The meaning behind “Paint Before Death”

What do I want to do? Paint. When do I want to do it? Before I die. It might be tricky afterwards, but then again, who’s to say?

This is important to me because I have just recently figured something out. Up until now I have not known what I want to do with my life or what my purpose is. For some reason lately, things are occurring to me. Like the fact that I have a difficult time looking at something and not imagining myself taking a brush loaded with paint and filling in the light on a person’s face or the dark shadow under the eaves of the house. Everything is illuminated by some sort of light and has a feeling to it. I can’t get away from that.

The other thing is that I think about death frequently. The way it can sneak up on you. I’m so aware of it and therefore anxious to accomplish this one thing, before it is too late. And it is not just one little thing, of course. Becoming an artist, one I can be proud of, is a huge thing. One that I hope encompasses my life, whatever length it may be, and gives it the meaning I’ve been looking for.

the solo art museum experience

Sometime within the last 15 years of my life, I have had the opportunity to visit both a local and an out-of-town art museum with two different close friends. These experiences taught me something important. Always go to the museum alone. At the local museum my friend wanted to swap opinions on the different works and was astonished that I might just like to take it all in without the exchange of ideas. I didn’t know this about myself until then. That being in a museum is like being in a holy place. There is a presence that silently insists to me that I must be quiet and absorb. There is so much to see and process. The thought of trying to put any of that into words and have a chat about it seemed appalling. I told him this when we left the museum. He was so irritated! We didn’t get together very often after that.

The other time, with a different close friend, I remember wanting to spend more than acceptable amounts of time standing in front of different works, letting them affect me and looking closely at the brushstrokes, imagining the person who created them and the way they looked at their canvas while painting. This friend, still a close friend, did not want to talk about the art, but would travel around the museum very quickly stopping here and there and orbit back to me, hovering somewhere behind me waiting. And as patient and polite as he was, I can still remember the feeling of wishing he wasn’t there, so that my time would not be limited.

I’m slow and spend a crazy amount of time in front of a painting that intrigues me. And I’m easily annoyed, I’ll admit it!

But very recently I had a Saturday afternoon alone and I went to a museum I’m fortunate to live close to. It was peaceful and wonderful. I dawdled and daydreamed. I spent too much time. I went back to look at paintings twice. I overheard groups of people marveling over this and that, saw a young couple kissing in a dark corner, and appreciated just being alone with the art.

Before I was finished selfishly lingering about, the fire alarm sounded and we were all escorted out onto the lawn to wait out whatever had happened. I stood outside for probably too long hoping to get the okay to go back in. I wasn’t ready for that time that was holy to me to be over. Eventually, they gave out rain checks and I left, carrying a feeling full of possibility with me.

A recent revelation has brought me to this

I remember being little and my Mom trying to find something for me to do. It seems that claiming you are bored as a child is not a good thing. To this day, it sticks in my head that if you say you are bored, you are boring. Now, I don’t really believe this. I understand that saying you are bored really just means you don’t know what you should do. There are plenty of options, but you really aren’t quite sure what you feel like doing. In fact, I think the word “bored” should be officially changed to “lazy”. “Mom, I’m lazy!” There, that’s more accurate. This is all beside the point because what I’m really trying to get at is this: One day, back in the 80’s, my Mom handed me some paper and colored pencils and suggested I draw one of my Rainbow Brite dolls. She tells me I said, “I can’t draw that!”, and that she encouraged me to try it anyway. I remember it was mostly purple and that I did a pretty good job recreating the dolls image on my paper with my colored pencils. Mom was impressed and that, too, sticks in my head. This is my first memory of trying to be artistic and I’m pretty happy about it. I’m happy I remember this (with Mom’s help of course).

Painting and I have been seeing each other on and off since high school. I must admit, I’ve taken it for granted most of my life. I was never really committed. I dabbled here and there and always strayed. Painting is a relationship for me. And I am only now old enough to realize it is time to settle down and give it the time and respect it deserves.  I have decided I want to be an artist before I die. A committed beginner in search of growth. I want to squeeze the time out of a hectic day to paint. I want to learn an incredible amount about painting, about myself, and I want to see it’s effect on my artwork .  This blog is going to help me. And possibly help someone else, who knows? I’ve decided to keep it to myself (no friends or family) for two reasons:

1. To be uninhibited by anonymity.

2. To experiment with the challenge of appealing to a set of unbiased strangers.

If anyone out there in the world is reading this, I thank you for your time. It is precious, valuable, and fleeting, and you didn’t have to spend it here.