Everything Is Paint


My journey along the creative path has followed more than a few directions, but painting in oils certainly took up a dominant turn. 

When I was a young child living on Kanto Mura Family Housing Annex in the Kanto Plains region of Japan, my mother got together with a bunch of military wives and hired an elderly Japanese realist painter to teach them the craft. I remember the strong yet soothing scent of linseed oil permeating our crowded living room, the soft scuffle of brush marks and gossip, and trying to make my self as small as possible so I wouldn’t be kicked out of the lesson. I was fascinated by the buttery goo, scraped and scumbled over taut linen in impossible strokes of magic realism. My mother was a very good painter and clearly enthusiastic. Her work was mostly reproductions of famous western art but my child’s eye never made out those discernments. That man in the golden helmet was just cool and creepily familiar. Through all my childhood military relocations he looked out with his all-seeing approval.

My biggest fascination was with her wooden box of paint and brushes. I would take it out long after we had moved and my mom had other interests, smell the smell of mineralized oil and dream of pushing my own color around. On my 13th birthday mom bought me a student easel and gifted me with her “adult” paint-box. I never looked back. Believe it or not, I still have some of those tubes and they are just as usable as they were 42 years ago. I also found somewhere inside of me a latent realist painter. I could pretty much render visual exactitudes right from the start. So painting became a long vision quest and my durable commitment to a single medium – extracting the secrets of a language that I never imagined I would be without.

But I don’t paint any more.

I did for 31 years and I still have my double sided, 19th century oak easel that accommodates a 7’ high painting. Just in case I need to mix a little paint again. And I may yet, although there is a deeper knowledge gained from such discipline…

Everything is paint.

This was the lesson brought home to me when I was going through the particular “withdrawal pain” of becoming a single parent and falling out of a regular studio life for the vicissitudes of securing a stable income and the time requirements of building a house. I tried to paint after my sixteen-hour day showing up at a design job and dealing with contractors before (during) and after work; but it just got harder and farther away. When the house was built the studio gave way to gardening, taming meadows on the 13 acres, dealing with snow, a wood stove, oh and being a mom. It was all very gratifying work, of course.

Then it occurred to me one day when my ungloved hands were sifting yummy compost and the bold colors of my perennials were scuffling audibly in the buggy breeze, that I was still moving paint around a canvas. Beating cookie dough was as clear and intentioned as mixing alizarin! It turned the advice of my long time teacher Hilary Holmes on its head. He once proclaimed when I was being very frugal with my professional grade cadmium red, “paint is just so much mud Lisa!” Don’t be afraid of lavish color, or conversely, use exhausted color because you can’t bear to toss it. Paint true.

Well if paint is just so much mud then mud is also paint. And “painting true” applies to every world you venture into. Cooking, yoga, dancing under the stars, walking Sydney on a trail. So I have been a painter all my life, even the last eleven years, and mostly even when I sit in front of a disassembled pile of lamp parts and breath new order onto incongruity. Well OK. Now that’s a bearing I can bear.