I finally broke down and got out my relief printmaking tools. I was looking at the work I've done so far for running snail & rainbow and noticing a glaring omission in the lineup: a wood block print. I only got to take one printmaking class in college, which is a great sadness to me, because if I had found the medium before second semester of senior year I would have most certainly taken another and another. I want presses and rollers and cranks, buckets of chemicals and plates of metal and glass, and I want to know how to use all of them. Even my painting professor thought that more printmaking would have been a good use of my time.
What he did not think was a good use of my time were my antics in the theatre department, dabbling in plays and entertaining the fantasy of becoming an actor. He saw that my work in the art studio suffered horribly when I split my creative focus. He had a point. But aside from his point, painting was just never my medium. I wanted it to be. Desperately. He was a brilliant teacher, and a brilliant artist. His use of color made you want to live behind his eyes forever. His world was vibrant, unexpected, beautiful. My problem was not understanding the color theory, or what all the different little tubes of paint and gels did. My problem was with the palette--it got so messy, and my brushes got so globby; it just wasn't how I think. The teacher probably unfairly blamed theatre entirely for my ineptitude, when really I just couldn't organize myself the way I needed to do interpret what I was seeing. Then one night, second semester of senior year, I was in the printmaking studio finishing up a project. He was grading portfolios in the adjoining studio and popped his head in. "Oh," he asserted, matter-of-factly, after having seen my woodblock prints, "you're a printmaker."
I don't know why I didn't touch my tools to a piece of wood for seven years. Figuring that out doesn't warrant any of my energy, so suffice to say that I've started a piece, for children (or not), about the four seasons. But I didn't want this bit of writing now to really be about that piece, since I don't want to give anything away yet. What I really wanted to talk about was yesterday afternoon.
I've begun to wonder how people who live in more-or-less season-less climates--you know, like the tropics--keep track of how time has passed. My entire internal clock is based upon how the light looks, the air feels and smells, and where I've spent the majority of my time. Yesterday afternoon, on an unseasonably warm spring day, I took my daughter into the backyard, filled up her little wading pool, and brought my wood carving supplies outside. She sat pouring water from one cup to another, and I carved my block of wood. I was struck how similar this was to an early evening last summer, an evening when I finally figured out how to capture a moment of quietness in her waking hours.
The two early evenings have so many things in common: the out of doors, the water, the long shadows, the rarity of the occasion. Yet they are so different. I didn't sit there like I did last year, stunned at the advent of motherhood, blinking in the light. I was able to do something for myself: carve out a few little bits of my woodblock. It wasn't much, but it was everything.