Song of the Week: “Absolutely Cuckoo” by the Magnetic Fields
Last week I got creative!
On the Winter solstice in 2018, I went to Jerry’s Artarama. It holds a special place in my memory of my home town, in part because the trips were so few and far between. My mom and I drove up that Friday morning during winter break. We’d been living in her new condo for about three years, and I’d long been fantasizing about painting on the wall behind my bed but was too daunted. I’d never painted on anything but paper or canvas before. Painting on a wall seemed bigger, more important, like you had to be somebody to do that… but maybe it was also a way to claim that space as my own.
I picked out four colors — a muted red, a cream color and two shades of blue — some paint brushes, a palette knife and a palette. At home, I remember moving my whole bed out to make space. I started slowly with the red, meticulously sketching out a circle with my smallest brush. It worked for a little while, but a whole wall is big. I shifted up to my biggest brush, widening the circle out with the cream, but it still wasn’t doing the trick. So I ditched the brush and started finger painting. More, I kept thinking, bigger, until more and more of my fingers were covered in paint, and then my whole hands. Before I was a third of the way done, I was sweeping my arms over my head in broad strokes, dipping my whole hands into puddles of paint on my palette, widening the circles out into a big fiery ball that faded into a warm glow before a deep blue background. It wasn’t long before I used up all of our blue.
I was shocked. Two whole tubes of paint that I’d only just bought, gone. And the wall was still at least half empty. And I was sitting there with navy blue hands and paint on my floor, on my clothes and on my face from wiping sweat off my brow for the past hour. For someone who had a lot more work ahead of them, I felt strangely satisfied.
As the term inevitably gets more and more hectic and filled with work and stress, I’ve begun finding solace in art again. I’ve always been a creative person. My K-12 education was full of yearly art and film and creative writing classes, and to this day, my mural watches over me at night when I’m in my hometown. When I started college, though, I couldn’t fit any art classes in my school schedule, and without that motivator, I quickly fell out of practice. Over the past couple years, it’s taken firm plans with a friend or a deadline of sorts to get me going again.
So when a good friend said they wanted to do a little craft night for their birthday on Sunday, I forced it into my schedule. I was determined that no homework or Netflix binges would get in the way.
Around 8 p.m., I came out to find the low coffee table in the common room covered in little tubes of acrylic paint and brushes and snacks. I contributed my favorite Prismacolor colored pencils and markers, and settled onto the floor, Twizzler and paint brush in hand.
We made a little collaborative art circle. We each started our own piece, added as much as we could, then passed it to the right when the five-minute timer we’d set went off. We did 10 rounds of this, building on each other’s motifs, each using different mediums and color palettes. We all had very different styles, and each piece turned out radically different. Over an hour passed in the blink of an eye, and I didn’t check my phone once. And the final piece that I started is absolutely mesmerizing. It was exactly the way I wanted my week to end.
I hung the piece on an empty wall, in the hopes that more craft nights will follow and we can eventually fill it. Looking up at it, I think about falling asleep under my mural. I remember the feeling of stretching my arms up as high as they could go, the warm stickiness of the paint settling into my hands. The way it felt to drop the brushes and throw my body into it. I remember being passed a piece of paper with some familiar elements and also completely new ones I couldn’t have predicted on my own.
When I start to yearn for a craft night, and feel down on myself about not doing enough art, I also think about this column. Every week, regardless of the lack of time I have to paint or color or take a film class, I manage to write. And that feels like enough.