It’s been a while since my hand has grasped a paint brush. It was September, 2009 when I endeavored on a path in my adulthood to rediscover the joys of creating beauty through oil painting. Sure, we can say that in our adult lives, we are all artists; creating beauty in an elegantly designed piece of software or in plating of an appetizer we serve at a dinner party. Yet, there is something truly cathartic in the process of constructing an object that exists solely for beauty’s sake. When I stand in the middle of the Musée d’Orsay, my heart simultaneously aches and cries out in joy. Perhaps beauty that appears to exist for no reason, gives our souls reason to believe there is something much grander out there.
I had stopped painting for two reasons. One, I got too busy with the rest of my life. Two, Lee Hartman, my oil painting teacher had passed away. I really liked Lee as a teacher. More than like actually. She is most likely the reason that a bud of inspiration to paint actually transformed into a string of 4 paintings I completed in a year. I miss her. She understood me as a student in a way that was not presumptuous, it was gentle and certain. She taught to the student, not to the theory of painting. I never told her what she meant to me when she was alive. I only hope that Lee, who understood me, also understood I am not one to get mushy in person.
It is with these emotions that I walked into the University Arts painting studio this week. It was eery looking around the place. The electric pencil sharpener was still there and gave a reassuring whirl when I stuck in my grey sketch pencil. But it was quiet. Lee was not there. Her old ghetto blaster that would play “happy music” was not to be seen.
I looked across the room at a man, Steele Xiang, who was another oil painting teacher I wanted to try out. I had checked out his website and he had a prolific and diverse portfolio of artwork. I introduced myself while simultaneously wondering if he would be an interesting figure in a possible “Stark Insider TV, Artist Diaries, Season 2”. Giggle.
Steele: “I like to explain my painting philosophy to my students when a I first meet them.”
Loni: “Ok, what’s yours?”
Steele: “Painting is about…relationships…”
I thought about this. My relationship with Lee Hartman. My possible relationship with Steele Xiang.
I pulled out my photo of the artichoke flower that was taken during a walk around Carmel Valley Ranch. I took a deep breath and started to sketch.