My daughter recently posted this on Facebook:
Dolly, I did a brave thing. During the pandemic, I started painting. That wasn’t brave, because nobody was looking over my shoulder pointing out my mistakes (the paintings did that!) But I really wanted to contribute something to the Pulpwood Queen Book Club’s silent auction for the Pat Conroy Literary Center. So here’s the brave thing—I did a “Low Country” watercolor and gave it to the silent auction.
It started out very ugly. (A good lesson for the drafts of our novels.) I was thinking that I might have to just throw it away and start over, but I decided I was having fun and just kept going. (Another lesson for writing.)
When I paint, I am often drawn to go “visit” the project while passing the studio (library/book storage/printer/extra-closet room). As a painting dries, the colors lighten and the perspective changes. One night, I made my normal stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Drawn to the studio on the way back to bed, I looked at the work in progress in the dim light of the hall nightlight and insanely decided the color of the water wasn’t right.
You have to understand, I am fortunate to find my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night (and the morning, for that matter.) Not bothering to sit, get my glasses, or turn on decent light, I grabbed a brush and started “fixing” it.
The next morning, I braced myself to look at what I had done, certain it would be a disaster.
Amazingly, it looked okay.
When the painting was finished, I was happy with it. Then I panicked, realizing to meet the deadline, I had to send a photo in to the auction. (A familiar panic, as it happens with every manuscript when I hit “send” to the editor.) I stalled as long as I could and then, with great trepidation I sent it.
It was received kindly. But how else would polite people react? We praise a child’s art efforts no matter how primitive and stick it proudly to the refrigerator. The few friends, sister, and hubby with whom I had shared my attempts had been encouraging. But this was different. People who don’t know me were going to be looking at this, and I doubted they would want to pay to stick it on their refrigerator.
I berated myself: You’re a writer, not a painter. What were you thinking?
The auction was for a good cause and was open to the public, so I did my duty and posted it on Facebook with an invitation to the auction. I told myself the worst thing that could happen was that no one would bid on it and no harm would be done. I’d just go back in the artist closet and continue painting just because I loved doing it.
The response on Facebook was immediate:
To say I was blown away by the warm and excited comments is an understatement. In spite of the fact that I am a Writer (took a long time and several books published to own that word), it slowly bloomed in me that perhaps I could be an Artist too. Tears repeatedly came to my eyes that so many people thought what I had created was beautiful. Some of them were “real” artists. At that point, it really would not have mattered if no one bid on it.
However, they did. In fact, there was a bidding war! The executive director of the Center said he “thought there was going to be a bloodbath over it.” It received the highest bid of any item (and there were great things there).
When you finish a book, there is a certain sadness, a letting go, a goodby to the characters you have lived with for months, sometimes years. Tomorrow, I will put my little painting in a box and send it away to a stranger who lives on the other side of the country. I am happy/sad.
I wonder if all joy has an element of sadness. The joy of seeing a child grow up and go off into the world mixes with the sadness of losing something precious. The joy of accomplishing a goal mixes with the sadness of having accomplished it. The joy and sadness of creating . . . and finishing.
Many wise people have said this better: It is not the destination that brings us happiness, but the journey.
Speaking of which, I think I will finish this blog and go start another painting . . . .
T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her. More at TKThorne.com.