by Brenda W. Clough
I had dinner with my sister and brother this past weekend, and we were discussing (as one does) life. How do you know when you’ve ‘made it’? My sister said that she realized she had achieved it when, in a store, she knew that she could buy anything in it. My brother, as I recall, said that it was when he was in a restaurant and realized that he was no longer constrained by the prices on the menu. I said that what was important to me was to be able to acquire the necessary to make things. If I need that yarn, that $30 tube of cadmium red oil paint, I can afford it. (In our family there is only ever one creative person in each generation; I am that person for mine and I have a niece who is clearly the one for hers. My grandson is too young for us to tell if he’s the next generation’s creative; maybe when he hits kindergarten.)
As you can see, mine is far and away the most fatally dangerous of these philosophies. With this sort of thinking a yarn stash can be amassed that calls for rented storage units and U-Haul transport. Prudently I have channeled the main stream of my creativity into words, which cost nothing, take up no space, and are endlessly available. And this has been the correct decision for me, because I cannot make the paint do what I want it to do. Annoying! Look at the blue version of the Roman bridge up there. It is not right, and I can’t seem to make it right, generate versions as I will.
What the painting, what all art, ought to do is create the emotion. You should look at it (or read it or listen to it) and say, ah! I feel it, what the artist wants me to feel. She has communicated! Well, I can’t do that. I can achieve a mild technical competence, but I can’t make that leap into art. To achieve that I’d have to paint in oils for another twenty years, slowly fumbling towards greatness. I can paint it, but I can’t make it speak. I knew this when I was twenty, when I first laid this paint box aside — paint is not my true medium. And it is very possible that by now I no longer have the time to learn.
Well! At least I can see what this version needs. The ruin, too yellow. It’s going to be more gray. The blue, especially at the front, boring. I may layer in a round of my fatal nemesis, green. Clearly this would never have done with the reddish version, but blue and green are good friends, so it could be done. Do I have the values right? That river looks pale. As long as you can see things to fix, you aren’t done, eh?