Gleefully Distressing: A Writer Wednesday PostJune 25th, 2014 | Posted by in Essays
To listen to this post, please click here:Gleefully Distressing
Enjoyed my immensely challenging project last week, designing and painting 18 signs for the stunning country wedding of our Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney and Randy Florke, his partner of 22 years.
After stylist Phillip Montanez showed me an old Presbyterian Church sign as inspiration, I was off and running: custom-designing letters, arranging layouts, measuring, measuring, measuring–a process interesting and arduous as play rehearsal: learning the moves so you hit your mark when the time comes.
Getting to paint is like performing at last. How I loved making big letters! Like cast sizes in the theatre, most lettering and art these days has to be so small. Who has money and space for big canvases? Who can afford a big cast of actors? A narrow sorrow of our age is such miniaturization of artistic expression.
It was fun seeing words shape under my hands, watching how shading changed them. I never thought I’d be tickled painting a restroom sign, but creation holds constant surprises. These were like letters from childhood, in more ways than one.
Certainly there were frustrations—difficult surfaces, erratic spacing, my own infractions of perception, but flaws and all, I liked these humble, old-fashioned signs. They seemed alive and full of feeling. Yet one thing remained to carry out the vision. I would have to distress them.
It was scary and contrary to take sandpaper and rasp to the first of the sweet shiny letters. But the difference in feeling was remarkable.
Soon I was whacking away at them, knowing every crush and curl made them subtler, gentler voices that seemed to issue from our past. Reminders we need not fear a little distress after all.
My happiest moment came Saturday afternoon, as I went to drop off the last of the signs. Following computer navigation, I was about to turn onto their lane, when I was stopped by an Exit Only sign. Nice, I thought. Fits right in.
Only then did it strike me that I had made it.
Here’s hoping you’ll take on a project you’re not sure you can do, and end up gleefully surprising yourself!