Tentatively I asked him if he’d take me to his studio. “I’d love to!” he replied, and we proceeded to set a date.
In the days leading up to the agreed Saturday, I was aware of feeling vaguely nervous, and I chided myself. When the day finally rolled around, I spent a frantic half-hour, looking at abstract paintings online, memorizing the names of famous artists I’d never heard of and gleaning a few details on the difference between acrylic and water-based paints.
When we got to the studio, I felt like an awkward child. I wasn’t sure where to stand or sit, or what to do with my hands. I placed myself in a corner and tucked my thumbs into my faded jeans already splashed with paint, but of the home-decorating kind. I wore my hair loosely knotted on my head and had carefully selected an old, but still pretty bohemian-style blouse, hopeful I at least looked artistic.
He gave me a blank canvas, showed me the paints and explained the process of layering and mixing. He held my fingers gently between his as he demonstrated different brush techniques.
When it was time to start painting, I froze. I stared blankly at the white expanse before me. I had no idea how to begin. He offered several generous words of encouragement, before turning to his own easel to allow me some space.
I sat, immobilized and longing be somewhere else, and then – almost without thought – I picked up a brush and started to paint. The colors seemed to choose themselves and the brushstrokes felt like the words I cannot write: bold and powerful, refusing to be unseen. Bright reds, pinks and blues clashed happily against a vivid green. I felt as though I were painting my deepest feelings.
But unlike writing, there was no chance to read and edit; no opportunity to erase and start over. Yet I loved the unfolding creative carnage that lay before me. I loved its vibrancy and imperfections. What had started out as an idea to simply try something new had led me to a place where I knew I wanted to linger. A place to create for no other reason than the way it made me feel and where time seemed to stop. I had lost myself so deeply in what I was doing.
He stood behind me and placed his hands gently on my shoulders. “It’s lovely.”
“You’re just being kind,” I said. I hesitated, “But I love it, so thank you.”
In that moment, I’m sure my husband knew he had forever lost that solitary, creative space that once belonged to him: his studio.