A painting a day: #10, The Geological Closet

I woke up yesterday with no idea of what to draw for the tenth piece. I’d started with produce, moved on to leaves, then to prepared foods, but I couldn’t think of anything edible for number ten — at least, nothing that sounded interesting enough. I put fresh cranberries into two different cordial glasses. I broke a cookie into pieces. I thought of buying chocolates and poking holes in them (why this compulsion to abuse sweets, I don’t know). I also really, really wanted to stack something — it was a vertical space on the paper, as you can see below — but I couldn’t think of anything that would look good that way, except maybe bowls, and those didn’t sound like fun to draw.


Several times while brainstorming for this project, I’ve thought about painting my clothes, but it never seemed a compelling enough idea. But while I was in the shower yesterday, the idea came back and wouldn’t leave me alone. After I’d finished drying my hair I went around the apartment gathering ten of my favorite woolly garments or accessories. I folded them into a stack, put a small spotlight on them, and thought, “Yes. This will work.” Finally I had my stacked things! I rearranged the order several times, then took the stack apart and carefully refolded each piece so the most interesting part faced outward, and then laid the stack on a shelf next to the painting table.*

As I looked at the pile of clothes, they looked so daunting: all that texture, all those colors! I also realized there was no way I could fit the whole width of the pile into that narrow space on the paper. So I got out my painter’s tape and taped off a narrow section. Perfect. Not only did this demarcate what part of the arrangement I would paint, but it also made the whole task feel much more manageable, because I simply stopped looking at the excess material and only focused on what I was going to draw. (I also realized, after I started painting, that the tape created shadows where there wouldn’t have been any. Whoops. Ah well.)


My instinct about stacking things was quite right, by the way. I was delighted to make my preliminary drawing and discover that the arrangement looked quite geological, like a cross-section of some particularly intriguing rock.** Hence the title of the painting. (You can also see in the photo that I made little notes to myself, so I wouldn’t get mixed up about which garment was which. This was indeed helpful.)


Although there was a lot of fine detail involved in this painting, to my surprise, it wasn’t particularly difficult (but likely I only say that after attempting the sauces and the noodles). I had to figure out various colors and textures, but since there were so many of them, that task was easier; I could look at them in relation to each other, rather than in a vacuum. (If that makes no sense, imagine this: “paint a red thing” versus “paint a red thing that is pinker than this other red, and brighter than that blue.” In other words, the presence of so many objects gives me parameters.) Also, this was my first time painting items I know very well; moreover, with clothes more than any other belongings, I’ve already spent a lot of time thinking about their colors and textures. Finally, on a purely logistical note, having lots of discrete areas in the painting — that do not touch each other — made it quicker to paint without having to wait for sections to dry. When I did the crabapples painting, for instance, almost every part touched every other part, so I couldn’t do anything until everything was dry, and that was irksome. Oh, and one more logistical note: this was the first time since the carrots that I painted during the day instead of after dinner. That made a huge difference. I felt fresh and awake instead of tired. Huge difference.

From top to bottom (ooh, this is fun, I get to link photos of me wearing these things): the Missoni pullover I was lucky to find last year in a Boston secondhand store, an angora-blend ruffled scarf my mother knitted for me, my prized strange red hat, my favorite cozy oatmeal-colored pullover, my Icelandic wool beret, my pointy hand-felted hood from New Zealand, a cardigan that was another great find in a Boston secondhand store, my striped Icelandic cardiganthe alpaca scarf my sister Sarah brought me from Peru, and a beautiful French sweater I splurged on (in Boston, right after coming back to the US from Paris, go figure).*** The black at the very bottom is the table.


I am so, so pleased with this painting. When I started this project, I could never have imagined that in ten days I would progress from a single gourd (which took me almost two hours) to something like this, in only two and a half hours. Let this be a lesson to me that massive improvement can happen within a very short duration.


And now… what on earth am I going to do for day eleven?!

Music: I enjoyed day nine’s rock-ish playlist so much that I kept it for day ten. I actually thought while listening to it, “Geez, how am I going to pick just a few songs to share on the blog?” Some very favorites:

  • Chairlift, “Amanaemonesia.” I adore this song even though I have no idea what it’s about (and the video does not help).
  • Kings of Convenience, “Freedom and Its Owner.” They’re a Norwegian duo. The lyrics to this one seem particularly appropriate for my recent life. 🙂
  • Low Roar, “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight.” I really, really love this song. I also love the story of the album: an Oakland musician moved to Reykjavík and had a tough time at first, being there alone.
  • The Mars Volta: “Vedamalady.” The second song on this list with a mysterious title! This song makes me think of determination and adventure. Dunno if it would strike everyone that way.
  • Mew: “Am I Wry? No.” I seem to remember I read about this song in the in-flight magazine on our way to Singapore. They’re a Danish band. This song has the same exuberant, anthemic energy of some of my favorite songs from the 90s.


*Just a card table I found in the apartment, but it serves the purpose beautifully.

**It would not be a good site for rock climbing, as you know if you ever tried to climb a pile of blankets or towels when you were a kid: it looks so deliciously tall and inviting, and then as soon as you get a hand- and foot- hold, the whole thing just flattens under your weight. So disappointing. So unlike the Princess and the Pea scenario you had in your head.

***Fun fact: When I headed out in the evening to have tea with my new friend Masha, all my usual garments were still taped up in the painting arrangement, so I wore a scarf I’ve never worn out before. 🙂