The ink spreads unevenly from my drying brush. Like charcoal or chalk, but deeper, more permanent. Ink on paper. The far left side is very dark and the rest is not so. I have dipped only the tip of the brush into the pure ink and now I paint with an edge.
She compliments a woman at the other table. Oh that’s good. And to the man next to her -- What an interesting landscape. Yes, she says, I see what you are getting at. She engages the two artists at my table, and says nothing to me.
I concentrate on holding my brush just so, straight up, or flat on its side. I look and see that others are drawing beautiful dragons and birds on branches. Complex, finely crafted, artistic. My houses, simple straight lines, stand askew, and not in interesting ways.
I slowly drag the brush across the paper, slowing, moving faster. I wipe the brush on newspaper, removing ink, causing the bristles to separate. I brush the ink across the paper, and these interesting shapes appear, and I love it. These are not solid lines. These are lines that have air, open space, white space – they breathe. I stop and let the brush sit on the paper for a moment. It blotches. I twist the brush and move it slightly while twisting it. It leaves ink in surprising patterns. I lift the brush and just lightly dot it all around. No two shapes are the same. I wonder what they mean.
I love how the ink looks on the paper, even if it doesn’t look like anything real, or maybe because it doesn’t. Oh, she says, as she comes up behind me. That could be a kangaroo. Looking at the mountain. Kangaroo? Mountain? Why is she trying to make this into something it is not?
I’m getting a headache. The day started with ink bottles, paper, brushes, saucers, a mason jar with water and a cup. Let’s see what the brush does. Ink on paper. Something I love. Black ink on white paper. How can I not love this? Like I love black and white photography. Typography. Oh my! This might lead to calligraphy. I love how ink looks on paper. I love how the shapes and the spaces and the dark and the light interact. And how many shades of gray there really are.
The two artists at my table offer up comments spontaneously to me. Oh, she says, I really like that – one of my thick drawn lines with lots of white space and two more rounded edgy shapes to either side. This has great energy, he says. Movement.
Yes, I sigh. Yes. Energy. Movement. Just liking something. Emotions.
She brought several books. Of zenga paintings. Chinese brush painting. Bamboo. Mountains. Trees. Birds. And… abstract shapes. Sigh. Yes. Abstract shapes. And putting these images together with words. Words and images – that’s something I can do.
I got sleepy around lunchtime. We had a silent meal and then I sat in the sun for a while. Back in our room, my headache returned and drowsiness came along, too. These are signals that something powerful is going on – sometimes it’s dealing with strong negatives and sometimes it means a transformation is underway. Sometimes it’s hard to know what is going on. That afternoon it was a bit of everything. Some is good. Some is great, and some is energy being spent dealing with yet another teacher who can’t seem to support me or find a way to move past her own narrow focus. By the end of the day, I was almost in tears. Such a strong mix of knowing this is something I want to pursue and still feeling like an intruder, an outsider, someone who doesn’t belong, isn’t invited in.
I talked to the artist from Santa Cruz and he suggested I paint by myself. By myself. When I want to connect. When I want to be in community. When I want to find support for who I am, and how I paint – or write, or think – or want to be.
I walked up the road to the parking lot. The broken asphalt on the edge of the hill. Walking in the golden afternoon light, in the eucalyptus grove, near Muir Beach. At Green Gulch Farms. A place I chose because I thought I would get supported, be welcomed, appreciated. A place where I found more of myself, some support, but not as much as I wanted, and where I processed, yet again, painful experiences with teachers past and present.
The next day I walked to Chinatown and found Mr. Mao on the mezzanine of the Empress of China building. I bought a fine fine brush to help with the thinner lines. And a horsehair brush to help with the coarser lines, the places where I want the bristles to separate more. I got some more paper and a stone bowl with a lid for my ink.
I picked out a woven mat to carry them in and when I got home replaced the pink ribbon tie with a red one.
I will practice painting. I will continue to deepen my appreciation of how the ink flows onto paper. How the brush moves across the paper. How it feels to hold it in my hand. How it looks with all those white spaces, darker edges, and energetic shapes. Maybe I’ll start with bamboo – stems like bones, spaces, and leaves that are energy incarnate. I may not be able to draw, but I can paint. I can make a mark. My mark.
Causes Paula Hendricks Supports
Grace Cathedral Labyrinth Guild, Bay Area Independent Publishers Association, Litquake, Center for the Book, San Francisco Public Library