On one of these days — one of my worse days, I tend to think about the things I’m doing.
And if they truly matter at all.
My body is a water jar too full to jingle. Every movement could lead to a spill: a breakdown, a panic attack, a screaming melt.
I have never believed in psycho-therapy, and I have never turned my brain chemicals to artificial medications. I have no more faith in these resolutions than in my own sanity.
I am sick, I am crazy. That is a fact. As less as it shows on the surface, I live with my darkness and fight against it everyday, trying to keep my head above water.
Then there are these days I feel drowned. The waterline is too high that the chilliness submerge over my nose, my eyes, my head.
I sit in front of my studio desk. I have a sheet of watercolor paper taped to my painting board. My palette is laying around, scattered, unorganized. Plastic cups with water from last painting sits in between, brushes undried.
I stand up and pull my fatigue legs around. I can’t leave my brushes soaked like that. And the cups are reusable still if I clean the dirty water out on time.
As for the palettes, thanks for the character of watercolor paint, they can be reused for several times before everything dries out. A bit of ox gail mixed in the water does the magic.
I went upstairs, rinsed my cups and my brushes out. I lay them on a clean, dry paper towel.
This is a process which I have done over a hundred times. I can do this without thinking, without consciousness.
But why do I paint?
I stood at the kitchen counter. My equipments were laying innocently in front of me. I knew they were wondering why I haven’t taken them down for another project right away.
I kept asking myself: why was I painting? What did it do? What was the point of painting?
I thought I had been over these questions when I decided to embark on an artist’s career. But I guess not.
These questions come back on every “bad” day. They add a dark stroke to my already-existing self-questioning torment, aggravating the situation.
I wonder if I’d be feeling differently if I’m making tons of money off my painting. Probably. Most vexes in this world stem from poverty.
However, would I be happy? I doubt it.
Someone just spent $130 to commission me. It was a simple painting, stuff I’m good at, no deep meanings.
It was a sexy full-body portrait. And I’m very good at exploring female sexuality.
But that painting felt empty. It didn’t speak to me. The $130 felt nice and thick in my hand. Yet I felt less joy than that time I sold a $15 print.
So monetizing from painting isn’t what I’m looking for, then.
I felt difficulty in breathing.
I needed to sit down.
I grabbed a kitchen chair and rested my chin on the chair back.
I wished I could be the way my coworkers were at my jobs. Surely they had crap to deal with in their own life, but at least they did not randomly just want to stab a knife through their skulls, or tear their chest open and dig into their flesh, just so the unstoppable pain from within would finally stop.
So why do I paint?
I rolled up my paint brushes and went back downstairs, into my studio.
I pulled out an old sketch that had been waiting to finally evolve into a painting, and placed it next to the watercolor paper.
I do photo-paintings, but only as reference and practice. Most of my paintings came from these weird, scratchy skethes.
And what was I thinking… yes, the reason I paint?
I laid my paint brushes down one by one, by size and shape.
I ran through the contact list in my phone silently, without taking my phone out.
I have a good friend — a great friend. And I have loving husband — a concerned one.
But I can’t explain my bad feelings to them.
The pain and frustration grows as I try to articulate and try to find the proper vocabulary. Not to mention that the process of explanation itself makes me sick.
And my families… Oh, they worry too much. They are all the way back in China and worrying doesn’t do a damn thing. Not for me, not for themselves.
I used to talk to myself, though. Then sometimes we’d get too tied up in the conversation and throw hours away accomplishing nothing. Or sometimes we’d get into arguments and I only feel exhausted afterwards.
Painting is better.
My pencil moved smoothly on the paper. I had done this so many times I didn’t even need a lightbox to clean up the sketch first.
I knew the image. I knew what it meant. I knew what it conveyed.
My audience, on the other hand, usually didn’t get the hidden meaning in my paintings. They’d say “oh, I’ve never seen something like this,” or “this is really unique.”
That doesn’t bother me too much though. Not at all, actually.
What does bother me is sometimes I’d have to try to explain my paintings, verbally or in writing. It is frustrating.
I mean, I paint so I don’t have to explain myself.
I always think painting is a universal language. Images, symbols and colors can transcend over the limitation of language. What one gets from my painting is sufficient. They don’t have to know the “artist’s version of truth.”
So I guess I paint because I have stories to tell, but I don’t want to actually tell these stories.
My paintings are narratives. But they are not designated to anyone special.
I did not paint to be understood. I painted to speak because I cannot with words.
Why do I paint?
I guess it makes me feel good.