It’s a Good Thing Paintings Aren’t Alive

by Liz

Art is frustrating. Yes, VERY frustrating. I get an idea. WHAM! In the middle of the night, I sit bolt upright in my bed. There is no ignoring this idea. Even if I try to go back it sleep, the idea will eat my dreams and roar to be acknowledged. So I blearily rise and lumber to the nearest source of blank paper and barf the idea onto the paper before drooping back to bed to catch another forty-five minutes before my alarm goes off.

My alarm goes off.

I rouse myself and muddle through my morning routine. As I exit the shower, I realize that it is Saturday, there is no school, and my apartment is freezing. I slip my way to the  heater, kicking my nightstand and knocking everything onto the floor in the process.

Now what? I’m awake, might as well clean.

I do the dishes. Make a grocery list. Mop the kitchen. And begin picking up the spilled nightstand things where I discover my naggy idea. Well, naggy ideas are more fun than cleaning, so I go with it. My lovely naggy idea happens to be scrawled in a toddler’s handwriting on a Walmart receipt in the dark, but it roughly translates to:

“CLIP ART WOMAN WALLPAPER STRIPES RABBITESQUE WITH ICE CREAM COLORS”

Ok, before I go on, I’m going to show you the final painting, just so you can compare it to my naggy idea while it’s still fresh in your mind:

Does she say ” Hello, I am a ‘CLIP ART WOMAN WALLPAPER STRIPES RABBITESQUE WITH ICE CREAM COLORS!'” to you? No, no I’d have to say no, not really, no. It’s more like she’s saying “I’m a’BLEEDING LONELY VICTORIAN GHOSTLY DEPRESSED MONGOOSE W/NAIL,’ you horse!”

That’s what’s frustrating about art, you see. I really did try to be happy (for as you know I tend toward weird, dark, unsellable stuff). I set my easel up and threw open all the blinds, so it was bright in my usually dank apartment. Then I put on happy, bubbly music and I even felt moderately adorable. So I sketched my ice cream clip art girl out and she looked fabulous– more beautiful than any pre-drawing I’d ever drawn. She was the new Mona Lisa, half-smiling, playful, but mysterious. I mixed happy colors on my happy recycled palette and washed the entire canvas in happy yellow so my lovely lady would have a bright complextion and all my creamy colors would stay warm and cozy. That’s where I think it died, the happiness I mean. That stupid happy yellow instantly jaundiced my entire outlook on life as a whole.

Now, I love yellow. I love the yellow center of daisies, yellow ducklings, yellow cake, yellow kitty eyes, yellow bananas…but I hate yellow. I hate the color and here it was dribbling down my ice cream bunny clip art woman painting and puddling on the easel ledge. I tried to fix it. I tried white. I tried wiping it off. I tried ignoring it and painting as I had intended, but it was too late. Everything just looked neon. (I can here ‘good artists’ reading for a lecture on proper painting and color technique, but they can just shut it! Eat my acrylics! I am a free spirit, you hear? A WASH-HATING, YELLOW-HATING, ANGRIFIED FREE SPIRIT!)

So now I’m upset. My lovely lady I worked so hard to draw  is now just a faded scribble of smudged lines under a blotchy yellow glaze with half of her jaundiced face painted a pale peach. I decided to forge ahead. I was not going to let the hideous happy yellow ruin my mood. I painted her exactly as planned, with glassy-smooth skin, blond hair, a blue dress, and a lemon and lime striped background. It wasn’t bad. It was OK, but I stood back, grabbed a paintbrush to chew thoughtfully, and studied the happy ice cream bunnyness I had just made. The colors were all very close in value/hue and I wanted it to look a little more sharp and cartoonish because cartoons are happy and my painting was going to be happy! I dipped the gnawed paintbrush into a nice, medium shade of pink and outlined the lips. It came out wino-red. She now looked like she had a thin Guido mustache above her upper lip.

So I darkened the lips. That of course, meant I had to darken her eyes to match. Then her hair. Then her dress. Then I just gave up, gave in, and painted the whole background sepia and signed my name at the bottom.

The nail? Oh the nail! Well, yes. I noticed she was set too low and the painting was unbalanced when I hung her on the wall next to my other art. Then I thought, I should put a nail in the top so it looks like a cliche poster nailed to the wall. So I ran to the grocery store and picked up the only nails they had in their minuscule hardware section. As I pounded it into the frame, I thought, Golly! It’s a good thing paintings aren’t alive because if they were, when we nailed them up, they would bleed…so I dabbed on some nail polish blood.

It’s a Good Thing Paintings Aren’t Alive
Acrylic on Canvas with Steel Nail and Enamel
14″ x 11″
2011

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