I am a writer who often can’t write. So instead of not-writing, I am painting. I’m no painter, but I make paintings anyway. I use glass and oil based house paint, which is toxic, and which you can’t buy just anywhere anymore. It’s being phased out in favor of latex, which doesn’t stick to glass, and acrylic, which I haven’t tried. Stacked on my garage windowsill are seventeen quarts of the stuff in various primary colors, in case the whole world stops selling it.
I love the oiliness, I love how it spreads on the surface of the glass, how tipped at an angle it rolls and drips, and merges. I love how one color overtakes another on the downward slide. I use about a tablespoon of orange to make a sun, and I have four quarts of this color, and I figure it will last me till I die. Anyway I can’t put the sky on until the sun sets, and this orange, this molten fire, takes forever.
The sky doesn’t come in this color. I had it mixed. It appears through thick glass (plate glass) as a wonderful lavender gray. When the edges of the sun are firm, I can begin. I like a cloud or two, just wisps of things, and this is the only time I actually paint, plan, using my fingers to make a drop of white a see-through smear. Anyway, the tangerine ball of a sun just blows your mind set in this color.
With painting there’s no doubt when it doesn’t work. You don’t hold it this way and that, hoping it will get better. Luckily, when you paint on glass, you can razor it off. Halfway through scraping off a bunch of apple trees, I turned it over, and there was the painting–a ghostly stand of birch. All I had to do was to enhance the accident. I love this painting now, with two red apples still glowing in the lower right hand corner.
One difference between painting and writing is that when I’m done with a painting and I love it, I don’t care what anyone else thinks. If someone comes into my studio and says only, “My, you’ve been busy,” I don’t take it out on my paintings.
I’ve been trying to make an ocean. For some reason it never works. So I make another forest which also doesn’t work, but I don’t give up on forests, so I scrape and add various blues and greens to make more trees, but it’s still not to my liking. Some days are like this. I do a little half hearted scraping, turn it over, and presto, there is the ocean, beautiful, many colors blue, deep water, no sky. I love the way this crazy shit works. When you’ve given up, when you least expect it there it is.
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