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Me and My Angel

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

The “Paint and Sip” class would have been more accurate if it had been labeled, “Copy Someone’s Else’s Painting While You Drink Some Wine.”

Days earlier, I’d been invited by two women friends to take an evening art class at a spiritual retreat center about 45 minutes from where we were all living in northern Wisconsin. Normally, I would have declined. Driving thirty miles on slippery winter highways in the dark isn’t my idea of a good time. I’ve never yearned to paint an angel either, but I agreed to join my friends because I thought it would be nice to make a memory together.

My motives weren’t all selfless. I wanted to prove to my friends that I was fearless, flexible, and open-minded since they had, at times, accused me of being the opposite.

The fluorescent lit, carpeted classroom was arranged with a few round tables that were set up as if for a meal, but instead of dishes and silverware, each place setting consisted of a portable paint easel, a small paint brush, a jar of water and a few paper towels. I spotted the wine bottles and stemmed glasses right away. They were set up on a counter in the corner of the room near a steel sink adorned with a wash rag and a bar of soap. Not exactly aesthetically pleasing.

Once everyone was seated, the instructor pulled out an 18”x 24” painting of an angel and set it on a tall easel in front of us.

“Oh no,” I thought. “THIS is what we are going to be painting?”

Not having read the class description carefully, I’d assumed I would be doing my own interpretation of an angel. The portrait the instructor planned for us to paint was that of a smiling, young, pale and pretty woman with long dark hair. Clothed in a white robe that matched the color of her large, fluffy angel wings, she held a bouquet of red flowers. The minute I saw her, I knew she had no future hanging on any wall in my house.

I clenched my teeth and as I did, a tiny Tinker Bell voice inside me whispered, “Barbara, stay open. Remember your friends are watching.”

I sat up straight, flashed a fake smile at my fellow painters and gave the teacher my full attention. She explained how we would paint our angels step-by-step, following her directions. On the table, in front of each of us, the teacher placed six little paper cups, the kind you get at a restaurant for sour cream or ketchup. Each cup contained a different color of acrylic paint: white, blue, yellow, brown, red, green and black.

The instructor said, “Okay everyone. We are going to first paint the background. Dip your paintbrush in the blue paint and watch what I do. See how I use soft strokes when I spread the paint with my brush?”We all nodded and imitated her painting technique like programmed robots.

“Next,” she said, in what sounded like a kindergarten teacher voice, “clean off your brush, dip it into the yellow paint and add it in the same way you added the blue.” She repeated these directions with the white and the black acrylics as well.

Though I did mostly what the teacher had instructed, I couldn’t stop myself from taking a few artistic liberties. I swirled my colors like a child at play and when I was done, my painting looked a bit like Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” minus moons and stars.

“Mm-m," I thought. "Maybe this class is going to turn out okay."

The teacher then explained, “The next step in your project will be to paint the angel on top of the background that you just finished.” I resisted. I liked my celestial picture just as it was, but Tinker Bell returned and reminded me to be flexible.

The teacher gave each of us a template of the angel’s outline and said, “Trace this on top of your background using a light touch with your pencil.” I did as I was told, but the lines I traced were hard to see. Not being a particularly patient person, I skipped retracing the angel and slapped two fat strokes of white paint on the canvas, majorly trespassing the angel's outline.

No gentle whispers arose from my conscience this time. Instead, a different voice inside me said, “Man, Barbara, you really messed up!”

Since there was no way to correct my mistake without ruining my Van Gogh background, I stopped listening to the teacher’s directions and unleashed my frustration with the only weapon I had: my paintbrush.

Ignoring the remaining trace lines, I attacked the canvas with carefree abandon. My moment of fearless ecstasy vanished, however, when I realized that my angel's wings had begun to look like feathery corn shocks.

I looked from side to side to see if anyone had noticed my mistake. My classmates remained focused on their own paintings. For a moment, I felt relief, but the dread of future embarrassment hung over me like a devil waiting to pounce.

Tinker Bell reassured me. “Don’t give up on your angel. Take a deep breath. Forget the others’ angels. This is your angel, not theirs. Look at her more closely.”

