There are three things I have always wanted to do before I die: skydive (at least) once, learn to play Brahms on the piano, and learn to paint. Having recently turned 46, I’m at a stage in my life where I realize that the ride is half over, so if I’m going to do any of these things, it had better be soon.
It is highly unlikely that I will be able to do all three. While I don’t think there’s anyone who loves music more than I, and even pride myself on a rather extensive knowledge of classical music, I have found, through hard experience, that I have no musical talent whatsoever. Frankly, I have a better chance of meeting Brahms than ever playing his music. Some of us are just born to listen.
I intend to take up skydiving just as soon as I can get over my fear of flying. I do fly, when I have to, but I loath the experience. In fact, it’s my very hatred of airplanes that makes me think I can do this: I hate them so much I honestly think I’ll jump out of one just to get away from it.
But for the moment, I’ve decided to try my hand at the third, somewhat more realistic goal: learning to paint.
A good friend of mine introduced me to Edwina, a 70 something art teacher from England. Edwina is, to put it mildly, a hoot. Barely five feet in height, she has so much energy she simply dominates the room with her presence. And she talks exactly like one would expect a 70 year old English art teacher to talk. Combine the voices of Queen Elizabeth and Alfred Hitchcock, and you’ve pretty much got the idea.
Edwina suggested that I start off a little more modestly, using soft pencils, so I could see if I had any aptitude for this before I invested in oil paints, which can be pretty pricey. A $20 investment got me 3 soft lead pencils, an eraser, an easel, and a sketch pad, and I was ready to add second rate artist to second rate poet on my resume of dubious accomplishments.
My first attempt was not what one might describe as an unqualified artistic triumph. If you click the pictures, you’ll get a better view:
Edwina was not impressed. “Oh, NO!” she rebuked me, clearly horrified that she had allowed such an imbecile into her midst. “Young man, you’ve got it all WRONG! You’ve got to go for the SHAPE of the thing! Don’t worry about the details! It’s the SHAPE that matters most at this stage!”
I made a few more attempts at the pipe. I could tell that Edwina was finding it something of a challenge to come up with anything positive to say about my efforts. “Ummm, that’s…..a little better.”
As the evening progressed, so did I. After several more attempts, I finally managed to come up with something that looked kinda sorta like a pipe:
Finally by the end of the evening, I actually got Edwina to say, “Now young man, THAT’S more like it! Maybe you have some hidden talent after all!” Yeah, she really talks this way.
And I finally finished up with this:
No, I don’t think I represent much of a threat to the legacies of Mssr’s. Monet and Renoir. But it was fun, and gratifying to learn that after only two hours I could create something with my own hands that somewhat resembled the object I was trying to draw. I needed this.
Now, where’s that parachute?