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Backstory: 'One'

"Do not despise these small beginnings..."

One (painting) Tom Delamater

This was the first painting I ever completed. Its story is the story of how my artistic journey began.

It was late November, and my daughter was moving to a new residence. I wanted to come up with something unique for a housewarming gift. There wasn't much she needed, and I didn't want to give her the usual kitchen or patio accessory or other standard gift. I wanted it to be unique.

I had enrolled in classes at a local art institute earlier in the year and thought about doing a pencil sketch of one of her favorite nature photographs. I looked at some of her social media albums and, for a moment, thought I might try my hand at one or two of the images. 

Then I thought, what about a painting? It's too long, not to mention boring, of a story to explain why I had not begun painting until so late in life. Commitments, time, the freedom to pursue it — all of it the stuff of life, which could also be called the stuff of excuses. I just hadn't done it. I decided I would start.

So I went on YouTube and searched "How to paint an abstract painting." I watched a few videos and finally arrived at one where a guy showed a technique of blotting house paint onto a canvas using a cloth rag or paper towel. I thought, "I can do that." After a trip to the store I came back with some small, pre-stretched canvases and two quarts of house paint — one black, one white. And I began by using the 18" x 24" canvas shown in the photo.

It worked exactly the way the guy in the video said it would. I was excited; after a lifetime of waiting and wishing and wondering, I was creating a painting! I covered the canvas in paint, stepped back — and was disappointed. For whatever reason, I wasn't happy. I didn't think my daughter would like it. I didn't think anybody would. I set it aside to dry and walked away.

I had bought some smaller 16" x 20" canvases, as well, so the next day I pulled out one of those and decided to try again. It looked very similar, but for some reason I thought the second one was better. I was about to leave town on business and wanted to get it finished so I could surprise my daughter with it before I left. I let it dry for a couple days and then gave it to her. Mission accomplished. I had actually completed a painting and given it to one of my kids as a legacy.

I'm sure I hoped to continue painting, but I truly only saw it as a hobby at the time, something I might tinker with in the years to come. Little did I know it would start my life on a new trajectory in which art would play a prominent role.

Abstract painting for my daughter - Tom Delamater

My daughter's painting

A little over two months and a brief bout with COVID-19 later, I was in North Texas on business, living in a hotel and bored out of my mind much of the time. The nation and the world were still in the throes of the pandemic, and much of "business" was at a standstill. So I began to paint in earnest in that hotel room, on paper, small canvases, and canvas panels. I completed close to 60 paintings in those 12 weeks. A few were good, most weren't, but I was hooked. My journey had begun. It was all beginner-level stuff, but I have fond memories of those early days, and always will.

A side note: My daughter always thought the painting I did for her was my first one ever. In a way, it was, because it's the first one I ever let anyone see. In truth, however, the one at the top of this page — which I decided to call "One" — was the first. It's just that no one had ever seen it before...until now.

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