A painting a day: #9, Coil

I don’t think I was successful with this one. Or maybe I should say my success is very mixed.

After the wackiness of the previous day’s sauce painting, I didn’t want to go back to straightforward pictures of objects. I also found myself facing an awkwardly shaped corner spot on the paper: the lower right-hand space below. I didn’t want to just make a landscape-format rectangular picture the same height as Artist’s Palette, but I didn’t want to do a portrait-format rectangular picture either, because it would leave a blank space next to Palette.


So I decided to draw something with a more organic shape: noodles. More white-on-white, and definitely a challenge. I boiled water, cooked nine noodles, oiled them, and then carefully arranged them on a cutting board, first using chopsticks and then my hands to twirl them into shape (so often the best tools for any task, wouldn’t you say?).

This is where the non-success comes in. I do not think this is a good painting of noodles. Granted, they’re not an easy subject, but these don’t really look like noodles, do they? Or at least, they don’t look like the kind of noodles I was drawing; if anything, they look a bit like uncooked whole-wheat linguine. But they were cooked Chinese noodles (Shandong ramen). And they were oiled, so they were glossy. None of that comes across here. And the shadows are too dark and hard-edged.


I named this painting Coil because of the shape of my arrangement, and also because antiquated English slang uses “in a coil” to mean “in a predicament.”* Nevertheless, I wouldn’t say I’m sorry I attempted it. It was a good try.

And here’s where I do think it was successful: in filling that strange corner spot. I don’t love the painting, but I love it there.


Now I have to think what to do for the tenth painting. I’m at a loss at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.

You know, I’ve just realized it’s not just the daily practice and the positive feedback (from all of you!) that inspires me with this painting project. It’s the many layers of challenge: finding a subject that both stands alone and contributes to the counting theme, and making a painting that both stands alone and contributes to the overall composition of the giant piece of paper. And I suppose also finding time to do the painting during the course of my day. I used to think I didn’t enjoy challenges, but that’s either untrue, or it’s changed in the past few years. These days I find I actually need challenge in order to feel motivated, but challenge is a tricky line to walk. Too hard and I give up. Too easy and it’s not worthwhile. Too invisible (toiling away at something nobody sees) doesn’t suit my extroverted personality. Too visible (making lots of art in public, for instance) scares away my introverted side. Too external (a challenge posited by others) and I rebel. Too internal and it just becomes a mind game. So this project has struck the perfect balance: the challenges are all set by myself (and you’ll notice I’ve been subtly altering the challenge each day to keep up with myself), but the end product is something I can share, and we talk about it, which I love. Now if I can just figure out how to set myself a writing challenge…

Music: I went slightly more rock-ish with this playlist than any of the previous days’. (Not rock really, but I’m not sure what to call the flavor that these songs have that other pop songs don’t. Erik and I have had many conversations about the unhelpfulness of genres in music.) I was very tired, it was late, and I wanted energy, but nothing so raucous that I wouldn’t be able to sleep afterward.

  • Gotye, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” This song was everywhere last summer; I think I heard it in three different countries. But you have to watch this video I linked, which interprets the song in American Sign Language (ASL). I love it so much, I actually re-watch it from time to time.
  • Kishi Bashi, “Manchester.” I’m quite a Kishi Bashi fan and saw him perform in Brooklyn over the summer. This video shows glimpses of his process, recording and looping on the spot.
  • Of Monsters and Men, “Dirty Paws.” A catchy song from an Icelandic band getting a good bit of attention these days.
  • Ragga Gröndal, “Self-Help Song.” Another Icelandic singer whose album I started listening to because it’s called Astrocat Lullaby. The chorus to this song was quite reassuring, toward the end of my painting!


*Same as “in a pickle.” It’s Regency slang, because I read way too many Regency romances.