Long time crush

painting of church
A watercolor done many years ago of a half-built church

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere lately because we are in the process of moving (or thinking about moving, or taking about moving. We are not fast people. We move slowly).

Part of the process of moving is, of course, going through years of accumulated detritus, sifting out what to keep and what to save. It’s a little like an archeological dig, exposing layers of life that have been buried in boxes for nearly 2 decades.

The painting that heads this blog was done when, many years and lives ago, and sweating in tropical heat, I was just discovering that I needed to be a painter. I had always drawn, painted, created, but I was also attempting a writing career in those days. I was carving my time into chunks so that I could do both— write and paint—plus upkeep our lives in a foreign land.

I happened to read Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. In it she describes making a pen drawing of the view she had through her window. Then one day she shut the blinds.

“Then, by lamplight, I taped my drawing to the closed blind. There, on the drawing, was the window’s view….If I wanted a sense of the world, I could look at the stylized outline drawing. If I had possessed the skill, I would have painted, directly on the slats of the lower blind, in meticulous color, a tromp l’oil mural view of all that the blinds hid. Instead, I wrote it.”

This passage was a watershed moment. I realized that by focusing on writing, I was penciling the wrong paper; I needed to paint, and to paint realistically, because I needed to see the world. I needed that connection of observing the world closely, granularly, carefully. I needed to create the picture in the window, not write it.  Painting was where my stories could live.

Need is such a weak word to describe the yearning, the almost sick-with-desire crush I felt for painting, that I feel even now. I still write (yeah, this blog), and I enjoy the (rare) feel of stones falling clop-clop-clop when I craft a particularly elegant sentence. But my true love, that moves with me from place to place, after nearly 20 years?

Brush and paint.

Watercolor painting
One of my first landscape paintings done from a sketch I’d made onsite.


7 thoughts on “Long time crush

      1. I totally agree. Every time I finish one I learn a new technique or gain some understanding.

      2. Juliana–You only saw what I wanted you to see! What do you do with the old bad stuff? I just threw away a bunch of things, but some of that old work is so personal that even if it’s terribly amateurish by my own current standards, it really tells me where I was in that place and time, so I keep it.

  1. It’s nice to know you remember where you came from and how far you’ve come. I’ve kept some of my first stuff, some was ok. Others I’d just die if someone saw it. But I have to keep them so I know I’ve moved forward. By the way… You do have quite the way with words. I always feel like I’m reading a magazine article. Also, I like your first paintings.

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