Paint Broad Strokes

Hisao Naka ひさお 中

Art invigorates life. Without the presence of art, existence would be dull. A bottomless pit in which we endlessly fall down. Some try clawing their way back to the top, others appear to be swimming up stream, diving deeper but not the artist. The artist just captures the experience with whatever tools at their disposal. They draw, paint, photograph or mold something. Maybe to distract from the descent or maybe so the next person taking the plunge can have a brief moment of something pleasing to look at within the pit’s void.

When Mr. Yamaguchi informed us that the final project would demonstrate our preparedness towards becoming well-off functioning members of society, I was expecting him to be more forthcoming with a challenge. Strange that our final would center around such a basic concept as monochromatic schemes, and I would be lying if I wasn’t bothered by how vague the prompt is. “An all-encompassing depiction of life itself” limited to a monochromatic scheme, what exactly is the requirements or rubric to assess that? I’m sure most of the grade will just end up being this journal. I guess if I can make my general indecisiveness sound thoughtful then I really hope it will be enough to suffice a passing grade. I better get some rest, my task to capture life begins tomorrow.

Life begins and life ends submerged in soil. What better way to represent life than to take inspiration from the loam that’s omnipresent through all of it? Like soil, life is a mixture. So I try having my brown shades sporadically dispersed across the canvas. Caking even layers with my foam brush and then adding additional layers with a variety of brushes. Overall, I’m pleased with the result thus far. Brown is my favorite color so maybe I suffer from a bit of bias. However, looking into this coffee mix view I can’t help but enjoy that despite the chaos of strokes and lack of color cohesion brown has an uncanny ability to remain mundane. Suppose that truly represents life, despite more extreme shades of days mixed into one’s life, when you take a step back it all truly is a calm blandness.


They say a true artist should never feel obligated to bend to the whim of critics but after a “friend”, if you can even call them that, very bluntly called my brown piece boring. I can’t shake a feeling of second thoughts. I don’t know why I’m putting so much emphasis on the opinion of someone who can’t even color within the lines of a crude doodle let a alone understand the depth behind my artistic decisions but still. Would I be doing myself a disservice to have my final project be boring. I’ll always have brown as a dependable solution but with plenty of time to work on the project I might as well wait and assure that my choice is one that rests well with me. I’m sure life is many things, but after today I’m starting to feel that the last thing it is, is boring.

It’s easy to get distracted by the complexity of life’s choices but sometimes simplicity dictates the best answers. I mean look outside and you’ll see the foliage is green. Green is abundant in the natural world, and nature is where you’ll find a constant state of the world being alive. As for my layout I think life is all about containing the discourse of it all. Nature is flowing, messy, curved; it is almost a duty of ours to organize it all into harmony. Life shouldn’t be too defined; I’ve decided to represent that with oblique shapes but there’s also harmony to life. By putting these shapes into a repeating pattern do I hopefully capture the essence of life the assignment calls for.


I don’t know why I found such a mysterious allure to green lately. Working with a green palate has almost felt like deep meditation, that such anxiety and nervous energies that surrounded and consumed me earlier about this project have dissipated from the atmosphere. However, I feel that with green I’m more spelling out a current state of being then capturing all life has to offer. I have a better sense of clarity, and a renewed sense of completing this project to the best of my abilities. I’ve learned a lot yet I have a feeling that I still have quite a long way to go.

Despite my best judgement it appears that I may be falling victim to listening to my “critic” yet again. Their friendly suggestion was that I should try orange, and I guess this got me thinking. However, their reasoning as to why doesn’t convince me all that much. They claim that orange is the opposite of green which isn’t necessarily true and let’s just say I have a sneaking suspicion that her breakfast snack had some “inspiration” into this idea. However, it wouldn’t hurt changing to a warmer color scheme, it might could be a nice change of pace. That isn’t the only change as today I’m heading off to the beach. I guess you could say I was roped into going but it may be welcomed to get some fresh air and the beach might be the perfect place to stimulate the senses. Let’s hope I find the muse I’m looking for.


 Orange as a color certainly isn’t one to be bashful. At the beach it’s almost impossible not to find orange in your field of sight. I guess people find it a great companion to their leisure activities. However, if you want to find orange in all its glory than there’s no greater sight than the sun-setting. It certainly is a mesmeric sensation; a feeling that time itself stands still, a sense that you bare witness to something so exotically beautiful. Yet, it’s an everyday occurrence and yet it ends only to feel like it’s a fleeting moment that’s gone too soon. I guess it’s reassuring, that just because I can smell the roses every day does it not mean they smell any worse the next day. Just because I paint everyday does not mean their value is lessened, and just because the sun sets each and every day does that not take away that the natural beauty it possesses. I never thought I would say I had fun at the beach, but life is… well life is always about finding the perfect spot to watch your next sunset.

