When I squeezed the first little bit out of my new Old Holland paint, I was careful. “Just a touch of this fancy new paint,” I thought, ”It’ll probably go a lot farther than the paint I usually use.”
“Let me mix in a lot of the bloopy stuff (one of the mediums meant to mix with oil paints). That’ll make the paint last longer.”
My body felt tight. My hand and arm felt tentative as I moved the brush. My usual free and quick motions, so fluid and mindfully mindless, were caught up in the expense of buying the higher quality paints. The money I used came from the successful kickstarter project I ran in May (thank you, backers!), so it wasn’t money out of my bank account. But, also it was money out of my bank account, no matter the source. Money for groceries has been a concern in recent memory, so I’m pretty careful about every dollar I spend.
I squeezed out some more paint. I needed the blue to be greener. Then I needed it to be glossier. Then I needed it to be lighter. Now slicker. Now smoother and back into blue a little bit more. My brush started moving faster and with more flow and direction. I began feeling the painting.
Still, I felt caution. I took a tub that I had saved from an earlier painting and figured I could use that (white) instead of “wasting” new paint from the new tube. I did this for a bit until I discovered bits of the gummy film that forms on oil paint as it dries. This painting was meant to be smooth, clear, clean. The textures I have worked with in paintings before didn’t have a home in this one. I removed the scummy bits as much as I could and then I had to let go of a lot of wasted paint. The very expensive paint, the mediums, the large quantity of paint was all ruined. I considered saving it (again) for a painting where texture wouldn’t need to be smooth, but dried bits of old paint aren’t something I imagine myself wanting to incorporate to any painting in the future.
Finally, I decided I needed to use the paints. Really use the paints as I wanted to. Use the paint as the painting and the brushes and the wind and sun and REM’s music told me to. It was pretty messy. It was a little frustrating but in an exhilarating way (the painting would get *this* close to feeling as if the layer was finished, I’d see a section I wanted to tweak, and the whole thing would start shifting). At one point I added a color with a grey tone and the whole thing began turning muddy. Bringing it back to clear colors was tough, though it’s almost there. I had to stop because I was running out of time and I’m sure the best thing for the colors will be to take a break, clean everything, and start fresh with the clarity I need.
When I begin again in a couple days, I’ll start free. I’ll know that being paralyzed by the need for caution will block my painting. Something this worthwhile deserves all the wet and sloppy, error-laden, gooey, gloppy, bold and surprising messes I need to make.