Just recently I took up painting again. I will often go weeks without painting a thing. But when I do finally address a canvas, I have a fervent, slap-dash style that allows me to apply color passionately without much mind to technique. This method soothes me. Painting is a way for me to make sense of the world, my world, whether the physical or the emotional. There are always big splashes of color and lots of texture from the globs of paint. But there is no definition in my paintings.
As a youngster, a car meant freedom, freedom to move fast around my environment, and maybe expand that environment. I’m not a gearhead; my first vehicle was a stock ’66 VW bug (cherry red, by the way). But I did get speeding tickets. And I did expand my environment. Again, there was no definition in my movement, just so long as I was moving, I was happy.
When I started at Soilutions, I worked in the yard. I didn’t care what I did, just as long as it was hard and new. I wanted to unroll hoses as fast as I could. I wanted to build a pile higher than the previous guy and load a truck more efficiently. I wasn’t sure why, and I certainly didn’t know what I was doing. I just wanted to absorb all the new sounds, smells and textures that abounded.
Now, I notice subtleties. By noticing subtleties I am beginning to learn.
Yesterday I changed the oil in my car. I removed the drain plug, and the warm oil seeped onto my latex glove. I watched in awe as the first of it gushed out, splashing and spilling. The pressure decreased, the steady stream slowed to drops, then droplets. I thought each droplet represented a mile driven. While watching the last of the chocolate brown used oil drip from the drain pan, it occurred to me how things had changed. Like the oil, where I once gushed through my environment, I now drip slowly. I drip through the side roads.
At work, too, subtleties have proven very instructive. The timbre in a customer’s voice is useful in indicating their level of confidence. There is a minute olfactory difference between grass and manure. I try to notice the first cranes’ arrival. And in doing so, I have learned to do my job to my satisfaction.
I have grown better at what I do because I have paid attention to details. So in order for me to improve as a painter, I will need to slow down and let my brush slip slowly over the canvas. Let the brush define the subtle edge of rocks, trees and visages.