I have painted for as long as I can remember.
Not consistently mind you, but I’ve been painting off and on, in fits and starts, for decades. It has always brought me happiness, even a sense of calm.
I have been painting longer than I have been writing; I think we all have. Painting, or drawing, as young children allowed us to express ourselves more accurately than through our command of those 26 letters.
We could paint a flower before we could spell it; or house. We could picture our family, or cat, with lines and colours on paper before we could spell everyone’s name.
Painting was always fun.
My mom enrolled me in art classes at the Allied Art Centre in Brandon, Manitoba. Art was my favorite class in school, each Grade I was learning more and gaining perspective on what I could do. In high school I studied industrial design, of which commercial art was one of its most captivating streams (yet one not quite as enchanting as photography).
I have painted off and on through the years from landscapes to abstract. I have dabbled in various styles and mediums, even as I worked professionally as a photographer and writer in my newspaper days.
As a young father, I was always excited to pull out the paint box and spend time with my daughter. Creativity has always brought us closer. Even a couple of years ago, we together attended a December workshop on designing wrapping paper. Creativity is a joy we share, even now we are both adults.
Art, I feel, is fundamental to my presence a human being.
We engage our deeper minds when we create. Painting has often done it for me.
Yet, I’ve been consistently inconsistent in my efforts and output, until lately.
When I began a self-imposed artistic immersion on the first of this month, I resolved to pull myself out of this pandemic depression by working on my art.
Over the past weeks I have spent a great deal of time out and about with my camera. I have notes and stanzas and words to complete a number of poems, have spent some time in a new manuscript, I have attempted (and continue to attempt) to paint Zen circles, have a couple of “art” books on the go, and made several trips to the gallery (as I will be doing, again, tomorrow) to further open my eyes to the wonder and enchantment of art.
I have also, each week, been climbing on my bike and riding down to the lakeshore where I settle in and mindfully paint for the morning. It is a simple process, in watercolours, where I create non-judgmental art.
This exercise is about regaining the feeling, and becoming comfortable again with my brushes. It is, essentially, the same scene week after week, but each time I find a new view.
There is no evaluation, it is all about painting simply, or simply being. Repetition is important. This is an exercise to inspire me further.
It seems that the regular practice of painting is bringing me a sense of contentment. I have come to realize I need more consistency in my work, in my study and, perhaps, my life.
Painting is important to my future creativity and me. It is a lifetime pursuit.
Years ago, when a much younger me was at a dinner party, the topic conversation turned to hobbies and retirement. I was already working as a writer, and photographer (hobbies only to many), so the question was directed to what creative endeavor would I take up when I retire.
My answer was instant.
“I’m going to paint,” I said. “Nudes.”
Of course they laughed, until they figured out that I was serious.
When I “retire” or turn 65, I will begin to paint nudes; big ones, oil on canvas.
I’ve been preparing, really, for most of my life. Nothing commands a young man’s (or older man’s) attention like the female form. Two winters ago, I went back to weekly figure drawing classes; timed poses to get you thinking quickly at looking and capturing anatomy.
I attended the classes to expand my mind, develop my skills, and to prepare me for my planned retirement project. I now have a sketchpad full of female and male figures in the event that live models will not be as plentiful as I imagine (I’ve got a few years to continue recruiting).
To paint as I imagine, I will have to step into another medium. Serious art requires serious paint. I have only once before painted with oils.
I suppose I should, over the coming years, become acquainted with oil paints (maybe even take a class). For that, I have a few designs or concepts in mind – pretty well sketched out – and ready to go, but I will save the nudes for my retirement years.
Until then I will practice, probably even more constantly than I have been. Art is about learning, as much as it is about living. Art matters.
As I wrote, yesterday, to my daughter: It’s not what you paint, or where you paint, it matters only that you paint.
© 2020 j.g. lewis