Last spring, I was invited to participate in the 14th Annual California Landscape Painter's Exhibit at the Natsoulas Gallery, downtown Davis. At the time of the invitation I'd only dusted off my paints once in six years for a single morning of work, so the idea of preparing several paintings for a show made my eyes spin: How could I fit that into my life as a full-time mother? What would the kids be doing while I painted? Where would I set up my easel? What easel? What would I do about the fumes? What.... what.... was I going to paint? Could ....I.... even ....paint?
So, to answer the first two questions, I gifted myself with ten days of painting in late June, early July. That means I paid a babysitter to be with the kids for four hours each day; I wasn't thinking that this was my "Lean In" battle cry. I thought of this as a treat, a little stay-cation for Mommy; my version of a Ladies' trip to Las Vegas.
The third question was answered through a gift from something greater, through an unspoken prayer, a touch of an angel, or reverbs of good energy. However I put it, I felt like the universe was encouraging me. Just the week before I was to embark on my little lark, I came across a huge easel at the thrift store: for $15 a behemoth sort that someone had obviously banged together in their garage; probably used by some artist who was real, and committed, and known, and now had enough money to buy a real easel, the kind that adjusted with nice brass hardware. How thrilled I was to have the cast off of this successful, renown, self-fulfilled artist! It would save me from propping my work on the bedroom floor! It would hold a panel bigger than any I'd ever before attempted! For fear of breaking the magic, or like a kid being handed cake, my wide grin was plastic across my face and I didn't blink as I handed over the money, strapped it on my bike at an absurd angle, and beat feet home. I remember having the internal glee, a victory cry: I've got my cake! I'm going to eat it too! I don't know how or why, but here it is!
I took down my desk in our bedroom, draped and taped plastic all around, strategized with the box and ceiling fan, took some photos one evening at sunset: rudimentary readying. All this was so foreign to the kids. "What are you doing, Mommy?" "What are you painting a picture of?" "Why?" I didn't really have good answers, but that was also part of my preparation for painting. What indeed was I doing?! What would be the point? Was it really just a fun trip down memory lane? Like going back to the old drive-in movie theater to see a grainy '80's movie, only to think, "I thought THIS was funny?"
Our patient babysitter had her work cut out for her as I kissed the kids on their foreheads announcing: "Mommy's going to work now. See you after lunch." I then commuted upstairs to the bedroom; in the second hour I locked the door after learning the kids thought it would definitely be a "Take your kids to work day" situation. I also developed an appreciation for loud contemporary pop music, as I learned that being swallowed up by the youthful cries for love and longing allowed me to pretend I wasn't the middle aged woman in the house ultimately responsible for the bangs and shouts emanating up the stairs.
This was my slippery slope into treating painting like a real job.
On the first day of work, my dentist told me I needed a root canal. On the second day of work I received that root canal. By the third day, the novelty of our little game had worn thin with the kids. So much for "diving in", more like a novacaned slump!
Nevertheless, when I reached the end of day 10, finding myself standing in our lawn at 9pm, twenty feet back from painting that was too big to work on in our bedroom, it sure did feel like Vegas, baby! My little lark left me wide-eyed on the slot machine stool facing the flashing lights and clanging bells of a winning slot machine. I was hooked, and there would be no "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." I was going to have to make this a regular gig.