My mother was possibly 80 when she took up painting. She was living in a pleasant mobile home park for people 55 and older, in Sonoma CA. She had a very nice life there. She walked two or three miles a day, did line dancing, played cards in the clubhouse, and lounged by the pool, complete with palm trees. And she took a painting class.
I have no idea how the class was taught. I only know that she apparently judged most, if not all, of her paintings good enough to frame and hang on her walls. They were all over her place! You have to admire that. Most beginning painters, myself included, judge our paintings and ourselves as not good enough. Not my mother! She wasn’t boastful about her painting at all and she was pretty quiet about it, but she clearly felt proud of what she made. Good for her! So good.
I wonder what made it so easy for her. It was likely just a pastime for her, not a passion, and she held no expectations for her painting or for herself as an artist. She just enjoyed doing it. So there we have it, again. Those pesky expectations. They change everything.
My painting teacher pronounces expectation as the killer of joy. When you’re thinking about the outcome, you’re not in the moment. When you’re not in the moment, you’re not enjoying what you’re doing. I certainly have found this to be true. When I do a thing and just enjoy the doing of it, I’m able to flat out love it. I know this. There is great freedom in that.
But so often, we give away that freedom and that joy in pursuit of an outcome. How often we get in our own way! It is just so hard to turn off the judging brain. My mother did it. I can do it sometimes and when I do, oh boy, it’s fun.
“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.” ― Stephen W. Hawking
“It is not your paintings I like, it is your painting.” ― Albert Camus
“The painter will produce pictures of little merit if he takes the works of others as his standard.” ― Leonardo da Vinci
If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. And if you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.
Thanks for listening,
P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”
1 thought on “My Mother the Painter”
What a delight to stumble upon your post. I am such a fan of yours. Plus I love this post. It’s hard though. I think for me the goal is to keep expectations under control. Perhaps change expectations into “possible outcomes.” Anyways a great way to start the week. I hope you are well.