The Painting

May 07, 2017

He was on the floor, whimpering like a madman, jittery as an addict on high-octane cocaine, trying to arrange the pieces of shattered glass with his splinter-ridden hands. Blood still flowing from his fingers, he was trying hard to complete the picture. Unfortunately the picture was unrecognizable. Some pieces had gone missing, others had been flipped when they fell, others yet had been broken into pieces so tiny they couldn't be put back together. And now, many were soaked in blood.

This was a piece of art he had been working on with utmost devotion for long. His mind – refusing to accept the reality that he wasn't a great artist, or that the nature of glass, more often than not, is to break – was trying to find an explanation in the broken pieces.

He cursed the glassmaker for the poor quality of the glass, not realizing that it was himself, who had not bothered to reinforce the sheet in a sturdy frame. He had hoped to take care of it some day in the future, when he would have the luxury to shop for frames and pick the most beautiful one. He hadn't realized that the beauty of the frame, while valuable, was less important than the existence of the frame itself to secure the glass in place, even though the glassmaker had pointed this out to him in the past. "Done is better than perfect" is an adage one would expect a rookie to forget. But to an artist supposedly devoted to his art, forgetting this important detail was destructive.

He had chosen some great colors, to his merit, and there wasn't a stone he had left unturned in spreading them on the palette. However, his brush was too dry for those colors to mix properly. It never came to his attention, because he was lost in daydreaming about how beautiful the finished painting would be.

Painting glass was his passion. It was an activity that seemed to give his life meaning. He would be lost in the thoughts of painting, even as he indulged in the mundane chores of the day. It made life more colourful, more enjoyable, more beautiful.

A lot of work that went into making a finished glass painting was hard. Procuring the material, finding an inspiration, a muse, setting up the easel at an appropriate position – that provided a conducive climate, lighting, space, proximity, peace and motivation to work uninterrupted – were not easy. When the preparation got too tiring, it was tough resisting the temptation to go out and check what the other artists were up to, or finding fault with his own tools or environment, or to get frustrated and quit midway. Patience was a virtue he had inculcated, and it had helped him stay focused.

Most people only get to see the finished paintings, set in a gorgeous frame, impeccable lighting, and climate-controlled environment of the walls of an art gallery; never having an inkling of the amount of do-overs, abandoned drafts, wasted paint, tired hands, or the thousands of hours that went into them.

The artist needed to come to terms with the fact that his painting had been destroyed. However, the learnings, the experience, the joy and the pain that he went through were etched in his memories. Maybe some day, the bloody hands would finally heal. It is likely that some shards will forever remain embedded underneath his skin, serving as a reminder.