Originally uploaded by Kate O’
Around the middle of December, Karsten was getting ready to start making visual art again after a long, intense period of house renovation, and in the middle of a period of exhaustion and depression, he needed a comfortable project to ease him back into it. Unfortunately, he’d also gotten his mind set on oil painting, which is a medium he’d done almost nothing with since art school.
I’m no artist, and I know almost nothing about oil painting except what I’d learned from Karsten while he’d been doing research, but I do know projects and I know how complexity compounds difficulty in execution. And I know Karsten, and how ready he is to feel bad about himself when something he tries doesn’t go quite right.
So I was worried that he would take on a painting project that would require a lot of skill with oil paint and he’d get frustrated and disappointed in himself. I tried to help him think of something that would reduce the variables in the process: we talked about copying an image from somewhere else and doing it in solid tones. The thought was that not having to work from an entirely original concept seemed like it would reduce the risk of losing faith in his own artistic vision due to medium complications, and not having to make elaborate color mixing decisions seemed like it would reduce the complexity of the painting and leave him to get familiar with other elements of technique, such as the application of the paint itself.
And then I happened across a print in a Chiasso catalog (which is seemingly no longer available). It was orange and white, like the colors I’m starting to use in my new home office concept, and featured a simple silhouette of a vine. I really liked it, but I thought it lacked a sense of animate life and needed a perched bird to be truly perfect. And I saw a wonderful multi-effect opportunity emerging.
When I asked Karsten if he thought he could paint the picture for me, he was unsure if he was up to the challenge. That was his fatigue and depression talking, of course, and I did worry that he might not be ready to try it, and that if he tried and felt like he failed, he’d be crushed, but he agreed to give it a try so I crossed my fingers.
It took several weeks, and I got to peek at it during the process, and it was always just as wonderful as I hoped.
He presented it to me a few weeks ago, and I have it sitting on a shelf in my home office, waiting until we finish painting the walls from their current dirty-pepto-bismol-pink to a simple crisp white before we hang it.
You can see how it fits in with some of my office accessories in this picture.
I just love it. It’s about the best birthday present I can imagine, for so many reasons — not least of which is that Karsten now has so much more confidence about taking the next step with painting. So maybe it’s sort of a present for him, too.