Hi Grandpa, I missed you.

2 Jan

I used to be a painter. It used to consume me. I would spend hours upon hours locked up in my room – Tori Amos blasting full force – covered in acrylics. My floor was stained with paint. My clothes were covered in them. I don’t think I owned one piece of clothing that didn’t have at least one acrylic stain on it.

Heck – I even painted my hair. On purpose. (true story!)

My Grandfather taught me how. I remember his little studio at the back of my grandparent’s house. I can still smell the turpentine when I close my eyes and think about it. He had stores of paper and pastels and any kind of paint I wanted. And clay. At the end of ninth grade I insisted to my parents that I wanted to go to an art school. My grandfather spent hours and hours with me making a portfolio. To get into the school, I also had to sit in a class and paint or draw a bowl of fruit, while the teachers watched. He told me “if you want to impress them, take a step back every once in a while and look at your work. They’ll think you know what you’re doing.”.

I got into that art school. And at the end of 12th grade, I made a huge final project.

The summer before, I had my first serious bout with depression and anxiety, and that project was a maze of my insides. splatter upon splatter hanging from the ceiling. 40 meters of clear nylon plastic with my interior crap all over it (figuratively of course).

My grandfather came to see it. He brought his video camera. He walked around that room for almost an hour exclaiming, examining, critiquing. Being proud of me.

I finished high school. I kept on painting. I loved it. I loved the way it felt. It was freeing.

I stopped painting when my grandfather died. I excused it as “moving on to another medium” (i.e. film).

But no. I stopped painting when my grandfather died.

This was 11 years ago.

A few months ago I went out and bought acrylics, brushes, an easel… Everything. And then I didn’t touch them.

Last night I talked to one of my closest friends, who tends to see right through me and say the most insightful and practical things that it sometimes scares me to talk to him.

We had a really long conversation during which he asked “and when are you going to paint?”

Apparently – the answer was – today.

I don’t know what came over me. I grabbed the easel, my ipod, those brushes, and I just went at it.

I was hesitant at first. But an hour and a half later it was as if I never left it. Tori blasting in my ears, brushes tossed aside in favor of fingers. Tears streaming down my cheeks.

An upbeat song comes on. I dance around, sing aloud applying paint layer upon layer.

Then I stop and I whisper.

“Hi Grandpa. I missed you.”

I’m not a spiritual person, but in that moment I felt him with me. I smelled the turpentine. I took a step back and looked at my work “so they’ll think I know what I’m doing.”

That’s also the moment that I realized for the first time that I stopped painting because he died. Because it hurt too much. Because every time I put acrylic on a canvas or a piece of paper, he is there with me, and how much I miss him, and how scared I was to feel that.

Man, he’d be so pissed off at me for letting it go for so long.

Why have I spent 11 years denying myself of that kind of cleansing, freeing experience? He was there with me, but it was joyous. It was amazing.

Saba – I’m sorry. I promise to meet up with you more often from now on.

(it’s a work in progress which I promise I will post when it’s done)

8 Responses to “Hi Grandpa, I missed you.”

  1. slcurwin January 2, 2011 at 20:25 #

    That is so amazing to get back into. I was in an advnaced art program in high school but when I got my portfolio ready in grade 12 I really burnt myself out. I loved it so much, but I pushed myself too hard in too short a time. I barely touched any art work after highschool and then when I did it was like I lost my talent (honestly I used to love what I’d draw/ paint but now it’s crap). I wish I could find that place again like you did.

    • mommyodyssey January 2, 2011 at 21:35 #

      I totally get it. I know that what I did today isn’t even close to the level of my old stuff, but a mentor of mine told me not too long ago that sometimes it’s best to do art just for art’s sake – and not worry about the final product.
      I tried going into it today with that in mind. Eventually I let go of the self-judgment and just let things flow. Maybe you should try the same?

      • slcurwin January 3, 2011 at 08:31 #

        I really need to. I agree.

        • mommyodyssey January 3, 2011 at 23:32 #

          Give yourself the space to. I know it’s hard to get started (it took me ten years!) But it’s worth it. 🙂

  2. me0me January 3, 2011 at 19:54 #

    *chills* and teary eyes

  3. rolig January 5, 2011 at 16:58 #

    teary indeed.
    and one more thing. there’s no crapy art. if you create from your guts its art.
    i should do it more often myself


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