July is forever pink. Three is eternally green. Sunday is unquestionably yellow.
The morning is always lavender. I cognitively associate words and themes of the world around me with color, although for seventeen years I had no idea why. Despite how intrigued I am by color, I only began to understand its significance this past summer when I entered a studio at the Art Institute of Chicago and picked up a paintbrush.
I’ll never forget the words. I was staring head on at the model posing in front of me, slightly uncomfortable at the prospect of painting a nude man, when my teacher uttered, ‘Squint your eyes and concentrate.’ I later realized he was actually teaching me how to begin painting from life. The more I listened to his words, jumbled up in a mixture of art and philosophy, the more I began to understand what he was really saying.
My eyes began to perceive nuances of both chiaroscuro and color intensity on the nude man. It was bizarre how a certain confidence crystallized within me as my vision of the man grew more distant and hazy. The man’s outline was of no value to me. How could I paint him precisely, anyway? His body was natural, inclined to move, and perhaps that would be the very beauty of painting him.
I mixed my palette for a good twenty minutes. The palette began with six classic colors and ended with over twenty unidentifiable colors. Right before touching the bristles of the paintbrush to the unsoiled canvas, I felt a little hesitant, like I always did before beginning a painting or for that matter any creative endeavor. But as I began to paint, I also felt a willingness to defy any previous anticipations of what my piece had to become.
The first strokes were bold and unrestrained. The canvas bled with color. I began to feel a connection with my subject almost immediately. Vincent Van Gogh would have been proud. I’m not sure how many times I encountered him in my life, but it began when I set sight on his still life, ‘Sunflowers.’ Van Gogh was pure genius. His painting ‘Sunflowers’ was no still life; it always seemed alive. The overlapping strokes and texture brought a liveliness and emotional dimension to the painting for me. I wanted to be Van Gogh’s disciple, awake and ready to learn the art of painting through emotion.
When I paint I am at a place in my life where nothing else even comes close.
Results are no longer my goal; it is simply the process that matters. Placing the paintbrush to the canvas becomes just as satisfying to me as the end result. It is through painting that I peacefully walk away from the overwhelming chaos of my everyday life. And it is through painting that I have learned to redefine my definition of success.
Painting consumes me, but in such a way that I am constantly rejuvenated.
* * *
Nine hours later my painting was complete, or so it seemed. I had painted fearlessly, but I had also severely underestimated what nine straight hours of painting could do to me. After just one day in the studio, I felt like I had already begun a personal journey of correlating art to life. An artist was simply not a creator of his or her own craft, but a thinker and communicator. An artist spoke what could not be spoken.
And an artist became an artist the moment he or she decided. Before that day in the studio, I hadn’t the slightest confidence to call myself an artist. I was just ‘another’ student who happened to enjoy art. Today, however, I realize that I have always been an artist.
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