
Esoterica: With the New Year we’re imagining the possibilities for the Painter’s Keys website. We’ve put together nine questions that, if you’re willing to answer them, will help us fine-tune our direction. Your answers can be anonymous, and your feedback will be of tremendous value. Thank-you sincerely for your continued friendship and all that you bring to these letters. You can take the Painter’s Keys survey here.
Featured Workshop: Tony Belobrajdic
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.