August rolls past Pacific Beach with an unexpected combination of Oregon-gray skies and Atlanta-salty sweat. September lurks in the smoky distance. I feel more than slightly lost in a Pandemic fog.
However, for perhaps the first time in my life, I just successfully hard-boiled two eggs to perfection! The shells slipped off easily. The yolks are firm, bright yellow, no green edges. The whites are pristine. There is only one standard for perfect hard-boiled eggs, i.e. my Mother’s, and these have achieved that standard. At last. But who can I tell? Mom, and Aunt Muriel who is perhaps the only other person who would understand, are dead.
Now that the eggs have been properly ensconced in the potato salad for dinner, I’m sitting here at my desk staring fondly at my recently-painted portrait of a San Diego artist named Alice Klauber (below). She died in 1951, born 1871. Working from a poor reproduction of a black and white photo, I got to choose what color to make her hair, her eyes, her skin! I wish she could see it. I wonder if she would appreciate my choices. I wonder if she would recognize herself, or maybe would she see her grandmother? Her cousin? It’s not perfect. Her smile was crooked, but not quite THAT crooked. And as always for one of my portraits, the eyes are a bit wonky. But I love it.
Alice Klauber Portrait, mixed media by Kerry McFall
And yes, paragraphs 2 and 3 are related: the old saying goes Practice Makes Perfect. But really, living life is about practice, not perfection. Many artists refer to their “art practice”. I begin to understand. The practice, the act of doing the art, the movement of the brushes, the grabbing of a cloth to blot the accidental puddle, the complete presence in the moment as the paint dries, is an end in itself. It is enough.
The practice does lead inevitably to the product: the eggs nestled for the moment amongst the chopped onions on the cutting board, or the sketchbook propped up so I can see the latest sketch each morning. The real eggs will be gone with the potato salad – when I look at them, I don’t re-live the process. Cooking is not my “thing”. But looking with a critical eye at the paintings, I am there again, in that moment, making it, suggesting the next move to myself, wondering what impact one more highlight would have made. I may never be able to refer to my art results as perfection, because there is never just one standard of perfection in art. But I will always be able to enjoy my latest art, both during its making and long after as I flip through the sketchbooks. I know “forever after” is a myth from a fairyland where there were no floods or wildfires, so for me “after” means at least until the next Tsunami or riot or whatever the rest of 2020 has in store for us!