Step Right Up

It’s important to leave footsteps. They let us know we were here and that we mattered. Maybe they will blow away tomorrow, but as long as the print lasts there is proof.

A caveman smears colored clay on a cave wall in France and painting begins. He paints bison because bison is how he lives. They are more than animals. They are food, clothing, tools, and a social celebration of the kill with his tribe. The painting expresses the bison’s importance to his existence. We think we are far more sophisticated than the caveman period, but we all owe to that time when man first scribbled bison on the wall. It’s still how children begin to paint, though without much approval, with crayons on their bedroom walls. (WD40 and elbow grease gets it off, I hear.)

What is it I am saying about a painter’s existence? I don’t know that it can be said with this writing. Perhaps that’s why I keep painting. If anything comes of what I do, it will be written by those who come after me, long after I’m gone. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter now. It does. Even if it’s only the catharsis it provides in the making of it, and for the people that might see it. I know a lot of emphasis is placed on how things are received by the masses, but for a painting to be successful, it needs only to connect with one person. It’s a beautiful thing. So how did that cave painting in France come about? How strong was the image that he had seen so many times that he went to the trouble of putting colored clay into the shape of the bison? Did he smear the paint first and then see the bison, embellishing the features to make it clearer? I’ll never know. I read how the paint was blown through a hollow reed onto his hand, creating an outline like a grade-school kid tracing his hand to make a turkey for the Thanksgiving chalkboard.

Will what we do last? Time will tell, but even if it is all thrown away, because you moved to another town and your family just didn’t have room for your drawings, they did exist.

You existed.

And that is something.


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