I am not a very good painter

I don’t know why I ever thought that it would be any different, but I had just, I don’t know, dreamed of being a good painter. I never saw myself as a Picasso or Rembrandt or Klimt. I didn’t even see myself as a Ross. I guess, I don’t know, I just saw myself as a painter.

You know the type of painter who has a cigarette hanging out the side of his mouth? He has to squint to avoid the smoke getting into his eye, forcing him to take a step back and observe his painting with the other eye. I imagine myself the type that is a curmudgeon on his nicest day, but who has a tender heart for a voracious, bordering on violent, lover. The ladies swoon and he gets his.

I don’t know how he is so productive with all of the distractions in his life. How can you create art when you’re surrounded by so many people and everybody wants your attention?

Going to this painting class has been a distraction for me. I’ve been stuck in my head since school started, so much so that the inner walls of my cranium are starting to look like the inside of my apartment: cat hair in all of the corners and dirty dishes in the sink and on the centre table. I’ve been exhaustingly focussed on work, without much in the way of productivity to show for all the effort.

How do painters ever become prolific?

The painting class has been going well. It forces me to leave work soon after the last bell on Fridays, which is a nice way to be asked to leave for the week. It’s a bit of a rush to get to class on time, even though I have two and a half hours. When I get there just before class is meant to start, the instructor has usually started talking. For the first two weeks, I wasn’t paying attention because I was enjoying sitting down. This last week, there was an easel set up for me to work at so I was forced to stand.

What I love most about the class is how engrossing of a challenge it is for me. Looking around the room, it’s clear that I’m the worst of the bunch. I struggle with mixing colours and applying brush strokes. I can’t seem to draw a straight or curved line with any accuracy. There’s never enough paint on my brush or it’s too dry from having sat on my pallet for too long. It’s really hard for me.

Still, for those three hours, I think about little else. At least once during a class, I excuse myself to go use the toilet. I don’t think about women, work, or my worries. I just struggle through, applying paint as best as I can to a blank canvas. This is what I find most rewarding: this absence of thoughts; the silence.

As soon as I leave the class, I check my phone and post a picture of my work on Instagram. As soon as I put my headphones on, my life starts up again and I’m in the midst of thoughts, heading for the subway to get home, and anxious for a cold beer when I get there.

For those three hours, though, the world is a colourful space in which I get to create, however poorly, a world that is my own. I get to see the world unfold with each quivering brush stroke. I get to take full ownership of every mistake and every success. It’s a magical place.

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