Struggling Through a Painting


Months have slid by since I last wrote. I took on some duties and was absorbed with life stuff. Family stuff. I re-centered and without doing a whole lot of thinking, started painting a lot. Actually finishing paintings! I’ve started a little business, just me and my paintbrush, and I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never felt so good. A few folks have asked for paintings and I’m working on them, struggling through them, wrestling with them.

I turn on the OTT-lite, stare at the painting, turn it upside-down and have a perspective swap, try to decide where I want to begin again, what needs changing, and usually stand there not actually painting for quite a while. Too long. Long enough to actually think of just about anything else I can go and do “real quick” before I can get myself to delve into what is the most challenging and satisfying exercise I have come to love.

I believe the most difficult part of the whole thing is actually picking up the brush and dipping it into the paint after having had a lengthy break. The paint itself is so beautiful, all on its own, that I’m guilty of leaving little incomplete, underdeveloped areas all over the painting, not wanting to disturb it. The problem I have with this is that it seems to prolong the completion. If I can’t get myself to disturb the paint, how will I ever finish the piece? I have to force myself to just do it. Just squeeze the paint out onto the palette, dip my brush in the paint, put it on the panel. It sounds so simple. It is not simple. It is a mental cliff to climb or dark forest to navigate. BUT once I venture out, I find myself rewarded for my struggle. Something takes over and I’m no longer aware of the daunting thought process that keeps me from picking up the brush in the first place. The painting just happens and this feeling washes over me. It’s, what is it? It’s accomplishment or achievement, or the fact that this great feat I placed before myself, is now behind me, and somehow I made it through. Paintings are not just paintings. They are lessons we teach ourselves and maybe for some, or possibly all, enormous triumphs of life.


Appreciating a Tough Breakup Thirteen Years Later

ImageI had a boyfriend in college. For almost my entire college career. I met him my Freshman year and settled on down with a steady boyfriend for the duration. Looking back, I can see now how much we each changed over the course of those four years. Unfortunately, I was clinging onto our relationship for dear life when we graduated and he decided to let go. It was such a strange time. The freedom of my life at college was over at graduation like someone flipped a switch. “It’s over girl, head on back home now”, someone may as well have said. It was a horrible breakup for me for lots of reasons. Why didn’t he want to be with me anymore? Why hadn’t he included me in his future plans to roam the country experiencing life as a young man with his whole life ahead of him? I had to move home again with my folks?? What the hell was happening to my carefree art student lifestyle? These few things stick out in my mind about the whole thing: There was lots of crying and hopelessness. There was me actually saying something like, “What if I find someone else? I know me, I’ll just go find someone else.” And him saying, “I hope you do. I hope you find someone that makes you happy.” And damn it, he really meant it. He was always so much better than me.

I was devastated, I moved back home, I painted in my parents garage, I gradually lost touch with the old boyfriend, and I had the time of my life. And somewhere along that road I met the guy I suspected I might go and find. And I never looked back. Thank you, wise college boyfriend, for pushing me away.

Life: The Search For Someone Who Understands You

I distinctly remember feeling as if no one in the world would ever really know me. I was young, maybe 10. I hadn’t labeled myself as introspective yet. I hadn’t fallen in love yet. I was positive that I was truly alone in myself. That there could be no way for another human being to ever know the true me. It’s funny, as I type these words, I am realizing that this is actually still true.

Each of us is alone with our thoughts and secrets and fears. We can share them with our loved ones. We can write about them to strangers. We can do everything within our means to bring them from deep inside out into the world and give them a place there. People can relate to them, make us feel somehow less alone. It helps. But I can’t help still feeling, like I did when I was 10, riding around in the back of my parents car, lost in my thoughts and imaginings, that I am a solitary being thrust into the world with other solitary beings to make all kinds of efforts not to feel that way.

