I promise: this is a story about painting. Bear with me.
I wear mascara at least 5 days a week. Putting on mascara requires slowing down. The approach is important…angle of the wand, face just the right distance from the mirror, grip of the fingers firm but not too tense, a steady hand. I find it helps if I hold my breath. And, oh goodness, pray I don’t sneeze in mid-swipe. Multiple coats of the black stuff and then the finishing flick of the wand on the outer lashes is the best way to get those long, slightly curled up, thick cat-eye lashes. Splurging on a really good mascara brand helps too…it goes on smoothly and silky, and doesn’t dry too quickly as I pile on the layers in an attempt to get my lashes just right and perfectly separated.
But no matter how many times I remind myself to slow down, and how much $20 mascara I carefully lavish on my lashes, things can go bad pretty quickly….I might be in a hurry and poke my eye with the mascara wand; some lashes get stubborn and stick together; one eye looks more cat-eye-ish than the other; I bump the eyelid above in an attempt to encourage the upward curl of the lashes; I sniffle, cough, or sneeze; the dog barks and startles me. And what’s up with that one lash that insists on growing straight out instead of curling up?!? These things happen at least 40% of the time.
And then I try to “fix it.” I try to fix it by putting a little more mascara on one eye to even it out with the other, by using a lash comb to wiggle the lashes free from sticking to each other, by taking a q-tip to the smudge on the eyelid only to end up flattening the lashes that get in the way. Some mornings are a battle.
It takes courage to get two inches from the mirror at least five days a week and pull out that mascara wand again and again, all the while hoping that on that morning, my lashes will respond to my hand coaxing the mascara wand across them again and again. I’ve been mustering up this courage almost daily for over 30 years.
I realized the other morning as I struggled to get my lashes just so, that painting is a lot like putting on mascara. I’ve got to muster up courage every time I step up to the canvas (the mirror of my soul) knowing that, like putting on mascara, things could go on very smoothly or things could get very messy, very quickly. I’ve got to splurge on the best paints I can afford because nothing is as pleasurable (and forgiving) than to work with quality paints (I admit it…I’ve tried the drugstore brand mascara in an effort to save a little money and it just doesn’t compare to the shiny black tube with the gorgeous silver top that I get at Sephora. It’s the same with paints!).
But for me, the biggest similarity is in the “fixing it.”
I’ve got a certain painting hanging around my studio that is in the process of being “fixed.” It’s like a “bad-mascara-kind-of-morning” painting. Only this one started in November of last year and continues to this day. The first layers went on beautifully. I was encouraged and bravely added a little more and little more. Now it’s December. Looking good so far but starting to get afraid I’m going to mess it up. So, I set it aside. And then, in January of this year, I pulled it out again, and made a rush decision to add another element. Oops. Not good. Now I need to “fix it” so I add another element to it. Bad, bad, bad. Maybe if I add a little more here and there…Uh, nope.
So now it’s February. And I’m still trying to “fix” this painting. And I keep adding a little something, like I would add another layer of mascara to my drying, sticking, clumping, uneven lashes. The result? A hot mess and I lost my courage to continue on this canvas. I set it aside, deep in a pile of blank canvases in a corner of my studio.
I could have chosen to just start over. Several coats of gesso would have covered up all the layers. But I couldn’t go to that extreme. It’s like pulling out the mascara remover and cotton balls…which then requires reapplying all the primer and under-eye concealer and powder and blush and…
May 2016 rolls around. Seven months have passed since I first put paint on this canvas. I decide to persevere. No white gesso for me. Instead, a fresh layer of contrasting color. A new approach. Something bold and brave. So that’s exactly what I did...twice in one studio session. And, aha! It was like getting that final flick of the mascara wand to coax those outer lashes into just the right cat-eye look.
Is this painting complete? I’m still not sure. But I’m not going to rush any new elements this time. And, I promise, I won’t hold my breath (for too long anyway) when I work on it again in the coming weeks.