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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

I have about a hundred paints in a drawer for a stack of paint by numbers I never did. I noticed them because Ralph and I are doing some boxing-up, organizing stuff we have into neat little containers so that when we want something, we can easily find it. So that next time we move, it will already be boxed and we won’t have to spend three months going through junk drawers.

My junk drawer is full of paints.

I started doing paint by number when my friend Kaarina got me one for my birthday a few years ago. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Then when Covid happened I bought a whole bunch more of them. But… Covid. And they took about four months to get here, by which point I was over it. I started one only to leave it sitting there for oh, three years. Plus there were SO MANY tiny little spaces to fill in, too tiny for my eyeballs at this stage in life to even read the numbers. So that irked me a bit and I stuck paints in drawers and canvases on the top shelf of the closet.

But guess what? I’ve become inspired. To paint, sure, but mostly to create. It’s been a long time since I created anything beyond many words on a screen.

I was never entirely “creative” but I do follow instructions pretty well so doing paint by number is more up my alley than, say, spattering a bunch of acrylics on an empty canvas. I never created a masterpiece or so much as a really cool doodle, but I loved doing crafts for quite a long time, and I still enjoy the occasional creative pursuit that I cram into my life in between client blog and pay rent.

I’ve always liked to draw, but not from my head. The only thing that forms itself in my head is words. But I could draw from pictures and I could draw from objects. It makes me really mad that I no longer have the drawings I did in the past because I really liked some of them and wanted to frame them. I spent years drawing every plant I ever owned, because I knew I’d inevitably kill them, but the pencil drawings would live on.

I drew pencil sketches of birthday cards I particularly liked. I drew sketches of postcards, and of tchotchkes on the shelf.

But no. They either got lost in the Great Flood, or the Great Flood Part Two, or I accidentally tossed them in one of my many purges.

A few years ago I decided I could start again. I bought a sketchbook. I bought pencils.

I signed up for a platform that has courses in drawing and bookmarked one about using colored pencils. My drawings were always black and white, just pencil on paper, which is really my favorite. But I wanted to try color, so I queued up the plan and then…

It sat in the figurative junk drawer of my brain for the next year and a half.

Throughout the course of my life I’ve made t-shirt drawings out of iron-ons and fabric paints, I’ve made wedding album covers and picture frames. I made colorful stained glass out of some of the pencil drawings I sketched. I made hair clips. I made jewelry full of tiny, perfect bread dough roses that apparently looked so much like they came from a department store that nobody thought they were very interesting.

But I created them. So I was pleased by them.

I want to create again.

It doesn’t even have to be original. I am not that person who is going to whip up some amazing sculpture because I “see” it in the stone. Do you know what I see when I see a stone? A stone. Maybe a doorstop or a paperweight.

I am never going to paint happy little clouds out of thin air.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t create something, something from my hands, that comes out of myself.

I did it for most of my life before I got boring and prioritized things like having a clean kitchen sink.

Maybe a year ago I bought this whole stack of felt and a glue gun because I was going to make succulents and fill up all my empty candle jars with them, and guess what happened to that? Nothing. Nothing at all.

The last time I sat down, determined to watch at least one colored pencil video, I first had to find the course since I forgot where I got it from in the first place. Then I decided to set it up in my Omnifocus as a project so it would be real, one task for each chapter so I could plan them into my day and check them off, feeling all smug-like. Then I had to find my headphones, but not the big headphoens because they don’t connect to my laptop anymore, but the small ones that do, which could have been – and usually are – anywhere. Found them, sat down, fudged around getting them to connect for a while, and was about to push play on the first video when Ralph got up to go to bed.

I looked at the clock and it was after 10, and my alarm was set for yoga at 5:30.

Disconnect headphones. Shut laptop. Decide colored pencils are stupid anyway.

But… I could draw the hydrangeas on my table. Or Alice. Or maybe an empty glass of whiskey. Or a door. I should probably start by drawing a door.

I’m not likely to go back to bread dough roses and fabric paints but I still like the paint by number and I would still love to draw.

I am going to make a dangerous statement out loud: I want to create.

As such, I am making a second dangerous statement and saying that I will retrieve the neglected paints and boxes of pencils, I will find the drawing course, I will yank a piece of paper off the printer and use that if I have to, but I will create.

Just for me, just for fun. Except now you know it, too, so I feel a little responsible for not showing back up here and admitting that drawing and painting landed somewhere near the barrel project.

The point is to do it. Not sit here and talk about doing it. Which makes this the ideal time to stop writing and go do something about it.