When Your Words Disappear

“Vulnerable” by Kate Hinson

I write. Or I should say, I used to write, and I loved figuring out what I thought and felt through the process of typing out words. Then life got messy. The words got stuck behind the blinking cursor and the tears.

In the middle of the messiness, a friend recommended Wayne Brezinka’s Brezinka for Beginners Mixed Media Workshop. Wayne lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Back then, I lived 7 hours away in Lake Wylie, South Carolina. But I drove to the weekend painting class, not quite sure what to expect.

I was nervous and felt like I was going to fail the test. There were no tests, but I still felt that way due to the perfectionist in me.

Wayne Brezinka is a gentle, brilliant man who varies his classes, from technique exercises to collage history to talks on fear. Wayne creates collages made of cardboard, fabric, vintage newspapers, and various found objects that often have tie-ins to his subject matter. His subjects range from birds to landscapes to famous individuals to trucks to … you get the picture. He can do anything.

But I got stuck on the first exercise. We were assigned a particular object for our collage exercise. Mine was an apple core. We had to create the collage item and a background and put the two together. I created my collage item, the apple core, out of paint, photographs, and cardboard. I even bit the edges of the photos that made up the core. I was going all out. I like A+. (Heads up – there are  no grades!) Then I created my background by gluing some paper to a canvas and painting it. So far so good, then the trouble started. I tried to put the collage item and background together. It didn’t look right. I turned them a different way. Still no good. Great, I failed the first test. At least that’s how I felt.

“Study in Blue” by Kate Hinson

Wayne saw me. He really saw me and my failure. The internal failure.

Wayne: “How’s it going?”

Me: “I can’t make this work. The collage piece and background don’t fit together.”

Wayne: “You’re right. They don’t fit together because this background isn’t a background. It’s a finished painting, and it’s beautiful. You just need to sign it, and it’s finished. Then you can do a different background for this exercise.”

Oh, it was okay because it was already a painting? Huh. I didn’t know that. I had to think about it for a bit. I liked the piece, but it wasn’t like anything I’d ever created before. I’ve been creating things my whole life, but this was outside of my normal because I wasn’t trying to make a painting. If I had tried, it would not have looked like that. Trust me.

We did various other exercises the rest of the weekend class, but my mind kept going back to the first one and that background that wasn’t a background. When I came home, I tried that kind of painting again. Over the last three and a half  years, I’ve painted many more. It has become a new outlet for me. I’ve lived in three homes in that time, and my paints have found a place in each one. I leave them out so when the compulsion to paint hits at midnight, and it often does, I can sit down and start painting.

The background that became a finished painting? It was an abstract, which is crazy because I used to hate abstracts. But now I find playing around with color and shapes is very freeing. Artists find inspiration in many places. Some look to nature. Others to the physical body. I paint feelings and color. That might sound a bit strange, but imagine a person who has been abandoned. If I wanted to portray that with a color, I could go with a blueish gray. The color becomes a sort of  visual representation of a bruise, an old pain. Or hope might be pink blending into purple, like a sunrise.

“Eclipse” by Kate HInson

I still don’t paint like Wayne Brezinka. For the most part, I don’t even do any of the processes he taught in his class. I use one small technique he showed us, but the lesson I learned in that weekend class opened up a new world for me. Swishing paint around on a canvas transforms something in my brain. Painting helps me figure out what I’m feeling, and the process of painting is as important as the finished pieces.

Sometimes I start with a feeling and color. Other times, I can only tell what I am feeling after I look at the finished piece. With some paintings, I have no idea what they mean, and that’s okay. Getting it out is the key.   

It isn’t the same as writing. They are different, but both are good. After writing this piece, I can articulate what painting means to me in a way I couldn’t before I wrote it. The process of writing defines the unknown in a pointed, tangible way. Painting takes the swirling chaos of my emotions and  subconscious and calms them down. Mary Poppins says that “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down,” but I would say that writing and painting are more than the sugar that coats a pill. They are an antidote – a necessity to the pain and beauty of life.

2 Comments

  1. Philip Porter
    Jun 20, 2018

    I love the fruit that your struggles have born, though I would never have wished for the difficulties God has used to cultivate it. It’s cool that the fruit has become a balm. Thank you for sharing! Once again, you’ve challenged me to grow!

  2. Jen Bast
    Jun 20, 2018

    Thank you Kate. I relate to this, but have not been as disciplined to process creatively. I just finished a helpful 6 week soul collage class. I would like to continue on my own, but tend to stuff and escape rather than press in and forward. You inspire me to choose a healthier way.

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