I love to paint, to feel the creamy goo under my brush. I spread it out like butter across canvas. I turn the music up loud and almost dance with my brush. I paint about simple things that make me happy, or simple things I find beautiful. Georgia O’Keefe is my hero for that reason – for taking the simple beauty of a flower and using paint to make it obvious to even the busiest and most distracted person, for using paint to help everyone see the beautiful colors of dirt. I love how paint allows the painter to editorialize her perception.
That said, I’ve seldom been pleased with the product of my beautiful nights of painting. That doesn’t trouble me really. Where would I keep them anyway? I cover my canvas in another coat of Gesso, so I can enjoy painting it again. I like not feeling obligated to keep my mistakes. It makes mistakes appear to be what they really are instead of permanent – simply experiences or maybe experiments. Oftentimes, I don’t even finish my paintings. It’s not about the paintings. It’s never been about the paintings.
During a windy snow storm with single-digit temperatures eleven years ago, my painting room was too cold to be in. Actually, anywhere beyond a four-foot radius of the woodstove was too cold to be. With a broken television and nothing to do, I wondered what would happen if I approached writing like a painting. What would happen if I wrote a story like a meditation of simple things that make me happy, or simple moments I find beautiful? What would happen if I wrote without considering the product, but just enjoyed the process of creating?
I wrote for six hours that day, fully intending to throw out my story at the end of the day, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t ready. Instead I wrote a chapter a night in the bathtub, and still I did not intend to keep it. I simply loved the process of writing. I simply loved spending time with my imaginary friends.
I do the same with songs too, writing fragments and forgetting them a month or two later. Sometimes it just feels good to strum a little and sing a little and leave it at that. Sometimes sound waves bouncing around the house is all I need.
And every once in a great while, I’m reminded that when I enjoy my journey, the product will often embody the joy, and the joy will shine through the imperfections. Simply loving the texture of creamy paint, the resonance of my guitar, and the company of imaginary friends has left me with a 6×4-foot painting of my dog swimming in Opal Lake in autumn, a beautiful lullaby for my nephew, and my first novel, Church of the Dog, all of which still make me smile.