One of the things I am reinventing this month is my art practice. I think wistfully about the days when I could just pick up a brush and make a “mess painting.” I would wet the brush and then wet each oval in my watercolor set. That would wake up the paint. Then I would dip the brush into whatever color called to me that day and begin with no plan, just letting one color call to the next, allowing the colors to blend. I would usually have three different notebooks of my favorite 6 x 9” watercolor paper available so I could move from one to the other quickly. After three quick paintings, I would move on with my day – sometimes writing a little bit of poetry. An example of such a painting is above. An example of the poetry:

I return to
the same bright colors
because they
bring me joy

Too bad
about the voices
that scold me
for lack of poise

Better to scamper
through dust a happy fool
than wither in
puddles of style

There are some good poems there, I discover, as I read them again. They are in a folder on my computer labeled “art lessons.” Those were the days, my friend (good grief, I was seven when that song was a hit and it’s still in my mind!)

That was then. This is now.

I haven’t painted since I lost function in my left arm more than a year ago. (I have done some watercolor pencil drawings, but I haven’t mess painted.) During my convalescence, I strategized how I might begin to paint holding a brush in my teeth. I’ve been painting that way, lately, but I miss being able to truly wet the paper and easily brush colors into it. My painting sessions have led to grumpiness instead of joy.

The “point” of the mess paintings was to court accidental beauty. Watching the paint mix together surprised me and watching beauty happen, I found happiness.

My new way of painting requires less water and finer brushes. The trick is to focus on my intention (discover beauty) and lay aside any attachment to product in favor of process. Strategy was good, but I want to continue experimenting while being gentle with myself.

As so often happens, when I write, I’ve happened upon a useful metaphor with the word “discover.” Explorers don’t know where they’re going. They sometimes have a goal, but they often find things they don’t expect. Who knows what treasures I will discover if I follow the paths where they lead me.

As a hiker picks up a walking stick, I pick up my brush and I’m off –