If you want to leave a lasting reminder of yourself decades after you’ve died, paint a picture. It doesn’t have to be a good picture, but it helps if it’s framed.
Someone will keep it on a wall forever.
Throughout the ages, there have been some aspiring artists in my family.
Somehow, I’ve become the collector of these paintings, probably because everyone knows I don’t throw anything away. My wife had a great aunt who also painted, and we have at least half a dozen of her canvases.
My grandmother’s sister painted as did one of my dad’s cousins and a couple of my cousins. We have at least two dozen of these things hanging on our walls at home and one at the office. Some are worthy of display while others are displayed, anyway.
Has anyone ever thrown away a framed, original painting? It just seems wrong, doesn’t it?
I’m a bit envious being a creative artist myself, but my canvas is newsprint, and my paint is ink. I’m no Hemingway, but these artists are no Picasso, either. Some of the art is downright awful; we have one that I’m fairly convinced was a paint-by-number.
I know that I’ve written a few things that people have clipped out of the newspaper and saved. But it’s usually because they’re interested in the topic of the article and not the artistry of the prose. A few might even get laminated for longevity, but they all end up stuffed in a drawer or a box or tossed out after a while. But not paintings. Paintings go on the wall.
I don’t know what makes paint sacred, but I hold familial compositions in that same light. And it’s not because they have such personal meaning to me.
In fact, most of these artists are people I never knew. Most are two generations older than me, so I might have met them once or twice, but I was too young to remember. Thus, it’s not like I have fond memories and special relationships with them. That sounds cold, I know, but it’s not unusual; how well did you know your father’s aunts and uncles?
We also don’t keep the paintings because they’re so beautiful. It’s not like we decided that each painting was the perfect thing to brighten up an otherwise dull corner. They live on in our home simply because they have nowhere else to be and I can’t compel myself to dispose of them.
I suppose I could sell them in a yard sale, like I’m ever going to have a yard sale. But actually if I found one at someone else’s rummage sale, I’d probably buy it. I don’t know where I’d put it, but I would have to rescue it.
We don’t have too many photos of our kids and grandkids on the walls because there’s no room. All the space is taken up by mostly mediocre oil paintings made by people we don’t really know.
I’m thinking about taking up painting just so I can leave a legacy, too. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but one amateur still-life will outlive millions of words.
I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but I’ve had some level of success as a writer. I’ve written more than 1,200 columns, several instructional booklets with at least a half-million copies in print, won a trunk-load of awards and have been published in national magazines and anthologies. And yet, not one line of it is hanging on a wall in our house. Or anyone else’s house, I suspect.
Some years ago, I was sitting at the dining table in my parents’ house and, while doodling in a notebook, sketched a grade-school-quality drawing of my dad. The next time I visited, my mom had it in a frame on the wall. It just goes to show ya.
So I think I’m going to buy myself a canvas and dump a little paint on it. In acouple of minutes, I can have my own Jackson Pollock for posterity.
A lifetime of crafting sentences, making poetry out of prose, is for naught. But two minutes splattering colors on a piece of sailcloth stretched across a wooden frame is a lasting memorial.
© Copyright 2019 by David Porter, who can be reached at email@example.com. I can’t paint a picture; I have no place left to hang it.