Giving up Control

Susan - El Paso, Texas
Entered on March 4, 2008

I am anything but a control freak. A child of the sixties, growing up in liberal Massachusetts, where instead of learning sentence structure and grammar, in middle school English, we made movies and wrote plays. Oh, it was a rich education, where creativity was highly valued, but I only learned about verbs and nouns from playing “Mad Libs”on family vacations and road trips. It is no surprise that I became a painter, and that I also learned “go with the flow” or to put it into the words of my favorite musical influence of the time to “Let it Be”. As a painter, my ususal medium is watercolors. When I tell other artists that this is my choosen medium they often exclaim “that is such a hard medium to control!” And it ‘s true, it is known as the most difficult of all the paints, because its transparent quality makes it hard to change or correct your composition later. This is precisely what I love about it. The way it blends and bleeds is exciting to me. I will gladly give up a measure of control because I am often surprised and sometimes delighted by the way a color mixes with another one on the paper, or the way a texture rises from the paper as it dries ,as if it had always been there, lurking below the surface, waiting to be freed. You can either fight the forces of nature, or you can accept them, and try to coexist with those forces. Sure, you can use masks and blow dryers to try to impose rigid control on a painting, or you can choose to work with the medium. You can try to keep the reds separate from the blues, or you can let them touch and blend together to make a beautiful shade of purple. If colors run together on my palette, I make oa point of using the resulting color. Watercolors, because of their very nature, bleed, and so do people. And this unexpected quality parallels my belief about the way life works. We never know when nature will intervene and change the course of our futures. Some people cannot bear the thought of not being in total control. But I believe that is exactly what is so thrilling about living our lives. Sure bad things can happen, unexpectedly devastating, shattering lives, destroying property. I think about hurricane Katrina, the recent tsunami in Indonesia. But so too can little miracles appear, in the middle of an ordinary day; a found object that triggers the inspiration for a favorite painting. A refrigerator part, accidentally put into the dishwasher, coming out twisted and melted, that leads me on a creative journey, resulting in a whole series of paintings. You can call it chance or you could even call it divine intervention but I call it “going with the flow”, and when I can relinquish a measure of control, I am almost always rewarded in extraordinary ways. When life takes an unexpected turn, instead of fighting it, why not follow that turn and see if it doesn’t take you somewhere strange and beautiful.