A Brush With The Transcendent


"… after I'd lost track of myself."

I reluctantly engage, as if facing some impossibility. I know how to paint, but never seem to trust my instincts or understandings beforehand. I make a deliberate ritual out of gathering materials, the thin rubber gloves, the defiled paint can, the handy hand-held paint cup, my spattered havelock, my special spotted shoes and smock, my ragged jeans. I try to preplan the job, imagining that my perception could extend into the near future, though I know for certain that I will never know anything until I show up and lose myself, immersed in the job. Too much depends upon altogether too much for me to foresee very much of anything. I intend to do some painting.

Painting occurs on some different plane where present remains as permanence. Imagine if a breath became a sculpture, an instantaneous addition to the permanent collection.
A line of paint spread across a surface holds this same magical property. The act—a simple, trivial motion—remains frozen, for all intents and purposes, for all time, with a quick countdown clock calibrating the distance between when a rag might right a mistake and when nothing short of an act of God could undo the move. A painter, even a housepainter, exclusively deals in self portraiture. Every brushstroke captures the painter's spirit, his eye, his temperament. Thirty years hence, any interested anyone could recreate a reasonably accurate understanding of the one who held the brush that laid the paint. Painting's not for the feint of heart. It requires real courage to lay one's self so bare to cover some naked surface.

Once I start, I become a part of the process, indistinguishable from the paint and brush. Ten thousand decisions occur without me subvocalizing any strategy. The surface attracts me, instructing me how to conceal its secrets, and I simply comply. I learn exclusively by doing and what I learn will extinguish itself shortly after the painting's done. If I'm finishing a dozen sixteen footers, I will have devised the most efficient and effortless method for painting a sixteen footer by the time I reach that last board. Each previous one amounted to a practice board, one where I experimented, registering small successes and failures, adjusting approach for each subsequent one. My mastery will have been for naught, certainly never to be gainfully re-employed. Next time will certainly prove different enough to render me a rookie again. I feel more an observer than an active participant, watching as the boards shift color and texture, slightly mystified by the means by which they transform.

I reluctantly engage because I understand that I will lose myself for the duration of the chore. I will no more inhabit my body during that time than I will inhabit my mind. I become as if smoke, absent substance, ego, and id. I'm never certain where I've been when I return. I will walk around like a Sunday afternoon gallery gawker, critical of the anonymous artist whose work I survey. I muster acceptance of the way the paint has frozen, recognizing without really understanding, that the way it is has somehow become the way it simply has to be. No rag will wipe off any sloppy dribble. It's a feature by then. I might decide to apply another coat, believing that the few imperfections might be righted by a little sleight of hand. I find few shortcomings, though, never really knowing how the whole effort managed to work itself out. I figure the transcendence figured it out after I'd lost track of myself.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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