The Santa Cruz Commission


The couple are delightful. I swear, I was so happy painting yesterday I was laughing all day long with joy.

Santa Cruz is about forty minute’s drive north from here, right up along the coast on Highway One, through growing fields and harbors, fruit stands, rapidly changing weather from dense fog to sun mile to mile. Quite pretty all of it.

The house is spectacular, up on a very high hill alone, facing the ocean, nothing but treetops in view from the decks above, and the Pacific beyond that. The couple are delightful. I swear, I was so happy painting yesterday I was laughing all day long with joy. I go back for more on Monday, and right now in the studio I’m painting an old surfboard they plan to use for a headboard. Life is good.

I couldn’t help but think of a lifetime of varied wall painting experiences, including Coney Island and billboards, and man-oh-man this is some different kind of doing. No pain, freezing winds, dangerous turf, devoid of hardship. I have gone through much for the pleasure of having a loaded brush in my hand. It’s mostly been thrilling but rarely easy.

This is cake and eat it all the way.

******

I have thought very hard about this and do not think I was ever told to paint out my work before.

Not a great day in Santa Cruz. I should have known, remembered, that when people say they love my work, go ahead and do whatever you like! they don’t actually mean it. It’s not that they don’t mean it, they don’t KNOW they don’t mean it.

Today, I was instructed to paint out – remove – a great deal of what I’d painted. (“Too much; color too strong”) So I did. For three hours.

Notes were left in an empty house. I felt the umbrage rising and fought it. I got everything set to launch anew, saw the notes. I did a little painting, got angry, packed up, got as far as the front door and went back in.

I use potent exquisite oil paints. They do not fade or lose vibrancy. I’m painting on a kind of light yellow/ochre wall. They bought a quart of paint close to the finish used but no cigar, certainly no cover. So, in line with retouching an old painting that’s lost its way, I began eradicating the really divinely beautiful trail of whisping vine and flowers I had run around parts of the kitchen border, as originally devised in conference.

I will actually try to make a long story short. I took out more than half the work, marked for destruction with bits of paper.

The owner returned midway.

“We don’t seem to be communicating. I told you that I wanted….”

[Aside to John: You know, I’m not really used to being talked to that way.]

She continued, “I have to leave, I’m late for a meeting with a nun..”

I said, Have the meeting. I want you happy with this.

“I don’t know what to pay you. Do I pay you?”

“Forget about it now, have the meeting. This is your house! I want you happy with it!”

I behaved very professionally. The final result is nothing like the original, which had such beautiful flow and grace and color to it. I don’t know if I’ve ever painted such beautiful flowers. Now it’s inexplicable piecemeal. I suspect she wanted more control. Like my penchant for high grass, I don’t control well. I’ve spent a lifetime edging past it or bowling it over

I have thought very hard about this and do not think I was ever told to paint out my work before.

I don’t know the couple well and will try to cut some slack. They do intense work [at the local hospital] with life and death. I just don’t want to be part of fabricated emergencies.

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