“Silent” seems appropriate for my time of continued computer disaster. My friend John has rigged me up to the internet again, but it’s routed through my friend Korki’s old laptop. The laptop is not happy about the things I ask of it, so I’m keeping communications to the bare minimum with continued hopes that John will be able to rescue my hard drive and all those files I neglected to back up. He’s put in a lot of hours trying to help and I’m very grateful, and grateful to Korki for the loaner too. Forced inaction has led me to painting rocks, and there can’t be anything more silent than rocks. It’s an obsessive thing. Maybe I just want the stability they represent? In a way, rocks are a meditative subject for me. I don’t have to think very hard about what they look like. It reminds me of the beginning of one of my previous jobs…
I was assigned a quail illustration. I asked the art director where they kept reference photos of such things. They didn’t keep reference photos. Hm. Okay? ‘How am I supposed to draw it if I didn’t know what it looks like?” “You know what it looks like. ‘Real artists’ don’t need reference.” UH?!! What does a quail look like anyway? Grr… I did a search online, printed a very crappy reference photo, and growled through my painting. This was the first phase of the next couple of weeks where I said at least 30 or 40 times a day “I’m losing my f***ing mind!” It wasn’t a good start to a miserable job, but I was getting paid to paint, so I kept my swearing inside, to be vented in full steam to my friends on the phone when I got home.
Next assignment was a bow. I got a piece of ribbon, tied a bow, and sustained the almost continual criticism from the AD about how I was weak for needing reference. He stood over my shoulder and remarked about almost every color choice, every brush stroke. “Don’t you have your own work to do?” I smiled at him through clenched teeth. When I dropped my brush, he said it was because I held my paintbrush too lightly, and started to demonstrate the proper way for me to hold it. I picked up my brush, slammed it on my desk, and near tears, stormed into the big boss' office. “I can’t work this way!” By this time, I knew that the big boss and the AD screamed at each other at least 3 times a week, so I knew I had an ally. “Ignore him. Learn what you can from him, and ignore the rest.”
After taking a break outside for a silent primal scream, I went back to the office I shared with the AD, and resumed painting. He wanted birds painted without reference? Fine. Cardinals are red, right? Who cares about subtleties or accuracy? Here’s a red bird. Done. Next assignment. French horn? Sure, why not? I dimly remembered that they have 3 or maybe 4 places for fingers, a big bell at the end, and a whole bunch of tubing in between. Done. Who cares if that French horn would sound like a screaming cat if it actually existed? This was all the more ironic for me because in my previous job naturalists held me up arguing about the number of toes a salamander had on its front feet vs. its back feet. (5 and 4.)
In case you can’t tell, I’d rather deal with naturalists arguing over toes than fly blind over quail. Whenever possible, I did research at home before starting new projects in the morning. Eventually I reduced my mental F words to a mere 5 to 10 times a day. I got better, faster, stronger than I had ever been before. Now I feel annoyed when I actually need to take time out of my life to look up reference before starting something. It’s easy to get hooked on the instant gratification of picking up the paintbrush as soon as I have a new thought. Therefore, rocks. No research, and all the effort is in the color and form. It’s a silent meditation of stability.