I set up my easel in the front yard and start to work on the second layer of a landscape. The first layer was painted wet into wet to block in basic color shapes and looks fairly crude. My view is straight down the street, and I’m painting it as is, so I’m confused for a second when a pick-up stops at the curb and the driver, a gaunt man with a deep tan and sweat running down his face, leans over toward me and asks, “Whatcha paintin’?” I point to the canvas, then point up the street and say, “That.” “Oh,” he replies with a slightly confused look on his face. He pulls away and I return to work.
The sky is giving me some trouble: cumulus clouds roll by and constantly change shape. I’m forced to adapt the shapes and colors of one cloud to fit the contours of a cloud that passed by a half hour ago. There are overlapping bushes and trees in a distant yard, and they look like a blurry lump on my canvas. I’ve got to find a way to use different marks and colors to separate them out, but my efforts are only partly successful at this point. The road feels a little too narrow when I look at the painting. I compare its width to the yard next to it and realize that I’ve shortchanged the road and made the yard too wide.
An attractive young woman walks up the road toward me. She’s wearing a tight blouse and short shorts. She notices me working at my easel and looks at me intently for a brief moment. I wait in the fond hope that she will stop and inspect my progress, but she pulls out her phone as she passes by and begins to talk and giggle. My ego rapidly deflates, and I feel like I’m intruding on a private conversation. My realization that I am mostly invisible to women under the age of 45 is confirmed once again.
Sweat is starting to soak through my shirt, and gnats and one very persistent mosquito are buzzing around my nose. I close my mouth and swat the air in front of my face. I’ve inhaled a bug once before, and am not in the mood to repeat my performance of coughing, choking, and attempting to hack up an insect stuck to the back of my throat. A sudden breeze comes up and I notice that some of the cumulus clouds in the west are a darker gray. It might rain.
Two boys ride by on bicycles. They’re ten or eleven. One looks back at me and then says to the other, “Did you see that? I could never paint like that.” The other says very loudly for my benefit, “He better not paint me.”
I recognize his voice. He’s the fat little prick who taunted me and my wife when we were out for a walk a few months ago. We were taking our time heading home, and the little brat sped by with his buddies on their bikes. He waited till he was out of reach before he taunted, “I bet you had good time in bed last night.” He apparently took me for an impotent old geezer because of my white hair and slow gait. I eventually thought of a reply that wouldn’t upset my wife too much and yelled, “Aren’t you a lovely young man!” He thought a bit as he circled on his bike one block away from me and answered, “At least I don’t have to use Viagra!” I knew better than to inquire if he’d ever had a boner.
The boys turn a corner and disappear, and I go back to painting muttering curses at the little bastard while envisioning the satisfaction I would get from clotheslining him off his bike if he passed by again.
The clouds clear and the bugs go away when the heat returns, and I make some good progress on some trees in the far background. I’m beginning to enjoy a sense of peace that I sometimes get while painting outside. I get the feeling that I’m part of something bigger than myself, that I’m participating in the general flow of life around me.
But my happier mood is broken when the same two boys appear at the end of the street and start to come toward me on their bikes. I grimly continue painting as fatso comes nearer. I can tell that he’s going to say something again, and he does: “Hey Mister, you better not paint me,” he warns. He glides by with an expectant look on his face as if he hopes that he can goad me into a reaction. I simply stare at him, and his smug attitude falters a bit.
I paint for another hour before going inside to drink a beer, talk to my wife and start supper. It’s been a pretty good painting session–I’ve made reasonable progress. I know that it’ll take another three or four layers before I get close to the finish, but paintings grow like children. They mature in their own time, and it helps to be patient.