Ducks in a pile / by Susie Lubell

Untitled

Do you ever decide you're going to get started on something - a project, an assignment, a new endeavor, a trip, a remodel, your life - but only when everything is aligned in your favor? When your ducks are in a row? This is my tendency. I wait until there's some kind of magic moment. Or, more accurately, I wait till I have enough time to myself to really focus and get down to business. It turns out I never have that kind of time. Even before the baby, when the big kids were in school and I had four hours every morning to work, it was really more like three hours after drop off and pick up. And more like two after I showered, did the laundry, went to the grocery store, picked up a birthday present or went to the post office. So by the time I got down to business I had maybe an hour and a half of unfettered time which I would decide was not enough and I would daydream instead. Or tinker. Or at my most productive I would print out and package some orders. But I would never paint. Painting required my undivided attention, partly because watercolor dries so fast that once you start, you sort of need to get to a good ending point, otherwise you have blotchy. (psst. Did you see how I just rationalized not painting, even as I write this short essay ostensibly about how to get over all that and move forward?)

So, true to character, I decided once things didn't work out with my babysitter and I was again a full-time companion to Sweet Cheeks McTiny Tush, I put my painting aspirations aside. Again. Babies are such a good excuse for so many things! Tardiness, flightiness, forgetfulness, looking tired and unkempt, being chubby, whipping out your boobs in public...and, yes, procrastination. And I figured I would wait until September when my baby will start going to a family daycare and I finally have the time I need to focus on my work.

But then a number of things happened. First I reached out to a friend asking how she managed to be such a prolific painter while her babies were little and she said she is all over the place. But she threw out the question, can you do your work in layers, like 15 minute increments? It's not really how I work. I need time. I need space. Because I hate taking out supplies and then putting them all back which is what you have to do when you work at the kitchen table.

Layers. 15 minute increments.

Then I went to this woman's website, having heard rave reviews about her workshops, and nearly fell over and died when I saw her work. It is so beautiful, it sings. It made me cry! And not because I wished I was her, which is where I usually go in these moments, but because I could see her joy spilled out in her work. That's when I got out the acrylics and some old canvases I had painted 10 years ago and, starting with the "grounds" technique I had learned at a workshop last year with Jesse Reno, I just put on paint and more paint while the baby napped. And for fifteen minute increments while he played. And at night if I wasn't too tired. And I let the layers dry, because that's what you kind of have to do with acrylic  before you can add another layer. I moved my box of supplies to the shelves next to the kitchen table and the oil cloth is now there semi-permanently. I'm just getting used to the acrylics and how they work and what I can do so there is much to learn, but I'm doing it.

So there it is. My ducks are in a pile, all squawky and flappy and cattywampus and I am happily painting almost every day.