With painting in my life I have verbal and nonverbal language I can use to describe and think about visual things. I can lay awake at night and consider the things I saw that day, reflecting on their shape, their color, and how they existed in space. I can think about what I saw and how it made me feel, and why. The more I paint, the more I see, and the more the sensation of vision persists beyond the moment.
Here are some things I would probably never have noticed if I were not a painter:
Morning light filtered through white translucent curtains.
The color of shadow.
The shape of fingers.
The way the sky is one blue below a cloud layer and another blue above it.
How the light looks with my head under the covers.
The way the color of a sunset changes, radically, about every five minutes.
The many colors that white objects possess.
The gradation in the hue of my infant son’s irises.
I sometimes look at a sky and think, “that’s a watercolor sky,” or “that’s an oil painting sky.” I can’t quite explain what the difference is, but to me it is clear.
I’ve encountered people who have learned to appreciate paintings, but they don’t—they can’t—understand them the way a painter does, any more than someone who attends the ballet can understand dance as intimately as a dancer. For the understanding that I am starting to develop, I am deeply grateful.