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!