Stealing Time

Before I was a painter, I was a writer, and the mother of two, a dedicated volunteer, and a community activist.

When I picked up the brushes for the first time, I had to steal one day a week out of my already hectic schedule. I’d put my kids on the school bus and head off to class in my old brown Volvo station wagon crammed to the gills with easel, paints and canvases.

I think I knew from my first small black and white study that painting had me hooked. It was almost impossible to make time for it, yet there was something so right in it I knew I had to find a way to continue.

Now my children are grown, and my life as a painter and teacher and writer has grown too. My painting career is wonderfully complicated, demanding, and rewarding, as hectic as ever but rooted in doing what I love, and loving what I do.

A highlight of my year is the one week a year that Kaffe and I come together paint still life’s.

He has just flown in from London and yet I am the one who is always late. There he is, at my mother’s table, already well begun, and may be onto a second painting already.

What has detained me this time? A class I am preparing for, a chapter for a book I am writing, an urgent phone call with a family member, or just getting a loaf of bread out of the oven at the right time.

In my painting career, I am on the road now traveling to teach and show up to six months a year, flying to Italy or Japan or Mexico to teach sketch or collage or painting classes, or across the country to Abilene, Texas or New Orleans, Louisiana, or Chattanooga, Tennessee.

It seems like I’m always preparing to go or just coming home.

And yet this one week a year, come what may, Kaffe and I paint together.

This stolen week feels impossible to arrange – for me and for him, I know – yet as the years go by has taken top priority.

Why is that?

One day it occurred to me that Kaffe was my first teacher, not only in painting but in living a creative life.

This week together is like drinking deeply from a well of crystal clear water straight from the source.

By the time I arrive, Kaffe has already arranged the objects we like to paint. I make a cup of coffee and find an angle at his elbow to set up my own easel.

We sit and look and talk and don’t talk. We listen to the radio – podcasts on philosophy or world events or meditation or great books – and take breaks to look at how the work is going.

It is glorious, and nourishing, and deeply inspiring. When Kaffe packs up his bags to head back into his extraordinary life, I am recharged with new energy for my own.