I’m lost. I haven’t been exactly able to decide my next color choice of late. I hope something comes to me before it’s too late. In the meantime, I’ve considered different paints or styles I should consider experimenting with. I’m starting to consider working with acrylic or pastels, this could give me a new frame of reference in completing this assignment. My “friend” is supposedly coming soon to distract me, and as much as I’d like to think she’d leave me alone… hearing her say she has an “urgent emergency” makes me doubt I’m getting out of this one. Wish me luck.


I guess today’s events made me remember why I got into art in the first place. Even in its most elementary form, your emotions have a strange way of finding itself onto the canvas. Though it’s usually not as strange as unknowingly being signed up for a couple’s painting class and then throwing red paint to ruin the piece but it’s probably best to leave that a story for another journal. Apparently purple is the color of compromise, when two colors assume one identity. Unity is an important tenant in life. I feel that the transparency of watercolors may be a decent way of portraying the way people, memories, feeling, and life all seem to blend together on top of one another giving the impression, of a lovely picture.

This is hopeless. This assignment is impossible. Writing this journal has become a burden. I guess, maybe we’ll work with gray today. Seems to be the only appropriate choice for today’s mood.


Ironic, that with today’s lack of distractions and yet I can’t seem to help but being looking for anything to serve as such a distraction. I’ve been concocting this gray mess for hours and I don’t think it’s getting anywhere. Each strike, and swish adds a crucial layer, but it still feels like it’s blending into monotony.


Have I really learned nothing, to come this far and yet here we are again only producing a boring laborious ode to nothingness? Maybe I can even it out somehow, give it more of a lively flow; maybe if I make it less static then it won’t be so boring.


This is hopeless. This assignment is impossible. Writing this journal has become a burden. Hopefully tomorrow brings change.

Each morning the sun raises, the dark retreats and the world becomes refreshed. I didn’t need my nosy critic to know that I just needed to not wallow in a demotivated state waiting for a muse to come. I had to actively go and find it. I’m too young to spend everyday worrying about what I need to be doing. That would make it a terribly long wait for it to end with very little time spent actually doing anything. I have revitalized my energy all on my own this time, emerging from my chrysalis like a Cloudless Sulphur. Yellow, is the perfect color to reflect life. It radiates even if surrounded by darker tones, it overpowers it and releases a bright joy that nothing can relinquish. I’m sure my little critic would enjoy hearing that I’ve decided upon such a cheery color, it’s been awhile so I’m sure she’d be pleasantly surprised to reconnect with the new me.


As I adopt these darker shades of yellow it dawns on me how perturbing they are. They’re false, and wrong… they’re impostors! Yellow is a hard color to read sometimes getting lost in the background. That’s why these dark tones unnerve me; you’re used to seeing them bright, sunny, full of life that when you see such a counterfeit portrayal of what you expect to seem from… them. It’s upsetting. Today I woke up and the sun wasn’t yellow, and I was the fool who didn’t skip a beat.

Why so blue? I guess one can only answer that question by going through it themselves. So here I go, my project will now center around blue. Blue reminds me of the ocean’s waves, the constant ebb and flow passing along a blissful peace. It’s natural for the tide to come in, it’s assuring to know how predictable it can be but at the same time frightful at the potential power the waves can have deep at sea. The power to suppress even the mightiest of ships. I don’t know what gives the sea the power to drown even the most proven of mariners, but I hope that if I keep working, I’ll find out.


When a mariner is lost a sea, it’s foolish of us to think we can dive in a go get them. They obviously have a better understanding of the seas they sail then we do; it’s to some degree that we’ll only be compounding problems by getting ourselves equally lost. What the people on shore do is cast a beacon, hoping that a lighthouse can some way help our mariner navigate their way home. Unfortunately, it looks like blue won’t be my final choice for this project. It would be a pity to start over and it seems that my recent efforts our no longer in my possession. I really thought I was on to something; blue might have been my answer to getting that A. I don’t regret giving it away; art is meant to be shared right? I thought maybe, just maybe it could help remind someone how to find their way home.

I’m glad that things seem to be back to normal around here. I’m still working on the project that will determine the rest of my life and I deal with the occasional inconvenience. Though I guess when you’re used to it, it’s not all that bad. I’ve made some progress in selecting a new color scheme and I’m currently experimenting with various pinks. I’m surprised as from the beginning I never would have imagined expressing interest in this color, admittedly it would seem a more appropriate choice for one of the sugary personalities of the class. In all fairness I’m running out of choices and pink is umm… nice.  It’s a color that could mean many things right, might as well not get too bogged down defining it and just appreciate where we are now and see where it takes us.


