The Blind… leading the Seeing…

I feel like a dishonest fake, these days. You see, I am still taking painting students weekly, and groping my way through lessons. There is something odd about a teacher of painting who gropes around changing eyeglasses in the middle of intensely gazing out of filmy vision at sections and passages in someone else’s paintings. There must be some worry on the part of students, when I say to them “Get up and give me your paintbrush… this is how to charge your brush, how to scumble, make a clear edge… or this passage doesn’t quite fit, because of….”, grab their brush and proceed to make guess-like stabs in the proximity of their canvas surface. So far, either they have been exceedingly patient, polite and kind in not refusing me to allow access to their materials and have not refused. Or, I am truly and unnervingly pushy with them. I’m waiting for the first “I’m not letting you do that.. to my precious…get the Hell back!!!”

Every so often during sessions, Rumpole emerges from the living room, slouches at the studio door-way and good-naturedly prods “Are you going to take that from HER?” At times like that I cannot help myself and succumb to Annoyed Bitch Mode and turn his mantra of “I do Law; you do house!” into “I do Art; you get lost and mind your business.” After students pick themselves off the floor, madly giggling at this exchange, for some reason they resume their labours, uncomplaining. I resume squinting while juggling pairs of glasses and pretend I can see what I am supposed to see.

So, occupying myself during this process, close to hand, closer than three feet away, I get to note how students go about mixing paint, adjusting to leanness and fatness, systematize their efforts to good end, adjust paint viscosity and brush loading.

What I have noted is that Lucky keeps a chaotic pallette, despite my cautions to the contrary. I bet as an OR nurse she keeps a tight ship of equipment and procedures – so, why the gay abandon of undisciplined material use while painting? She has a lovely looseness to her painting, and she is starting to watch how paintbrushes can make clear and soft edges. She loves colour and pattern, but she is hell on her equipment. She has lost more paintbrushes to improper cleaning than I ever though possible. And that after my riding her ass mercilessly at cleanup time to do a thorough job. “Yes, Mother, my Fuehrerin!” she says in mock apology as I kvetch and carp about her careless slovenly attitude toward her tools. I gotta work on her. What, is she and her family made out of money? Aha! That’s something to mention tonight when she comes for her painting class.

Barb, on the other hand is tidy, methodical and plans ahead. No rude surprises for this gal. Control!!! She is one to give skilled trompe l’oeil painters a run for their money. I swear she knows exactly how many hairs each of her paintbrushes have and how to deploy them. She is sensitive to paint consistency and her pallette looks like an experimentalists careful one. Man, I’d love to loosen her up. But then, I am reminded that we each have our personal tendencies and peccadilloes – our own way we are meant to work. Still, I can’t help but bug her. “Why use a large paintbrush to efficiently cover large space, when a tiny one will make a more satisfactory and laborious work for you,” I’m wont to needling her.

Still, as the blind leading the seeing, I am learning a hellofalot about individuality, human nature, my blind spots and preconceptions. I value greatly what my experiences in the studio with Lucky and Barb have brought to me. Perhaps, when I gain more eyesight back I can give them greater value as a teacher. I hope so!

13 Responses to “The Blind… leading the Seeing…”

  1. mariacristina Says:

    This is hysterical! It reads like a scene from a sit-com. You sketch so many different characters here. Your vision might not be what it once was, but your powers of observation haven’t dimmed in the least. You have a jolly spirit in the tone of your writing that’s contagious. A fun read.

  2. Why I Study Blogs… « East of Eden… Says:

    […] a thing I experienced with “Suburban Life” – today. This is one I never miss. You will see why if you will click on the above […]

  3. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Another great read. You pin your characters down with merciless accuracy. I know them all so I know it’s true!
    I quote one of your former students when I say you “are still the best painting teacher yet!”

  4. suburbanlife Says:

    Christine – I’m glad to have provided a little levity to your day. These folks in my life are tremendously entertaining. My life would be, indeed, grey without them. Thanks for continuing to read my stuff! G

    Citrus – you sweetie. Thank you so much for your support! You are a generous soul.

    Lookingforbeauty – I hope these people don’t come across as complete caricatures. They might be cheesed off by how they are represented here if that’s the case. But they are wholly lovable, individual and valuable persons. But. by God, they have taught me that ‘normal’ has a wide range. G

  5. James Steerforth Says:

    I loved this touching glimpse at your art “class” and wish you lots more eyesight gained back soon.

  6. Vanni B Says:

    She is Lucky indeed. Disciplined when she needs to be for her job, able to create with abandon like a child at play, and has a sense of humour to boot.

    I can see what a treasure you are too… and a good painter with words.

  7. Deborah Barlow Says:

    I find this post so moving. Thank you G for your candid, heartfelt, poignant vignette.

  8. suburbanlife Says:

    James – thank you so much! G

    Vanni – Lucky is a fabulous character and person, a golden girl and a well liked and respected professional woman. She must have been born under a fortuitous sign. G

    Deborah – thanks for checking in and your always kind comments. G

  9. ybonesy Says:

    I also find this moving in so many ways. It’s heartbreaking yet funny, and so rich. I love these insights to the students and how their stewardship of their materials translates to their own styles. It makes me wonder what kind of student I would be and what that would say about my work.

    But I am especially struck by your personal courage. I hope you continue on in spite of the challenges. I would bet that the students are gaining so much from your mentorship and instruction.

  10. suburbanlife Says:

    Ybonesy – i get so much more than i ever give out – truly amazing, this generosity that is all around. Surely there is a ripple effect from this out into the broad world.
    I bet you have good stewardship of your art materials. And a good connection to ideas which prompt your particular manner of expression, both in visual and verbal arts. Your work is so original, that when you were a student you must have been a constant source of wonder to your mentors and teachers, and must have taught them a great deal just by being yourself. Do i dare say it – you must be delightfully quirky? Yep, i suspect so. G

  11. Gloria, Writer Reading Says:

    I can only think of Beethoven creating music when deaf, hearing things no one else ever could.

  12. ybonesy Says:

    G, so glad to read you’ve made it through the surgery. I shall read that post after I go back and catch up on the comments from last visit.

    But, I wanted to tell you that when I was taking art classes in the undergrad university, I was not an art major. I was a business major. One time one of the professors, a well-known, quite famous guy with works in the Guggenheim, called my name, called my major, told me to go back to biz school where I belonged. I nearly quit and never came back.

    But later on, it was because of a couple of dear, wonderful teachers that I continued and thrived. Teachers, and especially teachers of the arts, are leaders in a whole different way. True leaders in that they hold so much possibility to inspire and influence.

  13. A Sun Mountain Award for “G” at How to Survive Suburban Life « Café Philos: an internet café Says:

    […] me as wise.  For instance, consider how well she understands and manages her art students in this post.  For those reasons and more, I am this morning taking the excessive liberty of inflicting the Sun […]

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