Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Painting as an act of faith...oh, and zombies

There's a good part and a bad part to this, and they're connected, at least in my mind. My painting here, called "Dappled Night," is part of the good part.

But to get there, you have to start with the bad part. Here it is.

What I remember of my morning started at dusk.
I found myself rushing down a dark alley searching out a hiding place. At last, I located an unlocked door and dashed in, to find I was in a supermarket. Sure, it was a burnt-out, Third-World-looking supermarket with a lot of empty shelves, and there were a bunch of other, raggedly-dressed people in there with the same idea I had.

But compared to getting eaten by zombies in the streets, this was AWESOME! We could just hole up, grab the remaining twinkies and a pint and wait for this whole thing to blow over. How's THAT for a slice of fried gold?

Then I realized the walls and all the shelves were made out of CORRUGATED CARDBOARD, old bend-y cardboard that's been left out in the rain and almost the consistency of porridge.

I don't know what your zombie apocalypse nightmares are like, but mine SUCK.

They usually go like this:

I've FINALLY found a place to hide, but it's ALREADY occupied, usually by some scary little-girl zombie that looks like a cross between the Olsen Twins and Gollum.

So I bar the door. And I look around for something to take off the zombie's head. And, MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, there's a GIANT BATTLE AXE. With a really long handle. I grab it and feel the comforting heft of it in my hand. It's SO much better than I had expected.

Maybe there is a kind, loving God after all!

I feel hope and joy and regain my faith that life is full of promise!


Of course, during the split-second that all of this takes, Mary-Kate/Ashley/Gollum/Smeagol easily shoves aside the giant bureau that I used to bar the door and pounds into the room. I notice, as I shift the battle axe from hand to hand, getting ready to swing, that she's also five feet taller and three hundred pounds heavier than she was when I last saw her.

Then I realize that my battle axe has turned into a Twizzler.

Yes, you read that right. A TWIZZLER. Or a Red Vine. Really, does it matter which? Can you get any LESS threatening than a Twizzler? You can't even poke someone's EYE out with it. Plus, although they are very tasty and chewy and red, Twizzlers are likely to be less appetizing for zombies than my intestines. As I'm about to find out.

So that's usually where I wake up.

This is NOT a happy start to the day. How can I trust ANYTHING? My battle axe turned into a FREAKING TWIZZLER on me!

But there was a point to this (besides the rather obvious conclusion that you should NOT eat an entire box of Twizzlers all by yourself late at night while watching "The Walking Dead"). And it has to do with the artistic process.

At some point in the past, I lost my faith in my ability to create artistic beauty. When I started a painting or a sculpture or a written piece, I would be fine for awhile, all caught up in the initial excitement of making it. Then, somewhere in the middle of the process, I would look at it and it seemed UGLY. POINTLESS. USELESS.

Like a Twizzler, when what you needed was a battle axe.

So I'd stop making whatever creative thing I was working on. And, in the nature of inanimate things (and something which I HATE about them), the piece did NOT finish itself. It stayed ugly, pointless, and useless, until I tossed it out or stuffed it under the crawl space (incidentally cluttering up the ONLY zombie-proof room in our house).

Sometime in the past year, I got my faith back. And I did it by painting. Just by painting through the OHMYGOD WHAT THE HELL IS THIS MISBEGOTTEN SORRY-ASS HIDEOUS IDEA, LET'S GO AWAY AND DRINK OURSELVES INTO OBLIVION AND FORGET IT stage. And amazingly, I came out on the other side, with images that even exceed my imagination.

It happens every single time.

It's not always easy, but there is an unasked-for grace that emerges through the artistic process. I know that, if I put in the time and what my brother calls "pencil mileage," I will come out the other side with a thing of beauty.

It's nice to be awake!

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