Remember finger-painting? The glory of using your hands and that wet, gooey paint to smudge all over a piece of paper. The streaks of bright blue paint on your cheek you?d bring home from school. The way the soap turned orange when the paint under your nails came out as you washed up.

I can still remember how the wet paint smelled. And how at the end of kindergarten I?d be pretty well covered in paint and glue and little pieces of construction paper stuck to my shoes.

Then I learned to draw. And I learned about composition, and the color wheel. I was taught how to use perspective to bring depth to my work, and how to use shadows to create a lifelike feeling. I was pretty good at some point in my life. But as time went on, I drifted away from drawing and painting. The price I paid was a big decline in my eye to canvas translation. I couldn?t capture images as well as I used to, and so the joy of painting disappeared for me.

Over the last couple of years, I?ve tried very hard to break out of my compulsive need to draw accurately. I wanted to see what I could do just with colors and design. Alas, old habits die hard. I?d get frustrated and I let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

Until last Friday, when my old friend and colleague Gay Groomes invited me to her foothill home to try monoprinting. Monoprinting, which I knew nothing about, consists of inking or painting a panel of glass, and then running the plate, covered by paper, through a hand-cranked press. The color transfers to the paper, but the pressure of the press and the different consistencies mean that your images don?t show up exactly as you intended. Then you can take the glass plate and add color, textures, shapes, and rerun the print through the press again. Sometimes the results are wonderful. Often the results are just plain dreadful.

But to me it was freeing. It released me from my obsession with perfection and brought back the playfulness that I?ve missed so much.

In three hours I completed three plates and left one with more work to do. My first effort was surprisingly good ? until I ran the print through the press once more to add to the print, and ended up destroying it. My second effort was hilarious. It looked like part of a tie-dye t-shirt. (I must have been channeling Woodstock!)

I felt a little better about the next print and really had fun with the last:




While these efforts are amateurish and nothing I'm particularly proud of, I can feel good about how much I learned ? that staying in the same environment means creating the same results. That is, by giving myself a sketch pad, a set of oils and a canvas I was making it too easy to stay in my comfort zone and too hard to try something very, very different. By throwing myself into a completely new experience, I discovered new ways to create, freed myself from perfection, and had a wonderful time.

And of course, I got to go home with streaks of blue paint on my cheek and orange paint under my nails. Glory be!




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