When I was eighteen I thought I had an instinctive understanding of art. The things that I loved hit me with force. I didn’t question the things I liked. I didn’t question what I didn’t like either. I moved toward what I wanted and ignored the things that didn’t appeal to me. I had ideas — really they were closer to feelings — about what should be done first, about how a thing ought to be drawn, and about the inner nature of color. I didn’t know at first how to mix colors, but I was pretty sure that I could learn it because something about color just felt familiar. I thought I could see the “colors inside the colors.”
I make no representation about whether my ideas were “correct.” It doesn’t matter because the whole notion of correctness is difficult to assemble anyway. These were simply my ideas. It never dawned on me to question them any more than I would question the wisdom of taking the next breath. They felt right. But I also had hidden ideas, ones I wasn’t aware I possessed, ones that I note in retrospect from the advantage of age. So, for instance, I would portray my motif a certain size without noticing that I was making the choice. A particular, very specific placement of the motif into the canvas felt right and I had made the choice without first even asking the question. I had selected something that seemed obvious. I wasn’t aware of choosing.
So I had a natural relationship to what I was doing. Ah, youth. How easily one can spoil one’s happiness. I was impatient as a young person (not an unusual quality in the young). I expected things to begin “looking right” sooner than was even possible. I made no provision for error. What happens when you make a mistake? I got easily discouraged. I was impetuous. Sometimes when a painting was actually going well, I abandoned it because it didn’t satisfy the ideal I had in my head that I was chasing.
That was then. Now I have noticed as I paint, as I have observed myself in a mental movie that plays inside the walls of the cranium, that I was putting down lines and marks technically in a fashion that’s a lot like the way I painted in my youth at the very beginning. Moreover, I have seen a resemblance between the still life I’m doing now and one that I made decades ago. How do I describe the delight?
It is almost as though I get another shot at one aspect of being young. If you could travel via time machine to one random moment in your past, not even selecting some special moment, but if you could relive the most ordinary moment, but by so doing could recall the way the world seemed to present itself to your awareness at that young age — how marvelous that would be. That’s how this experience feels now. Not quite that intense, but I do get to re-experience some random thoughts I had long ago — only this time I get to bypass the adolescent impatience and self-criticism. I just enjoy the surface of the painting as it unfolds. It is as though one wakes up and looks out the window at the morning with the exuberance that a ten year old feels.
It’s an elixir of youth. Spring is coming, but not for the first time. What if in anticipating the coming spring, one remembers the many springs of time past? What is the combined impression of many spring times converging into the same channel?
Perhaps it’s the green of the table cloth that is like the green of new plants or the blanched background that wants to be bright like a bold, yellow sun.