My daughter asked me how I choose what to paint. She is twelve years old today and says yes to everything. This good question is also what she has been asking herself while considering her Christmas present from Daddy.
I gave her some small canvases, some acrylics, and all the required brushes and palette knives that I could imagine she'd need in order to paint without hangups. I was curious how she'd approach the new hobby, given that she now has in her possession all the tools.
I do take inventory of my materials and order new tubes of paint and turpentine, etcetera, but I like to remind myself that running out of something is actually okay and might possibly force me to do something creative with another neglected pigment. There's this fantasy, of organizing all of your colored pencils or pastels or whatever, every conceivable color, and marveling at their sharpened potential...but in such a way that you do not want to disturb their orderliness. It's a creative trap. Always work, instead, with less.
I watched my daughter's hand manipulate the palette knife, mixing colors for her color wheel assignment. (Yes, I actually gave her an assignment.) Her hand's movement was awkward. I'm not sure why this was surprising to me, except that I do not watch novices paint much. Her attempts at mixing, though off in accuracy, were delicate and sweet and kept her busy for over an hour quietly in my studio. I adored her efforts.
I think about my daughter while I apply paint to my own canvas. I make choices, to answer her question, that appear to be buildings or landscapes that I see nearly every day. But they're so much more.
Where I can talk to myself about life, where I can dream and love and think about my family. This I put into my paintings.
What to paint, Beah, it doesn't matter.