I was quiet, I was shy. I was an observer. My siblings were all much older than me and off living life as adults. I felt an only child. I had imaginary friends and other worlds I lived in besides the real one. No one really knew me and no one ever would. Finally, in middle school, I met some friends I could open up to. They liked me and encouraged me. I knew then that what you gave you could get in return. I developed a personality before my very eyes. I wasn’t popular, I had a few friends I could be myself around. This meant something big for me. I know because these friends are still my friends, my very best friends. They got to know me, accepted me, chose to spend time with me, and I never forgot that. It allowed me to learn about people, to step outside of my quiet inner sanctum and develop relationships that would feed my soul throughout my life. I’ll never know what I am to these friends. But if it is anything like what they are to me, I’m grateful and proud to be a part of the family they chose.

You say you can’t draw?! I say, “Hogwash!”

People always say things like, “Oh, I can’t draw a straight line,” or, “I couldn’t draw a stick figure,” and I always think the same thing when I hear it, “So what? That’s not what drawing is about.” To me , it seems kind of sad and self-defeating to close a door because you only see one thing behind it. Artistic expression has nothing to do with the straight line and the perfectly detailed, proportionally correct sketch. I guess, once again, I am being too literal, and that people who say these things may not want to put themselves out there artistically. I know all about the pressure that can involve. But maybe some of them really think that! It really makes me want to sit everyone down with a canvas and a paintbrush and tell them they’ve been wrong about themselves all these years. That yes they CAN draw a stick figure and however it comes out will be wonderful, because it came out of THEM! The fact that we can use our minds to put color and shape and emotion physically on paper for the world to see is, in itself, a truly wonderful human feat. We should all feel proud of ourselves when we take the time to imagine and create something artistic. There are no rules that will break if your expression doesn’t look like how you’ve always thought it should. Artwork is unique to it’s creator. There will always be opinions. There will always be positive and negative feedback. Don’t deny yourself a little artistic expression because you’ve told yourself you can’t draw! It simply isn’t true. I believe everyone can draw. Everyone can paint. Art is a school within itself, where once you attend and open yourself up a bit, you learn and grow and your artwork moves forward along the same path. And if you continue being artistic throughout your life, in whichever way you choose, you can step back here and there and observe your life through your art’s eyes. I’ve seen myself change and morph into various versions of myself through my art over the years. I’ve never had the opportunity to look at one of my paintings and feel anything but a need for more knowledge and experience. I wish for someone who has never given picking up a paintbrush a second thought, because they told themselves they couldn’t do it, to give it a try. To begin painting without any expectations. Only to merely let a part of themselves out onto a canvas. If nothing else, you’ll have a quiet break from life where possibilities are endless. Put some music on, make yourself a nice workspace, give yourself some time to relax. If it’s not a therapeutic experience for you, you still might have your expectations too high. If you find yourself forgetting your troubles and feeling the music, you are right where you need to be.


I had a cat for 18 years. We watched each other grow up and kept each other company. She consoled me when life as a teenager got me down. She came to college with me and watched me sleep in, slack off, do last minute papers and stay up all night working on the painting due the next morning. She helped me move back in with my parents when college was over and I had no job or prospects. She was there for me when I met the love of my life and moved in with him. She finally grew tired and passed away and I was heartbroken. We had loved each other so much.

Time went by, my Dad got really sick, and I decided I wanted to adopt a dog. I begged my boyfriend. I was convinced that I could face anything if I had an animal to love and spend time with. So after months and months of searching and meeting prospective pups and watching the Dog Whisperer, we adopted our American Bulldog/Pointer mix and life as we knew it would never be the same. We had to work on our relationship and pack rankings for a while, of course, but he’s our best friend and many nights are spent curled up on the couch with him. He became the subject of two paintings and has inspired me to paint other dog portraits. The portrait above is of him looking quite handsome and serious. The one below, happy and laughing.


I still miss my cat sometimes. We had such history. I realize I’ve yet to paint her portrait.