I was feeling under the weather all day today. Thinking it was allergies (molds were unusually high today in Austin, the allergy capital of the world), I pressed forward at work. Around 4 PM, I was about to text Michael, “Can’t make it to art class today. Feel sick.” But I didn’t. I thought, “What a great tonic, to be with my canvas, my tools, my beautiful subject, and time to myself.” What better medicine could there be?
I even thought, “What a great blog post that would make, to push through feeling ill and heal through the creative process.”
That didn’t happen.
On my drive home from Michael’s studio, I got the chills, had a pounding headache, a sore throat, what had been just an annoying cough turned into a hacking nightmare, and my whole body hurt. I stopped at Walgreen’s and bought out the cold and flu medication aisle. I’m now home, fully medicated on NyQuil and Ricola, reflecting on today.
I did push through art class and learned a lot, but I was not miraculously healed of whatever bug has taken over. My paintbrush, alas, is not a magic wand and my canvas is not a granter of wishes, as much as I want them to be and as appealing as that metaphor is.
Feeling lightheaded, I stopped multiple times during class to just stare at what I was doing and shake my head. I had trouble mixing colors. Blue + yellow is supposed to make green. We learn the color wheel in fourth grade! I couldn’t make the right shades of greens and yellows. They were either too chalky white or too blue. One of my lines looked like a cartoon. What is supposed to be an atmospheric background had visible brushstrokes. I was mixing colors with such despair that I finally had to use my palette knife to clean up the globs of paint on the palette and declare a mixing do-over.
Michael, as always, was kind and patient and only twice took the brush from my hands to show me what I was supposed to be doing. That would get me back on track and enabled me to make some progress on the study of Rouault’s The Old King.
When you’re sick, everything is harder or just stops. It’s harder to move, to eat, to sleep, to work. Why did I think my creativity would be unaffected, or that going to class would make me feel better? Because painting for me is fun and energizing and feels healing and restorative. Getting sick was my body’s way of telling me to slow down and, in doing so, reminded me WHY I love painting.