Two days of climbing up and down a ladder and carrying the ladder, standing on the ladder reaching overhead with the paintbrush; a spider suddenly rappelled from a corner the brush approached, a controlled fall all the way to the soft ground. A few granddaddy-longlegs lost their homes, and one, alas, lost its life. It was hiding from the brush and I didn't see it until it was too late. I had to flick him off the paintbrush. A tiny blue dot sailed through the air and stuck to a chartreuse fern, quickly suffocated by the layer of fast-drying paint. A sentient being. I write it off to the modern world where a bug suddenly covered by paint is the equal of roadkill. I don't think karma had a great deal to do with the bug's surprise demise. Shit happens. Or, another way of looking at it, I was instrumental in advancing the bug's soul on to its next lifetime as possibly a bug with wings or a spider that makes webs. Say a prayer for its soul and keep on working the paintbrush was all I could do. Some people think I'm nutty saying a prayer for roadkill, albeit silent and maybe a second or two in mental space, but I don't care. They don't see what I see. I see a living consciousness, a sentient being, the same as a human, though less experience, a life form with as much right to live as I assume for myself. Whatever evidence I may give for why I believe I have a right to live would apply to the granddaddy-longleg to the same degree as it would to me. This is why I cannot kill bugs indiscriminately. I've killed plenty and may kill one inside ten minutes, but as a rule of thumb I prefer to allow them their lives. Cheyanne, 7, asked me last week why I didn't kill the spider I picked up on a a piece of paper and carried outside to release on some foliage. "Why didn't you kill it?" with puzzlement all over her face, in her eyes, even the angle of her head. I realized she'd never seen anybody not kill a spider. I said, "I don't have to kill something just because it's living."
the sides of the box
Upon arrival at the painting site this morning, I broke a dead branch off a small locust beside the door to the little black room. It shook loose a white luna moth from someplace on the trunk out of my sight. The moth fluttered to the ground like a broken bird onto water, then trying to swim with its wings, flopping over the ground like I had broken one of them. It kept on flopping until it lifted into the air and flew in a half circle through the trees following the open spaces between trees until it went out of sight. It looked like a white bird. I made a note to self this is a special moment. It flew like a butterfly though with purpose like a bird. Opening the paint cans from the day before brought to my attention how tired I was. I was wired, however, wanting to get at slashing the paint. Today would be the day to dive into the painting. Yesterday I laid on the background colors and started the trees, putting them in place. Today I painted the trees. Justin arrived soon after I started. He saw I'd painted it all the way around with trees and said, "About done?" I laughed, "About to start. This is the starting place." I realized yesterday I was painting it as I make a painting. I'll paint the whole thing once, then paint the whole thing again, and again until it satisfies what I'm looking for. I like to build layers upon layers, allowing the under color exposure. I repainted what I'd done yesterday, made the first round. Then made a third round. I thought about making a fourth round, but that meant more hours on the ladder. I felt that was over the line into too much. Two days of stair-step exercise on a step ladder is not a good advertisement for doing it a third day. The third round, I made the white highlights, muted places too bright, darkened places that needed it, articulating the trees a bit better than yesterday's outlines. The third round I brought it to completion, making it a continuum all the way around. Whatever else I felt I'd like to do would be too much and invite more, when my control is less.
The colors I had access to were forest green, very dark brown, light blue, light gray and white. They were left-over cans from Justin's house painting jobs. Like me, he's unable to throw away a half gallon of good paint. On my projects, I'm a believer in make do with what you got. I didn't even entertain a thought of saying I need this or that. These are the colors we have; these are the colors we use. I used a three-inch brush for the shades of brown, a three-inch brush for the green and a one-inch brush for the white. I painted it for winter trees as winter is hunting season. I could have put green traces in the trees, but the green I had was rhododendron green, not tree leaf green. Justin told me yesterday about an experiment some guys made for a hunting channel on tv. They painted a blind different colors, including camouflage. They found the deer were as comfortable with the one painted neon pink as the one painted cammo. Before we started, we knew that it didn't matter what we painted on it. I could make the whole thing a wrap-around sign saying EAT MORE POSSUM, red letters on yellow, and it would be the same to the deer as a woodland scene. I knew before starting I was not going to attempt to make it mirror the scenes around it. I chose to work with the space the trees occupied, the trees among one another. I could have gone over it with some darker brown to contrast with the white highlights for depth and dazzle, but liked the softness of it. From a little bit of distance it looks like an outhouse made of used wood. There comes a place in everything I've painted, looking for the next thing to do, when the only thing I can see to do next would mess it up, I know it's done.
justin sawing a side opening
grumpy old bastard high on a ladder
Justin had to go away for awhile. When he returned I'd just completed what I was doing for the day. Monday he will put up the door he's making at home, and I'll paint it. I'm saving the finishing touch on that side for the door to fit the vacancy. I want to finish the door and the wall beside it together to make a continuum. If I'd finished the wall, then tried to match it painting the door, it would not work. Justin came driving up the car path surprised by what he saw. He said, "I wasn't expectin nothin like this." We'd already talked over what we're doing is for fun, not to reproduce the woods, not to fool the deer into thinking it's not a box. It was pretty basic before he left. I'd made the third round adding highlights, muting here, brightening there, gave it a little breath of life. I didn't want any more than that. I was aiming toward a feeling that the trees are trees in the woods, living trees. I didn't differentiate locust, maple, poplar, oak, sassafras, Didn't want to mirror the forest, but to feel the forest, pay close attention to arrangements and space between them. I wanted a sense of space without attempting to make it 3-D. I didn't want it to look studied or an attempt to reproduce the trees. I was on a project with access to certain colors and did not want to spend weeks and months on it. No more than 3 days. Rule of thumb. I wanted to get the feel of trees, get what trees do. Justin painted some on the outside yesterday after finishing the black interior. I told him, do whatever you feel like doing. I wanted his hand/eye in it too. I didn't want to suggest anything to him. I wanted him to find what he thinks it needs. He made green Xs across the top and across the bottom. It surprised me, but didn't when I looked out into the woods at all the branches crossing. Xs were everywhere. Today I incorporated the Xs into the whole, the continuum. Some I painted over lightly with the light brown and went over them with some green strokes that kept the pattern. I'd been working on the vertical and horizontal and he brought in the angles I'd been wondering how I wanted to approach. I was glad he did something so different from what I would have done. That was why I asked him to put on the green. He said, "What do you want me to do?" I said, "It's your world." I wanted him to have the freedom to exercise his own aesthetic sense. I would include it in the whole in my final sweep. We set out to make a fun project and it worked. It was fun.