How does one describe what they cannot put into words? When comparing thee to a summer’s day is so greatly inadequate because the truth is, you’re all the days. The winter’s frost, the autumn’s leaves, and the spring’s buds your beauty remains intact no matter what has to be endured. What kind of fool am I to be realizing just now that the thorn in my side has been attached to an exquisite rose? I can’t think of pink without thinking of her. So I guess I dedicate it to Aya Suzuki. It’s a color that captures her essence; her unbridled passion and infectious joy. It has inspired me to not wait around but actively pursue a lifetime’s worth of sweet memories. I will probably never have the courage to let her know the extent of my admiration but hopefully she knows the time we’ve spent was no burden at all and in fact was my pleasure.

Today is a new day, and with it comes new beginnings. I’ve started to think maybe I’ve been looking at this art project all wrong. It is an open challenge, an opportunity to define one’s craft so maybe I should worry less about requirements and more concentrate in showcasing my ability as an artist. That’s when I got the idea that is beyond bizarrely unique, it’s utter perfection. I’m daring to do what others consider absurdity or insanity, but I got the urge to execute this idea to perfection. Onslaught a white canvas with white paint. Crazy! There’d be no effort on display, but you got to realize that white is the accumulation of all colors and rarely is a blend ever perfectly white. It might seem invisible, but a detailed examination will discover the hidden blend underneath the façade: Macaroon Cream, Scotch Mist, Soft Asparagus all there in a harmonious blend.


What is life but a transparent harmony existing in front of us yet alluding us at the same time. To many of us today is just another ordinary day. Yet, somewhere it’s someone’s last and someone’s first. Someone lost their job, and someone got the promotion they worked hard for. Someone lost something precious and someone found something special. Though it might not seem like it, every day is special somewhere out there. To those that weep I feel for you, and for those with pleasant smiles I congratulate you. For now, I wait and maybe I’ll soon for better or worse be faced with my own special day.

Nothing beats the tranquility of the view outside of a window seat… Though I guess the aisle isn’t so bad a vantage either. Today we are taking the train to where there should be plenty of inspiration for my next idea. We’re heading up to see the Higanbana or the red spider lilies bloom. I’m sure my companions are more inclined to enjoy the leisure and food of the festival, but I won’t be remiss in my duties. I’m prepared to find the muse I’ve been yearning for.


I don’t even know why we came. I just wish they could understand why I can’t just relax or why completing this assignment just gnaws at my soul and I’m just so God damn tired of feeling inadequate because I just can’t figure it out. Maybe that’s not it. Maybe I wish that I could just be like everyone else. That I can have a nice simple retreat and enjoy it without stressing out about art or my place in the world or the frustration of perpetually sabotaging any and every chance of happiness. Failure is infuriating and yet it always feels all too familiar. I’m constantly a failure, this whole journal is a testament, a multi-paged report of botches, bombs and defeats. I’m tired of failure; why can’t I just be better.

This deadline approaches quicker as I dive deeper into the void. Even if I miraculously pull this project together what’s the point? Is some grade or feedback really going to mean anything? That fulfilling this menial task is going to grace me with enough adulation or validation to momentarily ignore how inferior I am as an artist, as a person. I want to be alone. Not alone because it’s what I deserve but there’s no need for my bitterness to infect someone else’s day. Besides what’s the point of having work to be done if not to live briefly in a state of euphoric autonomous action to take the mind of the devouring state of worry we’d endure without such distractions.


Through art can you find absolution. I don’t think there’s a way for the awful things people have said about us or the horribly harsh ways we question our merit can disappear from existence or erased in our conscious. Through art can we find control; that we possess the innate ability to emancipate ourselves from the burden of despair and insecurity. That we can transfer that negativity into some mode of expressing it. It’s never really gone forever but at least by emptying the darkness within can we reintroduce the light.

Well, I guess I fail. In the end I just couldn’t sell life short to sum it all up in just one color. If you want to capture the real beauty life has to offer, they all must be there. It’s natural yet artificial. It’s somber but peaceful. Life is made from contradiction. Life has no concrete rules so why should this assignment? I mean I didn’t completely abandon monochrome design through my impressionism landscape. The Lake is a well of various blues, the grass rich with greens and yellows. Every color is contained in some capacity because life is a vibrant mess of these colors and their emotional identities existing in close corners of the canvas and as a unified force painting a bigger picture.

This assignment shouldn’t be about earning a grade or fulfilling some ego; but feeling comfortable in your place in the world as you prepare to face it head on. That art isn’t a pursuit for technical mastery but finding a satisfying way to express oneself. As valuable a lesson as these are, they both aren’t my greatest take-away when it comes to finally completing this challenge. Both life and art are meaningless if not shared. Create art that expresses something sincere, articulate, and honest. Find those who become your muse. The people who inspire you to not succumb to personal defects or flaws but overcome them to become something better. The people who see you for who you really are and don’t need to be reminded when you don’t act like it. The person who can turn any ordinary or mundane day into a special one because they’re the person who adds color to your life. No matter what color may dominant the day, you’ll want to take them by the hand and remind them of how marvelous, miraculous, and splendid it is to share a beautiful view with them in full color.

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