Person carrying paint brush

Mystery of Painting

I'm a visual type of person and always want to express myself through paint and drawing. However, since my childhood, I was convinced that I could not paint or draw. After I got lung cancer, the desires of painting were getting stronger; even it became an urge. I cannot help thinking back about my miserable painting journey. I decide to get some help and try painting again.

My first memory of painting

The first time I was painting formally was in primary school when I was seven years old. I still remembered we were trying to duplicate the painting book: the sun with golden sunshine and three fat leaves, meaning under the communist party (the sun), we were growing up happily and healthily (the leaves). I wanted to impress my new teacher. I tried my heart out as a seven-year-old, but I got D (A is the best and F was a failure).

As I looked at other children's paintings, I noticed that my sun was not round enough, the color was not uniformly, and the leaves were not cute. More importantly, my painting was not like the painting book at all. It struck me quite hard that for the first time I noticed that I couldn't paint. For a long time, I thought that a good painting should be the same as the painting book.

I convinced myself I could not paint

Later in primary school, I tried several times with different teachers, but in vain. Anyway, when I was a kid, painting, physical education and music were not considered mandatory, only math and Chinese were. So I passed by without noticing anything wrong. Note that I was very good at music and physical education.

After primary school, I never painted or drew anymore, thinking I was not the type of person who could paint. However, deep in my mind, I envied those people who could paint, and I wondered what was in their mind and what was wrong with me?

The emotions that come with cancer are hard to put into words

I wanted to use paint to express my feeling as I grew older. This desire become an urge, especially after I diagnosed with lung cancer. The emotion, the pain, the isolation, and the gratitude are difficult to express by words, even with music.

I feel that there are two layers for expressions of emotion. The top layer is represented by words or music, which is rationalized and beautified to a certain extent. Another deep layer is by image, which can be raw and less pleasing visually but provides space to express an individual's emotion. I felt that my emotion was initially felt in images and later translated into words. Sometimes there is no word to portray such images.

Exploring my interest for the visual arts

Viewing paintings and sculptures in the art gallery has become part of my life for a long time. It is a great experience to have some resonance with the artwork, even sometimes with the artists. Now I want to create my painting to express my emotion, to understand it, and hopefully to heal it, especially after having lung cancer. I don't have any desire to display my painting; instead, the focus is to allow me to express and understand myself.

Last week I got to know Dr. Dhru Deb, who, by day, is a lung cancer researcher and by night, is a visual artist. He is working with the LUNGgevity Foundation. I went through his home page and we had a discussion about painting and lung cancer. I'm amazed that some of his thought is so close to mine except he is indeed an artist. He expressed himself very well in both written as well as painting.

Ready to pick up the paint brush

It's a significant relief knowing that my past 40 some years doubts and wondering validated by others. Also, a good painting is no longer duplicated of any painting books, although I still enjoy Renaissance art very much.

I feel that painting and writing are like two wings for a bird. A bird can't fly by one wing. I'm confident and ready to paint after these years.

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