You might think that a month of travel and painting could get tedious and seem interminably long. But it doesn't. When one is painting, really absorbed in the act of painting, time collapses into a dreamy nothing. One's total self is concentrated into the surface, into the tool, into the paint, into the idea behind the paint. Now...I will tell a story to illustrate just how profound this trance can be.


True Story


Long ago, when I was just out of college, taking courses at Otis Parsons Art School in Los Angeles, I almost perished in that distracted state of rapture that overcomes artists. I was sitting on a brick retaining wall that formed one edge of a small parking lot, drawing the very complex facade of an adjacent building. It was a Mexican restaurant with a facade done in that dense Baroque curlique style that is officially called Churrigueresque. The curliques are apparently called Churrigueries, and this building had lots of them. It's very hard to draw this sort of thing without the composition falling apart into inchoate squiggles that possess none of the balance and harmony of the real thing. It takes concentration, reaching out with your eyes and feeling your way along the edges of the curves, taming the wild Churrigueries until they reveal the inner mathematical rhythm that binds them together. You have to concentrate. It takes time, but you don't feel the time. You just draw, or paint, or whatever art you make that. And so I did, for what I know to have been a long time, though how long, I can't say, having been in that funky, alpha-wave drawing state. 


As I hovered in timeless art-addled bliss, a Lincoln Continental came from behind me and crashed through the retaining wall of the parking lot not three feet away, traveling fast enough to vault across the sidewalk and impale its chromed nose in the flank of a parked car. I hadn't heard a thing. I hadn't heard the crowd of people screaming at me to get out of the way as the rogue Lincoln zigzagged back and forth in the parking lot, smashing into car after car. I had not heard the other crashes, nor the thunderous roar of the motor being gunned by a man who was apparently having a stroke, totally out of control of his automobile as it caromed around the lot. The first thing I was aware of was the jolt of the huge car breaking through the brick wall to my right. People thought I was deaf. That's what I mean when I say concentration. A month painting in Mongolia. What must that feel like? All that time? Depends on the paintings. Time is what we make of it.

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