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I Painted Myself Into a Corner

by Roberta McReynolds

Some of my friends and family probably thought I dropped off the face of the earth during the eight weeks prior to an art event. Actually, I was in a high-powered creativity mode and covered with acrylic paint from fingertips to elbows most of the time. The 4th Annual Art & Wine Festival was rapidly closing in on me. I could even feel its hot breath on the back of my neck at times…. No, wait, that’s not right. I must’ve forgotten to turn on the air conditioner again.

I hadn’t attended this event before, let alone been a participant. My knowledge was sketchy at best. A few blocks in the center of downtown would be closed off for artists to sell their work, while promising aromas lured people to food vendors, and bands provided entertainment. I felt safe in assuming wine tasting would take place somewhere in all the hubbub. I wondered, between brushstrokes, if the idea of providing wine was to loosen the wallets of prospective art admirers?

The art program I have been involved with provided a donated canvas for me last year. I knew what I intended to do with it, but hadn’t touched it in eight months (unfortunately, dusting doesn’t count). Subsequently my art facilitator baited me with, "It would add so-o-o much to the art show." I nibbled the bait; the hook was set and reeled in before I knew what happened. Ego is such a pitfall!

"Do you realize how many weeks you have to finish it?" Cris asked me. I parroted the correct answer and assured her that I was up to it. Adrenaline surged through my veins, at least until I got home.

I found myself staring at a gigantic blank canvas; bigger than anything I’d ever tackled before. Memories of asking a friend to bring it home in the back of his pickup truck crept into the corners of my mind. I wasn’t even sure I had enough paint to cover it! I considered heading for the nearest home improvement store to buy buckets of Titanium White, Cerulean Blue, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red and Payne’s Gray.

Naturally, the subject I had planned was complex and technically detailed. It was of a steam train from Railtown 1897 State Historic Park where my husband and I had worked for many years. (Technically, I was an ‘unpaid state employee,’ otherwise known as a volunteer/docent.) I doubt that I could have selected anything more difficult.

The background went very quickly and without many snags. I intended to refine a few areas later in the process, when everything else was finished and I had time to spare. When it came to the train itself, the photograph I was working from was too small and dark to see the detail I needed to make the enlarged version on the canvas appear correct. Coupled with the fact that I often didn’t even know what it was I was trying to duplicate … well, let’s say I experienced the beginnings of what it must feel like to paint oneself into a corner.


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©2008 Roberta McReynolds for SeniorWomenWeb
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