And Now for Something Completely Different

This week I read a great column in Writer Unboxed by Sarah Callender about navigating between hope and despair, and the part writers have in “disturbing the universe.” She used a line from T. S. Eliot‘s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” as a provocative jumping-off point, which reminded me how much I love that poem.

I was going to write that inspiring line down on a post it and stick it to my computer monitor. But that didn’t seem enough. So I thought I’d type it out in some interesting font, print it, and tape it up somewhere. But then that didn’t seem enough. So I concocted a little plan to do a painting. This is the result.

I’m not sure if it’s actually done yet. I may add another layer after this one is dry. But here is how I went about painting it.

First I typed up the line, chose fonts and sizes, and then printed it. I cut the words apart and arranged them how I thought they would fit on the canvas. Then I taped the pieces together and taped them to the back of the canvas so that, when a very bright light was positioned at the back, the black letters would show through.

Next, I painted over the letters with black gesso, which is a fast-drying acrylic medium.

Once I had all the letters in place, I let them dry.

I knew I wanted the corners to be very dark, so I sponged black gesso all around the outside, almost like a vignette.

I let it dry overnight, though I probably didn’t have to. When I was ready to paint today, I covered the whole thing with a coat of liquid clear.

Then I started to lay in the color. I chose only transparent or semi-transparent paints so that the black text would show through and I started with the brightest (indian yellow).

Now, as I tend to do, I forgot about taking any more photos as I laid in all the rest of the colors. But after they were on the canvas, I didn’t exactly like how they came together. So instead of trying to blend them together and hide the brush strokes, I swirled them all with a 2″ brush so that the brushstrokes would be part of the effect.

As I said, I’m not sure that I would consider this done at this point, but I think I need to let this layer of paint dry before making any further decisions about it.

This was a nice change of pace from landscapes and I got to use some very bright colors, which was fun. Of course, it doesn’t match any room in the house, so who knows what I’ll end up doing with it!

Why didn’t I think to describe someone as “mouldy?”

After a rather long hiatus, I have once again picked up Virginia Woolf’s abridged diary in the evenings. I’m absolutely enraptured with Woolf’s ability to use a few precise, often unexpected words to describe a person or a situation. Here are a few I’ve underlined.

“Roger is becoming one of the successes of the day as a painter of perfectly literal and very unpleasant portraits.”

“I doubt that anyone will say the interesting things but they can’t prevent their coming out.”

“Whether people see their own rooms with the devastating clearness that I see them, thus admitted once for an hour, I doubt. Chill superficial seemliness; but thin as a March glaze of ice on a pool.”

“Being an editor has drugged the remnants of ambition in him, and he is now content.”

“Sometimes everything gets into the same mood.”

“In my heart, too, I prefer the nondescript anonymous days of youth. I like youthful minds; and the sense that no one’s yet anybody.”

“I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual.”

“It annoys me to be like other wives.”

“She has been working over these old stories so often, that they hold no likeness to the truth–they are stale, managed, pulled this way and that, as we used to knead and pull the crumb of bread, till it was a damp slab.”

“Ethel’s [tea] was a ghastly frizzly frying pan affair.”

“No I don’t trust him; I don’t trust any human being, however loud they bellow and roll their rs.”

“Such is human nature–and really I don’t like human nature unless all candied over with art.”

“I know why I am depressed: a bad habit of making up the review I should like before reading the review I get.”

“Here at the age of forty-five are Nessa and I growing little wings again after our lean years.”

“And now there’s the Femina prize to record–an affair of dull stupid horror.”

I’m happy to be once again immersed in the world of a very thoughtful writer who truly considered everything in her life and felt the compulsion to write about it–parties, visitors, scenes on London’s streets, the impact of a solar eclipse, books, homes, hairstyles, the subtle interplay between couples. Everything was literary. She inspires me to see all of life through the lens of what I might write about it.