Oddity lies in the eye of the beholder


By Janice Lindsay

Janice Lindsay
Janice Lindsay

I told myself, “Don’t be intimidated.”

I was attending an art workshop, preparing to paint. We were eleven women, ten who were for-real artists or had at least taken lessons, and me.

While the instructor explained the activity, I said to myself, “Self, you don’t belong here.” But myself answered, “Will the world come to an end if you can’t do this? Just relax and enjoy yourself!”

There is so much freedom in learning to do something when you don’t have to do it well. But it’s not easy to convince yourself of thodditat. We live in an achievement-oriented society. We’re all expected to accomplish stuff, preferably good stuff.

The workshop description said, “Don’t consider yourself an artist? It doesn’t matter. This isn’t about representational art. The focus is on the process, not the end results.”

That afforded some reassurance. I knew I could not do “representational.” I could not paint anything that looked like something, at least not on purpose.

On the other hand, I knew that, when we finished, we would all see everybody’s work. I hoped for results that, if they were not good, would at least not be embarrassing.

Further workshop description: “The process invites deeper creativity and imagination to flow by using your intuition as your guide. You might be surprised at the talent you have. The workshop will be loose, fun, and freeing – and messy.”

I did not expect to be surprised at my talent. But I knew I could do messy.

We each tacked an 18-by-24-inch sheet of paper, in my case placed vertically, on the studio walls lined with newsprint. Small jars of brightly colored paints waited, with assorted brushes, on tables behind us. 

My intuition-as-guide said, “Start with a purple spiral.” I had never touched a brush full of such paint; an artist friend described it as a high-quality gouache or tempera. It was thick, luscious, and altogether satisfying.

I did not know how to accomplish a spiral. The closest I could come was a thick, curvy line, wide at the top, narrow at the bottom.

Now intuition said, “Yellow.” Paint yellow around the purple. Decorate the purple with white dots. Outline curves with red. Stroke green swatches on the yellow. Plaster the yellow with black circles with red centers.

I was having a fine messy time.

After a while, the curvy line reminded me of a snake. I gave it eye dots, breaking the rule about “representational.” But are there rules in art? Not that this looked like art. Or a snake.

My result: an oddity whose primary, if not only, appeal was bright colors.

When time was up, we strolled the studio, contemplating each other’s work. I saw ten works of art and one something else.

“Self,” I said, “you tried something new and you had fun. What more could you ask?”

At home, I transferred the oddity directly from my car to the trash bucket in the garage. An important part of creativity – just like an important part of life – is learning to let go.

But the next day, my husband glimpsed the oddity. He liked it! He wanted to hang it! I gave him permission to hang it –in the garage.

So, on our grayish garage walls, amidst all the dull-colored paraphernalia people store in garages, next to the faded instructions for the snow blower, hangs a bright purple curvy thing on a brilliant yellow background.

They say that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. So, just in case, if you ever visit our house, please don’t come in through the garage.

Contact jlindsay@tidewater.net.