The refrigerator is clearly any child’s art gallery. Line drawings of houses and trees, mommys and daddys, suns with smiling faces and sometimes sunglasses – these are all things that typically adorn parents’ refrigerators. Perhaps it was something that was done on a rainy day at home; perhaps it was something done in school. All sorts of media are used: crayons, markers, pencils, finger paints. These are the tools in any kid’s arsenal. These are good tools; a lot can be done with them.
In general, art takes patience and practice. While I am patient in general, I am not very patient when it comes to developing skills. I want to be able to read a book, internalize the information, and then put that information to use. Art, however, doesn’t work that way. And I am not just talking about painting; pottery, sculpture, photography, music, dance — they all take patience and practice. It is the practice that frustrates me, because in art you typically do not see a lot of improvement after one practice session. Art takes time and experience.
This is not to say that I am not artistic. I enjoy doodling, and can draw basic cartoon characters. If I focus and concentrate, I can do a reasonable sketch. I took an art class that met weekly at a local craft store, and that taught me how to work with chalk pastels and walked me through producing a picture of an old barn next to a wooded stream.
These days my artistic side seems to have settled on photography as its preferred medium. I do not claim to be highly proficient with my cameras, but I am proficient enough that I seem to have some consistent luck in my efforts. I have, however, had at least some luck in other forms of art as well.
Bee on Flower. (Ink on Paperboard; circa 1993; 21″x18″). Digitally restored.
This painting started as a scrap piece of paperboard that I was using to remove either excess black ink or a water-based paint from a sponge brush I was using for some other project. I do not remember what the other project was; it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that when I had finished with the other project, I looked at the paperboard and decided it would be fun to color in some of the regions with neon highlighters. I let the ink dry and took it to my room and broke out the highlighters. I’m not sure that I had anything in mind as I was coloring it; I just filled in the areas that I thought would look best colored, and did so on an instinctual level. As a result, I had an abstract painting that really didn’t have an “up.” It took some time to decide which way should be considered “up,” and really is a Rorschach test to determine what it is, if anything. Eventually, I settled on the orientation seen below, and thought that it looked like a bee alighting on a flower (the “bee” being the oblong shape to the top and right, and the “flower” being the colorful mass to the lower left).
My dad liked the result so much he kept it around for years, although it never hung on a wall. He found it again about twenty years after I had made it, in storage, where it had been since they moved to North Carolina, and where it had suffered some damage and fading. He gave it to me while I was visiting them, and I took it home and set about making a digital version of it. First, I set up some studio lighting and took a photo of it, and then I did some digital darkroom restoration to remove the damage and restore the faded colors.
The following Christmas, I was at a bit of a loss of what gift I should get for my father. As I was going through my photos from the previous year, I came across the one where I had digitized this painting, and I knew that it was the perfect photo to make into a canvas print.
Because the Christmas celebration with my family was delayed for a couple weeks that year as we awaited the birth of my nephew, the presentation of the gift was rather informal. The present was not wrapped; we did not have a formal gift-opening time that year. I brought the print in from the car with the back facing my father (so that he couldn’t see what it was) and said “here you go. Merry Christmas.” When I flipped the print over, I could see the joy in my father’s eyes. This, for some reason, was his favorite painting. It had disappeared for a while, damaged and forsaken. But now it was back. Restored to its original glory. And there was a place for it. It was hung almost immediately in an empty spot in the kitchen. On the wall, not on the refrigerator.