Despite her mutilated wings, my angel’s unfinished face and robe were still intact. I leaned in, studied her, looking for something of merit. Her face appeared to be sweet and unassuming and had a translucent quality that seemed a bit ethereal to me. I kind of liked her.

For the final step, we were told we would finish up by painting a small bouquet of flowers for our angel to hold. Though my resistance to following the teacher’s directions had waned, I was determined to protect my angel’s uniqueness. Instead of a bouquet of flowers, I painted a little valentine heart in her hands.

As my classmates finished their paintings, they began to walk around, sipping their wine, viewing each other’s artistic efforts. I remained at my easel, eavesdropping, pretending to be adding my finishing touches while I listened with envy to the various compliments directed toward others’ paintings.

“Oh, how nice…how beautiful...”

“Why, I just love her hair!”

“Oh, your angel is so-o-o pretty!”

As for me, they stared at my painting in silence although one person, perhaps attempting to be kind, remarked, “M-m-m, interesting.”

I began to get a headache, but not from drinking wine. I hadn’t had a single drop although it might have helped me relax. Instead, I indulged in a few whines of my own.

Silently, I thought, "This class is ridiculous! This isn’t true art! Who has the ultimate knowledge regarding angels anyway? Blah, blah, blah…”

Tinker Bell returned. “Barbara, Barbara… listen to yourself.”

I paused and didn’t like what I heard. Observing the rest of the painters laughing and smiling at their work, I looked down at my imperfect angel once again. How could I not love her? She and I had a lot in common.

_______

The gift of self-awareness reveals itself in many ways…

Sometimes it is delivered with the help of an angel.



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9件のコメント


Amy Hermus
Amy Hermus
2月06日

I was privileged to listen to you read this piece at the Minocqua Library last fall.  I was so thrilled to find it printed here, so I could enjoy it again. What a gift your blog is. I have always enjoyed writing and reading. However, until recently, writing in my own life has mainly been for necessary communications, or assisting folks with resumes, papers, and applications. Now, in my retirement, I have more time to engulf myself in the pure joy of writing and reading. This piece speaks to me, as the daughter of two dedicated art teachers. A few years ago, I took my 85 year old father to see our little neighbor girl’s art fair at school. After…

いいね!
Barbara Kane
Barbara Kane
2月06日
返信先

Amy, thank you for your kind comments. I loved the story about your father and there is no doubt you have many other wonderful stories to share. Our lives are full of story. I hope our paths cross again!

いいね!

Loved this story and I can identify with several of your feelings! We’ll done, Barb. I love the angel painting, too! ❤️

いいね!

Michele Nettesheim
Michele Nettesheim
2022年4月02日

I believe the voice within you was your guardian angel reminding you to be true to yourself and you did! I applaud your artistic individuality! I would hang that angel on my wall any day! Thank you for sharing! Keep painting, thinking and above all writing!

いいね!
Barbara Kane
Barbara Kane
2022年4月12日
返信先

I pull the angel out from time to time. She makes me smile.

いいね!

Ginny Stiles
Ginny Stiles
2022年3月22日

Yes..."paint parties" have been the "rage" lately and I totally agree with your assessment of them. Mostly getting together to have some wine sounds fine...but everyone painting the same painting? No. I had to fight that same problem when I taught in Florida...everyone wants to "come away" with a finished painting they can hold up and say "see...I painted an elephant" or whatever. Which would be okay if they were the artists own interpretation of an elephant. I have never attended a paint party. I hope you paint a lot of angels of your own though...it's a good subject. I've met a few. Bet you have too. Right now I am doing a lot of sketching of "spring" and…

いいね!
Barbara Kane
Barbara Kane
2022年3月25日
返信先

I really appreciate your comments Ginny. Let me know when you have new posts on your blog!

いいね!

Congrats, Babs! You did it! Great variety of writings to show off your many talents!

XXOO

いいね!
Barbara Kane
Barbara Kane
2022年3月21日
返信先

Glad you like my stories! Stay tuned for more!


いいね!
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