Congratulations to our first competition winner Harriet Serenkin!

Profiles

Wrestling with Paint

After I started my career as a commercial artist for a few years, I entertained the idea of putting my toe into the sea of fine art. My friend Jeannie gave me an empty canvas that measured six feet by six feet and I began my first acrylic painting. It was of my living room as I stood in my living room and it posed for me. I took liberties with the chairs, tables, lamps, and painted them in a decorative style, using pattern, hoping to ape Matisse who was my inspiration.

My style was stiff, uncontrolled, amateurish. I had trouble using the acrylics and
tried to figure out how much lubricating with water I needed to make the paint pliant. I spent days struggling with the paint until it was about three quarters finished. In a fit of artistic temperament, I grabbed a kitchen knife, slashed it, feeling burdened by the heavy hitting judgment of my talent. I placed the canvas behind my bookshelves and ignored it for a year.

Photo of Christine Graf (headshot)
Christine Graf

Finally, I couldn’t stand looking at the edges of the canvas stick out from the bookshelves because it reminded me of my failure. I carried the canvas downstairs, placed it next to the garbage cans facing against the brick exterior of my apartment to remain hidden. As was my habit, I walked down my block on East 84th Street and enjoyed looking into the windows of apartments to see how other people lived and decorated their spaces. I glanced at one window and saw a large, colorful painting, unfinished, with a slash in it hanging over someone’s fireplace mantel. The universe told me to keep going and I did.

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