Peaks and Valleys

Father, forgive me; It has been over 5 months since I last painted.

Life happens, other work happens, baby happens…The last 5 months have been dedicated to renovating our home and preparing our house for the arrival of our baby girl. Art works and paint brushes were packed up and stored away. Sometimes doing jobs and chores that take me further away from painting can be mentally irritating. I spiral into angry thoughts —“what am I doing? — I’m waisting time— if I don’t paint then I’m burning my commitment to my vocation. “ Someone once told me, no matter what you do, always do it with your mind and body as a painter. That way when you do other jobs and chores you never forget who you are and what you want in the long term.

To me, other work provides a break, inspires new conceptual ideas, builds new skills, and ultimately pays the bills. I can’t leave out that part.

Renovating our house involved lots of time and putting materials together with my hands in a organized and planned way. If I remained self identified as a painter, my senses picked up lots of skills completing the construction work. Not to mention, I found inspiration in the materials, new ways of working and new subject matter to paint. It also helped with those dreaded thoughts of self doubt; every time I accomplished and completed a new task it gave me motivation to learn and do more.

Acid baths

Sometimes, actually most times before I get painting I hear cliche statements of self doubt run through my head; "You don't know what you're doing" , "this idea is garbage", "go get a real job!" blah, blah, blah.

I've worked a variety of jobs but it wasn't till recently that while working on a construction project I was tasked to hang protective tarps over nickel plating acid baths.  It was a dirty, greasy, smelly facility and my colleagues and I had to climb over and under these industrial monster machines to hang these tarps.  At one point I was doing yoga off a ladder to secure the tarping directly over a bubbling bath of chemicals.  I paused, realizing my stupidity, here I was working precariously over these chemical baths with no fear of falling or hurting myself.  Yet, in the studio and in front of a blank canvas, I could sit there for days for fear of painting, for fear of failing.  I vowed that day dangling off that ladder that I would never let my internal monologue of self doubt stop me from painting.

This tiny epiphany wasn't the end of those self doubting voices, but it did give me another voice that would stand up and say, "shut the fuck up and get on with it!"

 

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My first memory with a paint brush

I was 5 years old and my parents had just bought a semi-detached house in Greenfield Park, Montreal (1983).  The family was in the process of cleaning the space and painting before move in and I was following my dad around as usual bugging him to let me partake in whatever tasks he was doing.  I imagine now that my incessant pleas wore him down when he walked me over to my bedroom pointed at the closet, handed me a bucket of paint with a brush and directed me to paint the closet.  I remember feeling excited, then better yet, I dipped the brush into the can and proceeded to drip it all over before smashing the brush onto the wall and pushing the paint around. 

I looked at my dad, he was shaking his head and smiling saying, "oh, boy".  He kept the smile but took the brush away and then showed me, "No son, this is how you paint" brushing the wall in smooth up and down strokes evenly covering the area.  I watched intently and was eager to learn, I felt exhilarated to know I was going to have that brush back.

My dad gave me the brush back saying, "you think you can manage?".  I nodded yes and took the brush back.  There was something about the paint, brushing it on a surface and doing the best I could to paint my closet.  It wasn't until much later in life when a mentor of mine asked me to search my memories for my earliest memory about painting.