the governing grass of a dream language
The secret to watercolor is negativity and accident -- along with this, luminosity and limitation. I feel like I have never been so bad at anything in my life, pushing tinted water across a piece of paper until it turned to mud. If I controlled it, I deformed it. If I gave up control, it never found form in the first place. The pigments were like astrological signs, each behaving according to an occult predestination, like how yellow ochre stands in the way of ultramarine, or how there will always be a miserable stainage of a misplaced pthalo blue.
Every watercolor painting is on the precipice of ruin, right from the very beginning, and the only way to not ruin it is to know how and where to stop. The best watercolorist might be the one who grows bored easily and wanders away, but I am a sorry animal who must lose a game until I win, which means every victory contains universes of failure. Mostly I paint past the painting itself, into the degraded territory of the post-painting, the real painting six feet under my fixations. I have lost a lot of poems for the same reason, obliviated by curlicues, thinking that more work makes things better when more work obviously makes almost everything everywhere worse.
I do not remember who said "there are two types of poetry: the raw and the cooked" but I know the truth is "there are two types of watercolor: the raw and the burnt." A watercolor is a poem I remain bad at, but secretly I am certain life is a total art, neither bad nor good. One should no more condemn your own "bad" poem or painting than one would condemn a step because it is at the bottom of the flight of stairs you need to climb.
Besides, I find it more interesting to be bad at something than to be good. Beginnerism might be like any other preference for annihilation: things that are always reducing us to the beginner’s nought? Love, intoxication, divinity, beauty, and revolt. Kierkegaard wrote "wherever there is love, it is the oldest thing." I answered him in the margins: "wherever there is freedom, it is the newest." This is what a passion for beginnerism might also be: a longing for that ubiquitously misplaced word, freedom, to finally attach itself to the correct location.
Every material practice is a phd in having hands. The raccoons prove the excellent scholarship of fingers; they themselves are the rooftop-trashbin artists of the night. They come from the sewer across the street, and one can imagine them traveling under the streets of the city on a burglary routine, stopping by to disassemble my trash. They are cooler and less obsessive than me. I need to quit painting all the time. All the time, I need to quit painting. It is easier to draw and paint and dream than to write in times of eviscerating fatigue, and plus, once success threatened it, writing became a haunted house. The problem with watercolor is that it happens so quickly while it is happening, even if there is waiting time in between. In this it is like a poem, which takes a thousand years to brew and an instant to pour.
It is better when I merely have ideas about paintings, like a fantasy of turning the grass into a knife drawer, or then into an alphabet. That's when I discover how to write landscapes, translating lines in the garden to the lines of unreadable script. I write in these alphabets of the ether and the bee balm, like how the feather reed grass is an alphabet of IIIIIVVVVVVV. I do not believe my plant alphabets are impressive, but they are a good way of taking notes. Someone else reads one: I have, when writing nothing, actually written N I GHTEN GALE. "Darkling I listen; and, for many a time/ I have been half in love with easeful Death," Keats said to one about the embarrassment of being a morbid and depressed human being in a universe of singing birds.
Mainly what happens is that the garden demands more and more extravagant forms of worship, and all I have done in it and for it and of it is not enough. Now I worship it via frustration and Windsor & Newton, even if what I make isn't really that bad, at least not if I don't look at it for a long time and then look at it again, freshly, as if it weren't mine and were untrivialized: 10x bigger, in oil, expensive, on a large canvas on a white wall in a luxury expanse. But if what I made now ended up that way I would have lost my own point, which was always one of the amateur and the intimate -- small scraps of painted paper posted to the wall over the unmade bed of thrift store velvets in which we dream, at night, of the dead, of philosophers, of eternal hallways and sub-terrestrial bridges. The point was not to be legitimated. It was to begin. It was to make the governing grass of a dream language, gnomic and slight.