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Victoria sat beside me diligently watching as I put the finishing touches on a baby shower gift for my cousin.  “I wish I could paint like you, Mamma.  I can’t paint at all,” she complained.

“Technically, I’m not painting.  I’m writing.  This is no great skill, sweetie,” I assured her.   I had replicated the Suessian poem Baby, Oh Baby, The Places You’ll Go in the shape of a dinosaur.  I had to write the entire poem in said dino shape four times before I got my spacing and letter size just right.  And even then, some letters were wonky, the word “scrumpulous” folded in on itself inside the brontosaurus’ foot, and I realized too late that I had given him the wrong type of tail. The gift recipients seemed not to notice the flaws immediately, and I was grateful.

But I was also inspired.  Driven.  Hooked.

Victoria and I traipsed to our local craft stores the next night in search of a wreath for our front door, and I suggested we just go “look” at the canvases.  They were on sale.  Half-off.  I left Michael’s with a large grapevine wreath (which aren’t so much grapevine anymore as they are tangles of leaves and twigs.  What’s up with that?) and a 36×48 canvas, labeled “Artist Professional Level 1: Beginner”… mostly because it was cheaper, but also because, really, there’s no sense kidding myself.

That’s the basis of this project, but here’s the history.  I originally set out this summer to make two word-art prints for Dom’s birthday.  One would be lyrics of songs that make me think of him, and the other would be quotes from my favorite love-story books.  I gave each a different design so that they would be similar but not the same, and filled in the background with more corresponding text.  This is the result:


Since I couldn’t work on these prints in Dom’s presence and I was itching to keep drawing and word-arting (making up your own words is a fine art, too, you see), I decided to bring the bible verses forward from within our walls where I wrote them in 2012.  I wanted them all in one place where I could view them, and I wanted them to form a picture.  So I shaped words and verses into a tree design and got this:


But I drew this on poster board, which is totally not standard frame size (who knew?) and therefore all but useless unless I wish to thumb-tack it to my wall or hang it on the fridge.  So I figured with a little perseverance I could re-create the tree on a larger canvas.  And since this is for my enjoyment, I could take as long as I need to get it just right.  So began the process:


This photo was taken about an hour too late, actually.  I should have taken the picture before the darker color was applied to the canvas, the point at which it looked as if Mabel had stuck her nose in yellow paint and sniffed all over the canvas.  The same point at which I sat back on the floor, stared up at the easel and said to myself, “Holy crap…I’m worse at this than I thought I’d be!”

It is at this moment that I feel compelled to beg mercy from the judgments of true artists.  I realize I have no clue what I’m doing when it comes to painting.  Refer once again to the post title, please.

Over the next few nights I dabbled in my art project, adding swirly verses and wondering if there was some way to use more color on the canvas and blend it so that it looked more like sunlight behind the tree.  I determined that for my skill level, there was not.

For the next several weeks (er, months) I worked on it a little at a time.  I took over the upstairs game room, setting up my paints and easel near the window for good light, and indulgently leaving a mess no one had to clean up or look at.  I totally felt like Ally in The Notebook, painting in the room Noah created just for her.  Except that I was fully dressed.

Now, here we are, already in another year, and with the Christmas decorations all put away there is a gaping blank space on my living room wall just waiting for the finished tree.  And tonight, that blank wall is filled with the verses that have carried me through the process of making this house our home.  Of course, it’s only now that I realize my efforts to make the canvas match the wall were too well-coordinated.  The canvas blends right into the wall, making the picture look not nearly as artful as I had hoped.  When I lamented the fade-away quality of my color choices, Dom asked what could be done to correct it.  Ahem… start over?

Maybe next year.