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Van Gogh and Me

by Rose Madeline Mula

I knew about Van Gogh's demons.  That should have given me a clue that trying to paint will drive you crazy.  As we all know, despite Vinny's amazing talent, he became so deranged that he lopped off an ear. 
      In my case, my staggering lack of artistic ability threatens to lead to even worse.   It won't be pretty.  My right hand is in imminent danger of  meeting the same fate as the Van Gogh ear.  Why?  Because it won't do as it's told.  When I put a brush in it, it stubbornly refuses to reproduce the gorgeous masterpieces pictured in my mind.  Instead, it creates a mish-mash of multi-colored or monotoned undefined shapes.  It's really very unfair.  When Jackson Pollock does this, the results hang in the finest museums in the world.  Mine end up in the waste basket, torn into tiny bits, because I'm embarrassed to have the trash collector see them.
       But getting back to my hand, a key phrase in the preceding paragraph is "when I put a brush in it" - which is very seldom.  How can I expect to learn to paint when I won't practice the craft?   I had hoped the answer was to buy just about every book published on the subject.   This might work if I would at least open one of them from time to time, but I never do.  I apparently think that the wisdom they have to impart can be absorbed simply by osmosis.  Hey, I do my bit.  I pay good money for the books.  I shouldn't have to actually read them and practice what they teach, should I?  Also, what about all those expensive brushes, paints, papers, and other accouterments that I buy?   Who has the time to use them?  I'm much too busy looking for excuses not to write, not to vacuum, not to practice the piano, not to exercise, not to learn Italian . all activities I swore I'd pursue faithfully once I retired.  It's not that I haven't made an effort.  I've also bought dozens of  tomes (and tapes) on writing, housekeeping hints, piano playing, exercise, and Italian.  Again, I haven't actually opened any of those books yet either or put any of the tapes into my Walkman?  What's the point when I'm not walking? 
       Now getting back to the subject of painting (see how easily I'm distracted?), my initial efforts were very promising.   Two years ago, I took a course titled, Watercolor Without Fear.  It was wonderful.  Following the instructor's excellent guidance I actually produced a fairly respectable painting of a rose that first evening.  It was intoxicating! I was sure I had found a new career.  Unfortunately, as it turned out, I have yet to surpass those premier efforts.  In subsequent classes, I made the mistake of looking around at what my classmates were doing - and they were doing it so much better than me that despite my teacher's valiant attempts to encourage me, I became very intimidated.  It also doesn't help that two of my best friends are very talented artists. 
       But I'm not going to give up.  In fact, first thing tomorrow morning, I going to rush right out and buy a great new book on watercolor techniques that I saw at Artists 'R Us last week . and while I'm there, I think I'll pick up that $49 brush I've had my eye on. 


Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.


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