Paint fixes a lot of things.
It can make an old house look loved again. It can make a picket fence look welcoming. It can help you move past a fender bender. And I have to admit: it can make a dirty wall look clean.
There’s something therapeutic about swiping a thick coat of paint on a wall, hiding blemishes and dents and leaving a fresh, silky perfect surface. Proud again. Useful again.
In the hands of an artist, magic can happen. Clumps of rich oil paints. Puddles of swirling water colors. And with brushes of every size, painting knives and even fingers, canvas and paper and walls can come alive with thought and passion and grief and joy. And it’s just paint.
I had a set of finger paints when I was young, and I remember how they felt and smelled. I tried to paint everything with them. My dresser, a sweatshirt, shoes, my suitcase… That paint never seemed to dry. Days would pass and the paint would still be shiny and tacky. I realize now it was a question of the right paint for the right surface. It’s as though the paint knows it’s not ready to settle. It doesn’t belong there. Water colors on canvas. Oils on metal. Finger paint on suitcases.
Then there’s the paint on our faces. Not war paint, but makeup. My dad used to pop his head in my room in the morning when I was getting ready for school, trying to get the eye liner to sit on the “shelf” of my lower lids…and he’d say, “Good morning, Picasso.” Indeed. I was skilled then. As my daughters are now. I’ve given up on the dramatic works, and have settled into pastels. In fact, preparing an even, matte finish for my face – like a clean canvas – is a primary objective for a special night out or an important meeting. Mostly I just skip it.
In my mind, paint is not a metaphor for hiding or masking or suppressing or lying. It’s a metaphor for expression and newness and fresh starts and taking care. And if I have the opportunity to watch paint dry, I appreciate that this paint has found finally found it’s place. A place to settle and protect. To beautify and refresh. Oil on fresh, clean canvas. Water colors on thick, lumpy paper. Latex on wood.
Finger paint on jeans.