Watching Paint Dry
At a recent book club, a friend sarcastically commented that the book we had just read was about “as exciting as watching paint dry.” It’s a common phrase I’d heard before, but this time I felt strangely defensive. I felt the need to set things right. “Hey, I like to watch paint dry!” I said. This got me worrying about my idea of a good time.
For an artist, pushing paints around a canvas is just one part of the process. Evaluating results is just as important. I tend to paint fast and impulsively and see what happens. Then it’s time to step back and see if it’s any good. If it has potential, I move on to part two. A big part of what I learned at art school was how to analyze your work and recognize weak spots. I look to see where color could be used better or where edges could be sharper. Is the energy flowing out of the picture? Is the painting too dull or too frenetic? Sometimes a painting might be very good, but what would it take to make it great? You have to take a good long look to figure this out. It’s reported that Leonardo Da Vinci spent up to fourteen hours a day with his paintings. Fourteen hours, huh! I need to get some comfortable chairs.
When my fellow artist and friend Carolyn and I moved into our studio, I couldn’t wait to fix it up. Within the week I had bought shabby chic cabinets, matched with low slung rattan chairs. I bought a white carpet and fabric for cushions and white paint for the walls and shelving. Although Carolyn was happy I was eager to outfit the place, she thought I’d lost my mind. She tactfully asked if we “were allowed to paint” in there.
I had to laugh. I said, “Of course, but why can’t it also be a nice place to hang out?” Immediately Carolyn and I agreed we would alternate using the studio. We recognized we had different working styles and different ideas about the use of the studio. When Carolyn paints, she explodes with creativity, working on as many canvases as the room can hold. When I visit her at the studio, it’s like a bomb has gone off in an art supply store. When she visits me, she’s bound to find me sitting on the floor listening to music, pondering my next move.
I love to sit and look at my works, whether finished or still in progress. That’s what watching paint dry means for me. When I told my friends in the book group that watching paint dry was sometimes the best part of my day, everybody laughed. Then they all agreed I need to get out more often.